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Thailand World Heritage | Isan Tour

Northeast Thailand; a rich culture, superb landscapes and 3,000 years of history

UNESCO sites of Ayuthaya, Khao Yai and Phnom Rung

Our Thailand World Heritage tour takes you from the bustling and vibrant modern-day capital of Bangkok, via the ancient Siamese capital, now UNESCO-listed, Ayuthaya into the rarely visited northeastern reaches of the kingdom, commonly known as Isan.

Varied destinations and activities along the way begin with a tour of some of Ayuthaya’s many spectacular historical sites by boat and a jungle hike plus 4WD wildlife safari in World Heritage Khao Yai National Park. From here we continue east for a visit to the well-preserved Angkor-period temple of Phnom Rung, perched atop an extinct volcano, and the picturesque 11th-century site of Muang Tam amid its lily ponds (both currently on UNESCO’s tentative list). A stay in the small, scenic riverside town of Khong Chiam and a trek through Pha Taem National Park, overlooking the Mekong Valley in the far east of the country – offering spectacular views, flora and fauna and well-preserved 3,000-year-old cliff paintings – complete this highly original itinerary.

This 1-week tour is designed as a stand-alone tour, perhaps with the addition of our unusual Bangkok Behind the Scenes add-on and/or an island extension to unspoilt Koh Mak or Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand. For those with more time on their hands, there’s the option of continuing over the border from our finishing point in Ubon Ratchathani into southern Laos and northern Cambodia to join our Emerald Triangle Tour. Finishing in Cambodia’s Siem Reap, this extended tour includes the landscapes of the Boloven Plateau, the charming 4,000 Islands and Khone Phapaeng Falls as well as the additional World Heritage Sites of Wat Phu, Laos, and dramatic cliff-top Preah Vihear in Cambodia.

As we said then, 3,000 years of history on our Thailand World Heritage tour as well as truly spectacular landscapes, exotic flora and fauna plus the fascinating street-life, local markets and, of course, local food.

Thailand

Itinerary

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

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Day 1 - Bangkok - arrival

Our tour begins with a late morning check-in to an award-winning, boutique-style hotel situated in the city’s bustling Banglamphu District. The afternoon is at leisure – with activities depending upon arrival time – but could include, for instance, a walking tour of the narrow alleys, street cafes and street art of fascinating Chinatown before a local-style welcome dinner.

Extra nights in Bangkok available on request

Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Walk,  Meals: D, 

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Day 2 - Ayuthaya - ancient capital of Siam

Departure upcountry for the ancient city of Ayuthaya, the Siamese capital between the 14th and 18th centuries, and once one of the largest and wealthiest cities in Asia. Tour of some of the myriad historical sites by boat and on foot before an afternoon transfer to Pak Chong town, our base for nearby Khao Yai National Park.

Overnight: Pak Chong Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

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Day 3 - In the jungle - Khao Yai National Park

Day tour of the World Heritage site includes morning and afternoon safaris to spot some of the park’s rich fauna including gibbons, hornbills and with luck wild elephants. We’ll also take you on a jungle hike and visit one of Khao Yai’s most spectacular waterfalls. (An optional night safari can also be arranged.)

Overnight: Pak Chong Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

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Day 4 - Phnom Rung - atop an extinct volcano

Heading east to Buriram Province our first stop will be the charming 11th-century site of Muang Tam with well-preserved Angkor-period temples set amid picturesque lily ponds. later in the afternoon, we’ll climb up to {Phnom Run, another spectacular site (now on UNESCO’s tentative list) actually set atop an extinct volcano.

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

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Day 5 - Khong Chiam

This morning’s stops include the small town of Sikorapum with a lively local market and another beautifully restored Angkor site, as well as the picturesque Sirindhorn Lake. Afternoon arrival at the small town of Khong Chiam on the banks of the Mekong River, overlooking Laos, with some time at leisure to take in the scenery from our well-placed riverside resort.

Overnight: Khong Chiam Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

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Day 6 - Pha Taem National Park

Our day trip to nearby Pha Taem National Park includes a forest hike to discover the spectacular cliff paintings and unusual ‘mushroom rock’ features for which the park is famous. Take in the magnificent Mekong vistas from the clifftops with a return to Khong Chiam by boat down the Mekong River.

Overnight: Khong Chiam Transport: Minibus, Boat, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

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Day 7 - Ubon Ratchathani and departure

Our tour ends with a transfer to nearby Ubon Ratchathani Airport for either a return to Bangkok or flight to Trat for a few days’ extension on an island in the Gulf of Thailand. (We recommend Koh Mak for the November to April period and Koh Chang any time of the year.) Alternatively, if you have more days to spare you could perhaps have a morning at leisure before transferring over the nearby border to Pakse Town to link up with our south Laos tour?

Transport: Minibus,  Meals: B, 

Print Itinerary

Details

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

Thailand, Prasart Sikhorapum

Just a few of the many highlights

Bangkok street life, ancient cities, lush jungle and exotic wildlife of national parks, an Angkor temple on the summit of an extinct volcano and 2 of Thailand's 5 World Heritage sites.

  • Explore the ancient, now UNESCO-listed, Siamese capital of Ayuthaya on foot and by boat
  • The spectacular and well-preserved Angkor-period temples of Phnom Rung and Muang Tam
  • 2-night stay in a garden resort on the banks of the Mekong River
  • Jungle hike, waterfalls and wildlife safaris in World Heritage Khao Yai National Park
  • Hike in Pha Taem National Park to discover the curious rock formations, cliff paintings and awe-inspiring views
  • ...and of course the delicious, varied and world-renowned Thai cuisine

Air Departures (UK)

  • 26 December 20 1,595 GBP
  • 28 January 21 1,360 GBP
  • 25 February 21 1,360 GBP
  • 19 May 21 1,320 GBP
  • 21 June 21 1,320 GBP
  • 21 July 21 1,520 GBP
  • 19 August 21 1,360 GBP
  • 20 September 21 1,320 GBP
  • 20 October 21 1,320 GBP
  • 16 November 21 1,360 GBP
  • 22 December 21 1,595 GBP

Land Departures

  • 27 December 20 845 GBP
  • 29 January 21 810 GBP
  • 26 February 21 810 GBP
  • 20 May 21 770 GBP
  • 22 June 21 770 GBP
  • 22 July 21 770 GBP
  • 20 August 21 810 GBP
  • 21 September 21 770 GBP
  • 21 October 21 770 GBP
  • 17 November 21 810 GBP
  • 23 December 21 845 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

Peerada River View Resort, Kong Chiam view

  • Chalet-style accommodation in a garden setting
  • Situated on the banks of the Mekong River itself
  • Convenient location a short walk from Kong Chiam village

*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. 

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 ($2-$3) per person per day. For your guide/tour-leader tip – who will accompany you for the duration of your tour – we’d recommend approximately $20-30 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 it’s highly varied regional cooking – firey southern-style, Chiang Mai and northern specialities, Bangkok and central Thai fare plus the ubiquitous Isan (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 streetfood – 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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