Best of Northern Thailand

Best of Northern Thailand

11 Days From



Best of Northern Thailand

11 Days Starting and ending in Bangkok

Visiting: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Thani, Kanchanaburi

Tour operator:


Tour code:


Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

10 - 16

Physical rating:


Age range:


Special diets catered:

Vegetarians, Vegans

Tour operated in:


Trip Styles:


From: $1850 $1537 Operator discount: -$270 Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$43 -17%

NB: Prices correct on 19-Jul-2024 but subject to change.

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Tour Overview

On this cultural journey we venture into the heart of Thailand where we discover ancient sights and cruise along bustling waterways. We see the infamous 'Bridge over the River Kwai', explore ruined temples, and spend a night on a jungle raft house.

Bangkok - Explore the glittering Grand Palace complex and Wat Po, the temple of the Reclining Buddha

Sukhothai - Cycle around the historic park and stay overnight in a homestay in Nathon Chan village

Chiang Mai - Witness the excellent conservation work being done at Elephant Nature Park


  • Explore cities ancient & new: Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Bangkok & Chiang Mai

  • Cruise the Cho Phraya River aboard a converted rice barge and stay in floating raft houses

  • Spend quality time with Elephants at a Nature Park


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Day 1: Join Tour In Bangkok; Optional Longtail Canal Trip

Location: Bangkok

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: W22 Hotel

Arrive in Thailand's capital, the lively metropolis of Bangkok. The bustling street life of this energetic city is set to a backdrop of colourful, ornate shrines and modern glass-fronted high-rises, which jostle for position to dominate the city's skyline. It is a place where old meets new at every corner. Sample the fresh and tasty street food, haggle in the non-stop markets and take a cruise out on Chao Phraya River to witness stunning sunsets.

For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Bangkok at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which is 45 minutes from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up in the lobby at 8am on day 2.

Please note that if you wish to join the Optional Longtail Canal Trip today, you must arrive at the hotel by 1pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least one hour to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around one hours' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 10am.

Day 2: In Bangkok, Visit Grand Palace; Sleeper Train To Chiang Mai

Location: Bangkok

Accommodation: Overnight Train

Accommodation Name: Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Meals Included: Breakfast

Our sightseeing tour this morning is on foot and includes the Grand Palace with its stunning Emerald Buddha and Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). The afternoon is left free, then in the evening we board the overnight train for Chiang Mai.

Day 3: Arrive In Chiang Mai; Visit Doi Suthep Temple; Walking Tour Of Old Town

Location: Chiang Mai

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Amora Hotel Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai offers a complete contrast and relief from the heat and noise of Bangkok. Its elevation is just over 300m, so the climate is most agreeable. Founded in the 13th century, it owes its prosperity mainly to the teak trade. Our sightseeing will include the famous Doi Suthep temple and an orientation walk of the old town.

Day 4: In Chiang Mai, Included Visit To Elephant Nature Park

Location: Chiang Mai

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Amora Hotel Chiang Mai

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

This morning we head out to the Elephant Nature Park, one of the largest elephant conservation centres in Thailand and it's located one and half hour drive from Chiang Mai. The park comprises of huge swathes of land for the elephants to roam in, along with an elephant nursery and hospital caring for sick and abandoned elephants. Its main function is for the treatment and care of rescued elephants although visitors and tourists are now admitted to assist and volunteer with the valuable conservation work. We will need to be flexible around the needs of the elephants, spending some time on the viewing platform and walking down to the river accompanied but the centre's staff. The elephants are free to roam and do as they please and this is what sets this sanctuary apart and what makes it meet Explore's animal welfare policy. If we are lucky enough, we can witness these gentle giants as they happily splash around in the river, washing and cooling themselves down from the midday sun.

There are no elephant shows or elephant riding here, the experience is all about spending a few quality hours with these beautiful creatures and observing their natural behaviours when they are with their herd. We return back to Chiang Mai mid-afternoon for an optional cooking class.

Day 5: Drive To Si Satchanalai Temple Ruins And Continue To Homestay In Nathon Chan Village

Location: Chiang Mai

Accommodation: Homestay

Accommodation Name: Ban Natonjun Homestay

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we head south to Si Satchanalai the twin city to Sukhothai. Although architecturally very different, it is just as impressive in many ways with a variety of outside influences noticeable in the construction of the wats and chedis (religious memorials). The most impressive and most sacred is Wat Chang Lom. Situated in the heart of the old city it is decorated with 39 standing elephants and is unusual due to its Ceylonese-style chedi - the earliest of its kind in Thailand.

After visiting the site we make our way to the small community of Natonchan, a rural village set amongst lush rice paddies where we will enjoy the warm hospitality of a homestay for the night. After being greeted by our hosts and having some time to settle into our rooms we head out to explore the village on foot. The villagers here still practice many cottage industries, and as we walk from house to house we will see how clothes are stitched on a bamboo sewing rig, cups and chopsticks are made from surrounding bamboo and ornaments are skilfully carved by local artisans. There will be plenty of opportunity to engage with the villagers whilst each of them demonstrates their craft. We return to our homestay for a sundowner and a hearty meal cooked by our hosts.

The homestay in Nathon Chan is simple but clean, comfortable and homely. Rooms are twin share with mattresses on the floor, all bedding and mosquito nets are provided and there are shared western toilets and showers. Please note that larger groups may be split between two nearby homes.

Day 6: In Sukothai, Explore Old City Ruins By Bicycle; Drive To Uthai Thani Via Unesco Site Of Kamphaengphet

Location: Sukhothai

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Payamai Resort

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning we make the short drive to Sukothai, and once here we plan to explore the old city by bicycle. Sukothai was the first capital of Siam; which was at the pinnacle of Thai civilisation for over 200 years up to the end of the 1400s. It then went into decline as Ayutthaya took over as the most important city in the area, and was deserted until it was discovered as a lost city in the jungle in the 19th Century. The city has now been fully excavated and it comprises 21 historical sites within the city walls and a further 70 outside. Leaving Sukhothai by bus, we continue our journey south towards Uthai Thani. Along the way we make a stop at the historical site of Kamphaengphet, a UNESCO World Heritage site and little-visited town which contains a wealth of 13th-17th century temples, statues and buildings. The ancient walled town featured as an important city under the Sukothai Kingdom by protecting it from invaders, and we will spend time exploring the old royal palace and temples before driving onto Uthai Thani.

Day 7: Visit Morning Market; Travel By Boat And Bus To Ayutthaya; Visit Royal Palace

Location: Thani

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Ayothaya Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning we plan a visit to a local market before boarding a traditional boat for a trip along the Sakraekrang River . As we drift down the sleepy meandering waters we get a real insight into the authentic life of the indigenous river dwellers and boat people. There's plenty of time to relax and enjoy the passing scenery. The trip ends back at Utahai Thani for lunch. We then head south by bus where we reach another of Siam's stunning ancient capitals, Ayutthaya. Situated on an island at the confluence of three rivers, the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers, Ayutthaya had a very strong defensive position and retained its power for over 400 years, during which time it became extremely wealthy. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city is still a stunning complex of palaces, shrines, stupas and monasteries. We will include a walking tour to visit the Royal Palace and a few wats.

Day 8: Drive To Kanchanaburi; Journey On Death Railway And Continue Onto River Kwai; Overnight In Raft House

Location: Kanchanaburi

Accommodation: Raft House

Accommodation Name: SaiYok Mantra Resort

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

An early morning drive, by-passing Bangkok takes us to the River Kwai and Kanchanaburi, where we visit the war cemetery and the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. The building of the bridge and the Death Railway as it has become known, is one of the most infamous episodes of the Second World War. The Japanese built the railway to link Siam and Burma (Myanmar) using Prisoners of War between June 1942 and October 1943. It was to carry supplies to their fast expanding empire and by doing so it would cut almost 1300 miles off the sea route from Japan. The working conditions were atrocious and over 16000 allied troops lost their lives as well as an estimated 75,000 Asian forced labourers. We then take the train along part of the original route. We continue by bus to the Hellfire Pass and visit the Memorial Museum. Finally we transfer to longtail boats for a journey up the River Kwai to our Raft Houses, set in a tranquil location on the river's edge.

Day 9: In Kanchanburi, Take Bamboo Rafts On River Kwai; Visit Mon Minority Village Or Lawa Cave

Location: Kanchanaburi

Accommodation: Raft House

Accommodation Name: SaiYok Mantra Resort

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We spend a full day here exploring the jungle and the river both on foot and by bamboo rafts. There is the option to head out to Sai Yok National Park for a nature walk and waterfall visit.

Day 10: Return To Bangkok Via Maeklong Railway Market

Location: Bangkok

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: W22 Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast

We leave the peaceful surroundings of the Kwai Noi River this morning as we join the road and head back towards the capital. On our way back will we stop by the small town of Maeklong, home to one of the most unusual spots in Thailand. The Maeklong Railway Market was established in 1905 to better transport the fresh seafood from the nearby port to the city and surrounding provinces. The market has been built, quite literally, on top of the railway and each time the provincial train rumbles through a mind-boggling spectacle unfolds; the shades and canopies are all folded back, produce is deftly rolled away from the tracks and then train slowly passes through, mere millimetres from the surrounding markets and vendors. We plan to arrive today in time to witness this bizarre but fascinating event, with time left to look around the market and the variety of fresh produce on offer.

We then continue on to Bangkok, where the rest of the afternoon has been left free for some last minute shopping or further exploration of this Asian metropolis.

Day 11: Tour Ends In Bangkok

Location: Bangkok

Meals Included: Breakfast

The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Bangkok.

There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Bangkok at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which is 45 minutes from our hotel.

If you have time you may wish to wander through Chinatown for a different flavour of the city.

What's Included

  • Train Tickets

  • Accommodation

  • Fully Guided

  • All Domestic Transportation (including internal flights)

  • Meals – Breakfast Only

    Breakfast: 9

    Lunch: 2

    Dinner: 3

What's Not Included

  • Country Entry Visas

  • Tipping and Gratuities

  • 1 bottle of Mineral Water per person per day

Why Book this Tour

As one of our best selling tours this adventure to Thailand really gets under the skin of the destination and gives travellers an in-depth discovery of the history and culture of the country. Often associated only with beaches this trip is a revelation, as you will see ancient lost cities, journey by rice barge, and spend a night in a raft house on the legendary River Kwai. This is a great holiday for history lovers who want to understand the 'real' Thailand.


Breakfasts: 9
Lunches: 3
Dinners: 3


Check out our Q&As

  • Will there be an escort accompanying this tour?


  • Can you assist with pre or post tour accommodation?


  • Will I know the names and details of all the accommodation before I depart?


  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?


  • Is there any free time to explore places during the tour?


  • What is the maximum group size?


  • Are children permitted to take part in the tour?


  • I'm going on a walking/cycling trip-do I need to train?

    It will depend on the grade and how fit you already are. Check the trip page for details of the walking or cycling grade and how far you’ll be walking/cycling each day. For moderate or challenging trips in particular we’d recommend doing some walks or cycles before you leave to build up your fitness and prepare you for the distances being covered.

  • Who will be my travelling companions on the tour?

    We have a wide range of ages nationalities on our small group trips and they come from all walks of life.

  • Should I get travel insurance?

    Yes–it is a condition of booking that you are fully insured when travelling with us

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    At Explore, we're the experts in adventure travel. Our small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981. Today, Explore is one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 500 trips to more than 120 countries.

  • Can I join the tour once it has departed?

    Yes, but there are no concessions for doing so, and we must have a record in your booking advising as such before the trip departs.

  • Am I contributing to any charity by booking the tour?

    Being a responsible company is a large statement, something that has to be entwined within the very fibre of a company. Discover the charities and partnerships we support as part of this at

  • What happens if I need to change my holiday date once I’ve booked?

    We want to be as clear as and as honest as possible about what happens if you decide to that you no longer wish to travel on your trip. Our booking conditions have details of the costs you’ll incur when you cancel-these charges depend on how long it is before your planned departure.

  • What is the accommodation like?

    We choose comfortable accommodation in the best locations possible. We opt for small, local and family-run accommodation where we can, as opposed to large chain hotels. We typically use hotels that are the equivalent of European 3-star, and you’ll usually have an en suite room. Occasionally, where we want to get off the beaten trail we may stay in more basic accommodation.

  • What Ethical Travel credentials does the tour company have?

    Sustainability is embedded within the fibre of Explore, it emanates from the inside out. But as we enter a new decade it is clearer than ever that our world needs help, and Explore has created a sustainability strategy based on the 2015 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    Our flexible booking and safety policies mean you're protected before and during your travels with us. Receive a full refund if your trip is cancelled, transfer your trip free of charge up to 10 days before departure minus any irrocoverable costs.

  • Do I need to be very fit to book with you?

    All our trips require some level of active participation. This could be on a cultural trip, trek, safari, expedition or voyage. It is in the interests of all members of the group that everyone should be capable of fully participating in the activities of their chosen trip.

  • What documents will I receive before I travel?

    Final documents will include a comprehensive trip itinerary, climate and country information, budgeting and packing advice visa and passport information and details on optional activities available.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Yes on most of our trips. Most trips are based on customers sharing twin-bedded rooms. If you book a group trip as an individual, you will share a room with someone of the same sex. However, on many trips we offer the opportunity to pay a supplement to pre-book a single room, known as our single room option. On some trips a single room will be provided every night, on others it will be provided o

  • Do we have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel

    It’s now a condition of booking a trip with us that customers should have one of the following before they travel - — Be vaccinated against COVID, having received the full recommended course, and allowing enough time for immunity to take effect. Full vaccination includes any booster required to keep the vaccine valid. — Have taken a negative test (rapid antigen or PCR) within 72hrs of departure.

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?

    Explore will only offer hotels that have specific COVID-19 protocols in place and comply with local government guidelines. We will ensure these measures include; enhanced room cleaning, ventilation, social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfection of high frequency touch points in public areas, food safety, staff re-training and minimising contact within the properties.

Reviews from travellers on this tour


Old Siam and The River Kwai

A rep accompied me back to the airport to depart..

A rep accompied me back to the airport to depart...nice touch.


Old Siam and The River Kwai

My first trip with explore - excellent, would reco

My first trip with explore - excellent, would recommend to others.


Old Siam and The River Kwai

Wit was a really exceptional guide.

Wit was a really exceptional guide.


Old Siam and The River Kwai

This was on the whole an excellent trip and I cons

This was on the whole an excellent trip and I consider we were lucky with the Explore team I was paired with except the lady in charge of our airport transfer.


Old Siam and The River Kwai

Could have been a day or two longer (eg in Chaingm

Could have been a day or two longer (eg in Chaingmai) but overall accomodauquakiru was better than on some trips

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    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of explore! charges.

    Up to 70 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

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