21-Day Northern Thailand & Beaches – Itinerary
This 21-day adventure starts in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, and ends on the island paradise of Koh Phangan. Along the way, you’ll stop at so many varied and beautiful destinations you will not believe they are all in the same country!
We will be at the airport to greet you when you arrive into Bangkok and will take you straight to our hotel near the (in)famous backpacker hub of Khao San road! There are no activities planned for day one so you have time to get settled in, meet your new travel mates and get ready for one of our best group adventures! In the evening we’ll take you to one of our favorite restaurants and then for a few drinks on Khao San road so we can all get to know each other over an ice cold beer.
(Even if you arrive one or two days before the start of the trip we will still pick you up at the airport, introduce you to any other early arrivals and give you some ideas for stuff to do and see in Bangkok before the tour starts!)
KANCHANABURI, KAYAKING ON THE RIVER KWAI
Leaving Bangkok in the morning by private mini bus, we’ll get a real taste of Thailand as our first stop is Taling Chan floating market, possibly one of the coolest sites to see around Bangkok. After a bit of sight seeing and shopping, we head on to Kanchanaburi where we take part in another water based activity as we jump on a boat and cruise down the river Kwai exploring your new surroundings. We head to the famous ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’ for sunset.
Just an hour away from Kanchanaburi sits Thailand’s most famous waterfall, the spectacular multi-tiered, Erawan Falls. For a country that boast many beautiful waterfalls big and small, that is no small claim. Erawan waterfall has seven levels with different features and every one of them is jaw droopingly beautiful. Make sure you bring a towel and your swimming costume because you will undoubtedly want to take a dip in the crystal clear water on some, if not all, of the levels as we trek from one to the next. When we arrive back at our guesthouse you will have a few hours to explore the town or chill by the pool before we catch up in the evening for dinner and drinks.
AYUTTHAYA, ANCIENT RUINS & HISTORY
After a bit of a lie in we get back on the road to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. This was actually Thailand’s second capital (before Bangkok) and is absolutely dripping in history and culture. We’ll explore the ancient city ruins by bike, take in the incredible sights of the UNESCO world heritage site and learn a little about the fascinating history of this place and indeed the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand) before grabbing a bite to eat and hopping on the night train to our next destination, Chiang Mai. The train is comfortable and everyone gets their own full size bed with covers and pillows etc. You can use the time on the train to catch up on sleep or take in the views. We’ll arrive nice and early in the famous and beautiful city of Chiang Mai.
CHIANG MAI – TEMPLES & CULTURE
After we check into our new accommodation, which is ideally situated between the old and new areas of Chiang Mai, you’ll have time to chill by the pool, explore or check out the oldest temple in Chiang Mai which is right opposite our hotel. After lunch, we jump in a cab up the mountain to visit the most famous temple in Chiang Mai – Wat Doi Suthep. This beautiful temple is situated way up high on Suthep Mountain so the views from the top are incredible and you get a panoramic view of the whole of the city.
JUNGLE TREKKING & HILL TRIBE HOMESTAY
Today we head off on a jungle trek – one of Northern Thailand’s must-do activities! During the two-day trek we’ll see plenty of cool things and will spend a night in a hill tribe village home stay, so you can experience what life is like for the many traditional hill tribes of Northern Thailand whose way of life has not changed a lot in many years. During the trek you’ll see all kinds of trees, plants and wildlife, we’ll do some bamboo rafting in the river and maybe even stop by another waterfall or two to freshen up after some long walks. This does not require a very high level of fitness but is a bit of a challenge, so you will definitely have earned the next beer we crack open when we get back to Chiang Mai!
ZIP LINE THROUGH THE JUNGLE
Chiang Mai is known as the adventure capital of Thailand and for good reason. There are loads of cool activities to do up in the city and our absolute favourite of these and probably the most popular with tourists is Zip Lining; an amazing experience certain to get the heart racing and adrenaline pumping. Almost flying from platform to platform through the canopy of the jungle up to 50m above the ground, throw in some rope bridges and a few abseils and you’ll experience the jungle in an entirely different (and much faster) way than walking through it at ground level.
Today we will get to know some of the planet’s most amazing and majestic creatures. Many of the elephants here have been saved from hard lives spent working in the logging industry or in unethical elephant trekking camps where they must wear heavy metal saddles and carry tourists around all day in the heat. This is not only bad for the elephants’ physical health but also their mental health. At this sanctuary, all of the elephants are free to roam and are not forced to do anything unnatural. When we arrive we will be given a quick briefing and learn about some of the resident elephants, then we can feed them some sugar cane and banana (which they love) and get to know them a bit before we wonder with them down to the river for a swim and a bath. This is an incredible experience and something that you will not forget for a long time.
In the afternoon we’ll jump on another mini bus and follow the mountain roads to the cool and quirky little town of Pai. It’s about three hours outside of Chiang Mai and is now a very popular backpacker destination for a number of good reasons. Nice scenery, cool stuff to see and do, very chilled vibe, lovely people, good bars and excellent food. Winning!
LIFE OF PAI – CAVES, CANYONS & HOT SPRINGS
Today we’ll take a day trip to see some of the natural features and highlights of the area. Starting at the biggest cave in Thailand (the Lod Cave), we’ll hike through one or both of the main chambers before taking a bamboo raft on the river that runs through the cave, (depending on season and accessibility). Afterwards we take a short drive to the local hot springs, a completely natural pool in the jungle which is heated by geothermal activity. Take a refreshing dip in the crystal clear water, give yourself a beauty treatment with the clay and float around in the perfect temperature pool before we head to a nearby waterfall with a natural slide and and beautiful view. We finish the trip high up at Pai Canyon which has an even more amazing view of the surrounding mountains and jungle. You can walk along the ridge and take some awesome pics as we watch the sun come down from the top. After a long day of sightseeing we’ll go to a nice restaurant and maybe a bar or two to sample some of Pai’s busy backpacker nightlife.
NICE AS PAI – CHILLING & CIRCUS SKILLS
A well deserved chill out day today. After a bit of a lie in, we head to Fluid swimming pool bar where many of the backpackers in town head to relax, cool down and socialise. When we are done here we’ll head up to Pai Circus School which is a backpacker hostel with a difference. Not only does it have beautiful views of the surrounding country side and a pool and a bar, they also have several staff members and volunteers who are there to teach the guests and visitors how to do cool stuff like fire spinning, hula hooping, slack lining & juggling so if you have ever wanted to learn any of these (trust us you will when you see how cool they are) then now is your chance so jump in and give it a go. If it’s not your scene that’s fine, you can just relax by the bar, in one of the hammocks, or in the pool as we watch the sun go down.
BACK TO CHIANG MAI & COOKING COURSE
When we return to Chiang Mai from Pai we will do yet another one of the areas most popular activities – a Thai cooking course.
Some of the most delicious food in Thailand comes from the North so why not learn to make a few of your favourite dishes from the masters. In the afternoon we get picked up and taken to one of the city’s most well established cooking schools. First stop is the local market where our guides and teachers will show us how to select the freshest and tastiest ingredients. You can choose between many well known dishes and will be shown step by step how to prepare each one. One of the best bits about it is that we will of course get to eat it all afterwards so don’t eat too much for lunch. This is another really great experience, even for those who don’t usually take to the kitchen too often.
CHIANG MAI CANYON
Chiang Mai’s answer to the Grand Canyon. This is an awesome place to spend the day, it’s basically an old excavation site which is now a man-made lagoon that has been turned into an adult playground. There are floaties to chill on in the water, paddle boards, tubes and if you are brave enough you can do cliff jumping or even have a go at deep water soloing or climbing on their new climbing wall. There’s also a restaurant on site so we can grab, lunch, snacks and refreshments whilst there. In the evening we head out into town once again for the final farewell dinner and party! Our last night in Chiang Mai.
CHECK OUT & TRAVEL TO BANGKOK
Today you will check out of your accommodation and have a free day to relax, shop or add in any additional activities before we catch the overnight train back to Bangkok.
See the capital by the water as we travel by longtail boat along the Chao Phraya River, you’ll explore Bangkok and experience some of Thailand’s heritage. We visit two prestigious temples – Wat Arun and Wat Pho, to see the very impressive giant, gold reclining Buddha statue. The rest of the day is free for exploring; you may want to try some of the famous shopping in Bangkok as its known for being notoriously cheap. Remember to always try and barter with the street vendors, you can sometimes get as much as 50% off the original price! Then in the evening we meet again for dinner, drinks and more group bonding.
Tonight we hit the tracks as we travel on an overnight train down south, so indulge yourself in a tradition Thai message before we board to really relax before our journey, as we swap the hustle and bustle of Bangkok for the tranquil lakes of Khao Sok National Park which is situated in the Surat Thani province of Thailand.
KHAO SOK FLOATING BUNGLOWS
Picture a fresh-water lake surrounded by lush rainforest and this is home for the night. We will be staying in the floating bungalows of Khao Sok tonight for a real once in a lifetime experience. Before the sunsets try your hand at some kayaking or chill with a beer in a tube in front of the stunning backdrop of this limestone mountain range.
ARRIVE IN KOH PHANGAN, BOTTLE BEACH
We are up bright and early today to enjoy breakfast on the lake before we head on to Koh Phangan where we make our way straight to a paradise beach that is so secluded it’s like no where you’ve seen before. Welcome to Bottle Beach, our favourite beach in the world. Only accessible by boat this place is insane, and not only is it beautiful, we pretty much get the whole beach to ourselves. Laze round by the shore, have a game of volleyball or head out for a swim before this evenings dinner and cocktails, which we enjoy campfire style right on the sand, just a stones throw away from our beachfront huts.
MUAY THAI LESSON
This morning you will wake up to the sound of the rolling waves of bottle beach and feel totally chilled. Kayaking, topping up your tan or seeing the view points on a trek, whatever you do just make the most of it, because early afternoon we will be picked up and taken to a local gym to try your hand at Thailand’s national sport, Muay Thai boxing. Work out over its time to make our way to out awesome accommodation at Echo Beach backpackers for our two nights. Haad Rinn will be our playground this evening for dinner and plenty of drinks as we discover the many beach bars.
ISLAND BOAT TRIP
All aboard the island boat trip, today we embark on a voyage that takes us all around Koh Phangan. Surrounded by incredible tropical island scenery, there will be plenty of time to stop off for some snorkelling at the coolest hotspots on the island and we will also visit Than Sadet waterfall (seasonal). And to top it all off we have free drinks and food throughout the trip. Tonight is our last hurrah, so we head for a slap up meal at the best restaurant in town. The goodbyes continue back at the beach bars with drinks and dancing as we call close on an amazing week.
There is nothing worse than a break of dawn check out so that’s why we take a chilled check out at 11am. Our staff will be on hand to help you plan your next steps, whether that’s heading back to Bangkok for your flight home or continuing your adventure we will make sure you get to where you need to go.