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
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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 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
- 10 May 24 2,550 GBP
- 8 June 24 2,555 GBP
- 12 July 24 2,555 GBP
- 11 August 24 2,555 GBP
- 16 September 24 2,555 GBP
- 20 October 24 2,550 GBP
- 24 November 24 2,550 GBP
- 29 December 24 2,650 GBP
- 2 February 25 2,550 GBP
- 11 May 24 1,755 GBP
- 9 June 24 1,755 GBP
- 13 July 24 1,755 GBP
- 12 August 24 1,755 GBP
- 17 September 24 1,755 GBP
- 21 October 24 1,785 GBP
- 25 November 24 1,785 GBP
- 30 December 24 1,785 GBP
- 3 February 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...
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
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 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
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
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 view
- Small, family-run, boutique style accommodation
- Well-appointed with pool, garden, bar and restaurant
- Excellent quiet yet central location
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.
You deserve a holiday ?
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...
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 and 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! "
" We got back from our Thailand trip last Sunday and are just about over the jet lag! We had a really good holiday seeing lots (and lots!) or really interesting places and sights. Thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Wi was a treasure trove of information and observations and looked after us all very well. We did thank her but when you are in contact, please thank her again from us. "