Travel by road, rail and river to some of the most picturesque, yet remote and rarely visited parts of far northern Thailand
Off the beaten track Thailand tour: Bangkok to the far north
This 2-week road, rail and river journey – Hidden Thailand – will take you through some of the country’s most spectacular, yet least-visited, regions.
From the back-streets of Bangkok and the glorious temples of UNESCO World Heritage Sukhothai, we’ll travel to historic Lampang City, picturesque, lakeside Phayao, the remote Phu Chee Fah Mountain Range and the far northern border region formerly known as the Golden Triangle.
This fascinating and varied Thai tour includes an unusual, behind the scenes view of Bangkok; sunset at the ruins of the ancient capital Sukhothai, the unique Lampang Elephant Hospital, dawn at the ‘Gates of Siam’ – overlooking Laos and the Mekong River from Phu Chee Fah Mountain – the old river-side, fortified town of Chiang Saen, mountain-top Mae Salong Town,, originally settled by fleeing Kuomintang forces after the Chinese civil war, Mae Fah Luang Botanical Gardens and much, much more.
Spectacular and contrasting landscapes; off the beaten track destinations, traditional villages and local markets, plus of course, some of the nation’s friendliest people and, last but not least, tastiest regional cuisine, make for a wonderful tour combining visits to a selection of the country’s famous sites with the chance to discover many of its lesser-known, hidden, secrets.
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
Day 1 - Bangkok - arrival and time to explore the area
Arrival in Bangkok and check-in to a boutique-style, downtown hotel close to the City’s famous Banglamphu district. Time to relax; explore the area or check out some local markets before a welcome Thai-style dinner.
Extra nights in Bangkok, prior to your tour, available on request.
Airport transfers are included with the flight package or can be arranged if you purchased your own flight.
Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Walk, Meals: D,
Day 2 - Bangkok - city tour with a difference
Tour of some of the sights of Thailand’s vast and bustling capital, including visits to the famous Wat Po, Royal Palace, Jim Thompson Museum and bustling street markets. We also include behind the scenes views and street-life as we travel around Bangkok using uniquely public transport; Skytrain, Chao Phraya River express, canal boats and of course tuk-tuks.
For those already familiar with Bangkok, alternatives visits can be arranged.
Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Train, Boat, Walk, Tuk Tuk, Meals: B, L,
Day 3 - Sukhothai - up country by train
Leave the capital by train across the myriad paddy-fields of the Chao Phraya Valley to the centrally located, historic town of Phitsanulok. After a visit to the unusual Rural Life Museum, we’ll complete our journey to nearby Sukhothai – UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of Siam.
Overnight: Sukhothai Transport: Minibus, Train, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 4 - Sukhothai - the World Heritage ancient city
Visit the extensive and atmospheric ruins of UNESCO Sukhothai. Travel around it’s crumbling but atmospheric ancient temples and lotus ponds on foot or by bicycle, visit the well-laid out museum and experience sunset at one of the temple sites before checking out the local delicacies in the night market.
Overnight: Sukhothai Transport: Minibus, Bike, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 5 - Lampang - the old town and elephant hospital
Head north to the ancient Mon settlement of Lampang, more recently prominent as the 19th-century centre for the teak industry. Detour to the famous Elephant Hospital before a late afternoon walking tour of the old town and market with its historic Buddhist temples and colonial period merchants’ villas.
Overnight: Lampang Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 6 - Phayao - mountain-top temple and lakeside Phayao
Continuing north, we’ll stop at the truly spectacular Wat Chalerm Phrakiet where shrines and pagodas perch atop a jagged limestone outcrop – before arriving in the attractive, yet rarely visited, lakeside town of Phayao. Stroll along the waterfront with perhaps time for a boat trip before settling into a lakeside cafe for sundowners.
Overnight: Phayao Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 7 - Phu Chee Fa - up the mountain
Travel into one of the remotest reaches of the Kingdom, with a picturesque drive to the dramatic Phu Chee Fah mountain range overlooking the Mekong River and Laos. Stops at villages, local markets and viewpoints, as well as the highly unusual hot waterfall, Nam Tok Phu Saung.
Overnight: Phu Chee Fa Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 8 - Chiang Saen - dawn at the 'Gates of Siam' and the Mekong port of Chiang Saen
Early morning start for a cliff-top sunrise over the river and distant Lao mountains from a curious rock formation known to locals as the ‘Gates of Siam’. From here we’ll wind our way down the mountain and follow the picturesque banks of the Mekong via Chiang Khong to the small riverside port of Chiang Saen.
Overnight: Chiang Saen Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 9 - Golden Triangle - local markets and botanical gardens
After a walk around the 13th-century city walls, temples and ruins of Chiang Saen we’ll continue through the Golden Triangle to Mae Salong. In earlier times an infamous region, today we’ll encounter local markets, an Opium Museum, Mae Fah Luang Botanical Gardens & bucolic landscapes, rather than drug caravans!
Overnight: Mae Salong Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 10 - Mae Salong - morning market and hike through the hills
Fascinating Mae Salong, dramatically perched atop a mountain ridge, was founded by fleeing Kuomintang, soldiers after the Chinese civil war. We’ll visit the hill-tribe market, participate in some tea tasting (the principal replacement crop for opium), and take a hike through the hills to a traditional village of the local Akha minority.
Maximum hiking 5-6 hours. Alternatives can be arranged.
Overnight: Mae Salong Transport: Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 11 - Chiang Rai - boat down the Kok to Chiang Rai
Head west to the picturesque town of Tha Ton on the Burmese border, from where, after visiting a spectacular mountain-top pagoda, we’ll travel by boat down the bucolic Kok River past forests, mountains and riverside villages to Chiang Rai. Evening tour of the town’s famous night bazaar.
Overnight: Chiang Rai Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 12 - Chiang Rai - the Black House and the White Temple
We’ll take in a couple of Chiang Rai’s most famous sites – the celebrated Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) and the lesser known Black House open-air cultural centre and art gallery – before a scenic drive through the mountains to our final destination, Chiang Mai.
Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Minibus, Meals: B, L,
Day 13 - Chiang Mai - walking tour of the old city
Morning walking tour of some of the sites of the Old Town with it’s narrow lanes, street markets and ornate old temples. Afternoon at leisure to relax by the pool, try out a traditional massage or perhaps check out the local handicrafts?
Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 14 - Chiang Mai - morning at leisure and departure
Morning at leisure and departure at your convenience.
Extra nights in Chiang Mai after your tour are available on request.
Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package, otherwise, airport transfers can be arranged.
Overnight: Departure Transport: Walk, Meals: B,
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
Just a few of the many highlights
Discover some of Thailand's most picturesque, yet little-known, regions on this rail, road and river journey from Bangkok's back streets, across the central plains, to remote mountains of the far north
- A unique tour of Bangkok by public transport taking in both famous sites and everyday life
- Visit the remote and awe-inspiring Phu Chee Fah mountain range with dawn at the 'Gates of Siam'
- Scenic boat trip through the forests and mountains of the picturesque Kok River to Chiang Rai
- Sunset at the World Heritage ancient city of Sukhothai with its atmospheric lotus pools and ruined temples
- The picturesque, historic and charming Mekong river ports of Chiang Khong and Chiang Saen
- Local markets, street and village life, lashings of great food, including regional specialities and oodles of friendly locals
Air Departures (UK)
- 10 November 18 1,950 GBP
- 22 December 18 2,150 GBP
- 26 January 19 1,950 GBP
- 2 March 19 1,950 GBP
- 13 April 19 2,050 GBP
- 11 November 18 1,150 GBP
- 23 December 18 1,150 GBP
- 27 January 19 1,150 GBP
- 3 March 19 1,150 GBP
- 14 April 19 1,150 GBP
Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed
*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Bangkok
*Land departure dates correspond to the FIRST day of the itinerary.
We choose our hotels based on a combination of location, comfort and convenience. Here is a *selection of the types of hotel/rooms you can expect to stay at on this tour...
Nanda Heritage Hotel, Bangkok view
- Based around a beautifully restored 1920s teak family villa
- The award winning design combines traditional and modern
- Great central location for restaurants, cafes and shopping
Foresto Sukhothai view
- Delightful, tropical garden setting with pool
- Central yet quiet location in Sukhothai Town
- Boutique style with a fusion of modern & traditional Lanna
20 Lodge, Chiang Mai view
- Delightful lush garden setting & pool
- Quiet location in the Old City
- Small, friendly and a welcoming family style
Gin’s Maekhong View Resort, Chiang Saen view
- Fantastic tropical garden and pool overlooking the Mekong
- Low-key, friendly and well-appointed resort and spa
- Bright, airy rooms with balconies and river views
Laluna Resort, Chiang Rai view
- Comfortable individual chalets in a stunning tropical garden
- 5 minute tuk-tuk ride from the town's lively night bazaar
- Pool, spa, massage and excellent in-house restaurant
*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.
Visa Info & Notes
This information is for anyone embarking on this tour and does not pertain to long-stay visitors or expats.
Most nationalities simply receive a 30-day visa waiver stamp on arrival at Bangkok airport. Your passport must be valid for a full 6 months, in good condition with no pages torn or missing, and while we can’t find any specific information regarding number of blank pages, as usual in South East Asia, you’re better off with at least 2 available.
Importantly you may be asked for proof of onward travel and proof you have sufficient funds for your stay.
More details, including a list of all nationalities eligible for the visa waiver, can be found on our blog A Round-Up of Thai Entry and Visa Requirements for Visitors
Holidays should never end, stay a little longer. These extensions go well with this tour...
Here is what out guest have to say about their experience on this tour...
Stuart and Annie
" So many people say they have been to Thailand and know the place, but on this tour, we really felt we were going to places that were unfamiliar to mass tourism and getting below the surface of this fascinating country. It's a great itinerary. Thank you . "March 2017
Helen and friends
" We had a lovely time thanks to all your arrangements and Wi's expert guiding. Almost everything was a highlight … but to mention a few, the Golden Triangle was excellent and I enjoyed hearing more about the economic issues to do with trade on the Mekong and the Chinese developments on the Lao side of the river, the White Temple and the Black House were unexpected and highly enjoyable. The mountain visit, and of course the sunset and sunrise were excellent, and an unscheduled visit to a local school (as part of getting a bit of exercise after a long drive) was particularly interesting to those who are retired teachers!
So, you see, we all had a good time and Wi was a tremendous asset in helping us to understand the country, its food and its people.
Jigna and Sapna
" My sister and I have never used a tour company before but we had a recommendation from a colleague of mine and liked the slogan “off the beaten track.” From the moment we met our tour leader, we instantly knew the tour was going to be fab. She was incredibly knowledgeable & passionate about what she does and we learned so much about the country, its people and culture over the 2 weeks.
This tour was excellent value for money considering the numerous places we were able to visit. We got to try lots of different dishes and again, Wi knew the local delicacies. All of the hotels were clean & welcoming and we always travelled in comfort.
We are really pleased we went with All Points East; it truly was an amazing trip and we are looking forward to trying out other tours. Thank you! "