Thailand is an amazing place to visit and although many people go to Thailand for the beaches, you can also skip the beaches altogether for a trip to North Thailand and Bangkok. This 10 Days Itinerary to North Thailand and Bangkok will show you the best places to visit in Thailand, practical information on costs and transportation to get around in Thailand and the best experiences to book in North Thailand in our Thailand 10 days itinerary.
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North Thailand offers so much to travellers; it is rich in history, culture, and adventure. Here you will find our best North Thailand and Bangkok Itinerary. We will be covering Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya; optionally you can add an extra 3 days with a stopover in Nakhon Lampung.
Before this, we will cover some practical things to keep in mind before you book. This itinerary is great for solo, couples or family travellers who would like to avoid Thailand beaches and find a more authentic lifestyle in North Thailand.
Best Time To Visit Thailand
|North Thailand||March to May||Hot/Dry season – Chiang mai, Chiang Rai, Kanchanbury|
|North Thailand||June to October||Wet season|
|North Thailand||November to February||Cool/Dry season – Nov to Feb|
Generally, the best time to visit Thailand is between November to April. March to May are the hottest months and get more polluted (especially March) due to farming agriculture; where farmers burn their fields to prepare their land and June to October are the rainy seasons.
If you are planning to visit the South of Thailand and the beaches bear in mind the difference between the East and West coast monsoons.
We took our trip in the winter months in January which is a great time to visit North Thailand. We started our journey a bit tired after a long trip from Paris (France) with a long 8-hour stopover in Doha (luckily the lounge access made our stay a little bit easier and we managed to rest a few hours, more comfortably).
TIP If you have a long stopover then consider paying a little extra for the lounge access.
Once you arrive in Bangkok, you can take the train to the centre of Bangkok and then hail down a tuk-tuk direct to your hotel. Alternatively, you can book a private driver from the airport.
We decided to be more adventurous and took the tuk-tuk. It was a beautiful ride through the streets of Bangkok. The New Year decorations were still in place, and we had a first feel of the buzz and humidity of Bangkok.
TIP Ask the hotel before what you should roughly be paying as you will probably need to negotiate your ride with the driver beforehand.
Day 1 – Bangkok and Night train to Chiang Mai
As we were due to take a night train to Chiang Mai we tried to get some rest to avoid jet lag and walked locally around the city and found our favourite and very local, street stalls near Samsen road. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous, you may not always know what is served because of the language barrier, but we were attracted by the stalls where we saw many local customers.
TIP by traveling at night you can save on 1 night hotel accommodation.
Days 2 to 4 – Explore Chiang Mai
We stayed at the Junior House in Chiang Mai
Segway tour in Chiang Mai
We wanted to do a tour of the main sights so decided to book our first segway tour with Segway Gibbon, which was a great and exciting way to see Chiang Mai.
It cost us 1599 baht for a 2-hour tour. It was our first time on the segway, but you get 10 minutes of practice before you go on your tour.
The tour takes about 2 hours and you see the main sites including; Kings Monument, Wat Chiang Man, Tha Pae Gate, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Pan Tao, Buak Had Park, Wat Pundtow & Wat Chedi Luang. The segway gives you a little taster of the main attractions that you may want to re-visit plus it is so much fun to see the city in this way.
With this ticket we also got a free ticket to see Chiang Mai Zoo. We had a nice afternoon and also got the opportunity to see some pandas.
Chiang Mai is also known for its markets, and the one we really enjoyed was the Sunday night craft market which has a great ambience, and you can find a lot of local crafts, don’t forget to negotiate on prices. It is expected.
We also took a scooter ride (another great and affordable way to travel, and scooter riders are also less aggressive compared to in Europe) to visit a snake farm and the Sa Paper and Umbrella handicraft centre. It was wonderful to see the artists decorating the paper and cotton umbrellas, it is a nice place to buy a little souvenir.
Book a Cooking class in Chiang Mai
One of our other highlights was definitely taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai; a really fun activity that you must do; You can take an afternoon or whole day course and you get to choose your menu from a list. It was really a fun day cooking and learning about the local herbs and spices and, yes, the BEST part; eating our dishes!!! We cooked a variety of typical Thai dishes, including some of my favourites; Pad Thai, Massaman curry, Tom Kya Kai Coconut based soup and delicious sticky mango rice. There is also a chance to see a local market where you can buy and taste some local products.
We also tried a few massage places, and practically had one every day; a 30-minute foot and back massage, which was bliss every day. The quality and the price are both very attractive so take advantage whilst you are here.
Other things to see and do in Chiang Mai
Days 4 to 6 – Visit Chiang Rai
We went from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai which is 190km and roughly a 3-4 hour journey by bus. The easiest way to do this is by bus, leaving from Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station; tickets will roughly cost $8 for one-way ticket.
In Chiang Rai we stayed at Chezmoi Handicraft. Before we got there, we had organised a tour through a local guide which we found on TripAdvisor and although I had confirmed our tour before we arrived in Thailand, the tour guide forgot our booking which was really disappointing. Fortunately for us, Thai people have very good customer service, and he organised, last minute, for his wife to take us on a day tour. Although it was a last-minute organisation, we had a wonderful day.
We took a long tail boat ride from Chiang Rai to Ruammit passing a beautiful suspension bridge; where we had a short visit to the local Lahu hill tribe.
There I felt we didn’t really get an authentic experience, it felt a bit more like the guide wanted us just to buy the local crafts rather than really learning about their local culture.
Some other interesting tours that you can do from Chiang Rai.
We then had a quick pit stop at the Pha Soet hot bath, where we took a quick dip in the bath but the most memorable part was tasting the mangosteen. We loved this fruit, a bit similar to lychee but even tastier. Try it if you get a chance.
We also did a stopover to see the Buddhist Cave Temple (Tham Ku Kaeo) where the ambience was quite special and we got the chance to see monks sitting in the cave meditating.
Many symbolic structures make this such a striking temple. One which caught my attention was the hundreds of hands that are outreaching, symbolising unrestrained desire.
We went to visit quite late in the day and saw there were not too many people and we stayed to see the sunset. Going back to the centre of Chiang Rai was quite an adventure as there seemed to be no local transport and it was quite dark, luckily we hailed a local bus which at first we were quite spooked about as there were only 3 local Thais probably wondering what we were doing in the middle of nowhere. But then we had a very nice, and cheap local ride.
For a more organised and hassle-free experience, you can book this recommended tour.
We ended our day in a local night market trying out the popular North Thailand dish; ‘Khao Soi’ Noodles which is a coconut-based curry noodle dish.
Days 6 to 7 – Back to Bangkok
Back in Bangkok, we stayed at the Baan Tepa Boutique.
There is a lot to see and do in Bangkok, we had a few days to explore this vibrant city. Travelling in Bangkok may seem quite chaotic at first but you can easily travel to different parts using the Skytrain, taxis, tuk tuks and even the public ferry. The public ferry is cheaper and will have an orange flag; there is also the more expensive tourist ferry that has a blue flag.
We decided to take the ferry along Chao Praya from Central Pier (also known as Sathorn Pier) and got off ferry pier no 9 Tha Chang to see the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace was really packed with people but it is beautiful; the architecture is stunning. It is the cities landmark built in 1782. There is a strict dress code to visit the Grand Palace dress, no bare feet, arms and legs.
We also visited the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew); one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand. Try to go early but it is so popular that you cannot really avoid the crowds.
In the afternoon we visited the Wat Pho, The Reclining Buddha which is an impressive 46m long and 15m high! And has over 1000 Buddha images.
There is also a massage school onsite if you fancy another Thai massage. The prices are more than what you can find in other areas and bear in mind the waiting time as it can get crowded. The Reclining Buddha is a 10-minute walk from the Grand Palace or you can take the ferry and get off at No 8 Tha Thien Pier. There are also a few handicraft bazaars that you can visit along the way.
In the evening we headed out to visit Chinatown; you can get off at ferry no 5 Ratchawong Pier. Chinatown is a great place to try street food and experience the craziness of Bangkok. There is also the flower market, Pak Khlong Talat; which we have been told is beautiful to visit if you get a chance.
Day 8 – Luxury stay in Bangkok
We stayed at the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathom; after our long adventure day yesterday, we took the morning to enjoy the rooftop pool and soak in the views of Bangkok Skyline. What is unique about this hotel is that you have direct access to the BTS Sky Train so we took this opportunity in the afternoon to catch the Skytrain to Sala Daeng to visit Lumpini Park; which is a beautiful green park to relax in. You can also hire a paddleboat.
We spent our evening visiting Khao San Road; which is the famous backpacker strip. It was not our favourite place but interesting to see and try the market stalls serving local delicacies and for the more adventurous bbq scorpions and insects! You can also get a very cheap foot or body massage here. Thai massages are amazing if you like massages; they can be quite strong so make sure you tell them what your pain threshold is!
Days 9 – 11: Visit Bangkok and Day trip to Kanchanaburi
For our last two days we opted to stay in a more luxurious 5-star hotel; Lebua State Tower. As we stayed in budget hotels during most of our stay we decided to splash a little during our last couple of days.
At Lebua State Tower we stayed in the higher apartments, near the top which is on the 52nd floor, and we had amazing views. Although it was not as friendly as the smaller hotels we stayed in, it did give us a little luxury in our trip and the pools and views at the rooftop bar were gorgeous.
The next day we decided to take a little trip out of Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, where we had a chance to see the famous movie bridge: River Kwai Bridge. We took a special tourist rail car aimed at Thai tourists which we thought was great as we got a glimpse of real Thai travel.
Whenever we travel we try to find out how the locals travel. This was our itinerary, it cost 120BHT bear in mind these were 3rd class non-aircon seats; we had a comfortable ride though and the train was quite spacious.
Day Trip Itinerary to Kanchanaburi
06.30 depart Bangkok Hualamphong station, Saturdays & Sundays only.
07:40 arrive Nakon Pathom, 40 minute stop to visit the great Chedi (cone-shaped temple).
09.26 arrive Kanchanaburi, very shortstop.
09.35 arrive River Kwai Bridge station & stop for 25 minutes.
10.00 depart River Kwai Bridge station, cross the Bridge & head along the River Kwae via the impressive Wampo Viaduct.
11.30 arrive Nam Tok station.
11:30 arrive Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi. This is the only train to run beyond Nam Tok to the end of the operational line; we had a little bit of time to see the scenic waterfall.
14:20 leave Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi.
14.25 leave Nam Tok station heading back south.
15.53 arrive at Kanchanaburi station and stop for 60 minutes for a visit to the war graves.
16.53 leave Kanchanaburi.
19.30 arrive back in Bangkok Hualamphong station.
We also took a little side trip to visit Ayutthaya; which is a UNESCO recognised site where you can find ancient ruined temples and palaces including ‘wat phra si sanphet’ and ‘wat mahathat’ and also the reclining buddha – ‘wat Chai’.
Book your organised Ayutthaya tour here:
We packed quite a lot in our Thailand 10-day itinerary and still there were so many places that we have yet to discover.
Bonus – Three extra days in Mueang Lampang
If you wanted to extend this itinerary, there is a wonderful experience to add to your trip. On the way back from Chiang Rai, you can stop for two nights in Muang Lampang.
We stayed at the Auangkham resort, Mueang Lampang (also known as Nakhon Lampang) The third biggest town in Thailand.
We decided to stay here for a couple of days to relax and plan our next few days in Bangkok. Whilst here we went to visit the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. We wanted to visit a place where they focus more on the care of elephants rather than their use for tourism. This is the only state-owned elephants’ rescue camp. They treat and care for injured elephants. We really felt strongly that elephants were cared for very well here.
However, beware that elephants are a big tourist attraction here in Thailand. Please do try to visit the more ethical sanctuaries.
Typical of Lampang is the use of horse drawn carriages; we took a little tour around the town in the evening. TIP Don’t forget to negotiate.
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