Planning a trip to Thailand can be challenging because there are so many spectacular places to visit. That’s why we personally recommend spending at least 3 weeks in Thailand to fully experience everything the Land of Smiles has to offer. In this article, we have prepared a few different itineraries for everyone’s taste; we have an itinerary for history lovers, an itinerary for beach lovers, an itinerary for off-the-beaten-track enthusiasts, and one typical touristy itinerary for spending 3 weeks in Thailand. But before we get to that, let’s cover some basics.
Getting To Thailand
The most common way of getting to Thailand for most international travelers is via the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. A few other busy airports in Thailand include Don Mueang International Airport (also in Bangkok), Phuket International Airport, and Chiang Mai International Airport. Depending on the itinerary you choose, it might be more convenient for you to fly to Chiang Mai or Phuket but most of the time, this will also be more expensive compared to flying to Bangkok.
If you’re looking to save on your flight to Thailand, Qatar Airways always has some good deals (and our affiliate link gets you up to 10% off on all flights to Thailand).
But before you book your ticket, you should be familiar with the local visa regulations. Most countries’ residents can get a Thai visa on arrival. To know if your country is one of those countries, check the visa policy of Thailand. If you do need a visa for Thailand, we always recommend IVisa. They have a nice and welcoming team of professionals that will do all the work needed for you to get your visa. All you have to do is just send them your documents and wait for their confirmation email.
What’s The Best Time To Visit?
The short answer is- you can visit time any time of the year you want- the weather is pleasant throughout most of the year. However, you should keep in mind that Thailand has a wet season and a dry season and the seasonal rains differ from one region to another. In general, most of Thailand gets rain between August and October while the driest months are between November and April.
Thailand receives the most tourists between November and February and the least between April and June. So, if you would like to avoid crowds and don’t want to see any rain on your holiday, the best time to visit Thailand is the period between April and June. For more helpful tips, also check out our post about things to avoid doing in Thailand.
Getting Around Thailand
Getting around Thailand should not cause any problems. Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world and has a great tourist infrastructure. The whole country is well-connected with buses and trains and you can easily pre-book all of your tickets (and get 5% off) by using 12GoAsia. We use it all the time when traveling in Southeast Asia because the app is very easy to use and always has some amazing deals. Alternatively, if you don’t like traveling by bus/train, you can also fly between cities in Thailand (Air Asia has some affordable tickets), and in the southern part, you can also get from one place to another by boat.
Inside the cities, you can use Uber or Grab or get around with tuk-tuks. If you choose the latter, always bargain because as a foreigner you’ll likely be overcharged more often than not. Alternatively, you can also rent a car. Personally, I always use AutoEurope when I travel because it helps me compare all the different deals from different rental agencies and make sure I always choose the best deal.
What To Pack?
Thailand is a tropical country which means packing should be very easy. All you need is some light clothes that dry quickly, comfortable footwear if you’re thinking of trekking or exploring the nature, and some other tropical essentials, such as sunscreen, mosquito repellent, flip flops, bathing suits, and a few more important items like a motion-sickness wrist band (if you’re thinking about traveling by boat), a water bottle with a built-in filter (that will allow you to have fresh drinking water all the time), and universal adapter to charge your devices.
Lastly, even though it’s not an item you can pack, you shouldn’t forget about travel insurance. Personally, I always use and recommend World Nomads. I admit, their plans are slightly more expensive than the average but they have you covered for far many more potential unwanted events, unlike most other travel insurance providers that offer only basic coverage. The truth is, unwanted things happen all the time while we travel, and trust me, travel insurance isn’t something you want to be cheap on. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Which Parts Of Thailand To Explore?
The truth is all parts of Thailand are beautiful in their own different way but where to visit and which itinerary to choose depends on what you want to do. The northern part of Thailand is great for people who like nature and enjoy getting off the beaten track while the south is perfect for beach lovers and people interested in island hopping. But don’t worry, we have that covered too. That’s why we have prepared a few different itineraries that will satisfy everyone’s preferences.
Let’s start with the most common touristy itinerary that will fit most people’s preferences…
Standard Itinerary For 3 Weeks In Thailand
This itinerary for 3 weeks in Thailand covers most of Thailand, north to south (or vice versa if that’s more convenient for you), and has a little bit of everything. Here’s a brief summary of what you can expect from this itinerary.
Week 1: Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand
Week 2: Bangkok, Pattaya, and Ayutthaya
Week 3: Phuket, Krabi, and island hopping
Now, let’s get a bit more specific and show you how this itinerary will look like day-by-day
Days 1-3: Bangkok
Bangkok is the capital and the largest city in Thailand. It’s home to 10 million people which roughly equals one-seventh of the country’s total population. It’s a bustling city with a lot of things to see and do. Some of the city’s most notable attractions include The Royal Palace, the towering temple of Wat Arun, the legendary Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Lumpini Park, and Thailand’s National Museum, just to name a few.
Our itinerary includes spending two full days in Bangkok and two-day trips on days 3 and 4 but since these destinations are a short bus ride away, you’ll still be stationed in Bangkok which will also allow you to see more of the city during the nights.
To save on accommodation in Thailand’s capital, you can use our referral link and get up to 15% on some of the following hotels in Bangkok.
Day 3: Day Trip To Ayutthaya
On the third day of this 3 weeks in Thailand itinerary, we added a day trip to Ayutthaya, the former capital of the kingdom of Siam. Once upon a time, Ayutthaya was one of the most prosperous Asian cities and one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world. According to estimates, the city was home to close to 600,000 people going into the 18th century but after the Burmese attacks (in the 18th century), the city was completely ruined. Today, Ayutthaya is only a small town but there are still many ancient buildings that are very well preserved and certainly worth visiting.
If you’re a history lover, you’ll definitely want to spend some more time in Ayutthaya but unfortunately, this itinerary only has room for a day trip which should be enough to cover the city’s main attractions. If you’re looking for a tour in Ayutthaya that will help you cover the city’s highlights, I warmly recommend Ayutthaya & Lobpuri Private Tour, Ayutthaya Historical City Bike Tour, and Ayutthaya UNESCO Tour.
After a full day of exploring, the itinerary takes us back to Bangkok from where we get an evening/night bus/train to Kaeng Krachan.
Days 4-5: Phetchaburi
Phetchaburi is one of Thailand’s most underrated provinces when it comes to tourism. Most people pass by it when going from Bangkok to Phuket or Krabi but very few stop and explore it even though this province is home to one of the largest national parks in Thailand- Kaeng Krachan National Park. In addition to exploring the national park, we have left another day in Phetchaburi to explore some other attractions, such as the beautiful palace of Phra Nakhon Khiri, the cave temple of Tham Khao Luang, Cha-Am Beach, etc.
If you want to save on accommodation in Phetchaburi, use our Booking voucher to get up to 15% off on all properties in town.
Day 6: Surat Thani
Our recommendation is to either get a late evening/night bus from Phetchaburi to Surat Thani or a very early morning bus because the journey lasts for seven hours and if you take the journey during the day, you’ll lose a lot of precious time which is a big deal when you have only 3 weeks in Thailand.
Surat Thani is a rural province in the southern part of the country that’s best known for the Ang Thong National Marine Park, famous for rich marine life and beautiful resort islands like Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan.
Some other notable attractions in Surat Thani include the City Pillar Shrine, Pra Cha Rat Floating Market, and the local mangrove forest. You can easily cover all of these places on the first day, while the second day will be reserved for island hopping.
To save on accommodation in Phetchaburi, use our Booking voucher to get up to 15% off on all properties in town.
Days 7-8: Island Hopping- Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan
Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan are two of Thailand’s most beautiful islands. They’re both in relative proximity to each other and can easily be covered in a day. For these two days, we leave you to choose how to spend your time. You can spend both days on one of the islands, you can spend one day on each island or maybe you can just island-hop and cover some more of the other isolated islands which make up the Ang Thong National Marine Park.
Personally, we recommend spending both of your days at Ko Samui. This is Thailand’s second-largest island and there are a lot of beautiful places to visit. You can even go on a bike safari tour in the forest, take an interactive tour in an ethical elephant sanctuary, or explore the marine park by boat. If you’re more into partying, then we recommend visiting Ko Pha-Ngan, an island famous for its legendary full moon parties.
Days 9-10: Krabi
Days 9 and 10 are reserved from the province of Krabi. You can get from Surat Thani to the city of Krabi in roughly 1 hour so this part of the itinerary should be easy. Krabi is mostly famous for being home to some of the most famous beaches in Thailand, such as Railay Beach, Phra Nang Cave Beach, Ao Nang, Maya Bay, and Ton Sai but while you’re here you can also do some island hopping and visit some of the neighboring islands like Ko Poda, Ko Ngai, Ko Hong, Ko Jum, Ko Lanta, and Ko Kai.
If you want to, you can cover most of these places or just choose a few and relax on the beach for a couple of days before continuing your trip. You can also find some great accommodation deals for Krabi using this link.
Days 11-12: Phuket+ Island Hopping
The largest island in Thailand has a lot to offer; it has an incredible nightlife, beautiful beaches, fascinating monuments like the Big Buddha, interesting museums like the Phuket Baba Museum and Phuket Thai Hua Museum and it’s also a great starting point for exploring the islands in the Andaman Sea. Some of the islands closest to Phuket are Naka Noi, Ko Yao Noi, Ko He, Ko Racha Yai, Ko Khai Nok, and perhaps the most famous one- Phi Phi islands (which I personally don’t recommend and you can read more about my experience here).
If you’re looking for some great tours in Phuket, this white water rafting tour is a great choice for adrenaline junkies, if you’re into island hopping, you’ll surely love this cruise tour, and if you would like to try the best of local food, check out this Old Town food tour.
Looking to save on accommodation in Phuket? Use our referral link and get up to 15% off.
Day 13: Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is one of Thailand’s largest protected areas. The park contains a dense virgin jungle, fascinating limestone karst formations, and the man-made Cheow Lan Lake. In addition to this, you can also find the rare giant parasitic Rafflesia flower, gibbons, langurs, squirrels, mouse deer, hornbill birds, and tigers. The park can be explored by trekking, canoeing/rafting, and by boat.
If you’re looking for some tour suggestions for exploring Khao Sok National Park, check out this Khao Sok Luxury 2-day Tour or this jungle hike+ canoeing tour if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly alternative. You can also use our special Booking voucher to save on your stay in the park.
Day 14: Hua Hin
Hua Hin is a beautiful coastal town famous for its beautiful beaches, amazing food, charming night markets, and Elephant Village; one of the rare ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand that takes proper care of the elements and doesn’t allow visitors to ride the elephants or abuse them in any other way. If you would like to get informed about elephants and their use in tourism in countries like Thailand, check out our post The truth about elephant riding and elephant abuse.
So, if you would like to see an elephant while supporting a local sanctuary that takes good care of the animals and doesn’t abuse them in any way, visiting the Elephant Village should definitely be on your list.
Looking to book your stay in Hua Hin? Use this booking.com special offer to save up to 15%.
Day 15: Kanchanaburi
Located in the western part of the country, Kanchanaburi is best known for the Death Railway, built during WWII, the JEATH War Museum dedicated to the prisoners of war who died while working on building the bridge, and the ruins at Prasat Muang Singh National Park. While you’re in Kanchanaburi, you should also check out Erawan National Park or Quiet Khuean Srinagarindra National Park.
For some hotel suggestions in Kanchanaburi, check out this page.
Day 16: Sukhothai
Located a few hours away from Kanchanaburi, you’ll find Sukhothai, a city famous for its UNESCO-designated historical park that consists of remains of the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai that was established in the 13th century. The remains at the park are an impressive display of the Golden Age of Thai civilization and if you’re a fan of history, you’ll be blown away.
Inside the park, you’ll find more than 20 historic sites, a handful of depictions of Buddha’s image, and four large ponds surrounded by beautiful horticultural landscapes. The best way to get around the park is to hire a bicycle and ride it around the grounds, covering all the sights you want to visit.
If you’re looking for a great tour that will allow you to explore the area, check out this Sukhothai Historical Park and Countryside Tour, and if you’re looking for a great place to stay in Sukhothai use this booking.com special offer to save up to 15% on all properties in town.
Day 17: Pai
When leaving from Sukhothai for Pai, I suggest taking a night or early morning bus/train because the journey will take 4-5 hours. Pai is located in the far north of Thailand, in one of the least frequented parts of the country. The city is famous for the fascinating Pai Canyon, the Chinese-themed park Santichon Village, the Pai Ravine that has been split into half by an earthquake, the Yun Lai Viewpoint, and of course, Pai Walking Street.
For a great tour of the area, check out this Pai Highlights Tour.
For some budget-friendly accommodation options, check out these special booking.com deals.
Day 18: Chiang Rai
Not too far from Pai, you’ll find another gem of Northern Thailand- Chiang Rai, a city famed for its rugged rural landscapes, picturesque rice fields, and the legendary night markets where you can find literally anything. Another thing this city is famous for is its temples and overall fascinating architecture which includes masterpieces such as Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple), Wat Rong Suea Ten (the Blue Temple), and the Baan Dam Museum of Art.
While in Chiang Rai, you should definitely check out this Local Temples Tour or if you would like to plan your own itinerary and have a guide for all of the places you want to visit, you can try out this customized private tour of Chiang Rai.
Looking to book your stay in Chiang Rai? Use this booking.com special offer to save up to 15%.
Days 19-20: Chiang Mai
The last stops of your 3 weeks in Thailand will be in Chiang Mai, a city that has become a regional digital nomad hub. For years, Chiang Mai was the second-largest city in Thailand but recent census data has shown that it’s actually the fourth-largest city in Thailand. The city is famous for its beautiful temples, laid-back atmosphere, vibrant night markets, and incredible natural scenery that includes places like Doi Inthanon National Park, Huay Kaew Waterfall, Hmong Village, and the Grand Canyon Water Park.
For some more great experiences in Chiang Mai, also check out:
Looking to book your stay in Chiang Mai? Use this booking.com special offer to save up to 15%.
Day 21: Chiang Mai-Bangkok
The last day is reserved for going back to Bangkok. The journey from Chiang Mai to Bangkok takes around 8 hours, so, unfortunately, most of your last day will have to go to traveling unless you take a flight and get some more time to explore more of Bangkok (and that’s never a bad idea). Alternatively, you can also turn the itinerary around and go from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and work your way down south, and in the end, take a bus/flight from Phuket to Bangkok.
Enjoying this post? Then you ought to check out our post comparing Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
3 Weeks In Thailand For History Lovers
This itinerary is tailored for history lovers. Thailand might be best known for its tropical beaches and beautiful islands but it’s also actually a country with a rich history. The country of Thailand was preceded by the Sukhothai Kingdom and Ayutthaya, after whose fall the empire was divided into five states that were later united by King Rama the First. Even though many of the historical monuments have been ruined there’s still a fair share of them that are still in good condition and this itinerary should help you cover most of them during your 3 weeks in Thailand.
Days 1-4: Bangkok
This itinerary includes four days in Bangkok and focuses only on monuments of historic importance. Some of the main historical sites in Bangkok include:
Wat Phra Chetuphon
The National Museum
Jim Thompson House
Chitralada Villa Royal Residence
The Royal Thai Air Force Museum
Royal Barges National Museum
Bang Khun Phrom Palace
The Museum of Contemporary Art
Siriraj Bimuksthan Museum
The Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall
The Museum of Natural History
As you can see, even though 4 days might seem like a lot, your Bangkok itinerary will be quite packed.
Day 5: Day Trip To Erawan Museum
Erawan Museum is located in Samut Prakan and is located only a short drive away from the capital. It’s one of the best museums in the country for people looking to learn more about Thai culture and heritage. The museum consists of three floors that are supposed to symbolize the underworld (first floor), the earth (second floor), and the Travatimsa Heaven (third floor).
On the first floor, you’ll find a collection of Chinese vases that stretches back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The second floor features precious antiques and arts including ceramics and pottery, as well as a fascinating statue of Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess with a thousand arms. Lastly, the third floor displays relics of the Buddha from several different eras, and the surrounding walls are decorated with paintings that are depicting the cosmos which gives the floor a curious spiritual vibe.
If you would like to get a guided tour of the museum, you can use this great deal to combine your visit to Erawan Museum with a trip to the ancient city (the guided tour includes both for only $65).
Days 6-7 Ayutthaya
The next two days will be devoted to Ayutthaya. Above, we mentioned that you can also cover the most important monuments in one day but since this itinerary is devoted to history, you might want to spend some more time exploring Thailand’s most popular ruins. Here are some of the must-see historical sites in Ayutthaya:
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
Wat Phra Ram
Wat Phanan Choeng
Bang Pa-In Palace
Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit
Wat Phu Khao Thong
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
Wat Lokaya Sutharam
The Old Royal Palace
Prasat Nakhon Luang
Looking to book your stay in Ayutthaya? Use this booking.com special offer to save up to 15%.
Day 8: Phra Nakhon Khiri in Phetchaburi
Phetchaburi is a town in central Thailand located roughly 3 hours away from Ayutthaya. The city’s two most popular attractions include the cave temple of Tham Khao Luang and the Phra Nakhon Khiri; a historical park that sits atop a hill overlooking the city. The park consists of three building groups located on the three peaks of the hill.
On the western hill, you’ll find the former royal palace, on the central peak, you’ll find a large Buddhist monument named Phra That Chom Phet, and on the eastern peak, you can see the royal temple of Wat Phra Kaeo. The complex was built in the 1800s as a summer palace for King Mongkut and since 1979, the park has been registered as a national historic monument.
Looking for cheap accommodation in Phetchaburi? Use this booking.com special offer to save up to 15%.
Day 9: Mueang Sing Historical Park
The next place on our itinerary is Muang Sing Historical Park located in the province of Kanchanaburi. Most of the structures on the site date back to the 9th century, an era when the Khmer Kingdom was flourishing. After the fall of the Khmer Empire, the town was abandoned and it was not repopulated again until the rule of King Rama the First. Today, you can find two well-preserved Khmer temples that are more than 1,000 years old and a handful of other structures built in Bayon-style.
Day 10: Sukhothai Historical Park
Sukhothai Historical Park covers the ruin of Sukhothai, the capital of the Medieval Sukhothai Kingdom which controlled most of Thailand’s territory. The ancient city was surrounded by walls that formed a rectangle of 2 kilometers from east to west and 1.6 kilometers from north to south. A solid part of the city’s wall is still standing and inside the walls, you can find more than 190 ancient ruins on roughly 70 square kilometers. including a royal palace and 26 temples.
The historical park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003.
Day 11: Si Satchanalai Historical Park
Si Satchanalai was founded in 1250 and quickly became the second-largest and most important city of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The city served as the residence of the prince between the late 13th and late 14th centuries and according to historical sources, the city was surrounded by a five-meter high wall that was built to protect the city from the Burmese attacks but unfortunately for Si Satchanalai, even that wasn’t enough.
Today, the site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts thousands of visitors every year who come to see the fascinating palace buildings, the impressive ancient Buddha figures, and the remains of Medieval temples.
Days 12-14: Chiang Mai
The next three days will be dedicated to exploring the historical sites of Chiang Mai and the surrounding area. Unlike some other cities on this list, Chiang Mai was never the seat of a kingdom but throughout the years, many historically important monuments and temples were built in the city of Chiang Mai and the surrounding area. Some of the most popular historical sites in Chiang Mai include:
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Chedi Luang Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan
Contemporary Art Museum
Wiang Kum Kam
Lanna Folklife Museum
Chiang Mai National Museum
The Highland People Discovery Museum
Lanna Traditional House Museum
Wat Chiang Man
Wat Suan Dok
Darapirom Palace Museum
Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center
Pratu Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Historical Centre
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Ratchaworawihan
Day 15: Chiang Rai
After exploring Chiang Mai, we decided to add one day in Chiang Rai to this itinerary because of the interesting museums that can be found in this city in the north of Thailand. While you’re around, you should check out the Baan Dam Museum, dedicated to contemporary Thai art the Hilltribe Museum featuring exhibits of local tribal communities, the Oub Kham Museum, dedicated to the history of Northern Thailand, and the Mekong Basin Civilization Museum.
Day 16: Karen Long Neck Village
The best way to learn about a country’s history is through interacting with the local tribal communities and visiting the Karen Long Neck Village gives you a great chance to do that. In this tribal village, you can see women wearing stacked brass rings on their necks that make their necks look abnormally long. We recommend visiting these villages with a guided tour because that’s a great way to learn more about the history of the local tribal communities.
If you would like to hire a guide for this tour, check out this great tour that combines a visit to Karen Long Neck Village with a few other hillside villages.
Day 17: Phra Prang Sam Yot, Lobpuri
Dating back to the 13th century, Phra Prang Sam Yot is one of the oldest still functional temples in Thailand. The temple was built by King Jayavarman VII of the Khmer Empire and at the time, it was one of the largest temples in the empire and was supposed to show the power of the Khmer and increase the legitimacy of their king’s rule. If that’s not a reason enough to visit, this temple is also famous for the large population of crab-eating macaque monkeys which inhabit the temple grounds.
Day 18: Phimai Historical Park
The Phimai Historical Park is home to one of the largest Hindu Khmer temples in Thailand and the most important tourist attraction in the Nakhon Ratchasima province. Similar to Prasat Muang Sing, Phimai was an important city for the Khmer Empire because it was connected to Angkor Wat via the ancient Khmer Highway.
Most of the buildings in the park date back to the 11th and 12th centuries and the park’s enclosed area of 1020×580 meters is comparable to that of Angkor Wat which means that Phimai was one of the most important cities during the Khmer rule of the region.
The nearest town to the park is Phimai. It’s a small town and you won’t find a lot of accommodation options there but you can still use our referral link to get a discount on your stay.
Day 19: Phanom Rung Historical Park
Phanom Rung is another complex revolving around an ancient Khmer temple that was built on top of an extinct volcano sitting at 402 meters of elevation. The temple was originally a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built somewhere between the 10th and 12th centuries.
The historical park consists of several different buildings, including a central sanctuary, a minor sanctuary, a Royal attire Changing Pavillon, a medical center, and a resting house. The National Department of Fine Arts has been working on restoring the historical park close to its original form for close to 20 years and as a result, Phanom Rung has been accepted by UNESCO for consideration as a future World Heritage Site.
The nearest town to Phanom Rung is Nang Rong and if you’re looking to spend the night there, you can use this special offer by Booking to get up to 15% off on your stay.
Day 20: Cathedral Of Immaculate Conception Chanthaburi
The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Chanthaburi might not be as old as some of the other places we covered in this itinerary but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. The cathedral was built in 1909 during the brief French occupation of Thailand and is one of the rare Gothic cathedrals in this part of Asia. The entire cathedral is beautiful but its highlight is probably the Virgin Mary statue covered with more than 250,000 semi-precious gems donated to the cathedral by the local congregation.
To save on your stay in Chantaburi, use our Booking.com voucher to get up to 15% off.
Day 21: Back To Bangkok
The last day includes the trip from Chanthaburi to Bangkok (around 3 hours). Depending on your schedule, you can spend some more time exploring Bangkok (trust me, it’s never enough) or head straight to the airport.
3 Weeks In Thailand For Beach Lovers
If you’re like most people, you’re going to Thailand for the beaches and beautiful, pristine islands and we have a 3-week itinerary for people like you. This itinerary consists of visiting Thailand’s most beautiful islands and beach towns starting from the north (off the coast of Rayong) to the south.
Day 1: Bangkok and/or Ko Sichang
Your itinerary, as always starts in Bangkok. You can take some time to wander around Bangkok but even if you don’t want to do that, there’s actually an island not very far from Bangkok. Ko Sichang is a small island located in the Gulf of Thailand, roughly 12 kilometers off the shore of Si Racha. You can spend the day at Ko Sichang and from there, you can get a ferry to Pattaya.
Day 2: Pattaya and/or Ko Samet
Pattaya is an exotic coastal town famous for its nightlife, ladyboys, and for being the sex capital of Thailand. Despite its somewhat notorious reputation, Pattaya is a beautiful city with charming natural landscapes and beautiful beaches. That’s why you can also consider the alternative of skipping Bangkok and Ko Sichang and heading straight to Pattaya (the journey won’t take more than 1.5 hours).
Off the coast of Pattaya, you’ll find the beautiful island of Ko Samet, an island with scenic landscapes that’s a part of the Khao Laem Ya–Mu Ko Samet National Park.
And if you’re looking for a place to stay in Pattaya, here’s a list of popular accommodation options.
Day 3: Ko Chang
Ko Chang is a beautiful island located a short ferry ride away from Ko Samet. This island is one of the largest ones in the Gulf of Thailand and a great starting point for exploring Thailand’s eastern islands. Most of the island is covered in dense, steep jungle, and similar to Ko Samet, Ko Chang is also a part of a national park (Mu Ko Chang National Park). For some more great activities in Ko Chang, also check out:
Lastly, don’t forget to do some research on accommodation options in Ko Chang before your trip.
Day 4: Ko Mak
Ko Mak is one of our favorite hidden gems in Thailand. Surrounded by crystal-clear, turquoise waters and white-sand beaches, Ko Mak is one of the most pristine islands in Thailand. Having in mind the island’s natural beauty, it’s very surprising that the island still remains under most tourists’ radar. This island can be reached by taking a ferry from Ko Chang and even though it’s relatively small, there are still some nice accommodation options on the island.
Day 5: Ko Chang-Trat-Bangkok-Chumphon-Ko Tao
Despite the fact that the aerial distance between Ko Chang and Ko Tao is only 360 kilometers, there are no ferries that connect the two islands. That’s why to get to the other side of the gulf of Thailand where most of the other islands are located, you’d have to first take a ferry from Ko Chang to the city of Trat, from there you’d take a bus to Bangkok, from Bangkok you hop on the bus to Chumphon from where you can get a ferry to Ko Tao.
The total journey covers more than 800 kilometers which would require at least 12 hours of traveling. This is the most tiring part of the itinerary but once you get to Ko Tao, you’ll forget all about it. Moreover, the upcoming journeys to Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Samui are located only a short ferry ride away from Ko Tao.
Days 6-7 Ko Tao
Lying in the central part of the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Tao is one of the most photogenic islands in Thailand. It’s an island with spectacular natural beauty and a place where anyone with a camera can become a professional photographer for the duration of their stay. The island is best known for its scenic tropical coral reefs, its diving sites, and the fact that it’s one of a few islands in Thailand where you can see white sharks and rays. Ko Tao is a resort island with plenty of accommodation options, restaurants, and proper tourist infrastructure.
Ko Tao is one of the most touristy islands in Thailand and accommodation gets pricey during the high season. If you want to save a few bucks, use our referral to save on accommodation in Ko Tao.
Day 8: Ko Pha-Ngan
The next day of this itinerary takes us to Ko Pha-Ngan, an island known for its beautiful beaches and worldwide-famous full moon parties. Personally, I didn’t appreciate the crowds and loud parties, and if you’re like me, you might want to consider spending your two extra days at Ko Tao or Ko Samui. However, I still decided to add Ko Pha-Ngan to the itinerary because I’m under the impression that many tourists (especially young travelers) like partying.
Days 9-10: Ko Samui
Ko Samui is a postcard-quality honeymoon destination but a lot of solo travelers visit it too. It’s Thailand’s second-largest island famous for its palm-fringed beaches and coconut groves, but also for its dense rainforests and posh spas. No matter what you decide to do, you’re guaranteed to have a world-class vacation in Ko Samui despite the fact that the island receives more and more visitors year over year. Here are some great tours you can take in Ko Samui:
Lastly, don’t forget to make some research on accommodation options in Ko Samui before your trip. Prices can get expensive during the high season but with our booking.com voucher you can save up to 15% on all properties on the island.
Day 11: Similan Islands
The Similan Islands is an archipelago located on the other side of the coast in the Andaman Sea. To get there, you first need to get a ferry from Ko Samui to Surat Thani and then take a bus to the Tab Lamu Port, south of Khal Lak in Phang Nga Province from where you can get a ferry to Similan Islands.
The Similan Islands are the most famous group of islands in the Andaman Sea and a great starting point for exploring this often-forgotten part of Thailand. If that’s something you’d want to do and you’ve already visited Phuket and Krabi, you can spend the next few days island hopping. Some of my favorite suggestions include Laem Son National Park, Mu Ko Sunn National Park, Ko Phayam, Ko Than, Ko Ra, and Ko Phra Thong.
Days 12-13: Phuket
The next morning, we get on the early morning bus from Khal Lak to Phuket. The journey takes no more than two hours and the next 4 days are dedicated to exploring the beaches of Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, and Krabi, a province famous for its sheer limestone cliffs, dense mangrove forests, and hundreds of small offshore islands.
Phuket is also home to some of the most popular and most visited beaches in Thailand like Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Freedom Beach, Patong, Nari Harn, Laem Singh, etc. (the list is very long). However, Phuket is also home to dense tropical forests and a mountainous area if you’re looking for a change of scenery.
Days 14-15: Krabi
The city of Krabi is located around 150 kilometers away from Phuket and the journey shouldn’t take more than 2 hours. In the next couple of days, you’ll get the chance to visit some of the most famous beaches on Krabi’s coast, including Railay Beach, Phra Nang Cave Bech, Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Lee, Ao Nang, Ton Sai, and many others. For some great tours in Krabi, check out some of the following choices:
Days 16-18: Ko Lanta + Island Hopping
In the next 3 days, you’ll get to explore the beautiful island of Ko Lanta and maybe do some island hopping to some of the smaller neighboring islands. Ko Lanta is an island dotted with mangrove and limestone rainforests best known for its coral-fringed coast and for being home to Mu Ko Lanta National Park which contains a few more smaller islands. The island is also home to the Khao Mai Kaew cave network and Khlong Chak Waterfalls.
If you’re looking to do some island hopping while here, we recommend Ko Jum as a more peaceful getaway alternative, Ko Ngai; an uninhabited, densely-forested island, and Ko Muk, also known as the Andaman Pearl of Thailand.
For some budget-friendly accommodation options on Similan Islands, check out this page.
Day 19-20: Ko Tarutao + Island Hopping
The last couple of days are planned for Ko Tarutao, the largest island of Tarutao National Marine Park and one of the last unspoiled islands in the Andaman Sea. In addition to this, the island is also a place of historical importance. During WWII and the years following it, the island was used as a prison for Thai criminals and political prisoners, including Sittiporn Gridagon, son of former King Rama VII.
Unlike most other islands, Ko Tarutao doesn’t have luxurious resorts and the only accommodation options here are bungalows and tents it’s recommended that you book your accommodation online before you visit. If you’re looking to do some island hopping in the area, a few exciting options include Ko Lipe, Ko Adang, Ko Ra Wi, and Ko Khai.
Day 21: Back To Bangkok/Phuket
The last day is reserved for getting back to Bangkok. If you take the long way out, you’ll have to take a ferry from Ko Tarutao to Satun and then take a bus to Bangkok which will take roughly 14 hours. The other alternatives include getting to the city of Hat Yai and booking a cheap Air Asia flight to Bangkok or taking a bus from Satun to Phuket (7 hours) from where you can board your international flight.
Alternatively, Ko Tarutao is also located only 10 kilometers away from Langkawi (Malaysia) and if you’re backpacking around Southeast Asia and are looking to continue your journey into Malaysia, Ko Tarutao is an ideal last stop.
3 Weeks In Thailand For Off The Beaten Track Travelers
Lastly, we have another creative way of spending 3 weeks in Thailand. If you’re an off-the-beaten-track enthusiast, you’ll surely love this itinerary. This is also the most comprehensive itinerary because it literally goes from Thailand’s far north to Thailand’s far south which means it will require a bigger budget than the other itineraries.
Additionally, your flight should arrive in Chiang Mai and your departure would be in Phuket. Because of the large distance between the northern and southern points of this itinerary, this is the only way to make it work. With that being said, let’s get to the actual itinerary.
Days 1-3: Pang Ung and Mae Hong Son
The first day is scheduled for your arrival in Chiang Mai from where you can get a bus to Pang Oung, a journey that takes roughly 5 hours. Pang Ung is a reserve built around the ecosystems of Patong and Fang Pang Ung reservoirs. The area has been deforested for a long time until King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) introduced this project as a way to restore the forests in the far north of Thailand.
Due to the reforestation and higher elevation, the area is much cooler than the rest of Thailand and is often referred to as “The Switzerland of Thailand”. During this adventure, you’d be using the town of Mae Hong Son as your base, so it might be a good idea to research some accommodation options.
The third day is reserved for visiting Mae Hong Son, the capital of a sparsely populated mountainous province in northern Thailand with the same name that’s home to hill tribes such as the Shan and Hmong. This will be your starting point for exploring the hill tribe villages of northern Thailand in the next couple of days.
Days 4-5: Chiang Dao & Lahu Hill Tribe Village
Located around 200 kilometers away from Mae Hong Son, following the winding mountain roads of northern Thailand, you’ll discover Chiang Dao, a city that isn’t the most or best of anything but it’s a charming mountain town dotted with thick green slopes, serene rock formations, hidden waterfalls, and hot springs.
This is where you’ll be stationed in the next 3-4 days (because the national parks don’t offer any accommodation options at least at the time of writing this article). The town doesn’t have a lot of accommodation options but you can still find some decent mountain homestays and lodges.
Not too far from the town, you’ll also find the Lahu Hill Tribe Village that’s home to the Lahu people who migrated to northern Thailand from the Tibetan Plateau under the pressure of other Chinese tribes. Their settlements are rural and the surrounding nature is completely pristine and unspoiled. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience, it doesn’t get much better than this. Or does it?
Days 6-7: Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park & Phu Sang National Park
Doi Pha Hom Pok and Phu Sang are the two most popular national parks in northern Thailand and our off-the-beaten-track itinerary wouldn’t be complete without spending at least one day in each of the parks. Doi Pha Hom Pok is the northernmost national park in Thailand that stretches across three different districts and covers an area of 524 square kilometers.
It’s home to the homonymous second-tallest peak of Thailand and rare plant species like Impatiens jurpioides, rare butterflies such as Teinopalpus imperialis, and a myriad of hot mineral springs.
Phu Sang is located in the northeastern part of Thailand close to the Laos border, roughly 180 kilometers away from Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park. Inside the park, you’ll find the sources of many great rivers that flow across the country as well as a myriad of waterfalls and caves with stalactites and stalagmites.
The park is also rich in wildlife; some of the rare animal species you can find here include the Indian muntjac, Indochinese flying squirrel, the Burmese hare, the Java mouse-deer, and the black giant squirrel, and the jungle cat.
Days 8-9: Nan Province
The next two days will be dedicated to exploring the highlights of the Nan Province which is located roughly 300 kilometers away from Chiang Dao. The province lies in the remote Nan River valley and is completely surrounded by forested mountains.
It’s one of the best destinations in Thailand for hiking (yes, you can hike in Thailand) because it’s home to some of the tallest mountains in the country, including the Phlueng Range in the west, the Luang Prabang Range in the east, and the third-largest mountaintop in Thailand- Phu Khe (not to be confused with the island of Phuket) which lies northeast of the city of Nan.
While exploring the province, it’s best to stay in the city of Nan because it has the most choices when it comes to accommodation (remember, by using our referral link, you’re getting up to 15% off on your stay in Nan).
Day 10: Cliff Temples of Lampang
Located around 200 kilometers from the city of Nan, Lampang is home to the Cliff Temples, a secret village located at the border between Lampang and Chiang Mai. The temples are hanging off a fortified settlement on a small hill which will definitely account for some amazing images from your trip.
The temples were built in the 13th century and are one of Thailand’s greatest samples of Lanna-style architecture. In total, there are 18 temples, 15 of which are still active and three have been ruined. According to historical sources cited in one of the temples, even Buddha himself visited the site around 2,500 years ago.
Looking for budget-friendly accommodation in Lampang? Use our referral link and get up to 15% off.
Days 11-13: Exploring Isan
Despite geographically being Thailand’s largest region, Isan is the definition of an off-the-beaten-track destination. The region consists of 20 provinces in the northeastern part of Thailand, covering a total area of 167,000 square kilometers, one-sixth of which is covered in untouched, pristine forests.
The region is also home to the city which is the second-largest in Thailand (Uthai Thani) but rarely gets mentioned in most tourist guides. We have decided to leave 3 days for exploring the gems of Isan because it’s one of our favorite destinations in Thailand and once you get there, you’ll understand why.
The region is home to some mind-blowing attractions, such as
- The historical park of Phu Phrabat which is home to dozens of thousand-year-old structures;
- The park of Sala Kaew Ku where you’ll find some of the most unusual and fascinating Buddhist sculptures;
- Lake Nong Harn also known as the Red Lotus Sea named after the bright flowers that cover its surface during the cooler months (January-March)
- Pha Taem National Park, home to some of the oldest prehistoric cave paintings in Southeast Asia;
- Khao Yai, Thailand’s first national park
- Ban Chiang Archaeological Site, one of the oldest prehistoric human habitation and burial sites in this part of the world.
And that’s just to name a few. If you ask me, I could easily spend 3 weeks exploring Isan alone. The region is unfrequented and there isn’t a lot of information about it online, so there might be a few places worth visiting that even we don’t know about (yet).
Day 14: Sangkhlaburi
Located around 400 kilometers east of Uthai Thani, Sangkhlaburi is the second-westernmost district of Thailand. Due to its beautiful surrounding nature, fascinating temples, and laid-back atmosphere, Sangkhlaburi is sometimes referred to as “The New Chiang Mai”. Some of the top sights in the area include Saphan Mon Bridge, the longest handmade bridge in Thailand, Khao Laem lake, The 3 Pagoda Pass that marks the border between Thailand and Myanmar, and the beautiful Khao Laem National Park.
Looking for budget-friendly accommodation in Sangkhlaburi? Use our referral link and get up to 15% off.
Day 15: Phetchaburi
Phetchaburi is the perfect destination for travelers looking for a peaceful getaway where they can find tranquillity while enjoying some of the most scenic landscapes in central Thailand. Phetchaburi is famous for Kaeng Krachan National Park which covers nearly half of the district.
This part of the itinerary will be centered around the national park which is one of the most diverse areas in Thailand when it comes to wildlife. Inside the park, you can find many rare animal species, including leopards, bears, black panthers, sambar deer, barking deer, elephants, golden jackals, serows, gaurs, crab-eating mongooses, gibbons, and many others.
Days 16-18: Ranong, Ko Phayam and Ko Yao Yai
This day includes a long journey because you have to get from Phetchaburi to Ranong which is the nearest town to the island of Ko Phayam. Ranong is a beautiful coastal town that remains under most tourists’ radar while Ko Phayam and Ko Yao Yai are two of the most underrated islands in Thailand.
While exploring the coast of Ranong, it’s probably best to station yourself in the city because accommodation on the islands is always more expensive. I don’t want to sound boring but don’t forget, you can use our booking.com referral to save up to 15% on your stay.
Day 19-20: Trang
Trang is an often-forgotten coastal province in the southernmost part of Thailand. Its coast is famous for the long stretches of rugged limestone cliffs, remote caves, and mangrove-lined beaches. In addition to this, there are also many offshore resort islands you can visit, such as Ko Kradan and Ko Muk.
Finally, you can find some suitable accommodation options in Trang on this page.
Day 21: Back To Phuket
The last day of this itinerary is reserved for traveling to Phuket from where you would get your international flight. The journey will take around 4 hours.
What About The Budget?
Lastly, we round up this article with perhaps the most important question- how much do 3 weeks in Thailand cost? Overall, Thailand is not a very expensive country. On average, you can have a decent holiday in Thailand with a budget of $25-$30 per day. Back in my backpacking days, I even managed to travel around Thailand with less than $15 per day. If you would like to maximize your costs and save money on your trip to Thailand, make sure to check out our ultimate guide to visiting Thailand on a budget.
However, the answer to this question really boils down to your personal preference- where do you stay, hotels or hostels, do you eat street food or dine in expensive restaurants, do you take guided tours or explore on your own, etc. That’s why we’ll share some basic information about the costs of traveling to Thailand, and you can do your own math based on your preferences.
The average cost of food is around $10-$15 per person but it’s cheaper if you’re traveling as a couple/group and you can share. Transportation costs (buses, trains, and ferries) should be around $10-$15 per trip but that depends on the distance and since most of our itineraries require a lot of moving around, you have to take this into consideration.
For accommodation, if you’re staying in hostels, you can find hostels for prices as low as $5 per night while most decent hotels will cost at least $15-$25 per night. Most tours (at least the ones we recommend in this post) cost between $20 and $30 per tour. It’s probably a good idea to take into consideration some other costs like partying, drinking, massages, cooking classes, alternative activities, and other miscellaneous costs.
When you put everything together, you’ll get a ballpark number of between $2,500 and $3,500 for the entire trip, depending on your personal preferences and the price of your flight.
Did you like our itineraries for spending 3 weeks in Thailand? If you had 3 weeks in Thailand, how would you spend it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Like it? Pin it.