From beautiful white sand beaches and best-in-the-world dive sites to dazzling cityscapes and fascinating Buddhist temples, this Best of Thailand itinerary has it all. Starting in Chiang Mai, you’ll discover a city with the perfect blend of old and new and get to know the lush mountain landscapes of northern Thailand. Next, head south and check out the famous Patong Beach before heading deep into the jungle at Khao Sok National Park.
As you finish up your adventure in Bangkok, you’ll no doubt have fallen in love with the warm culture and mouthwatering food that makes Thailand one of a kind. If you’re ready to discover the Best of Thailand, pack your bags, and let’s tackle this two week itinerary.
Table of Contents
- Day 1: Chiang Mai
- Day 2: Chiang Mai
- Day 3: Elephant Nature Park
- Day 4: Lamphun
- Day 5: Phuket
- Day 6: Patong
- Day 7: Phi Phi Islands
- Day 8 & 9: Khao Sok National Park
- Day 10, 12, 13: Koh Tao
- Day 13: Bangkok
- Day 14: Bangkok
- Best of Thailand Itinerary: Final Thoughts
Day 1: Chiang Mai
If you’re familiar with Thailand, you may be surprised to see Chiang Mai pop up first on this best of Thailand itinerary. But hear us out. With just an extra hour’s flight, you’ll trade in Bangkok’s overwhelming streets for the laid-back culture and incredible views of Chiang Mai. It’s the perfect place to get your bearings, and you’ll enjoy Bangkok more at the end of your trip.
What to do and see in Chiang Mai:
There’s no doubt you’ll be itching to get out and explore Chiang Mai, and the best place to learn about Thai culture and its intriguing history is in the Old City. With the many monuments, museums, and temples, it’s easy to spend an entire afternoon here. So take your time, wander the sights, and save the rest for tomorrow.
What to eat:
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, digging into your first Thai meal – and we promise, it’s everything you’ve been dreaming of and more. Chiang Mai is filled with street food vendors, bustling markets, and unassuming family restaurants, each with its specialty and family recipe.
Often, your nose is the best guide for choosing a place to eat, but since it’s your first day in Thailand, we’ll give you some recommendations. If you want guaranteed good food without the stress of a busy market, Baan Landai Fine Dining Cuisine serves up delicious Thai curries and soups in a modern space.
On the other end of the scale, the Chang Pheuk Night Market is filled with different vendors, and you can walk around and order whatever catches your eye. For something a bit more off the beaten path, head to Tong Tem Toh, which gets its inspiration from spicy northern-Thailand cuisine.
Where to stay (4 nights)
$ – Rainforest Boutique Hotel
$$ – Na Nirand Resort
$$$ – Tamarind Village
Day 2: Chiang Mai
Wake up bright and early and kick off any remaining jetlag; you have a full day exploring Chiang Mai today. Pick out a few of your favorites from below and get to it.
Wat Lok Moli – Chiang Mai is known for its intricate temples, and Wat Lok Moli is an exceptional example of this. Located just outside the old walled city, Wat Lok Moli is easy to get to, and entry is free. You can also add the nearby Wat Chiang Man temple to this stop, which dates back to 1296.
Wat Chedi Luang – Speaking of temples, the massive Wat Chedi Luang is another must-visit. Known as the temple of the great stupa and once soaring 279 feet (85 meters) into the sky, it doesn’t take much convincing to understand why it took 85 years to complete.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Yes, it’s another temple, but this one is an absolute sight to see. Located at the top of Doi Suthep mountain, you’ll have to first climb 300 stairs, but in return, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the golden chedi and intricate Buddha houses. If you plan it right, it’s also one of the best places in Chiang Mai to watch the sunset.
San Kamphaeng Road – Once you’ve had enough temples for one day, head to San Kamphaeng Road. This 6-mile (10 km) stretch of road is known as the Handicraft Highway and sells impressive pottery, silverware, and other home goods, all handmade in front of you.
Day 3: Elephant Nature Park
Travel time: 2 hours driving
Throughout your time in Thailand, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get up close to elephants. And while many destinations take excellent care of the elephants, some are more focused on getting your money and growing their profits – so it’s essential you do your homework.
The Elephant Nature Park, located 37 miles (60 km) from Chiang Mai, takes its environmental stewardship very seriously and ensures all the elephants in the park are well looked after. Hence, it’s one of the best places to watch these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
While it’s easy to drive to, the Elephant Nature Park also offers full-day trips that start and finish right from your accommodation in Chiang Mai. Once there, you’ll enjoy watching elephants graze, bathe in the river, play in mud pits, and socialize with other elephants. The only bad part is that you’ll have to leave at some point to get back to finish up your best of Thailand itinerary.
Day 4: Lamphun
Travel time: 1.5 hours driving
Today you’ll embark on one more incredible day trip from Chiang Mai before heading to the beach. While much lessor-known and quieter than Chiang Mai, Lamphun is an absolute favorite for many visiting Northern Thailand. Below are a few things to check out in Lamphun.
Wat Phra That Haripunchai – The main focal point of Lamphun is the immaculate Wat Phra That Haripunchai. As you wander around the different halls and temples, it’s almost impossible to believe the complex dates back to 1150. Impressive arches, intricate building facades, giant buddhas, and huge lion statues are just a few of the things you’ll discover here.
Haripunchai National Museum – Admiring temples is one thing, but learning about the lives and culture of the Mon Kingdom of Northern Thailand will give you even more respect for their impressive architectural feats. The Haripunchai National Museum brings you along on the journey of the Mon Kingdom,including its days of flourish and downfall.
Wat Chammathewi – On the outskirts of Lamphun but still very walkable is the 12th-century Wat Chammathewi. Walk around the temple grounds, and enjoy the peace and quiet while taking in the impressive ancient chedis and pyramids that define Wat Chammathewi.
Day 5: Phuket
Travel time: 2-hour flight
Ready to discover the post-card-perfect beaches Thailand is renowned for? After a short two-hour flight, you’ll trade in the forested hills of Northern Thailand for Phuket’s paradise of beaches. Plus, with year round warm weather, the best time to visit Phuket stretches nearly 12 months long.
What to do and see in Phuket:
On this best of Thailand itinerary, we recommend staying in Phuket Town and heading out for day trips from there. In Phuket Town, wander down the colorful Thalang Road, which is home to various shops and restaurants. If you’d like to discover more about the tin mining history of the island, head to Phuket Thai Hua Museum. And if you’d like some exercise to work off the delicious Thai food, opt for a hike up to Khao Rang Viewpoint.
What to eat:
One thing you’ll immediately notice about Phuket Island is that Phuket Town is the place to be if you want to indulge in delicious cheap food. In Patong and other upmarket resort areas, food tends to be more expensive and westernized.
In Phucket Town, you cannot miss the Sunday Night Market, where you’ll find legit Michelin Star street food vendors serving delicious plate after plate. Other popular options include the Baan Noy Restaurant, Three Monkeys, and The Tent, and if you’d like a mermaid show with your meal, head to Andasi Phuket.
Where to stay (3 nights)
Below are our top choices for Phuket Town, but you can also choose to stay in Patong or a quieter part of the island if you prefer.
$ – Isara Boutique Hotel and Cafe
$$ – Ratri Hotel Phuket Old Town
$$$ – Burasari
Day 6: Patong
Travel time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Today is all about the beach. You’ve likely seen pictures of this slice of paradise renowned for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, and while it can feel very touristy, somehow, it adds to Patong’s wild charm. Getting here from Phuket Town is easy; hop in a taxi or public bus, and 7 miles (11 km) later, you’ll be on the beach.
Party on Soi Bangla Street – This stretch of street is definitely where the party is at. And whether you’d like to partake in the funtivities or not, just strolling down the street and watching the mayhem is well worth your time.
Go diving or snorkeling – Numerous dive companies are located in Patong. They’re well-versed in taking both beginner and expert divers out to sea, so it’s a great place to get your underwater adventuring in.
Hit the beach – If you’re ready to spend the day soaking in the rays, you’ll have plenty of options. Patonga beach can become overcrowded, so we recommend heading to the quieter nearby beaches where you can get in some R&R. Freedom Beach and Tri Trang Beach are perfect for sunbathing and swimming, and Kalim Beach is the perfect place to watch surfers or take your turn riding the waves.
Travel tip: If you’d like to partake in the wild nightlife of Patong and not worry about getting a taxi back to Phuket Town, book accommodation in Patong instead.
Day 7: Phi Phi Islands
Travel time: 2-hour ferry each way
Today you’ll embark on the bucket-list journey to the Phi Phi Islands. There are numerous day-trip options, ranging in price from $100 – $200. Most tours will pick you up from your hotel and take care of all your transport, food, and permits for the day.
Once you’ve arrived in Phi Phi Islands National Park, you’ll whizz around on the boat, checking out the different islands with plenty of stops to swim and snorkel. Each tour has its specialty, so it’s best to decide what kind of experience you’re after, then choose accordingly.
Day 8 & 9: Khao Sok National Park
Travel time: 3 to 4 hours
Khao Sok National Park is one of those places you must see to truly understand how majestic it is. Think ancient evergreen forests, floating raft houses, and elephant encounters – all set around limestone cliffs giving way to deep valleys. Convinced?
What to do and see in Khao Sok National Park:
Similar to the Phi Phi Islands, Khao Sok National Park is best explored by boat or canoe with a guide. As you’ll only have two days here, booking a tour in advance is the way to go. You can even book transport from Phuket, making the entire journey a breeze.
Most two-day tours will be similar, so the price differences usually relate to your accommodation and group size. The smaller the group and fancier the accommodation, the more expensive your tour will be.
Once in the park, you can look forward to cave hiking, night safaris, kayak adventures, jungle exploring, and relaxing at your floating bungalow. Around every corner, a new spectacular vista awaits, and we promise it’ll be hard to leave after enjoying two days in this hidden paradise.
Where to eat and stay:
Typically, if you opt for an overnight tour, your food and accommodation are included in the price. However, if you choose to stay by the Khao Sok National Park HQ and make day trips into the park, here are a few great options:
$ – Our Junge Camp – Eco Resort
$$ – Rock and Treehouse Resort
$$$ – Panvaree Resort
The same idea goes for food. You won’t find any hidden restaurants in Khao Sok National Park, so your tour group will provide you with food for the day. Near the park’s HQ, you’ll find a few restaurants dotted along Main Street, each with slightly varying menus.
Day 10, 12, 13: Koh Tao
Travel time: 1.5-hour drive, 4-hour ferry
If you’ve had enough jungle and are ready to get back to the beach, we have some great news for you. Today you’re heading to one of the most beautiful islands imaginable. Think soft white sandy beaches, palm-fringed coastlines, and dense tropical forests – all surrounded by immensely clear turquoise water.
Things to do and see on Koh Tao:
The main reason people head to Kao Tao is for its superb and cheap diving. If you’ve ever wanted to get your diving certificate, Kao Tao is the place to do it. Although keep in mind this means you’ll need to extend your stay by a few days. If you already have your dive certificate or prefer to stick to snorkeling or dry land, you’ll find three days is the perfect amount of time to beach hop, hike, and enjoy this beautiful island. Here are a few of the best things to do in Kao Tao:
Enjoy the fun at Sairee Beach – Sairee Beach is undoubtedly the busiest and most developed beach on the island. Here you can pop into all the different dive shops, spend the day sunbathing and indulging in delicious food and drinks, and hang out with plenty of other like-minded travelers. Oh, and don’t forget to stick around for the sunset!
Go snorkeling at Shark Bay – If you’ve ever dreamed of snorkeling with sharks, Shark Bay is the place to do it. But don’t worry, these small blacktip reef sharks aren’t dangerous. After, walk along the sandy beach, explore the rocky coastline, or head to one of the nearby resorts for top-notch dining options.
Hike amongst the lush jungle – If you’d like to discover the rugged jungle landscape Koh Tao is loved for, you can choose numerous trails that lead to viewpoints. For example, you can hike right from Sairee to Tanote Bay which takes you up through steep jungle paths to Love Koh Tao viewpoint and back down to the beach at Tanote Bay. Just keep in mind that most trails on Koh Tao are not overly maintained, and you’ll want suitable footwear to avoid mishaps.
Where to eat:
For a small island, Koh Tao has more than its fair share of superb restaurants. Likely because after everyone comes in from a big day of diving, they’re well ready for a good Thai feast.
One of the most famous options on the island is Factory Cafe in Sairee, which offers healthy smoothie bowls for breakfast and fresh wraps and salads for lunch. Another must-try is ChuChu, which, believe it or not, serves up the most divine Thai-inspired pizza you can imagine. Think Massaman pizza topped with fresh vegetables and cheese. Weird, yes, but delicious? Also yes.
If you’d like to put on that fancy dress you’ve been carrying around and splurge for waterfront views, Koh Tao also has plenty of fine-dining restaurants worth the price tag. Head to Whitening on Sairee beach for beautiful pasta, duck, and seafood dishes. Another favorite is Barracuda, which is all about tapas and cocktails.
Where to stay (3 nights):
Koh Tao is a small island, so it doesn’t make a huge difference where you call home. However, if you’re looking to party, Sairee Beach is the place to be. You’ll be right amongst the action and every night of the week promises a good time. On the other hand, if you want to wake up to the sound of waves and spend time getting pampered, it’s hard to beat Shark Bay.
$ – Big Fish Beach Resort
$$ – Fisherman Koh Tao
$$$ – Cape Shark Pool Villas
Day 13: Bangkok
Travel time: 1.5-hour ferry and 1-hour flight (or 6-hour drive)
It’s finally time to head to Thailand’s bustling capital. Now that you’ve discovered the ins and outs of traveling Thailand, you’ll love exploring the busy streets and vibrant markets Bangkok is known for. You only have two days left in your best of Thailand itinerary, so plan ahead and make the most of your time here.
What to do and see in Bangkok:
There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Bangkok. Of course, you’ll need to check out the 150-foot (46-meter) long Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho and tour the Grand Palace. To get any last-minute souvenirs, take a trip to Chatuchak Market and browse its 8,000 stalls. If you’d like to see Bangkok from the water, you’ll love taking a boat trip down the Chao Phraya River. And if you haven’t already, be sure to treat yourself to a Thai massage.
What to eat:
Every food imaginable can be found in Bangkok’s bustling streets. For a fusion of Indian and Thai, head to Gaa. If you’d like to test your tastebuds, try the spicy food at Khua Kling Pak Sod. For French fine dining, it’s impossible to beat Le Normandie. Or, for a mix of food at unbeatable prices, the Talad Rot Fi Market offers everything from street food on a stick to antique shopping.
Where to stay:
$ – Dewan Bangkok
$$ – Akara Bangkok
$$$ – Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort
Day 14: Bangkok
Can you believe it’s already the last day of your best of Thailand itinerary? Morning in Bangkok has an entirely different vibe than night, so wake up bright and early and tick off any last-minute items on your Bangkok bucket list. Then, hop on the Airport Rail Link, and within 40 minutes, you’ll be at the airport ready to catch your flight home.
Best of Thailand Itinerary: Final Thoughts
While this Best of Thailand itinerary ticks off the best mountains, beaches, and cities of Thailand, there’s so much more to do and see in this fascinating country. Come back soon to discover even more hidden gems, or start planning your next trip with this 9 day Cambodia itinerary and our ultimate Singapore itinerary.