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Planning a 2-week itinerary to Thailand is no easy task, especially if this is your first trip to the Land of Smiles. The country is full of diversity with famous cities, temples, and islands stretching from the north to the south. With so many places and activities to cram in, it is all too easy to plan a Thailand vacation that leaves little time to relax.
To begin with, there is an array of beach locations to consider. This includes seaside resorts in Central Thailand, such as Pattaya, Jomtien, Hua Hin, and Cha-Am. Then there are the famous tropical islands and beaches in the south comprising Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Krabi, Phang Nga, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Lanta.
On top of this, you have the large group of islands surrounding Koh Chang near the borders of Cambodia and Koh Samet to the south of Pattaya.
The beaches in Thailand provide their fair share of Thailand’s nature and natural beauty, but another side to the country and its culture includes the many rain forests, mountains, national parks, and rural cities. In the north, you have Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai, and Mae Hong Son to weigh up as well as the old cities and provinces full of historic temples to the north of Bangkok.
In this guide, we are going to break down the ultimate Thailand itinerary from 3 days to 2 weeks. The itinerary has been split into two, giving you the chance to experience Thailand’s beach life and have rural adventures in some of Thailand’s most well-known and easy to get to locations.
Make sure that you factor in your travel time between each destination. Although the itinerary suggests you have 3 days in some places, you will need to take into consideration your arrival and departure days. Furthermore, in order to travel between each destination, you will need to fly in most cases.
If any of this seems too much, then feel free to cut out some places and extend the amount of time you have in each place.
Tip: Take some time to relax on day 1.
Most people begin their Thailand adventure in Bangkok. Bangkok has so much to offer but it is also not for the fainthearted. The best areas to stay will be where there is a BTS or MRT close by so you can avoid the traffic.
Bangkok is brilliant for shopping and you can get some great deals in places such as MBK Center and Pantip Plaza near the National Stadium BTS stop. Also, in the same area, you have Siam Paragon and Siam Discovery shopping centers. There, you will find a variety of food, Madame Tussauds, and SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World.
If you are looking for adventure, then check out Bang Krachao, a national park in the center of Bangkok. You will need an entire day there to explore Bang Krachao in all its glory. There are Chinese, Hindu, and Thai Buddhist temples, cycling routes (hire a bike from 50 baht for the entire day), parks, a bird-watching sanctuary, natural lakes, coffee shops, and small restaurants. If you visit on the weekend, then the floating market will be open.
The Grand Palace and Wat Arun are also must-see tourist sites in Bangkok. You can see both in a single day by using the BTS to get to Saphan Taksin and then catching a ferry boat from Central Pier. Another popular tourist spot is Chatuchak Weekend Market, which is in full flow on Saturdays and Sundays. Alternatively, day trips to Bridge over the River Kwai can be arranged.
In short, Bangkok has something for everyone and three days in the city, including getting over your jet lag, is certainly a short amount of time considering how much there is to do there. At the same time, some people can find the city overwhelming and would prefer a short visit.
Recommended duration: 1 day (you can spend the three days there either side of your 2-week vacation)
Best time to visit: any time of the year
Where to stay: near a BTS or MRT station in the center
How to get there: Flying to Bangkok is the most common form of transportation.
Tip: We would recommend flying from Bangkok and arriving there on day 3.
Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most popular islands and, as such, you will find that the hotels, tours, restaurants, and beaches are all well-prepared to cater to tourists. It is not exactly off the beaten path but, for a first-time visit to Thailand, this is the perfect place to acquaint yourself with Thai beach life.
We recommend avoiding Lamai and Chaweng beaches as these areas are very touristy, noisy, and built up. Instead, you should aim for accommodation on the west and north sides of the island, although Bang Kao Beach in the south is also a peaceful beach. In the north, Samrong Beach and Tonson Bay are still reasonably quiet, as are Bang Por, Choeng Mon, and Lipa Noi beaches.
The island offers many activities ranging from nature trips to watersports. Jungle safaris, animal sanctuaries, rock climbing, visiting waterfalls, and mini hikes to viewpoints are popular. On or in the water there are fishing excursions, diving and snorkeling trips, island boat tours, and waterskiing and jet skiing activities.
If you want to do some sightseeing, then check out the Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem in the northeast of Koh Samui. You can also plan to visit Wat Khunaram in the southeast of the island on the same day that you visit Samui Aquarium & Tiger Zoo.
Furthermore, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining. There is an endless supply of seafood restaurants, plenty of barbecue places, and a selection of restaurants serving Western, Indian, Chinese, and/or Thai food.
Recommended duration: three days, but you could plan to stay there for much longer
Best time to visit: November to March
Where to stay: west or north coast
How to get there: Fly to Koh Samui Airport.
Tip: Fly from Koh Samui on day 6 or in the early morning of day 7.
Phuket is another one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations and the country’s largest island. Much like Koh Samui, there are good beaches and bad beaches. Avoid Patong if you want to stay away from the nightlife, partying, and noise. Kata Beach is a nice option but if you are looking for peace and quiet, then it may not be what you are looking for.
We recommend Nai Yang Beach, Panwa Beach, Ao Yon Beach, Laem Ka Beach, or Pansea Beach (there are only two luxury hotels there). Nai Yang Beach is the best place to stay if you are on a short 3-day visit to Phuket because the hotels on this beach are just 5 minutes away from the airport. Panama Beach is also reasonably close to the airport.
While in Phuket, a trip to Phuket Town should be on your agenda. This is an old French and Thai Chinese-style area of the island. There are lots of small markets, shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. It is certainly worth spending half a day there because, quite honestly, there is nowhere else in Thailand that gives off the same aura that this quaint little town has.
Of course, you have all the usual beach activities available on Phuket. Arranging a 1-day tour to the nearby James Bond Island is a must. You will sail through Phang Nga Bay, where you will see some of the world’s most beautiful waters. It is one of the most amazing tours you will ever go on. Try to get a tour that includes the full package with a stop off at a restaurant situated on rocks or mini islands, the chance to swim and snorkel, and the opportunity to canoe through the caves and into the middle of the rocks inhabited by monkeys.
Recommended duration: 3 days, but you could easily spend more time there
Recommended activities: Visit Layan Beach with family and/or friends for fun days out and to go swimming.
Best time to visit: November to March
Where to stay: Choose a quiet beach if you want to relax.
How to get there: Fly to Phuket International Airport.
Tip: Fly from Phuket to Chiang Mai early in the morning on day 10.
By now, you have probably recovered from any jet lag so getting an early flight and checking in by midday will leave you half a day to explore Chiang Mai’s Old City.
The best way to explore the Old City is by hiring a bicycle but you can also just as easily take your time and walk. Make sure you see Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Sri Suphan, and Wat Lok Molee. This will most certainly occupy the rest of your afternoon. You can then settle down for dinner in one of the many streetside restaurants or book a river cruise buffet/dinner.
Outside of the city, you have the choice of numerous temples to visit, such as Wat Phan Tao, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra That Doi Kham, Wat Umong, and Wat Suan Dok, or take a trip to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. In short, Chiang Mai is not short of temples both inside and outside the city.
Chiang Mai Zoo is worth visiting, especially if you are traveling with children. There are also 1-day tours that will take you up to see the hill tribes. Some tours will take you to visit up to six hill tribe villages during your visit.
Recommended duration: 3 days, and you could easily stretch this to 5 days
Best time to visit: November to March
Where to stay: near the Old City and by the river are the best places to stay
How to get there: Fly to Chiang Mai International Airport.
Tip: Leave early on day 13, check-in to your accommodation, and head straight out.
If you have time and want to tick another one of Thailand’s popular northern cities off your list of places you’ve visited, then Chiang Rai within the Golden Triangle is perfect. From Chiang Mai, it is about a 3 to 4-hour bus or minibus ride.
When you get there, you will only have time for one of the following places. If you are still in the mood for more temples, then it is most certainly worth penciling a visit to both the Black Temple and the White Temple with a side visit to Art Bridge Chiang Rai. If you can also stop off at Chiang Rai Beach along the Kok River on the way, this is certainly worth sparing the time to get some snapshots of this beach set in the jungle.
However, if you have had your fill of temples, then Chiang Rai is an excellent place for trekking. You should book any treks with a local tour company and ask them to include as many waterfalls as possible, such as Pu Kaeng, Huay Mae Sai, Huay Kaew, Khun Korn, and Pong Phrabat. On top of this, you can double up on the hot springs including Fang Hot Spring, Pong Phrabat, Pong Phra Soet, Huay Mark Lium, and bonus hot springs.
In the evening, take a romantic stroll through Chiang Rai to take in the quiet atmosphere and meet some of the friendly locals who are always thrilled to have tourists visit. Plan your route to walk down Chiang Rai Walking Street, past Chiang Rai Clock Tower and King Mengrai Monument. You should then head to Chiang Rai Night Bazaar where you will have a selection of Northern Thai food to choose from.
Recommended duration: 1 day, but you could stretch this to 2 or 3 days
Ideal for: adventure, culture, food lovers, families with kids
Best time to visit: November to March
Where to stay: Read about how to choose a hotel in Chiang Rai.
There is an airport in Chiang Rai with flights operated mostly by AirAsia and going direct to Suvarnabhumi Airport where you can then connect to your flight home. If you arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport with a few hours still to spare, then store your luggage in one of the temporary storage service areas and visit one of the places mentioned in our Bangkok stopover guide.
If you have a few more days available in Thailand, then we have added a bonus itinerary here. Also, you can use the bonus itinerary to replace some of the suggested places above.
Koh Chang is one of the most overlooked places in Thailand. This is mostly because it takes about 2 to 3 hours to get from the nearest airport in Trat to the island. On top of this, the only flights into Trat Airport are run by Bangkok Airways out of Suvarnabhumi Airport.
As Koh Chang does not see as much tourist traffic as other islands, such as Koh Samui or Phuket, the beaches there are never overcrowded in peak seasons.
Close to Koh Chang are two more islands where you can find accommodation. Koh Rong and Koh Wai are much smaller than Koh Chang and have fewer tourist visits than Koh Chang. This basically means that you will pretty much have the beach to yourself.
1. Best time to visit: November to March (the cool season)
2. Always check the maximum luggage weight allowance when booking domestic flights.
3. Make sure that you have travel insurance — read our guide on how to choose travel insurance.
4. Read our guide covering the 11 worst scams in Thailand so you are not caught out.
5. Take some warm clothing with you if you plan to visit the north of Thailand.
6. Plan on getting a Thai tourist SIM card — read this guide on the best SIM cards for tourists.
7. Try to learn some basic Thai language skills before you arrive (not all Thais speak English).
8. Leave with plenty of time to get to the airport and check-in your luggage.
Whether you want to cram in multiple destinations for your Thailand trip or you just want to visit a few places with time to relax, then Asia Highlights’ team can help. With our local knowledge, we specialize in booking accommodation, transport, and activities as well as tours in Thailand. From the moment you arrive, our agents will make sure your trip runs on schedule and goes as planned every step of the way.
We can arrange the perfect getaway for singles, couples, and families. Whether you want to relax on the beach, visit historic temples, enjoy nature trips, shop until you drop, visit the best markets and street food venues, or if there is any other activity that would like to fit into your Thailand adventure, our team has the experience and expertise to make it happen.