A definitive tour through South East Asia's gem

Combining the best of the north and south, this is the definitive Thailand tour. Travel from the clamour of the capital to the serenity of steamy rainforests, from atmospheric ruins to relaxed sun-drenched islands. Tour temples in Bangkok, bargain-hunt in lively Chiang Mai and then swim, snorkel or simply kick back on the divine beaches of the southern coast. This adventure is the perfect chance to visit the many attractions and treasures of Thailand.

Following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej a 1 year mourning period has been declared in Thailand. In the first 30 days all government offices will fly the Thai flag at half-mast and there will likely be restrictions on the opening hours or selling of alcohol at entertainment venues including pubs and clubs. If your trip is before mid-January 2017 and includes a visit to the Grand Palace, this activity will be replaced with an alternative as the Palace will be closed to tourists while people from all over Thailand pay their respects to the King. Your leader will discuss this and any other changes with you at the Group Meeting on Day 1. As this is an emotional time for Thailand and its people we ask that our travellers wear dark coloured clothing over the next 30 days as a mark of respect to the much loved King.

In 2017 the trip duration will change from a 16 day trip to a 17 day trip. The itinerary will no longer go to Koh Pha Ngan and we will replace this with 2 nights in Chumphon with an additional snorkeling tour and one night in a homestay on Koh Pitak. 2017 trip notes will be available online in September.

Bangkok, Thailand
Ko Samui, Thailand
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
492kg pp per trip


  • Explore the colourful streets of Bangkok
  • See the stunning ruins of Sukhothai
  • Feast upon scrumptious Thai cuisine
  • Stay with Intrepid's village friends in rural Thailand
  • Experience culture in chilled out Chiang Mai
  • Discover Buddhist relics in Bangkok city
  • Cruise to idyllic Thai islands
  • Chill out on perfect beaches
  • Experience the amazing Thai hospitality


This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place, and have your insurance details and next of kin information ready for collection. Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore, so perhaps arrive a day or so early. You could take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage. After the meeting tonight, perhaps gather your fellow travellers together and tuck into some into world famous street food.
This morning, leave the current capital of Thailand and head north by local bus to one of the first ancient capitals of Siam, Sukhothai (approximately 6 hours). You’ll make a short stop midway through for a chance to stretch the legs and buy some lunch. Located on a fertile plain, Sukhothai was established in the 13th century, and the name means the 'Dawn of Happiness'. It’s now famous for its World Heritage-listed historic park that celebrates the Golden Age of Thai civilisation. Tonight, be sure to head to the fascinating local night market and try the local dishes, like Sukhothai noodles.
Head out to the historical ruins of Old Sukhothai, set amid beautiful lakes and gardens. The religious art and architecture of the Sukhothai era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles, and the Sukhothai Historical Park contains the remains of 21 historic sites, with awe-inspiring Buddha images and four large ponds often filled with stunning lotus flowers in full bloom. Upon arrival at the park, hire bicycles and enjoy a few leisurely hours feeling the breeze in your hair and learning about the history of this fascinating place. Enjoy a home-cooked picnic lunch somewhere along the way, and if you have enough free time, visit a local ceramics factory.
Travel by private minivan from Sukothai to your overnight homestay (approximately 4-5 hours). On the way, stop off at the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital located in Lampang. This is the first elephant hospital in the world established to care for sick and abused elephants, with the aim of preserving the animals' natural habitat and lifestyle. You’ll learn more about this important initiative and perhaps become acquainted with some of its resident pachyderm patients. Continue 1.5 hours to the warm and welcoming home of Intrepid's long-time friends in a small Thai village. Accommodation is multishare and basic (there will be fold-out mattresses on the floor and shared bathrooms), but there is no better way to better understand a country and its people. In the evening, you’ll be treated to a traditional northern Thai khantohk dinner, accompanied by live music and dancing.
In the morning, jump on some bikes and cruise around the homestay village. This is a great opportunity to see how the locals live, and you’ll make a few stops along the way to see small country industries in the area. Cycling past the rice fields and breathing in the fresh country air, with beautiful mountains in the distance, makes this morning a picture-postcard experience. Say goodbye to your new friends and travel on to Chiang Mai (approximately 45 minutes). The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Chances are, you won’t want to leave. Your accommodation has both ensuite bathrooms and air conditioning, and is perfectly located right by the famous vibrant night markets.
Today you have the choice of doing a half day Thai cooking class or a half day cycling tour around Chiang Mai. If you're a foodie, then you’ll discover some of the secrets of Thai cuisine, learn the key ingredients, how to use them, and what to use in their place if you can’t get them at home. As well as taking your own comprehensive recipe book with you after the class, you'll feast on the fruits of your labour for lunch. If you’re feeling more active then you might want to saddle up for a half day cycling trip. After a short safety briefing and bicycle fitting, navigate the light downtown traffic as you cycle south, a pleasant ride along the green banks of the Ping River. Make a stop at a former leper colony turned rehabilitation centre, where you’ll get to know some of the daily life of the missionaries who worked here over a hundred years ago. The trip continues along various fruit orchards, cycling down small country roads and meandering around the villages on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Here you’ll discover the real rural Thailand and encounter the Thai way of life. Explore the temple ruins of Wiang Kum Kam, the former capital of Lanna, before you cycle back to Chiang Mai.
Today is free for you to explore, but there are also a few optional activities you can join if you want. Perhaps explore the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep. Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive 300-step naga-guarded stairway (approximately 45 mins). The rewards justify the climb with one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand on display, not to mention fantastic panoramic views of the city and the opportunity to listen to hypnotic evening chanting by resident Buddhist monks. You could also join an Urban Adventure and allow yourself to be spirited away on an early morning Chiang Mai tour that puts you at the epicentre of Buddhist rituals. Learn to meditate, offer alms to monks, and make an offering at a temple. Or maybe wander markets, meet monks, cruise the river, and slurp noodles on a Mae Ping River Experience. Tonight you’ll board an overnight train for Bangkok, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (approximately 13 hours). Multi share compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds; sheets and pillow provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There is a food and drink service available on board.
Your train is scheduled to arrive back in Bangkok in the early morning. Today you have a free day; you might want to consider doing an optional Urban Adventure. Or simply relax with a Thai massage.

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
You’ll start today with a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage. Wat Pho is one of the ‘trinity’ of Bangkok temples, located practically next door to the Grand Palace, and inside lies a 46-metre long gold-plated Buddha. Even the feet of this statue are incredible, three metres long and intricately decorated with mother of pearl. The temple grounds are equally fascinating, filled with beautifully decorated stupas, halls, and shrines. The complex is considered the first public university in the country, and is home to the world famous Wat Pho massage school, the centre of the traditional practice. The rest of the afternoon is free for optional activities, and this city has so much to offer – perhaps head next door to the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, or travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok. Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Tonight you will board an overnight train southbound for Surat Thani (approximately 13 hours).

Notes: Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, and beds are multi-share compartments with bunk bed padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing compartments with locals of the same or opposite gender. Your baggage will travel in the carriage with you. There's also a food and drink service available on board.
Arrive into Surat Thani this morning and continue by bus (approximately 1.5 hours) and boat (approximately 3 hours) over to Ko Pha-Ngan. While its Haad Rin beach might be famous for the Full Moon Party, the beautiful island of Ko Pha-Ngan is also a perfect spot for some chilled relaxing on the beach or some exploring of the island's fishing villages, temples and waterfalls. The rest of the day is free – maybe take a trip to nearby Than Sadet falls or Bottle Beach, a favourite of the hippy trail and often said to be one of the most exquisite in the entire region. You’ll finish the day in true chilled out island-life style with an included seafood barbeque right on the beach.
A highlight of any time spent on the beach in Thailand is a massage, so what better way to start the day than with an included That massage right on the beach front, where you have no choice but to relax. The rest of the day is free for you to do as you wish, but a great optional activity is the Eco Discovery Adventure afternoon. This allows you to laze around in the morning and then combine the lush beauty of the island with some serious adventure and excitement. On the activity (joined by an English speaking guide) you’ll hike to through the spectacular scenery of Phaeng National Park to Than Naamruk viewpoint, then down to a cooling natural spring water pool for a swim and a water massage. You’ll drop by a mountaintop Chinese Temple, snorkel to discover the beautiful coral reefs at the island of Ko Ma and then get your adrenaline pumping at the Wipeout Water Activity Centre. Located at Koh Phangan's only fresh water lake, this is much like the TV shows Knockout or Wipeout and you can challenge the rest of the participants on a fun obstacle course. This activity ends with a visit to the Amsterdam Bar for amazing panoramas and stunning sunsets.
Today you’ll go from one island paradise to another – it’s about 2 hours by boat to Ko Tao. Famous for its spectacular coral reefs, the delightful little island of Ko Tao is a favourite for those preferring the slightly more laid-back approach. It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in tropical waters and relax on the white crescent sands of beaches like Sairee under swaying coconut palms – what a tough life! The sea around Koh Tao is also known for some of the best diving in the region, so there’s the option to do some scuba diving for those wanting to get up-close to the abundant marine life. Absorb Thai culture through the smells of an aromatherapy care session in a local spa, or through the tastes of a Thai cooking class. In the evenings, you can stroll the beaches or sample local fare at a seafood restaurant. Ko Tao also has a small but lively scene for those who are interested in some dancing and socialising on the beach.
Today you’ll experience the beautiful underwater world that surrounds Ko Tao with an exploratory snorkelling trip around the island. With coral and fish aplenty and the remote chance of seeing timid reef sharks amongst mesmerising coral formations, Ko Tao is undeniably one of the jewels in southern Thailand's crown. You will climb aboard a boat from Mae Haa Pier and sail south, navigating around the southern tip of the island until you reach Shark Island. While it's named because it looks like a shark fin sticking out of the water, you might still see the occasional leopard shark while you're snorkelling here. Drop by Luek Bay for one of the best swimming beaches on the island with fish-filled reefs on either side, then stop at Hin Wong Bay for lunch aboard the boat – an idyllic spot where palm trees line the sheltered inlet. The shallow waters of Muang Bay are filled with colourful fish to swim by, and then stop at Nang Yuan Island - actually three teardrop shapes of land connected by wide sweeps of sand. You can pay the small entrance fee to this privately owned island and take a short hike up to a viewpoint, relax on the beach, snorkel through schools of parrotfish, or just chill on the boat. Return to Mae Haad Beach after this glorious beach and snorkel adventure. This evening you can be as active or low-key as you want on your last night on Ko Tao.
Hop on another boat today and cruise over to Ko Samui (approximately 2.5 hours). The island is certainly a brasher, more vibrant extrovert to its quieter, mellower siblings. If a little modern pizazz is what you’re after with your dose of sunshine exotica, look no further – this island offers a little something for everyone. Known simply as Samui by locals, Thailand's third largest island is rich with white sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees. There's also the Big Buddha, waterfalls, markets, temples, a mummified monk, great shopping opportunities, Michelin star restaurants, luxury spas, and a lively nightlife. Today you can take an optional sightseeing tour around the island or brush up on your cooking techniques with a Thai cooking class.
It’s up to you what you want to do today, but if you feel like being more active, take an optional day trip to Ang Thong Marine National Park, an idyllic archipelago of around 40 islands (many uninhabited). If you choose this option you’ll take a speedboat to the Marine Park, with the island of Koh Wao or Koh Tai Plow as your first stop – here you can snorkel in the turquoise waters filled with ever changing colours of coral and fish. Sail around the steep limestone cliff islands and stop near an inland saltwater lagoon called Emerald Lake (Talay Nai), which is fed by an underground cave. Take a short walk up pathways and a wooden staircase to reach a magnificent hilltop lake viewpoint. Enjoy lunch on the island that houses the park headquarters, then chill out on the beach, climb up for a panorama of the Marine Park, and get out on to the bay for some kayaking. You’ll head back to Koh Samui in mid-afternoon. Maybe join you the rest of your group for a drink to celebrate the end of this east coast Thailand beach adventure tonight.
This wonderful Thailand beach adventure comes to an end today, and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Perhaps continue your exploration of South East Asia with another Intrepid adventure.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


7 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 2 dinners
Bus, Ferry, Minibus, Overnight sleeper train, Public bus, Songthaew
Bungalow (2 nights), Guesthouse (2 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (6 nights), Overnight sleeper train (2 nights), Resort (2 nights)
Included activities
  • Sukhothai - Historical Park Bike Tour & Picnic Lunch
  • Lampang - Friends of the Asian Elephant
  • Chiang Mai - Thai Cooking Class OR Cycling Tour (half day)
  • Bangkok - Wat Pho Temple
  • Ko Pha Ngan - Seafood beach barbeque dinner
  • Koh Pha-Ngan - Thai Massage on the beach (1 hour)
  • Ko Tao - Day tour & snorkelling


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Important notes

A single supplement is available on this trip, please see trip notes for further information.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes


Our Classic Thailand East Coast (May - Oct) trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Classic Thailand East Coast (May - Oct) , July 2016

Classic Thailand East Coast (May - Oct) , May 2016