Travel Itinerary: 1 Week Highlights Thailand Itinerary
Thailand is an amazing place, and you can easily spend many weeks (or months) enjoying this wonderful country. But if you can only get 1 week off from work, then combining your 5 working days off with weekends you can get 7-9 days is a must. Depending on where you live, you may need these extra days for traveling anyway!
If you are coming from the States, then you will definitely need these 9 days to help with travel time, as well as a bit of time to recover from jet lag.
Check out our recommended travel itinerary for one week Thailand Highlights. You will see that there is no shortage of things to do – but rest assured that if this is all the time you have, you will get to see and do a lot!
Download a PDF copy of this itinerary for easy reference!
Day 0-1: Arrival & Get Acquainted With Bangkok
Bangkok is typically one of the cheapest airports to fly into Thailand. If you travel from the States, you may arrive late at night. If so, you should just go to your hotel and get some rest. If you DO arrive earlier in the day / evening, go out for some dinner and take a walk to get acquainted – don’t take a nap if you arrive in the afternoon!
** Do your best to be tired and fall asleep at a reasonable hour this night. Then be sure to wake up early in the morning – this will go a long way to helping your body adjust to the time difference quicker and get over the jet lag!
Sightseeing Major Wats
If you arrive late at night on Day 0, then you should wake up at a reasonable hour and start exploring day 1. We find that waking up early on the first day will help you adjust to local time quickly, and recover from jet lag.
(If you arrive during the day, no matter how tired you are…don’t go to sleep! Stay awake and explore…try to go to bed at a normal hour, again to help your body adjust to local time ASAP).
On the first day in Bangkok, a great way to become acquainted with Thailand and the city is to visit some of the major Wats (temples) around town. Wat Po is one of the most popular, and is a beautiful way to start your visit.
** Note: When visiting temples in Thailand, you should always have your knees and shoulders covered! Difficult when it is sweltering outside. So bring something simple, like a sarong or big scarf that you can use to cover yourself.
Not far away from Wat Po is the Grand Palace. We highly recommend that you visit this masterpiece, and be sure to give yourself a couple hours to explore! Check out our Grand Palace video for more inspiration! If you forget to bring appropriate clothes, don’t worry…they have some for rent (for a small fee).
** Final note: DON’T believe all the locals who tell you the Grand Palace is closed. It is not. They are lying and will likely grab your map and tell you to go on some crazy wild-goose chase. Often, this is a scam where they try to put you in a tuk-tuk. Just tell them “thank you” and move along. For more about scams, check out our 5 things to avoid in Bangkok
Wat Arun + Lunch / Dinner
In the afternoon, head over to Wat Arun – one of the most famous wats across the river. This wat isn’t far from the grand palace, and you can access it easily from one of the water ferries.
You can find the ferry at pier 8 Tha Tien – which is also a stop for the water taxis up and down the river. Be sure you get on the ferry across to Wat Arun and not on the water taxi (since they use the same pier). The fee is minimal.
There are some shops, markets, and restaurants nearby. Personally, we like the one that overlooks the water and Wat Arun across the way. It’s fairly cheap (although the street food is cheaper nearby) — but we just love the view!
** If you time your visit near sunset, you can sit and look out at the Wat as they turn on the lights. Wat Arun is particularly beautiful at night!
China Town & Lively Night Markets
Bangkok is bustling with life after dark. But one of our favorite places to go is China Town (along Yaowarat Road!
There are many markets in this area at night, particularly food markets & restaurants! Our favorite restaurant is actually on one of the main side roads in China Town. This guy comes out and cooks incredible food in the street – and you can plop yourself down in one of his plastic chairs and order some of the best food around (and get a great show watching him cook!).
If you want to stay up late and enjoy the more wild side of Bangkok, then check out the bustling tourist area of Khao San Road. It’s full of tourists and overpriced, but it’s a lively atmosphere and there is some interesting entertainment all around!
Day 2: Bangkok Sightseeing
Explore More of Bangkok
There’s a lot to do in Bangkok. But if you spend the first day getting acquainted with the main sights and popular markets, then day two can be spent relaxing and doings some of the more unique things to do in Bangkok.
From cooking classes, tours with locals, bike rides, canal tours and floating markets. There are many other things to do in Bangkok besides the Grand Palace and Wat Po!
Night Train to Chiang Mai
Since this is a quick trip, the best way to maximize your time is to head north to Chiang Mai on the overnight train.
(although you can take an early morning flight tomorrow – but it may be more expensive and actually take more of your time)
Trains leave multiple times during the evening, so it’s up to you which you want to catch. Some are a little quicker than others, and have varying levels of service and sleeping compartments.
The great thing about taking the overnight train is that you can save money on a hotel this night, and arrive in Chiang Mai bright and early in the morning – so you get a full day to explore and you may be better rested than taking an early morning flight!
Day 3: Chiang Mai
Arrive in Chiang Mai
Arrive in Chiang Mai this morning and drop your stuff at the hotel. Then head out to the old center of the city.
Chiang Mai’s old city center is compact and fairly easy to explore on foot, or with the help of a motor bike or tuk-tuk. Enjoy the many wats around this part of town, unique shops, and restaurants!
Chiang Mai Night Life & Markets
Chiang Mai is full of great night life, including lots of restaurants, bars, and night markets. The main area that’s really hopping at night is actually just east of the old city and on the west side of the river.
If you are interested in seeing a traditional Khantoke show, then visit the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center (just south of the old city). For a reasonable price, you can have a complete dinner and great show, with music, dancing and traditional costumes. A really great experience!
Day 4: Chiang Mai
Get Outside Town: Day Tour or Motorbike Trip
Chiang Mai is all about the beautiful countryside! If you are an independent traveler, take local transportation or rent a motorbike and venture out to some nearby sights.
Doi Suthep is a popular trip, up the mountain on the northwest side of Chiang Mai. It’s easy to get there if you follow the main highway out of town, past the University. It offers great views on the way up, and few places to stop — plus the main temple and villages areas at the top.
If you want to go further out of town, then we recommend venturing out to Muang On Cave and San Kamphaeng Hot Springs. This is an all day trip on a motorbike, so be sure to get up early so you have time to enjoy the journey and take some breaks.
If you would rather sit back and relax, hop on one of the may day trips from Chiang Mai. From hiking, bamboo rafting, waterfalls, swimming, elephants, and so much more! You can see and do a lot in one day with a day tour & guide.
Day 5: Krabi / South Islands
Fly to Krabi – Early Morning
Head out in the morning on a flight from Chiang Mai to Krabi, in the south of Thailand. This is one of the most beautiful areas in Thailand (and our favorite!), with beaches jungles, crystal clear water, limestone cliffs, hiking, climbing…and much more!
** Krabi area is much more relaxed and laid back (and cheaper) than the popular Phuket area — although Phuket is close by (just across the water).
Arrive early and head to the hotel. Popular areas to stay in Krabi province include:
- Krabi Town
- Ao Nang
- Railay Beach (our favorite)
- Koh Phi Phi Islands (you will have to plan accordingly to take a ferry out here)
- Koh Lanta
Relax in Paradise!
Relax by the pool / beach and enjoy the incredible atmosphere.
Many of the beaches will have equipment for rental, including snorkeling and possibly some kayaks to rent.
Enjoy the Nightlife
The Krabi area is much more quiet than Phuket. However, if you are in the mood for excitement, you can find it — especially in the bustling beach resort area of Ao Nang. There are many restaurants, bars, and places to hear live music!
If you want a more peaceful experience, places like Railay are nice because they are so quiet. But there are many beachside resorts in Krabi that offer a peaceful experience – even dinners on the beach! You may even want to get a massage, or if you are lucky, light off a lantern into the night sky.
Day 6: Day Trip – Beaches & Islands
Take a day trip to see some nearby beaches. Go snorkeling, kayaking, other water sports. The Krabi area is full of beautiful islands and beaches to explore.
Booking a day trip is the best way to see and do the most in a short time. You can venture out on a kayak tour of James Bond Island, go rock climbing, or take a boat out to the Phi Phi Islands (if you aren’t staying out there).
As for us, we took a day trip out that let us see a few islands, including Koh Phi Phi, as well as the famous “Beach” from the thriller movie. We also did some open water snorkeling. It was a fast trip, but well worth it for a short visit.
Day 7: Day Trip Around Krabi Area
Day Trip Around Krabi
There are numerous activities in the countryside around Krabi that don’t involve the beach.
You can visit nearby elephant centers, do some hiking, see some waterfalls, and make you way up to mountain top temples.
Or if you prefer, relax at the hotel again and enjoy paradise!
** Other Activities / Destinations to Consider **
- A day trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya – ancient city just north of Bangkok
- Sukhothai Thailand – ancient city south of Chiang Mai
- Kanchanaburi – beautiful nature area and Erawan Waterfalls!
- A day trip / couple days additional in Chiang Rai – northeast of Chiang Mai
- An excursion out to Pai – a peaceful & popular town along a winding road northwest of Chiang Mai
- Phuket – this famous tourist destination is popular…a bit wild, and can be crowded as well as expensive. Overall, we prefer nearby Krabi (just across the water) – but if you really want to check it out, I’m sure you won’t forget Phuket!
- Koh Samui / Koh Tao / Koh Phagnan – Opposite Krabi on the southeast in the Bay of Thailand, these islands are famous for their parties and natural beauty. Samui is the biggest of the three and has its own airport. Koh Tao is quite small and quiet, while Kho Pagnan is famous for its full moon party on the beach every month.
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