Firstly let me clarify what I mean by Northern Thailand. For the purposes of this post I am basically classifying everything north of Bangkok as Northern Thailand (in contrast with the islands and beaches south of Bangkok, which I classify as Southern Thailand). If you have read some of my past itinerary themed posts, you will know that I usually start with suggestions for 24 or 48 hours and then work my way up. With this post, I will not be talking about itineraries for 24 and 28 hours. The reason? Well if you only have 24 or 48 hours in Thailand, then you will probably be spending all of your time in Bangkok. You can read my weekender guide to Bangkok here.
If you want to travel through the natural and cultural attractions of Northern Thailand, you will need a little more time than just 24/ 48 hours, so we will be starting our itinerary suggestions at 4 days.
4 Days in Northern Thailand
Spend your first two days exploring the sights and attractions of Thailand’s largest city, Bangkok. You can get some excellent ideas from our guide here.
With your remaining two days, skip out in Thailand’s current capitol city and head to one of the older capitals. Before Bangkok, both Ayutthaya and Sukhothai were capitol’s of Thailand. Choose one and head there to explore some of the history and architecture which sets Thailand apart.
If you opt to visit Ayutthaya, you can easily visit as a day trip (although I recommend spending at least one night). Getting there by bus or train is relatively easy and quick to do. If you instead choose the beautiful Sukhothai, then you will probably want to fly. The train journey from Bangkok takes seven hours, so if you only have 48 hours I don’t recommend it.
1 Week in Northern Thailand
If you have one week in Northern Thailand, then follow our 4 Day itinerary. Even with an extra couple of days, you still will only want to choose between one of the original capitols of Sukhothai or Ayutthaya. After spending a day or two wondering around the beautiful temples of one of these ancient cities, hop on a plane (or train if you don’t mind spending the better part of a day) and head to Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is the lovely and laid back town that is hugely popular with expats and backpackers. It’s an easy place to spend several days. It’s a popular place to do Thai cooking courses, visit hill tribes and shop at the excellent markets. I spent my time in Chiang Mai just relaxing and eating as much as I could, so I didn’t have enough material to write my own guide – but I do recommend this guide by Nomadic Samuel.
10 Days in Northern Thailand
If you have 10 Days in Northern Thailand then you easily have enough time to see all the main attractions of this region.
Days 1 and 2: Start by spending your first two days in Bangkok. Check out our guide here for some suggestions on things to do and see.
Days 3 and 4: Hop on a bus and head to Ayutthaya, spend the night there and visit the ancient temples of Thailand’s second capitol city.
Days 5 and 6: The easiest way to get from Ayutthaya to Sukhothai is by bus. It will 6 hours, the better part of a day to get there. Rest up over night and spend the next day visiting the beautifully manicured archaeological park.
Days 7, 8 and 9: Hop on a bus and head to Chiang Mai. It will take about 5 hours to get to Chiang Mai by bus. Spend your first evening checking out the extensive night markets. Spend your next two days relaxing, learning to cook Thai food, or visiting neighbouring hill tribes.
Day 10: Hop on a plane and head back to Bangkok, or where ever else your travels may take you.
2 weeks in Northern Thailand
With two weeks in Northern Thailand you can not only visit all the main attractions (as highlighted in the 10 day itinerary) but you can also visit some of the off the beaten path destinations.
So what should you do with your extra few days?
Choose one and spend a few extra days in either Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Or do both. It’s up to you, after all, it’s your holiday.