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Hidden Thailand

Travel by road, rail and river through some of the most picturesque, yet rarely visited, stretches of the mountains of far northern Thailand

Off the beaten track Thailand tour: Bangkok to the far north

This 2 week overland and river journey will take you through some of Thailand’s most spectacular, yet little visited regions. From Bangkok and UNESCO World Heritage Sukhothai, we’ll travel to historic Lampang, lakeside Phayao, the remote Phu Chi Fah Mountain Range and the far northern border region formerly known as the Golden Triangle. The 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’, the old riverside fortified town of Chiang Saen, mountain-top Mae Salong, Mae Fah Luang Botanical Gardens and much more.

Spectacular and varied landscapes, off the beaten track destinations, traditional villages and local markets, plus of course, some of the nation’s friendliest people and tastiest regional dishes.



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 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 dinner.

Extra nights in Bangkok prior to your tour are available on request.
Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged.

Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Walk,  Meals: D,

Day 2 - Bangkok - city tour with a difference

Day tour of some of the sites of Thailand’s vast and bustling capital, including visits to the famous Wat Po, Royal Palace and Jim Thompson Museum. We also include plenty of behind the scenes glimpses as we make our way around the city using public transport – Skytrain, ferries on the Chao Phraya River and canal boats on Bangkok’s klongs, plus street markets on foot, and in between, tuk-tuk rides.

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 Phitsanolok. 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 Sukhothai. Travel around it’s crumbling ancient temples and lotus ponds by bicycle or tuk-tuk – you choose.  Visit the well laid out museum and experience sunset at one of the temple sites.

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, recently prominent as the 19th century centre for the teak industry.  Detours to the famous and unique Elephant Hospital before a late afternoon walking tour of the old town and markets 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 make a stop at the truly spectacular Wat Chalerm Phrakiet, a complex of shrines and pagodas perched atop a jagged limestone outcrop, before arriving in the attractive, yet rarely visited, lakeside town of Phayao. Walking tour of the waterfront with perhaps time for a boat trip on the lake, before settling into a lakeside cafe for sundowners.

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

Day 7 - Phu Chi Fa - up the mountain

Further on up the road to one of the remotest reaches of the Kingdom, and a picturesque drive to the Phu Chi 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 Chi 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 banks of the Mekong 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 morning walk around the ancient city walls and temples,  ruins of the old 12th century city of Chiang Saen we’ll continue along the banks of the Mekong through this scenic region to Mae Salong. In an earlier incarnation this was the heart of the infamous Golden Triangle, though today we’ll encounter local markets, the Opium Museum, Mae Fah Luang Botanical Gardens and bucolic landscapes, rather than drug lords!

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

Day 10 - Mae Salong - morning market and hike through the hills

The fascinating of Mae Salong is dramatically perched atop a mountain ridge and founded by republican soldiers fleeing the Chinese civil war.  We’ll visit the hill-tribe market, participate in a tea tasting ceremony (tea being the principal replacement crop for opium), and take a hike through the hills to a traditional village.

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

West to the small town of Tha Ton on the Burmese border, from where we’ll travel by boat down the scenic Kok River past forests and mountains to Chiang Rai Town. Evening tour of the lively 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 spectacular drive through the mountains to 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. If you purchased your own flights, 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.

Thailand, Chiang Rai night bazaar

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 mountains of the far north

  • An unusual tour of Bangkok by public transport taking in famous sites and glimpsing everyday life behind the scenes
  • Visit the remote and spectacular Phu Chi Fah Mountains with dawn at the 'Gates of Siam'
  • Scenic boat trip through forests and mountains on the Kok River to Chiang Rai
  • Sunset visit to the spectacular 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 Sean
  • Local markets, street and village life, lashings of great food and oodles of friendly locals

Air Departures (UK)

  • 29 September 18 1,950 GBP
  • 10 November 18 1,950 GBP
  • 22 December 18 2,150 GBP

Land Departures

  • 30 September 18 1,150 GBP
  • 11 November 18 1,150 GBP
  • 23 December 18 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

20 Lodge, Chiang Mai view

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

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

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

Mae Salong Villa, Mae Salong

  • The charming and quirky Mae Salong Villa
  • Located in the old Kuomintang moutain-top town itself
  • Chalet style rooms in a garden setting

*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

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