Experience the best of Thailand's varied landscapes, from mountains to islands to dense metropolises, on this 12-day itinerary. Explore Bangkok, travel by Skytrain, and visit teeming markets set alongside train tracks and within ancient canals. Then, tour the elaborate, architecturally stunning temples in Chiang Mai, wrapping up your stay relaxing, swimming, and snorkeling in Phuket.


  • Visit Bangkok's unusual markets along a railway and in a canal
  • Climb the famous 309 steps up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
  • Hike past waterfalls in the tropical mountains of Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Relax on the beautiful, warm beaches of Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok, Explore Bangkok
Day 2 Explore Bangkok by Public Transport Bangkok
Day 3 Visit the Railway & Floating Markets Bangkok
Day 4 Fly to Chiang Mai, Tour Wat Umong & Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Chiang Mai
Day 5 Meet Elephants at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai
Day 6 Hike in Doi Inthanon National Park Chiang Mai
Day 7 Fly to Phuket & Explore Phuket
Day 8 Swim & Snorkel on the Phi Phi Islands Phuket
Day 9 Tour Phuket Phuket
Day 10 Beach Day in Phuket Phuket
Day 11 Explore Coral Island's Beaches Phuket
Day 12 Depart Phuket  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Explore

Photo looking down Yaowarat Road in Bangkok's Chinatown at dusk. There are signs crowding the sides of buildings and people milling about
Bangkok's Chinatown

Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. A private transfer will take you from the airport to your accommodations in Bangkok. Then you'll have the rest of the day to spend as you'd like.

Thailand's capital is beloved for its chaotic energy, delicious street food, buzzing nightlife, and sacred Buddhist sights. Discover its charms, perhaps starting with Chinatown's fragrant street food. If you like shopping, spend time at Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok's biggest and most luxurious malls. If you're visiting over the weekend, don't miss Chatuchak Market—with more than 15,000 stalls, it's one of the world's largest outdoor markets. For sports lovers, seek out a kickboxing match, Thailand's signature sport. See a puppet show for some traditional culture or visit Warehouse 30 for modern art exhibitions.

Day 2: Explore Bangkok by Public Transport

Photo of the BTS Skytrain approaching on an elevated track in Bangkok
The BTS Skytrain helps locals and visitors bypass Bangkok's traffic

Bangkok's streets are famous for their traffic, but you'll zip around the city today on the BTS Skytrain, MRT (the transit system), public boats, and buses. In the morning, ride the Skytrain over the city streets and then hop on a public boat down the Chao Praya River, stopping at the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Explore these two famous sites until lunchtime.

After lunch, ride along in a tuk-tuk, winding through the quieter neighborhood of Soi Ban Batra. Here, you'll check out a family-run workshop specializing in alms bowls for local Buddhist monks. Lastly, step about a "bus boat" to travel through klongs (canals) like a true local. Take a walk to Jim Thompson House Museum for a tour of the former house of the "Thai Silk King." Stop and shop at the malls in the area before heading back to the hotel via Skytrain.

Day 3: Visit the Railway & Floating Markets

Photo of a yellow and red train disappearing down the tracks between tightly packed market stalls
The train runs directly between stalls at the Maeklong Railway Market

Today you'll discover some of Bangkok's sprawling markets. Drive through the high-rise urban landscape to Samut Songkharm on the rural outskirts of the capital. Here you'll visit the Maeklong Railway Market, which sits along the tracks; when a train pulls in or out of the station, the vendors quickly clear their stalls, only to set them up again moments later when the train has passed.

From there, drive to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, 62 miles (100 km) southwest of the capital. Paddle through the maze of canals past vendors selling exotic fruit and handicrafts from their boats. Disembark to wander the marketplace on land and have lunch. Afterward, take a long-tail boat to a Buddhist temple and the King Rama II Memorial Park, which has an ornate collection of Thai-style pavilions.

Day 4: Fly to Chiang Mai, Tour Wat Umong & Wat Phra That Doi Suthep 

Aerial view of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep's pagoda at night. It glows yellow against a blue background with yellow lights from buildings
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep at night
Plan your trip to Thailand
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
This morning, a private transfer will take you to the airport for your flight to Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand, where you'll head straight to your hotel and settle in.

This evening, visit Wat Umong, a 700-year-old temple at the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain. Explore the temple's famous underground tunnels, and then, as twilight settles in, head up the mountain and climb the 309 steps leading to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of Thailand's most sacred temples. From here, you can take in stunning views of Chiang Mai at night and wander around the temple's pagodas and statues. 

Day 5: Meet Elephants at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Photo of two elephants standing in a still river, trucks raised, backlit by yellow sunlight
Bring elephants like these to the river to bathe at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Rise early for the 90-minute drive south of Chiang Mai for today's tour. Next, take a 15-minute walk through the village to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, a joint initiative between locals from Chiang Mai and members of the Karen people. Before getting acquainted with these jungle giants, you'll change into traditional Karen clothing.

You can interact with and feed the elephants as English-speaking guides explain their background and behavior. There'll be photo opportunities galore—the sanctuary offers a photo service for no extra charge. Later, change into your swimming clothes and walk to the river to join a "mud spa" with elephants. Wrap up your day with a traditional Thai lunch before saying goodbye to the elephants and heading back to your hotel.

Day 6: Hike in Doi Inthanon National Park

Photo of the taill Wachirathan Waterfall at Doi Inthanon National Park
The 262-foot-tall Wachirathan Waterfall

Experience the incredible nature around Chiang Mai on a private tour. On a two-hour journey, you'll pass by paddy fields and ascend into the mountains of Doi Inthanon National Park, part of the Thanon Thong Chai Range. Stand on the country's highest point, at 7,041 feet (2,146 m), where two pagodas mark a viewpoint over the mountain tops. Be sure to pack warm clothing—the climate is cooler here year-round.

Then, head to a Karen village to observe the local way of life and browse their colorful craft market. On the return trip, you'll stop at the 262-foot (80 m) high Wachirathan Waterfall to marvel as its mist lingers above the jungle canopy. Follow the Ban Mae Klang Luang nature trail, which will take you away from the main tourist track on a forested route that runs downhill to meet a river. You'll eventually reach Pa Dok Siew Waterfall, where you can cool off with a swim.

Eventually, you'll reach the Karen village of Mae Klang Luang. Here, coffee is the most important crop—you'll have a chance to visit the coffee house where they roast, hand-grind, and prepare coffee. Try a cup on-site and if you like it, buy a bag of ground coffee to take home.

Day 7: Fly to Phuket, Explore

view of Surin beach in Phuket
Surin Beach, Phuket

Say goodbye to Chiang Mai this morning. Your private driver will escort you to the airport for your flight south to Phuket, Thailand's largest island.

Set on the Andaman Coast, Phuket is known for its powdery beaches, neon nightlife, and luxury resorts. Hit the beach to sunbathe, sit back with a cold drink, and then wade into the warm water for a swim or some snorkeling. Off the coast, visit the aquarium in Cape Panwa, or, if you're feeling adventurous, visit Hanuman World Phuket to soar through the jungle on a series of adrenaline-pumping ziplines. In the evening, feast on seafood, browse the night market and have a drink on lively Bangla Road.

Day 8: Swim & Snorkel on the Phi Phi Islands

Aerial view of Maya Bay, Phi Phi Ley, with a few boats in the water
Aerial view of Maya Bay, the shooting location of "The Beach"

Explore the famous Phi Phi Islands today, an archipelago 25 miles (40 km) east of Phuket, known for its movie-worthy beaches and top snorkeling spots. The trip starts with an early-morning speed boat trip to Phi Phi Ley, where you'll see Maya Bay, the setting for the Leonardo Di Caprio movie, "The Beach." You'll also moor at Pileh Lagoon and Viking Cave for swimming and snorkeling.

Sail on to Phi Phi Don, stopping at Monkey Beach along the way, known for its cheeky macaques. You'll have time to snorkel in the clear waters, spotting colorful marine life, before lunch. Spend the afternoon on idyllic Bamboo Island, where you can lay back on white sands or enjoy more swimming and snorkeling. The trip ends with a transfer back to Phuket.

Day 9: Half-Day Tour of Phuket

Photo looking up at the pagoda of Wat Chalong with a cloudy sky and low sun backlighting the temple
The pagoda of Wat Chalong

In the morning, you'll hop in a van for a half-day tour to see the highlights of Phuket. Go beyond the beautiful beaches and visit historic landmarks and incredible sites in the city and farther inland. Accompanied by an expert guide, you'll begin the tour with a scenic drive along golden bays, stopping to enjoy panoramic views of the famous Promthep Cape, which, incidentally, offers one of the best sunset views in the region.

Later on, visit Wat Chalong, the largest of Phuket's 29 temples. Built in the 19th century, the temple honors two monks, Luang Pho Cham and Luang Pho Chuang, known for their aid against a Chinese rebellion in 1876 and healing the sick with herbal medicine. Wrap up your sightseeing with a visit to the Phuket Cashew Nut Factory, where cashews are processed from raw plants into an array of delicious snacks. Sample at least 10 types of cashews before returning to your hotel for a free afternoon.

Day 10: Beach Day in Phuket

Crystal clear turquoise blue sea and traditional wooden fishing boat at Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand
A clear sunny day on Kata Beach
Soak up the sun with a beach day in Phuket; the island offers plenty to choose from. Kata Beach is an excellent option with soft white sand, shady palm trees, food vendors, and a laid-back atmosphere. Meanwhile, Nai Harn Beach, located in a small bay, has remained relatively underdeveloped. For something quieter, head to Freedom Beach—it requires a steep hike or a boat ride to get there, so you'll escape the motorized watersports and beach vendors for a truly peaceful experience.

Day 11: Explore Coral Island's Beaches

Birds-eye view of a long thin pier over shallow, clear tropical water with a small boat docked alongside.
Boat docked by Ko Hae (Coral Island)
This morning, a private transfer will bring you to Chalong Pier, where you'll board a speedboat headed for Ko Hae ("Coral Island"). Located just 1.8 miles (3 km) south of Phuket, it's relatively easy to reach this island, known for its incredible coral reefs. Relax, go swimming, or go snorkeling near the reefs from either Long Beach or Banana Beach, with a break for lunch at Hey Restaurant. At the end of the day, catch a speedboat ride back to Chalong Pier.

Day 12: Depart Phuket

Landscape of Phuket View Point at Nai Harn Beach at sunset
Phuket View Point at Nai Harn Beach

Today your Thailand adventure comes to an end. Depending on your flight time, spend a final few hours on the beach or souvenir shopping before your transfer to the airport. Safe travels! 

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Map of Thailand North & South: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Phuket - 12 Days
Map of Thailand North & South: Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Phuket - 12 Days
Written by Long Dao, updated Jan 20, 2023