So you want to travel to Thailand? You’re not alone! And that’s because Thailand is worth all of the type. I may be biased because Thailand is my favourite country in the world but most people who visit will agree with me that it is an incredible country.
The food is more than delicious, the people are as friendly as people say they are and the pictures you’ve seen online, well, they’re even better in person.
From the mountains in the north to the islands in the south and the mega-city of Bangkok in the middle, Thailand is a country full of diverse landscapes, every flavour of food and surprises around every corner. Plus there are so many things to do in Thailand.
Your dollar with stretch far, you will be continually entertained and you will gaze in amazement. But enough of me talking about how great Thailand is, let me tell you how to plan your trip to Thailand and exactly what to do in Thailand.
Here’s how you plan where to go in Thailand: First we’re going to break it up into three parts, Bangkok, the north and the islands. From this post you’ll be able to create the ideal itinerary for you based on what you like for 1, 2 or 3 weeks.
I have provided my recommended itineraries for each day for some of the best places to visit in Thailand, now you just have to pick what days you like best! Follow this Thailand trip planner below to know how many days to pick for each destination.
Bangkok is a must for any Thailand trip and you will most likely fly in and out of here.
1 Week Itinerary: Pick 2 days
2 Week Itinerary: Pick 2 days
3 Week Itinerary: Includes 3 days
The north includes cities like Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai. It’s here that you’ll find lush forests, rolling hills, outdoor adventures and historic temples. For 1 week itineraries, you must choose between the north and the islands, Thailand is just too big of a country to fit it all in!
1 Week Itinerary: Pick 2 days in Chiang Mai, 2 days in Pai and 1 in Chiang Rai
2 Week Itinerary: Pick 3 days in Chiang Mai, 2 days in Pai and 1 in Chiang Rai
3 Week Itinerary: Includes 4 days in Chiang Mai, 3 days in Pai and 1 day in Chiang Rai
If beaches are your thing or you’re vacationing for relaxation then head to the islands!Experiencee the laid-back vibes of the locals, blue waters and historic temples. The islands have a little bit of everything and I highly recommened choosing the islands if you’re only planning a 1 week intinerary.
1 Week Itinerary: Pick 3 days on one of the island options and 2 days on a second island. Options include Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.
2 Week Itinerary: Pick 3 days on two of the island options. Options include Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.
3 Week Itinerary: Includes 4 days on Koh Tao, 3 on Koh Phangan and 3 on Koh Samui
Bangkok: 2-3 Days
Without a doubt, you will fly into Bangkok and it’s a wonderful place to get yourself settled in Thailand. You’ll be thrown in head first, but not to worry, Bangkok is a world class city and though many things will be different it is the perfect starting point.
DAY ONE: Many international flights land late at night so chances are you’ll get to your accommodation and pass out. Get a good rest and on your first day, you can tackle some of Bangkok’s best attractions. Head over to the Grand Palace, the earlier the better as lines get long. From here you can tackle Wat Po which houses a giant reclining Buddha and Wat Arun. Spend the evening around Khao San Road, the famous party street where you can grab a bite to eat, get a message if you’re tired, shop or party the night away.
Pro Tip: Wat means temple in Thai, expect to see it a lot!
DAY TWO: Get ready to shop…if you’re in Bangkok on a weekend you can not miss Chatuchak Market where you can find just about everything from clothes, to souvenirs and food. If you’re in Bangkok on a weekday there are plenty of other markets to see and even more malls. In the afternoon get yourself to a Muay Thai fight at one of the two stadiums in the city, Ratchadamnoen or Lumpini. For the evening head to Soi Cowboy, the famous street featured in the Hangover 2. Catch a ping pong show (I’ll let you look that up) and drink the night away. Or for a more classy option head up to one of many rooftop bars. The most famous are Sky Bar and Octave Rooftop Lounge & Bar.
Pro Tip: Soi means street in Thai, the more you know before you go, the better!
DAY THREE: A trip to Thailand is not complete without seeing one of the floating markets. It’s a unique experience and lets you just chill out for the morning or afternoon! All of the floating markets are outside the city so prepare for a day trip. My personal recommendation is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. It is the largest and one of the oldest in Bangkok. You’ll find food, animals and lots of other goodies!
Recommended place to stay: Bodega Bangkok
READ MORE: What to do in Bangkok
To save time and money take a night bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok.
Chiang Mai: 3-4 Days
Chiang Mai is going to steal your heart. There’s a reason why so many expats live in this city. The Old City is filled with historic temples and trendy cafes. The markets are some of the best in Thailand, you’ll find some of the top Thai dishes here and nature is so close to the city.
DAY FOUR: Get yourself aquainted with Chiang Mai. Rent a scooter and explore the Old City temple hopping. Head up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and get ready to climb the 300 stairs up, but I promise it’s worth it. Recover from your travels with a Thai massage or hangout at one of the local cafes. If you’re up for it make your way to Zoe in Yellow, one of the top clubs in Chiang Mai where you can find an abundance of other clubs and bars in the open air court yard.
DAY FIVE: Recover from your hangover by cooking some of the tastiest Thai food you’ll ever try. A cooking class in Chiang Mai is a must. Full and half day classes and market visits are available (I did the half day and didn’t think I’d be able to walk the rest of the day because there’s so much food!). Spend your evening at Chiang Mai’s best market, the Night Bazaar where you can shop your heart out and eat local favourites from the abundance of street food stalls with live music.
DAY SIX: Get up close to elephants at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. Spend the day feeding, bathing and playing with these friendly giants. For evening entertainment make sure you don’t miss one of Thailand’s best lady boy shows at the Chiang Mai Cabaret Show. It’s the exact show that was aired on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode for Chiang Mai!
Pro tip: Do not ride elephants! If a place supports riding elephants I would avoid going there and is why I recommend Elephant Jungle Sanctuary as I’ve been there personally. Elephants are not treated kindly and contray to popular belief, elephants do not like to be ridden.
DAY SEVEN: Time for a day trip! One option is to hire a scooter for the day and check out the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon where you can relax on floating bamboo rafts and jump from the cliff (don’t do it with your GoPro, I saw 5 people lose theirs!). Another option is go zipling through the lush tropical forest. Or a third option is to Doi Inthanon National Park for some hiking.
Recommended place to stay: The Living Place 1
Read more: 8 Bucket List Things to do in Chiang Mai
The following day take a bus to Pai.
Pai: 2-3 Days
Pai is a little town in northern Thailand nestled in the mountains known for its hippie vibes. Think tie die clothing, handmade jewelry and small carts selling treats at the market. If you love nature and just want to hangout for a few days, Pai is the perfect place for you. But don’t worry there is still plenty to do.
DAY EIGHT: You’ll spend half of your day on a bus but don’t worry because you’ll be rewarded with plenty of awesome and hip little cafes where you can spend your afternoon relaxing. Better yet, find a hammock! Or you can swing by the Pai Circus School. It’s a hostel so you can stay there. It has a pool and stunning views over the rolling green hills and yes you can actually learn some circus tricks!
DAY NINE: Get ready for a day packed with adventure! Rent yourself a scooter and head out to some of Pai’s best spots. Check out the top waterfalls, Pombok Waterfall and Mo Paeng Waterfalls. Take a quick stop at the Land Crack where you can see the land literally split. Spend the afternoon hanging out at the Tha Pai Hot Springs and to cap off your perfect day watch sunset at Pai Canyon.
DAY 10: Rent a scooter and take a day trip to Lod Cave. It’s 35km outside of Pai but it makes for a beautiful drive through up and down a mountain. The cave itself has a river running through it and it’s incredible to see in person. Spend the night along Walking Street or in one of the laid-back bars that have cushions to relax on while you drink.
Recommended place to stay: Purple Monkey Backpackers
READ MORE: The Best Things to do in Pai, Thailand
Chiang Rai: 1 Day
DAY ELEVEN: This can be done as a day trip from Pai or Chiang Mai. Either way, it is a must-do. The famouns White Temple is reason enough to go. It’s a bucket list item in Thailand and you won’t regret it even if it is one of the top tourist places in Thailand. If you end up staying overnight head to the Chiang Rai night market for yummy food and a ton of shopping. This is also a great jumping off spot to get into Laos if you’re heading to more than just Thailand in southeast Asia!
Recommended place to stay: Happynest Inspiring Hostel
Koh Tao: 3-4 Days
Welcome to paradise on Earth, Koh Tao is an incredibly stunning little island (and my personal favourite). Here is where you can find the cheapest diving in the world. It really has an island vibe where everyone is friendly, restaurants line the main beach and you can easily find a cove to yourself for the day.
DAY TWELVE: This will be a travel day. You will need to travel from Chiang Mai to the south, most likely with a layover in Bangkok. I recommend the splurge and taking a flight to Chumphon or Surat Thani where you will then need to get a bus and a ferry.
DAY THIRTEEN: You’re going to be tired from travel so get ready to kick back and relax on one of Koh Tao’s amazing beaches. Sairee Beach is the main beach where you can catch sunset, eat at one of the many restaurants and find all of the dive shops between souvenier shops. For the afternoon jump on a boat taxi and head to Koh Nang Yuan, the only 3 islands in the world to be connected by sand. Only do this if it’s not included in a snorkelling tour!
DAY FOURTEEN: Spend a day diving or if you’re getting cerifited you’ll be diving for a few days! Or take a snorkelling day trip where you’ll get to see some of the beautiful coves around the island. Some tours will even include visiting Koh Nang Yuan. This night you’ll need to get ready to party on one of Thailand’s best nights out. The Koh Tao Pub Crawl is famous and is a bucket list thing to do in Thailand!
DAY FIFTEEN: Get exploring! Rent a scooter and head to my favourite spot in all of Thailand for an epic viewpoint. Freedom Beach viewpoint won’t disappoint and you’ll probably have the place to yourself as it isn’t yet one of those Thailand tourist places. After taking in the views find your way to a little cove for an afternoon of chilling in the sun. Ask the locals for their favourite before you go, they know what’s best.
Recommended place to stay: Taco Shack (there are 2 Taco Shack locations, either are awesome!)
The next day take the morning ferry to Koh Phangan.
Koh Phangan: 2-3 Days
Koh Phangan is famous for its full moon party’s, it’s basically a right of passage in Thailand. But if you’re not there for the full moon don’t fret, there are still plenty of other parties going on and lots to do on the island!
DAY SIXTEN: Go see some waterfalls! Rent a scooter and make your way around the island to some of the best waterfalls including Sramanora waterfalls, Phaeng, Thaan Prapaad, Thaan Sadet, Wangsai, Paradise and Thaan Prawes waterfalls. Be forwarned that a lot of the waterfals dry up in the dry season! So if that’s the case then head to the Infinity Beach Club Hostel and enjoy the luxurious side of island life without spending too much. Lastly, spend the even partying at whatever party is on or at the Thong Sala night market.
DAY SEVENTEEN: Spend the day beach hopping and see what Koh Phangan has to offer. Some of the best beaches are Bottle Beach, Haad Salad and Haad Yao (long beach). It is not recommended to try and find Bottle Beach by scooter and instead to go by boat. In the evening head to a party or check out the amazing sunset view from Amsterdam Bar.
DAY EIGHTEEN: Your last day is up to you! Try some hiking, head to the Phangan Challenge, a waterpark obstacle course or go diving. Or just spend the day at the beach again if you’re hungover! This is a pretty chill day so if you’d rather get a head start on Koh Samui take the afternoon ferry over.
Recommend place to stay: Echo Beach Backpackers
The next day take the ferry over to Koh Phangan.
Koh Samui: 2-3 Days
Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand and it can easily take 3-4 hours to get to some spots on the Thailand. It is popular for families and also has some interesting spots to see. If yoga is your thing I highly recommend booking yourself into a yoga retreat. You can thank me later because I know it will be the best ending to your trip. My personal recomendation is Vikasa, it is like heaven.
But if yoga isn’t your thing then keep reading!
DAY NINETEEN: Get out and explore! Koh Samui has so much to see. Some temples are Big Budda temple, Buddha footprints and Hin Lad Waterfall temple. I’d ask the staff at your accommodation for recomendations as to what is closest since the island is so large. If you’re interested, stop by Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks. They’re special because they’re shaped like male and female genitalia. Don’t forget to try and fit in some beaches and waterfalls!
DAY TWENTY: Do a day tour to Ang Thong Marine Park where you’ll get to see a viewpoint over an emerald coloured lake and other islands. You’ll spend the day snorkelling and kayaking through caves. Spend your last night at a Thai market where you can pick up the last of your souveniers and binge on all the Thai foods you’ll miss. Some to checkout are Fisherman’s Village Walking Street, Chaweng Night Market and Lamai Night Plaza.
DAY TWENTY-ONE: Your time in paradise has ended so if you have a flight booked from Koh Samui (there is an airport on the island) then you can spend your morning lounging on the beach one last time or you’ll have to make your way back to Bangkok to head home.
Recommended place to stay: 2W Beach Hostel
I hope you visit Thailand and enjoy it as much as I have on my trips and believe me the longer you can stay in the country the better! Even with the 3 week itinerary it just scratches the surface and shows you the highlights, which of course are just some of the best places in Thailand.
Travel Insurance Thailand
Picking travel insurance is an essential part of planning a trip to anyone. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Luckily there are affordable options. I personally recommend, have used and have made multiple claims with World Nomads. If you have no idea where to start then check out my travel insurance guide to help you pick the best option for you.
If this Thailand travel guide hasn’t answered all of your questions please don’t hestitate to comment below or contact me.
Are you planning to see beaches, mountains or a bit of both in Thailand?
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