Thailand Itinerary 30 Days – Temples and Culture
May 14, 2018Amy Trumpeter
This year I spent a whole month in Thailand, aiming to make the most of my 30 day visa. My trip skipped the islands as I wanted to focus on temples and culture of Northern and Central Thailand. Thailand is a relatively large country and I enjoy slow travel. To fully experience the North, Central Thailand and the Islands you would really need two to three months, so I decided to cover the islands in my next trip. I hope that you enjoy my Thailand Itinerary from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. I also make some recommendations for a 2 week Thailand Itinerary and an islands Thailand itinerary.
Thailand Itinerary of Northern and Central Thailand for Temples and Culture – 30 Days
If you want to make the most of the temples of Northern Thailand, I suggest that you follow my 30 day Thailand Itinerary which starts with an internal flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. You will then travel down through Chiang Mai to the ancient sites of Sukhothai Historical Park and Ayutthaya. Take a day trip to Lop Buri before ending up in Bangkok
Day 1 – Arrive Bangkok (layover)
Day 2 – Internal flight to Chiang Rai
Day 3-7 Chiang Rai
On the first day of your trip, take a Bangkok layover and then take a direct internal flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. When you arrive in Chiang Rai, it’s a small and comfortable introduction to Thailand. Walk all the way around to the official taxi rank when you get to the airport and take a pre-paid official taxi at the desk (avoid the touts!).
There are some excellent things to do in Chiang Rai and it’s a small city, easy to navigate. Don’t miss the amazing temples including the Blue Temple Chiang Rai and the famous White Temple by Thai artist and architect Kositpipat. Eat a pad Thai and shop at the famous night bazar before taking the Green Bus to Chiang Mai on the east day.
Day 8-14 Chiang Mai
Spend up to a week in Chiang Mai as it is a diverse city with over 300 temples (Wats). Chiang Mai has a thriving expat and nomad social life plus a bustling night market (insects available for extra protein!).
Visit the main Chiang Mai temples (Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Phra Singha) and then take a trip slightly outside the city to Wat Doi Suthep. If you stay in Chiang Mai for a week, you will also have time for a day trip to Wat Inthanon and the Elephant Nature Park.
Day 15 Travel to Sukhothai
Day 16-18 Sukhothai
Grab a bus to Old Sukhothai for the ancient historical park – you can travel to and stay in New Sukhothai, but this modern small town is 12km to the East) and spend at least two days there. Sukhothai is an ancient historical park in Central Thailand where you can find Buddhist temples and Buddha statues that date back to the 13th and 14th Century’s, when the city was the capital of the Skukhothai Kingdom. The historical Buddhist temples are found in the stunning landscape of a national park. If you can spare a day to relax and explore new Sukhothai, the more happening riverside modern city.
Day 19 Travel to Ayutthaya by bus or train (approx. 6 hours)
From one ancient historical park to another – you will adore Ayutthaya. It is possible to see the temple highlights in a day, but I recommend spending two days there at least. By staying overnight in Ayutthaya you will be able to experience the night market and visit more temples. It was so lovely to arrive in Ayutthaya by train because I was directed to a ferry bus across the river. I thought I’d have to walk all the way around and over the bridge, but 5 baht got me over the water just fine! Don’t miss Wat Mahatat, Wat Chaiwattanaram, Wat Phra Si Sanpet and Wat Chai Mongkon. Look out for the water monitors in the moats – massive sod off lizards!
Day 22 Lop Buri
Head to the small ancient city of Lop Buri, which will take no more than a day to explore. Arrive early morning and leave around 4pm or 5pm to head to Bangkok. You will see several old Wats dotted around the city. Visit King Narai’s palace and the most famous attraction – the Lopburi Monkey temple. Be careful – those little buggers can bite!
Day 13 – 29 Bangkok
The city of Bangkok is bustling, busy, dirty and chaotic, but there are things there you have just got to see! I found it better to do Bangkok at the end of my trip as I was more prepared and more accustomed to the culture. Don’t miss Wat Pho (reclining Buddha), the Grand Palace and Wat Arun, which are all dotted along the Chao Praya river and accessible by boat. Head to China town and do some shopping at the malls of Siam. Also, take a day trip to Amphawa Floating Market.
If you feel up to it you can also include a couple of days in Pattaya – beach city of ladyboys! It takes around 2 and a half hours by bus.
Day 30 is sadly spent travelling home from Bangkok!
Thailand Itinerary 30 Days – The North, Bangkok and Islands
If you would like to include the islands and beaches in your 30 day Thailand itinerary, you can fly North to Chiang Rai and travel overland to Chiang Mai for the first half of your trip, and then take an internal flight to Phuket for the islands, ending up in Bangkok. Here’s what I suggest…
Day 1-3 Chiang Rai – Fly into Chiang Rai and visit the White temple, Black House and Blue Temple. You may also have time for the Big Buddha (Guan Yin) and Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park. Take the green bus to Chiang Mai (approx 3 hours).
Day 4-9 Chiang Mai – Wat Doi Suthep, Elephant Park, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Phra Singha. Eat at the night market and take your flight to Phuket on your last day in Chiang Mai.
Day 10-14 Phuket – Arrive by plane and spend 3 days in Phuket choosing to visit a selection of the following attractions: Phuket old town (and monkey hill), Kata Beach, Big Buddha (Chalong), Phang Nga Bay (James Bond islands!), Patong beach and clubbing on Bangla Road, Similan islands.
Day 14 Travel Phuket to Krabi
Day 15-19 Krabi Town and surrounding beaches (Railey). You may fit in a trip to Ao Nang (beach and monkey trail).
Day 20 Travel Krabi to Kho Yao Yai
Day 21-22 Koh Yao Yai for snorkelling and deserted beaches. Take the ferry to Phi Phi islands.
Day 23-24 Exploring Ko Phi Phi
Day 25 Travel back to Phuket for Bangkok flight
Day 26-30 Bangkok – Finish your journey in Bangkok where you will visit Wat Pho, the Grand Palace and Wat Arun. Spend some time visiting China town and shopping at Siam. Want to fit Pattaya in here? I recommend this 4 Day Itinerary of Bangkok and Pattaya, which will allow you to see the highlights of Bangkok and Pattaya beach (Big Buddha and floating markets).
Thailand Itinerary 10 Days – Northern Thailand and Bangkok
For a Thailand itinerary of 10 days, you could use Bangkok as a base and travel out to Lopburi, Ayutthaya and Pattaya from there. Alternatively, if you don’t mind doing a whistle stop tour of the North, fly to Chiang Rai for 2 days, travel overland to Chiang Mai for 4 days and end up with 5 days in Bangkok.
Thailand Itinerary 10 Days – Beaches
If you would like to go for beaches, a good Thailand Itinerary for 10 days would involve flying to Phuket and going island hopping to Ko Phi Phi and maybe Ko Yao Yai. You would just about have enough time to visit Phang Nga Bay (James Bond island!) and explore Phuket before flying back to Bangkok.
You might also be interested in this list of 10 family friendly hotels in Thailand if you are travelling with kids.
South East Asia Itineraries
If you want to see more of South East Asia, check out some of these South East Asia itineraries by by friend Marek. He makes some sensible and achievable routes around South East Asia from 2 weeks to two months, including Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar.