“Land of Smiles”
To really experience Thailand, a 10 day itinerary is necessary to soak up all the adventure this beautiful country has to offer. This country has everything from elephant sanctuaries to zip lining; your mind will be spinning with how much there is to do. All of these itinerary suggestions are totally dependant on your travel style and capabilites. When I travel, I like to constantly be doing things, see and do as much as possible and have no breaks. Therefore, this itinerary is strictly adventure.
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Day 1: Fly into Bangkok
And then fly right out of it. It’s just another city so I skipped it. If you want to see the floating market that’s totally up to you but I wanted to get right to Chiang Mai! Trust me you won’t miss anything. If you absolutely have to visit, perhaps leave it for your last day before flying out!
Get a separate ticket to fly into Chiang Mai.
Here’s the site I used to book my domestic flights in Thailand: https://www.thaismileair.com/en
Directly outside of Chiang Mai airport are taxis, but around the corner to the right there are red songthaews waiting (they are much cheaper and you bargain with these too).
Thapae Loft is where I stayed – located in “Old City” which is surrounded by a wall, like medieval times! They had beer for about 30 cents USD and cocktails for about 90 cents USD in a fun car they made into a bar right outside the hotel.The room was so clean, the service was outstanding no matter what we needed and the staff were so kind.
It’s centrally located to everything you need to see and do. I will definitely stay there again, it was in a safe neighborhood which is important to think of when you are traveling alone or in small groups. They have 24 hour service and set up a taxi for us to get to the airport.
Day 2: Discover some temples
There are quite a few around Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep is the most popular and this article by GloboTreks will give you step by step detail on the best trail to take to the top and how to get there.
Wat Chedi Luang was my favorite Old City attraction and just a short walk from Thaepae Loft! This lot of land had a golden temple, a few other little monuments and the main attraction: the Chedi. The reason for the impact at the top is unknown, but a local informed us the story is that a crater hit it.
Day 3: Optional, take motorbikes to Pai
In Thailand, an itinerary never goes as planned but that’s the beauty of it, there are so many options. Pai was highly suggested but I couldn’t get there with my flight schedule. The road trip there is absolutely beautiful, about 1.5 hours outside Chiang Mai, making it the perfect day trip, or two. You’ll experience the true local life of Thailand here. It’s a hub for backpackers! This article is a wonderful guide to the road from here to there.
Day 3 option 2:
Spend time in Chiang Mai during the day and immerse yourself in the culture. The monks are out and about, and the food is just to die for. In the evening, go to the Night Bazaar located outside of Old City, by the river. Souvenirs and street food are the main event here. Be weary of the street food and DO NOT drink the water, buy water bottles.
Day 4: Visit Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
A Thailand itinerary would not be complete without this. I could go on for days about why you need to be very picky about which one you visit, but choose one that doesn’t allow riding elephants because that’s why they are in a sanctuary in the first place. Abuse and fake sanctuaries are not uncommon in Southeast Asia.
If you want a glimpse of one day at EJS, check out my post here!
Feeding, mud baths, river baths, and bonding was all included in our day. *Book online and you will get a free shirt at the end of the day!* They have options for multi-day excursions as well. Bring a change of clothes because you will be introduced to mud and river play!
Click here to book your tour and get more information on the sanctuary and their four legged friends.
Check out these other day tours around Chiang Mai!
Taking tours is one of the best ways to see the rural areas, eat the best food and meet the locals!
Day 5: Fly to Phuket
This location is totally optional. You could skip this whole section and instead alter your itinerary to another island. I will be totally transparent and say I did NOT like Phuket, but it’s the tourist hot spot and has the most transportation to other islands. Basing yourself here is a great idea if you want to island hop around the Andaman Sea, which is what I did.
The airport exit has kiosks for bus passes, it’s hard to miss. They cost about $8 USD to go all the way from the airport to Patong (2 hour drive) and they drop you off directly at your hotel. They will make a stop at their tourist partner shop for about 30 minutes but you don’t have to buy anything.
We stayed at R-Mar Resort & Spa which was an absolute dream for the price we got to pay. Everything’s so much cheaper in Thailand. This hotel was so clean, had a gorgeous outdoor pool with a bar, and a massage service with unbelievably affordable prices! It was walking distance to everything in Patong and the famous Tiger amazon jungle themed restaurant is right down the road.
Durian fruit is forbidden, like in most buildings, because of the stench it produces, so don’t bring it in! I didn’t try it, so let me know how you like it if you do ;).
There’s a plethora of souvenir shops and tour kiosks around Patong Beach so spend the rest of your day eating local food and planning your island hopping adventures (barter with them and don’t visit just one)! Tour kiosks are like Starbucks, there’s on every corner and in between. Patong Beach is somewhat pretty, it’s VERY touristy so you won’t see clear blue water until you hit the islands. Which brings me to the next adventure on your Thailand itinerary.
Day 6-9: Island hopping
Limestone rocks and picturesque cliffs are the reason so many people come to the ‘Land of Smiles’. You can either hire a long boat for about $20-30 from Patong, depending on what you and the operator agree on, or take a tour through the kiosks you found yesterday. Bartering is very common here and is expected, so don’t let them cheat you!
Click here for a more detailed island hopping guide!
We did the Phi Phi Islands and snorkeling on our first day with a tour we picked out on a pamphlet at the kisosks. I advise against this tour because they give you zero time to actually have fun on the island and explore, so again, hire a long boat or just pick a tour that doesn’t hit more than one or two islands per day. Phi Phi consists of 3 big islands and we had roughly 30-45 minutes at each stop.
See, all travel is not luxurious and perfect, there are mistakes that are made and lessons to be learned, which is why I am gracing you with this valuable information so you don’t make the same ones I did.
Phi Phi Don is nothing special, but Monkey beach is fun! Make sure it’s low tide or you can’t get out and play with them. We were at high tide but still able to float up to the limestone, and the monkeys jumped on our boats!
James Bond Island rightly named because of his ‘Man With the Golden Gun’ movie scenes, it’s still as beautiful as ever and there are lagoons within the surrounding islands to take tours with.
*Update as of 12/8/2019 – Maya Bay is closed until mid-2021 for ecological recovery.
Coral Island/Koh Hey/Banana Beach (same island) is my absolute favorite tour we did. It was one island and we got to snorkel ALL day. The boat took us around the island to a private spot which has, you guessed it, a coral HEAVEN. This island is known for how much coral it has; it’s one of the biggest areas in the world for it.
Day 10: Zip Lining
This was my personal favorite adventure on our itinerary! We booked Flying Hanuman through one of the kiosks in Patong. Again, bargain with the tour kiosks to get the best price. We arranged to have the tour bus to pick us up at our hotel and drove about an hour to the starting point.
Flying Hanuman is the safest zip lining company we encountered. They take safety seriously and that’s why their price is higher than some other companies, but not falling off and dying is pretty important so I thought it was worth it.
My trip to Thailand was not once in a lifetime for me; I will be back because there are so many things I didn’t get to see. I hope you enjoy your trip and get to see and do all the things! With this 10 day itinerary, adventure is inevitable. Start booking your vacation below!
Need help packing for a conservative country like Thailand? I made a list here that will be sure to cover all the bases!