Self-guided North Thailand Tour
Explore Bangkok's bustling back streets and canals, spectacular World Heritage Sukhothai and the picturesque, remote mountains of the Golden Triangle
11-day self-guided tour from Bangkok to the Golden Triangle
This self-guided North Thailand tour begins in the modern-day capital Bangkok before taking you by rail across the Central Plains to the ancient Siamese capital, now UNESCO World Heritage site, Sukhothai. From here you’ll continue north by road to historic Chiang Mai with its vibrant street markets and picturesque old temples and on to Chiang Rai Province and the remote mountains of the far north.
Discover the rich mix of scenery, history and culture – ancient and modern – as you explore both the famous, iconic sites and the lesser-known ones from Bangkok back streets and local markets to mountain-top hill-tribe villages of the Golden Triangle.
In addition to transport and accommodation reservations, you’ll also receive a professionally compiled PDF mini-guide with suggestions, info and details on a range of sites and activities as well as recommended local cafes and restaurants and even our favourite bars and coffee shops. On arrival at your Bangkok hotel, you’ll be met by an All Points East local guide for a briefing and question and answers session as well as receiving on the ground contact details, before a local-style introductory Thai dinner.
Our self-guided North Thailand tour is ideal for couples, small groups and families and departure dates, as well as itinerary details and activities, are entirely flexible so don’t hesitate to contact us a for a chat.
For those with a few more days to spare then a selection of Thai beach and island extensions are also available if you’re tempted by a few days quality downtime after your self guided North Thailand tour.
Finally, also note that this tour is offered as either ‘land only’, from Bangkok to Chiang Rai or inclusive of international return flights from the UK. (In the latter case the connecting domestic flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok is also included.)
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
Day 1 - Bangkok - arrival, check-in and tour briefing
Arrival in Bangkok and transfer to a centrally located, heritage hotel in the City’s vibrant Banglamphu district. Time perhaps to stretch your legs and explore the area before a briefing with our All Points East guide and a local-style welcome Thai dinner.
Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Walk, Meals: D,
Day 2 - Bangkok
We’re suggesting a leisurely morning checking out the area’s local markets, narrow lanes and cafes with perhaps an afternoon taking in some of the City’s famous sites. The sprawling metropolis can be hectic and confusing – though we’d say always fascinating – and we’ll provide you with the necessary info, details and suggestions to visit the spots you’re keen to see.
Overnight: Bangkok Meals: B,
Day 3 - Bangkok - Behind the Scenes
Having taken in some of the well-known sites we’d suggest a more behind the scenes day with a circular public transport tour of Bangkok by Chao Phraya Express, ‘Skytrain’ and the city’s famous canal boats. easy if you know how and a choice of stops along the way could include temples and markets, fascinating Chinatown, Lumphini Park or Siam Square.
Overnight: Bangkok Meals: B,
Day 4 - Head north by train
Early morning transfer to Bangkok railway station to catch the express train north to Phitsanulok Town. Early afternoon arrival followed by a drive to nearby Sukhothai and check-in at a delightful, boutique-style garden lodge. In the evening we’d recommend mingling with the locals and sampling some of the specialities on display in the town’s lively night market.
Overnight: Sukhothai Transport: Minibus, Train, Meals: B,
Day 5 - Sukhothai - the World Heritage ancient city
The atmospheric temples of Sukhothai set amid picturesque lily ponds are too big a site to do on foot and in our opinion, the quiet lanes are best explored by bicycle. We’d suggest getting up there early with perhaps a break from the midday sun back at the pool before returning to continue your exploration in the afternoon. Maps are on hand and the UNESCO site isn’t far from your hotel. Whatever your itinerary – don’t miss sunset!
Overnight: Sukhothai Meals: B,
Day 6 - On the road - historic Lampang and the Elephant Hospital
After a monring drive across country you’ll break up your journey with a stop in historic Lampang. In the 19th-century the town was a centre for the teak trade and some of the well-preserved period architecture can still be seen today. Stretch your legs, lunch in a riverside cafe and back on the road with a drive to Lampang’s nearby, unique Elephant Hospital. Afternoon arrival in Chiang Mai for a 3 night stay at a well-located, small family-run hotel.
Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Minibus, Meals: B,
Day 7 - Chiang Mai - explore the Old Town
We’ve arrnaged 2 full days in Chiang Mai so we’re suggesting a day checking out some of the old town’s varied highlights and another exploring the surrounds. The street markets and narrow lanes of the old walled city and buslting Chinatown area would figure highly on day 1 and we’ll list a selection of local cafes as well as a choice of the town’s excellent museums if you need to cool down in the middle of the day. One of Chiang Mai’s lively night markets would round off the day perfectly!
Overnight: Chiang Mai Meals: B,
Day 8 - Chiang Mai
Plenty of options around town with several national parks and scenic areas within an easy taxi ride while various guided tours can also be arranged. For wildlife and nature lovers we offer a half-day tour to Doi Suthep National Park including a nature hike at the wildlife rehabilitation centre where herds of wild cattle (banteng) and rare deer species have been re-introduced.
Overnight: Chiang Mai Meals: B,
Day 9 - Into the Golden Triangle
Morning drive north through the mountains to Chiang Rai town – former unofficial capital of the Golden Triangle. In recent times the area was infamous for opium caravans and drug warlords while today it’s best known for buccolic mountain scenery and minority ‘hill-tribe’ peoples. On route you’ll stop at some hot springs as well as the iconic ‘White Temple’, Wat Rong Khun. Mid afternoon arrival and check-in for your 3 night stay in comfortable private chalets set in a lush tropical garden.
Overnight: Chiang Rai Transport: Minibus, Meals: B,
Day 10 - Chiang Rai
Again, there’s a huge choice of sites and activities in and around town so we’d suggest a day discovering the local sites and a day trip into the surounds. A walking tour itinerary will be provided while grabbing a bicycle would extend your raneg to edge of town spots. There’s also plenty of great cafes where you can sample North Thai specialities, some wonderful riverside coffee shops and even, for those of a culinary bent, a half day Thai cookery course of offer.
Overnight: Chiang Rai Meals: B,
Day 11 - Chiang Rai - into the hills
A day trip to the mountain-top Chinese settlement of Mae Salong – surrounded by tea plantations and hill-tribe villages, a day tour of the Golden Triangle or the spectacular Mae Fah Luang Botanical Gardens are just some of the options that spring to mind. Ask reception to book a taxi, sign up for one the numerous organised tours on offer or contact us for a private, guided day tour. In the evening we’d recommend a local-style hot-pot and some traditional dancing in the town’s famous night bazaar.
Overnight: Chiang Rai Meals: B,
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
Just a few of the many highlights
Combine the bustling street markets and hidden alleyways of Bangkok with World Heritage Sukhothai, the historic towns of Lampang and Chiang Mai and the buccolic mountain scenery of the Golden Tiangle
- All your Thailand accommodation and travel selected and reserved in advance
- Bangkok; famous sites and behind the scenes
- Mountains and villages of the Golden Triangle
- Guide briefing, professionally writen PDF mini-guide and local contact details provided
- UNESCO world Heritage Sukhothai ancient city
- Recommended optional activities that you can book in advance or on the ground
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
Sugar Cane Chiang Mai view
- Small, family-run, boutique style accommodation
- Well-appointed with pool, garden, bar and restaurant
- Excellent quiet yet central location
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
Visas: While most nationalities receive an automatic 30-day stamp on arrival, so you can dispense with visa on arrivals, e-visas etc – in terms of the small print and variations to the rule Thailand has some complex regulations and there are still a few details to watch out for plus various bilateral arrangements between Thailand and other nations do throw up a lot of anomalies. Firstly, 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.
The following nationalities benefit from a visa waiver or exemption scheme and passport holders will automatically receive 30-day stamps on arrival at any Thai international airport: Australia, Canada, UK, US, certain EU countries plus citizens of other ASEAN member states. Generally, citizens of western and central European EU countries are included while those of some newer, particularly eastern EU nations aren’t. Conversely, several South American nationalities receive 90-day visas so do check in advance. A full visa exemption list can be found here. Note this is a visa waiver and not a tourist visa.
Importantly, and this can, in theory, go for airports too, you may be asked for proof of onward travel and proof you have sufficient funds for your stay. We reckon these are more aimed at long-stay visitors and though we haven’t come across either rule being applied to casual tourists they are specified on the Thai immigration site and they do have these rules in their armoury.
If you’re not covered by any of the above or have any doubts or if you intend to stay more than 30 days then you will need to apply in advance for a Thai tourist visa. The validity of single-entry tourist visas is generally 60 days but again can vary depending upon nationality and you need to make an application at your nearest Thai embassy. (Cost is approximately $30 or equivalent in local currency.) If you are planning on exiting and re-entering Thailand more than once then you can also apply for a multiple entry tourist visa costing approximately $150. (Precise costs and waiting time vary from one embassy to another.)
Furthermore, citizens of states not covered by the visa waiver system can also apply for a visa on arrival at an international airport. This is a 30-day one costing 2,000 baht payable in Thai currency only. Again you may be asked for proof of onward travel and funds.
The above can be construed as unnecessarily complicated and furthermore regulations do change on a regular basis so again, please check beforehand if you’re not a passport holder from one of the usual suspects Canada, France, Germany, UK, et al. We have in the past come across smaller Thai embassies providing inaccurate or out of date information and anecdotal travellers’ tales are – well anecdotal – so the official Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs site should, in theory, be your best source.
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