Southeast Asia could fill a year’s worth of travel ideas. Thailand, in particular, is one of the most popular destinations for any traveller, with endless mountains, beaches, jungles and cities to explore. Each region of Thailand offers breathtaking destinations and memorable experiences, but with so much to take in, how much time is right for your ultimate Thailand holiday?
Although it’s tempting to squeeze everything in, and if you have plenty of time, it’s certainly possible! For those with only 1, 2 or 3 weeks available, you’ll want to tailor your itinerary to match your interests, budget and bucket lists. To plan the perfect itinerary for Thailand, you must first establish all your favourite places and how to reach them.
Where’s the Best Place to Start Your Thailand Trip?
Thailand isn’t an enormous country, but its highlights spread from the beach-lined southern coast to its cosmopolitan capital, right to the jungle-clad northern mountains. To organise the best Thailand holiday, start by asking yourself these seven questions:
1. How long can you spend in Thailand, or how long would you like to spend in each destination?
2. What’s your budget for flights, accommodation, activities and excursions?
3. Where and what are your absolute must-sees?
4. What are your interests, i.e., island hopping, rest and relaxation, culture-infused, food-focused, hiking or animal experiences?
5. Are you travelling with family, solo, on a backpacking adventure or a group trip?
6. How do you want to travel: flights only, local transport or guided tours?
7. What type of holiday are you looking for – five-star luxury, backpacking adventure, packaged holiday or a tailor-made experience?
What is the Ideal Number of Days to Spend in Thailand?
This is a popular question, and when the average flight time to Thailand from London is 11 and a half hours, you want to ensure you’ve booked enough time to get everything you want from your holiday. Two weeks is a good amount of time to see Thailand's vibrancy and natural beauty, but even in a week, you can see some stunning parts of Thailand. Here’s some inspiration for what you can plan with the most popular Thailand itineraries:
Thailand 10-day Itinerary
With a more focused plan, explore Bangkok for one or two days before a quick visit to the North (if you want to see the elephants). Then, head South for swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing.
Thailand 2-week Itinerary
Start with a couple of days in Bangkok and split the rest of your time between jungle exploring and temple treks in the North before relaxing and island hopping in the South.
Thailand 3-week Itinerary
3 to 4 weeks allow you to fully indulge in this gorgeous country. With this time, you can settle into the bright lights of Bangkok before hiking around the Northern mountains and finishing up on the golden Thai coast.
Must-see Thailand Locations
Once you’ve pinned down the type of Thailand holiday, your budget and timeframe, the itinerary is pretty easy to organise. But where can you book the best experiences in Thailand? To make creating your holiday itinerary easier, it helps to split Thailand into three areas:
Bangkok is Thailand’s biggest city and a whirlwind of colours, smells, tastes and sounds. As most travellers arrive here at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, it’s often a popular choice to begin your adventure. There’s a beautiful contrast between old and new, with day trips to the ancient city of Ayutthaya or tours around wartimes sites and temples such as Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Grand Palace.
Alternatively, soak up the cosmopolitan culture with street markets, live sports events, boat tours and vibrant nightlife, including several rooftop bars with panoramic city views. A lot is happening in Bangkok, and the crowds may be a bit much as you first arrive, especially with jetlag, so many travellers tend to explore the city’s sights before flying home. Either way, we suggest at least two days before moving on via internal flights, or how about a sleeper train?
Smothered in rich, tropical jungles and towering mountains, Northern Thailand offers serenity from the buzz of Bangkok. If you’re a fan of historical temples and bicycle rides through the scenic countryside, you’ll want at least 3-5 days to explore the different regions as well as the chance to get up close and personal with amazing elephant experiences. Here are our must-see places in Northern Thailand:
The 2nd biggest city in Thailand provides plenty to see morning, noon and night, from hill tribe treks and Thai massages to tasty Thai cooking classes and mesmerising night markets. Chiang Mai’s charm provides a peaceful pace to your holiday – great for when you first arrive and a gentle start to any Thailand holiday. You can fly straight to Chiang Mai from Bangkok or travel up via train. Book at least three days to see everything or add a few extra days to experience something special, such as the Khao Soi Doi Inthanon National Park, Jedsee Fountain Forest Park or the Elephant Nature Park.
Another beautiful Northern spot is only a few hours from Chaing Mai. Chaing Rai is better suited for those with a longer itinerary; although a fabulous site for gorgeous greenery, Chaing Rai will appeal to travellers looking for peace and serenity. Enjoy a couple of days to discover the local villages and temples via guided treks or leisurely bike rides.
Pai is a fantastic stop for backpackers or solo travellers with some flexibility with their itineraries. A couple of days should be enough to truly be at one with nature and soak up the beauty of waterfalls, hot springs, and the Tham Lod Caves and Pai Canyons. Book into the peaceful riverside accommodation for a night or two, or head to the more touristy side of town and tuck into delicious cafes, restaurants and street food.
When you think of Thailand, thoughts naturally fall to the turquoise oceans lapping against white sand beaches, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The south is home to the Gulf of Thailand – a wanderlust of island hopping, water activities, or simply soaking up the sun. For a relaxing Thailand holiday, we suggest 3 to 5 days to meditate in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Here are some of our bucket-list locations:
Probably one of the most well-known spots in Thailand after Bangkok. Phuket offers affordable accommodation to suit every budget and should definitely be on your itinerary, at least for a couple of days. While here, visit the Big Buddha, explore the Old Town, and sip on a cocktail while watching the sun set. Phuket is ideal for Ao Nang Island hopping, and you can’t miss a stop at Koh Phi Phi – one of the most luxurious islands on the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Phi Phi caters for hikers looking for hilltop views, Thai food fans or backpackers looking to party until sunrise.
Situated along the mountainous Andaman coast, Krabi is the dream destination for keen rock climbers. With plenty of places to stay on the island, two days should be enough to pack in some activities and sunbathing. Its most famous beach is Railay Beach, which is now ticketed to tourists to preserve its natural beauty. But there are several equally stunning islands just a boat ride away. Set in the Andaman Sea, Koh Lanta, Koh Ngai and Koh Jum offer snorkelling, kayaking, diving and hiking around their pristine settings.
Khao Sok National Park
One of the most visited destinations in Southern Thailand are the Khoa Sok National Park and Cheow Lan Lake, so try to set a day aside to explore this oasis. You’ll need to book your tickets in advance and pick a tour to suit your interests, including jungle treks, cave diving, kayaking or clifftop hiking.
While exploring the south, allocate a couple of days to the second largest island in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui. Edged by bright white sands, there’s something for everyone. Start by visiting the local markets and Secret Buddha Gardens – remember to spot the Big Buddha himself! Next, book some authentic cooking or fruit carving classes or take a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park, made up of 42 islands; you can book day tours to explore, snorkel, hike, scuba dive or kayak.
We can’t talk about Southern Thailand without mentioning the most extraordinary encounters at Elephant Hills. If a one-day meet and greet with these incredible creatures isn’t enough, Elephant Hills offers jungle tours and unique camping experiences from 2 to 4 days. Based in Khoe Sok, Elephant Hills is the first to combine luxury floating tents with the heart of the Thai tropical forest.
Getting Around Thailand
The secret to planning the best Thailand itinerary is using their different transport methods. From moving about the city to travelling to other ends of the country, there are many ways to get around without wasting too much sight-seeing time, such as:
Local transport – bus, train, ferry, overnight trains
Metro, Skytrain and long boats (located in Bangkok)
Bikes, tuk-tuks, boat tours and scooters
Tours and transfers
When is the Best Time to Visit Thailand?
The time of year can also play a huge factor in your Thailand itinerary. Depending on your reasons for travelling to South Asia, you may want to avoid high tourist periods or their Monsoon seasons. November to April tends to be Thailand’s cool and dry season. It’s also their peak period, so it may seem busier and more expensive. September to October is known as the rainy months, sometimes welcomed by those who struggle in the heat. Their Monsoon seasons vary from coast to coast, hitting the West between May to October and the East from September to December.
Start Planning Your Thailand Holiday
If you’re unsure where to begin with organising your Asian adventure, Westaway Travel are on hand to help. Not only have we ventured to this gorgeous country, but we’ve partnered with some of the best local tour groups and know the unique ways to get around. From all-inclusive Thailand holidays to island hopping, contact the team to map out your Thailand experience today.