If you've ever dreamed of Thailand, this 8-day adventure covers the highlights with a perfect mix of guided tours and free time. Start off in vibrant Bangkok for iconic Buddhist sites and a gourmet dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River. Then fly north to Chiang Mai to explore the Old Town on foot and spend a day with elephants. Finish off in Phuket, where you'll kayak, island-hop, and relax on gorgeous white sand beaches.


  • Let a private guide show you Bangkok's Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha 
  • Spend a day feeding and bathing elephants at a respected sanctuary
  • Kayak between limestone cliffs and pristine islands off Phang Nga Bay
  • Explore Thailand's restaurant and street food scene in all three stops

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bangkok, Explore Bangkok
Day 2 Bangkok City Tour & Dinner Cruise Bangkok
Day 3 Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore Chiang Mai
Day 4 Full-Day Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Excursion Chiang Mai
Day 5 Fly to Phuket, Explore Phuket
Day 6 Kayaking Tour in Phang Nga Bay Phuket
Day 7 Free Day in Phuket Phuket
Day 8 Depart Phuket  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Explore

Bangkok's Wat Arun Temple sits along the Chao Phraya River

Welcome to Thailand! Get ready for a smooth and easy arrival at Bangkok's international airport with 'VIP Meet and Greet and Fast Track Service.' This special process starts at the airport's air bridge, where you'll be met by a representative who will personally escort you to the immigration counter without a queue. You'll then be introduced to your private driver for transportation to the hotel.

The rest of the day is free time to explore at your own pace. You can either rest and acclimate to your surroundings at the hotel or get out and enjoy the city on your own. Bangkok will certainly jolt your senses: it's a steamy, exotic, and chaotic capital of eight million residents, which melds a bit of old and new, east and west, so get out and poke around the nearby streets. You can also sample local street food at one of many night markets sprinkled around the city, including Chatuchak, which houses a staggering 15,000 stalls. 

Day 2: Bangkok City Tour & Dinner Cruise

Spend a few hours at the Grand Palace, one of the most important historical attractions in Bangkok

After breakfast at your hotel, your private guide will pick you up for a fun day of sightseeing. The tour starts at The Grand Palace, one of the most important and impressive royal palaces in Thailand. Your guide will show you the site's many different palaces, which are used for different occasions, including the Reception Palace, Throne Hall, Coronation Hall, Royal Guest House, and mysterious Emerald Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Thailand.

From here, you'll continue to Wat Pho, one of the oldest Buddhist temple complexes in Bangkok. Here you'll see the famous 149-foot (45 m) reclining Buddha. Appropriate dress is required for both men and women or can be rented on-site.

You'll have some time to rest at your hotel before taking a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River. The evening includes an exquisite six-course dinner while enjoying the photogenic nighttime views of Bangkok. In addition to quality cuisine, the cruise company has a special collaboration with Vesper, an award-winning cocktail bar, so imbibers will have access to signature cocktails, as well as wine, champagne, and beer. 

Day 3: Fly to Chiang Mai, Explore

Walk between key sites in Chiang Mai's Old Town like Wat Phan Tao

After breakfast at your hotel in Bangkok, it's time to pack up and take a memorable transfer by long-tail boat to Resotel Pier—a fitting way to end your time in the capital. At the pier, you and your guide will transfer back to Bangkok airport for your short flight to Chiang Mai.

Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, you'll be transferred to your hotel for check-in. Thailand's fourth-largest city has a distinct culture steeped in history, yet also thrives as a cosmopolitan city. Despite the city's modern growth, the historic center, or Old Town, still feels quaint—more like a rural town than a bustling city, evidenced by its strict conservation efforts. 

Once you're settled at the hotel, put on some walking shoes and explore at your own pace. It's an easy stroll to see the city's finest monuments, including Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Phan Tao. For dinner, you can enjoy a cheap and delicious dinner at one of the many street stalls which can be found all over Old Town and beyond.

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Day 4: Full-Day Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Excursion

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Spend some quality time with gentle giants at this elephant sanctuary

Get ready to spend an exciting day with elephants in Northern Thailand! After an early breakfast, you'll be picked up for a 1.5-hour transfer outside the city through peaceful landscapes, agricultural areas, and forested hills, so sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Upon arrival at a Karen Village (indigenous hill tribe) in the mid-morning, you'll meet your guide for the 15-minute walk through the village to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. First, you'll change into traditional hill tribe clothing and enjoy an introductory lesson about elephant anatomy, history, and behavior. Before lunch is served, you'll feed, interact, and play with the elephants in their natural home while learning about their behavior and history.

Around noon, take a break to enjoy traditional Thai food and fresh fruit. Then it's back to the elephants, where you'll walk them to the river and take part in the bathing and brushing process. For more interactive fun, you'll join the elephants in a therapeutic mud spa before taking one last communal swim in the river—great for photo ops. In the mid-afternoon, change back into your normal clothes and return to your hotel in Chiang Mai. 

Day 5: Fly to Phuket, Explore

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand along the Andaman Sea

Today, you'll have a free morning to spend in Chiang Mai however you see fit. At the designated time, a private driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight to Phuket.

Upon arrival in Phuket, you'll be picked up and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy an afternoon and evening exploring this beautiful area of the country on your own. Consistently voted one of the world's favorite tourist destinations, Phuket offers stunning turquoise waters and white sand beaches, plus a staggering range of restaurants, hotels, activities, and nightlife to suit all budget levels, including backpackers and luxury travelers. There's plenty to see and do, or maybe just find a stretch of sand and watch the sunset.

Day 6: Kayaking Tour in Phang Nga Bay

Steep limestone cliffs provide a stunning backdrop to the colorful sea

Today is a free morning in Phuket to spend any way you'd like. Perhaps you'll choose a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and then hit the pool or beach with a good book. 

Save your energy because in the afternoon you'll join a kayaking and island-hopping tour through the dramatic limestone cliffs off the coast of the Andaman Sea—truly a remarkable experience you won't soon forget. Once you've worked up a nice appetite, you'll take part in a prepared Thai seafood buffet dinner while watching the sunset over Phang Nga Bay. After dinner, you'll be returned to your hotel.

Day 7: Free Day in Phuket

Freedom Beach is off the beaten track and requires a hike or boat ride to arrive

Complete your Thailand experience with a free day to hit the beaches! Phuket and the surrounding area offer a wide variety of scenery, atmospheres, facilities, and even textures of sand. For instance, Kata Beach is always a reliable option with soft white sand, shady palm trees, water sports, and a laid-back atmosphere. You can easily spend the day here with a handful of food and drink vendors. 

Another idea is Nai Harn Beach, located at the end of Phuket, which has grown in popularity over the years. However, thanks to the relatively small size of the bay and its large lake on the other side, the beach hasn't been developed like others nearby. That being said, nice hotels, shops, and restaurants are located nearby. 

If seeking a more isolated atmosphere, head to Freedom Beach with possibly the best white sand in Phuket. Though it's more challenging to get to (you can either hike a steep path or take a long-tail boat to arrive), you'll escape the motorized water sports and beach vendors for truly peaceful environs. 

Day 8: Depart Phuket

Until next time, Phuket!

The day has come to say goodbye to Thailand! After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy any remaining free time in Phuket. At the designated hour, you'll be escorted to the airport for your departure flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Best of Thailand - 8 Days
Map of Best of Thailand - 8 Days
Written by Ha Thu, updated Mar 8, 2023