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Hidden Thailand Tour

An exciting and varied tour by road, rail and river through 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

Our exciting 2-week road, rail and river journey – Hidden Thailand – will take you through some of the country’s most spectacular, yet surprisingly least-visited, regions.

From the labyrinth of back-streets and bustling local markets of vibrant Bangkok and the glorious temples of the ancient capital, now World Heritage site, Sukhothai, we’ll travel to the historic town of Lampang; picturesque, lakeside Phayao; the remote Phu Chee Fah Mountain Range and through the far northern border region. Formerly infamous as The Golden Triangle and notorious for drug lords and opium caravans, these rugged mountains are today better known for their spectacular mountain scenery, myriad hill-tribe minorities and oolong tea plantations.

This fascinating and varied Thai tour includes an unusual, behind-the-scenes view of Bangkok; sunset at the ruins of the UNESCO-listed, 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 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, regional takes on Thailand’s world-renowned 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.

For those with a few more days to spare a variety of island extensions are on offer to round off our Hidden Thailand tour, including the Gulf of Thailand’s Koh Mak and Koh Chang or Koh Libong on the Andaman Sea Coast. Note that Chiang Mai International Airport has a wide range of direct connections to regional destinations such as Luang Prabang, Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur.

Since airfares are fluctuating wildly at present, as well as varying considerably from period to period, our ‘with flight’ prices, below, are approximate only.

Includes: Meals: B x 13, L x 9, D x 7

Note that plenty more photos, descriptions and details can be found on the Hidden Thailand page of our travel blog



Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.

Thailand, Chao Phaya River at dusk

Day 1 - Bangkok - arrival and time to explore the area

Arrival in Bangkok and check in to a downtown hotel close to the City’s famous Banglamphu district. Time to relax, explore the area or browse some local markets before a local-style welcome dinner.

Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Walk,  Meals: D, 

Thailand, Bangkok market

Day 2 - Bangkok - city tour with a difference

Tour of some of the sights of Thailand’s vast and bustling capital, including famous Wat Po, the Royal Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Chinatown. We also include behind-the-scenes views, street life and local markets as we travel around Bangkok uniquely by public transport; Skytrain, Chao Phraya River Express, canal boats and of course tuk-tuks. An evening street food tour completes the day.

Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Train, Boat, Tuk Tuk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Thailand, monks at Sukhothai, Hidden Thailand tour

Day 3 - Sukhothai - up country by train

Leave the capital by train, travel through the myriad paddy-fields of the Chao Phraya Valley, to the centrally located, historic town of Phitsanulok. After a visit to the fascinating Rural Life Museum, we’ll complete our journey to nearby Sukhothai – World Heritage Site and former capital of Siam.

Overnight: Sukhothai Transport: Minibus, Train,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Thailand World Heritage Sites

Day 4 - Sukhothai - the World Heritage ancient city

Visit the atmospheric ruins of UNESCO-listed Sukhothai. Explore its crumbling but picturesque ancient temples and lotus ponds on foot or by bicycle; visit the well-laid-out museum and experience sunset at one of the temples before checking out the local delicacies in the town’s lively night market.

Overnight: Sukhothai Transport: Bike, Walk,  Meals: B, 

Thailand, Lampang elephant hospital

Day 5 - Lampang - the old town and elephant hospital

Head north to Lampang, an ancient Mon settlement and more recently important as the centre for the 19th-century centre 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 well-preserved old teak baron and merchants’ villas.

Overnight: Lampang Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Thailand, Wat Chalerm Phrakiet

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 dusk boat trip before settling into a lakeside cafe for sundowners.

Overnight: Phayao Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Hidden Thailand, dawn at Phu Chi Fah

Day 7 - Phu Chee Fa - up the mountain

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, 

Thailand and Laos tour, Mekong rainbow

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 the curious rock formation known to locals as the ‘Gates of Siam’. From here we’ll wind our way down the mountains and follow the picturesque banks of the Mekong via Chiang Khong to the small riverside port and historic town of Chiang Saen.

Overnight: Chiang Saen Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Thailand, Doi Tung

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 come across local markets, an opium museum and bucolic landscapes, rather than warlords and drug caravans!

Overnight: Mae Salong Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, D, 

Thailand, Akha woman (by Gary Latham)

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 (Nationalist) soldiers after the Chinese civil war.  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.

Overnight: Mae Salong Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Thailand, early morning mist on the Kok River

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 a visit to a spectacular mountain-top pagoda, we’ll travel by boat down the picturesque Kok River past forests, mountains and riverside villages to Chiang Rai. Evening tour of the town’s famous night bazaar.

Overnight: Chiang Rai Transport: Boat, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

Thailand, Wat Rong Khun

Day 12 - Chiang Rai - the Black House and the White Temple

We’ll take in some of Chiang Rai’s most famous sites – the celebrated Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), the unique ‘Blue Temple’, Wat Rong Suea Ten and the lesser-known Ban Dam (Black House) open-air cultural centre and art gallery. Afternoon scenic drive through the mountains to our final destination, Chiang Mai.

Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Minibus,  Meals: B, L, 

Thailand, Wat Phra Sing, Chiang Mai

Day 13 - Chiang Mai - walking tour of the old city

Morning walking tour of some of the sites of the Old Town with its narrow lanes, street markets, ornate old temples and cute coffee shops. 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, D, 

Pad Thai lunch in Ayutthaya

Day 14 - Chiang Mai - morning at leisure and departure

Morning at leisure in Chiang Mai, end of tour and departure at your convenience.

Extra nights in Chiang Mai or Bangkok 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, 

Print Itinerary


The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.

Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai

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 the remote mountains of the far north

  • A unique tour of Bangkok by public transport taking in both famous sites and everyday life
  • Sunset at the World Heritage ancient city of Sukhothai with its atmospheric lotus pools and ruined temples
  • Scenic boat trip through the forests and mountains of the picturesque Kok River to Chiang Rai
  • The picturesque, historic and charming Mekong river ports of Chiang Khong and Chiang Saen
  • Visit the remote and awe-inspiring Phu Chee Fah mountain range with dawn at the 'Gates of Siam'
  • Local markets, street and village life, lashings of great food, including regional specialities and oodles of friendly locals

Air Departures (UK) *From

  • 12 July 24 2,555 GBP
  • 11 August 24 2,555 GBP
  • 16 September 24 2,555 GBP
  • 20 October 24 2,550 GBP
  • 31 October 24 2,550 GBP
  • 24 November 24 2,550 GBP
  • 29 December 24 2,650 GBP
  • 2 February 25 2,550 GBP
  • 3 May 25 2,550 GBP
  • 7 June 25 2,550 GBP
  • 12 July 25 2,550 GBP
  • 16 August 25 2,650 GBP

Land Departures

  • 13 July 24 1,755 GBP
  • 12 August 24 1,755 GBP
  • 17 September 24 1,755 GBP
  • 21 October 24 1,785 GBP
  • 1 November 24 1,785 GBP
  • 25 November 24 1,785 GBP
  • 30 December 24 1,785 GBP
  • 3 February 25 1,815 GBP
  • 4 May 25 1,815 GBP
  • 8 June 25 1,815 GBP
  • 13 July 25 1,815 GBP
  • 17 August 25 1,815 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...

Centara Life Phra Nakhon

Centra Life Phra Nakhon view

  • Excellent central albeit quiet location
  • Well-appointed with pool, restaurant, bar and coffee shop
  • Comofrtable, well-equipped rooms and helpful staff
Thailand, Foresto Sukhothai

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
Thailand, Phatang Hill Resort, Hidden Thailand tour

Thailand Phatang Hill Resort view

  • Very friendly, low-key, cosy, family-run accommodation
  • Chalet-style rooms set in a garden atop a remote mountain
  • Spectacular location with stunning views
Gin’s Maekhong View Resort,Hidden Thailand Tour accommodation, Gin's Maekhong View Resort

Gin’s Maekhong View Resort Chiang Saen

  • 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
Thailand, Ban Hom Muen Lee Resort

Ban Hom Muen Lee Resort Mae Salong

  • Chinese-style decor in the old Kuomintang base of Mae Salong
  • All rooms with private balconies and stupendous views
  • Mountain-top location in this quaint and quirky town
Thailand, Laluna Hotel, Chiang Rai

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
Sugar Cane Chiang Mai

Sugar Cane Chiang Mai view

  • Small, family-run, boutique style accommodation
  • Well-appointed with pool, garden, bar and restaurant
  • Excellent quiet yet central location
Thailand, 20 Lodge, Chiang Mai

20 Lodge Chiang Mai view

  • Delightful lush garden setting & pool
  • Quiet location in the Old City
  • Small, friendly and a welcoming family style

*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.

Visa Info & Notes

Visas: Visitors holding passports of Australia, Canada, UK, US, certain EU countries plus citizens of other ASEAN member states receive an automatic 30-day entry stamp on arrival. Note this is a visa waiver rather than a tourist visa however obtaining a visa in advance or visa or arrival is consequently not necessary and there is no advantage in applying for an e-visa. (Rules may vary for stays over 30 days or multiple entries.)

Not all European countries are covered by this scheme so passport holders from eastern European EU or non-EU nations are advised to check conditions with your consulate or embassy beforehand. You can also check current information on the Thai immigration website.

6 months passport validity is required and while we can’t find any specifications regarding the number of blank pages, as usual in these parts, you’re better off with at least 2 available. Note that the standard entry and exit point for this tour is Suvarnabhumi International Airport, (Bangkok) although exit from Chiang Mai International Airport is possible if you have a single, connecting flight departing from Chiang Mai.

Tipping: We recommend a kitty system for smaller, daily tips such as hotel/restaurant staff and local drivers. Amounts inevitably vary with group size but would generally be in the region of 100 baht ($3-$4) per person per day. For your guide/tour-leader tip – who will accompany you for the duration of your tour – we’d recommend approximately $25-30 per person total for the former though of course, this is always discretionary and performance-related. (Local currency or USD are fine.) 

Meals: Although Thailand’s world-renowned cuisine needs no introduction its highly varied regional cooking – firey southern-style, Chiang Mai and northern specialities, Bangkok and central Thai fare plus the ubiquitous I-san (northeastern) cuisine – is far less known. Also bear in mind that authentic local food in Thailand may be considerably different from your neighbourhood Thai restaurant at home. Our emphasis will be on local-style food – including market and street food – including aforementioned regional specialities while chilli tolerance levels will, of course, be taken into account by your tour leader.

Breakfasts are either buffets or a la carte in smaller hotels; lunches on the road are typically simpler dishes such as variations on noodles or fried rice while your tour leader will generally order more elaborate-style dinners consisting of a selection of local fare. Both vegetarians and vegans are very easily catered for. For any other likes and dislikes please remind your tour leader at the start of the tour.  A number of meals are not included, which allows you to ‘do your own thing’ or take a break if you’re feeling ‘riced out’.

Accommodation: All choices fall into the comfortable 3* range, with an emphasis where possible on the smaller, ‘boutique-style’, and are en-suite and air-conditioned with, where possible, pools. We have posted a selection of sample accommodation on the lefthand hotel tab but please note that as we try and avoid the larger hotels, availability, in high season particularly, means we use several options in each destination. 

Activities: Note that no activities are compulsory and that any offered, including trekking, can be tailored for any fitness level or alternatives suggested.

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