The Land of Smiles is the most popular destination in Asia. A place of dreamy tropical islands, golden temples saffron-robed monks, fragrant curries, legendary resorts, elephant sanctuaries, colorful night markets, royal palaces, and futuristic malls. Imagine drifting down a rivers on a bamboo raft then trekking with an elephant through the jungle in the legendary Golden Triangle. Explore vibrant cities, towns, hill tribe villages, atmospheric alleys, and white-sandy beaches on picturesque tropical islands. Enjoy a perfect, pleasant, worry-free Thailand trip with pre-departure planning with our San Francisco experts and local support of our Bangkok office.
One night in Bangkok, as the song goes, makes a hard man humble. We promise no such result, but you can find legendary luxury hotels, sprawling night bazaars, pulsing streets, world-class galleries and shopping, infamous after-dark attractions and culinary attractions. All this makes Bangkok like no other city in the world. The cityscape of Bangkok is vast and complex, encompassing everything from sublime local neighborhoods to the towering skyscrapers of a modern metropolis that has so much to offer.
Floating markets are a vivid sight in Thai culture, as well as sampling some of the many varieties of Thai cuisine. The Grand Palace of Bangkok was built on Ratanakosin Island in 1782 as the home for the Thai king, a gilded attraction attraction not to miss. As you've no doubt heard, this is one of the world's most spiritual capitals, where a Buddhist temples can be found on almost every street. Yet the city also knows how to party and there's so much to explore after dark. From night bazaars with an exotic variety of goods to infamous go-go bars, local guides can tailor your discovery of this thrilling city.MORE ABOUT BANGKOK
Chiang Rai is a more laid-back and remote version of Chiang Mai. This gem of a northern city is considerably quieter than either Chiang Mai or Bangkok, with an atmosphere calmer and more relaxing. More recently, the town has seen an influx of some of the country's most famous artists, escaping big-city Bangkok to set up boutique galleries. Chiang Rai is also known as the epicenter of the notorious Golden Triangle opium trade of decades past, where you can gaze into Myanmar and standing on the river looking across at Laos.
Some interesting museums are, including the Hill Tribe Museum, which introduces the complexities and cultures of the surrounding hill tribes. Hill tribe experiences are very immersive here and you'll come to understand the contrasts between alternative cultures. The Hall of Opium Museum is a must-visit. A major reason to linger here are the terrific elephant sanctuaries. Departing, the beautifully-scenic drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai one of the finest in Thailand. For pure escapism, the Four Season's renowned Tented Camp provides a peaceful retreat in the lush setting of the Golden Triangle.MORE ABOUT CHIANG RAI
Experience the warm welcome of the Lanna Thai of Chiang Mai, exploring picturesque mountain valleys and lush landscapes. The experience is considerably different from Bangkok, the atmosphere dictated by an old-world spirituality and tranquility. Here is the place to learn authentic Thai cooking, buy all your handicrafts, visit hill-tribe villages, mountain bike scenic landscapes, and laze in world-class boutique properties to renowned resorts, such as the Four Seasons.
Chiang Mai is a great people-watching city, from the popular weekend and night markets to street side cafes, then an hour or two of lovers' meeting surreptitiously near the gilded hilltop temple, Doi Suthep. We'd recommend giving the city time, because it's a great place to relax and settle into the local rhythm. For a day trip, the hill tribes in the vicinity are very friendly and welcoming to visitors. We can arrange visits to the lesser-visited villages.MORE ABOUT CHIANG MAI
Sukhothai is one of Asia's most underrated World Heritage Sites, a fabulous park filled with the striking ruins of royal palaces, Buddhist temples and crumbling monuments. Sukothai translates as "rising of happiness" and indeed the best time to visit is with the rising sun. We'll take you in the dawn light, a beautiful time that's ahead of the tour buses.
At this time you're almost alone in the main attractions. Wat Traphang Ngoen impresses with its flamboyance and size. The massive pagoda, Wat Mahathat, is etched in intricate details. Wat Sa Si has a lovely chedi and giant seated Buddha. A sublime shimmering lotus pool welcomes you to Wat Mahathat, the largest and arguably most impressive single site in Sukhothai, although many visitors will argue that the most awe-inspiring monument is Wat Si Chum.
The Ramkamhaeng National Museum, located at the entrance, provides a comprehensive overview of the Sukhothai kingdom, a place to pause after exploring the monuments. We've identified Sukhothai's best guides, adding their narrative to your exploration. To continue the day, take a short hike to Wat Saphan Hin, a hilltop temple that affords views of the central zone ruins and surrounding countryside.
Khao Sok National Park unravels the forgotten side to Thailand's natural beauty. While it's the urban landscapes and white sandy beaches that most entice visitors, Khao Sok envelopes you in the vibrant green of thick rainforests. From spectacular waterfalls to a lake filled with islands, this national park creates a pure vision of the jungle. To sail through the jungle on a rustic craft is one of Indochina's great pleasures, the silence and solitude as escapist as any island beach.
Along the way there's a great chance to encounter wildlife, with the very lucky seeing a tiger or leopard. Don't expect to see these big cats, but definitely prepare yourself for tropical birds and primate species. Accommodation varies from rustic tree houses to luxury tented accommodation; we will tailor the tour to your preferences.MORE ABOUT KHAO SOK
Phuket, Thailand's largest island and premier resort area has been built up in recent years with a large amount of haphazard development. However, the picturesque white sand beaches and lush feeling of escapism remains, with world-renowned resorts providing luxury and tranquility. To the east, stunning Phang Nga Bay offers newer, exceptional properties such as the Six Senses Yao Nai. A multitude of world-class diving is just off shore and other activities are easy to arrange, including golfing, wind surfing, kayaking, and mountain biking.
Fringed with long sandy beaches licked by the turquoise and emerald-green waters of the surrounding Andaman Sea, and covered in rubber tree plantations, fruit orchards and patches of untamed rainforest, Phuket has always been the jewel of Thai tourism. More recently, the focus hasn't been whether to go, but how to get away from the mushrooming crowds. We recommend a small handful of properties that have stayed true to Phuket's dreamy original appeal.MORE ABOUT PHUKET
Ask locals in Bangkok where they go to escape the city chaos and decompress and Krabi is is often mentioned. Krabi is a serene getaway, ferries taking you out to beaches without footprints and the craggy cliffs of nearby Railay. It's the furthest-flung beaches that really enchant, where waves lap softly against the white sand and indulgent spas take you through the afternoon.
This isn't a destination with a lot to do, but a place where you encounter a pure serene ambiance of beach escape. Our luxury Thailand tours often culminate at a boutique island resort like those on Krabi, where you rest amidst the charm of untouched beach paradise.MORE ABOUT KRABI
Phuket's "secret island," are actually a pair of pristine and peaceful islands that feel far removed from the crowds of Phuket. This is the fourth largest island in Thailand yet only has a handful of resorts. For those wanting to escape the Honolulu-type development of Phuket, and feel the original allure of Thailand, Koh Yao is the country's last unspoiled island.
Koh Yao Noi gained worldwide attention for receiving a World Legacy Award from Conservation International and National Geographic Traveler magazine. It was awarded for the eco-friendly homestay programs offered by its local residents. Islanders here are more interested than their mainland cousins in preserving traditional ways asking visitors to dress modestly and not engage in the wilder behavior typical in Thailand's other beach destinations.MORE ABOUT KOH YAO NOI
If you've only a short stopover in Thailand and are curious to experience it's renowned jungle landscapes, then Kachanaburi is a convenient overnight trip.
Only two hours west of Bangkok, the compact town of Kanchanaburi is the capital of the third-largest province, covering almost 20,000 square kilometers and stretching to the border with Myanmar. Here are some of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls, lush jungle, emerald rivers, as well as the historic bridge over the River Kwai. For the more adventurous, enjoy outdoor activities including trekking and rafting trips. Luxury raft houses on the river provide a rustic but stylish stay.
Koh Samui on the Gulf of Thailand, only 90 minutes by air south of Bangkok. Like Phuket, Ko Samui has experienced vast development and popularity with Westerners over the decades, but ensconced within your resort, remains a tropical paradise with all of the delights and downsides of a white-sand-ringed island.
Speaking of which, your decision to visit Koh Samui or Phuket, located across the Kra Isthmus on the Andaman Sea, should consider the weather (below). The airport opened on the island in 1989, much to the chagrin of hardier boat travelers who thought they'd secured Thailand's best-kept secret. Although tourism has increased dramatically with Koh Samui becoming somewhat the Honolulu of Asia, it has maintained much of its appeal: pristine white sand beaches; tropical jungle and waterfalls; world-class resorts; and pockets of seclusion (and nearby islands that are more remote places, including diving paradise Koh Yao and Koh Kut/Kood). It is also a better choice for families seeking a fuller breadth of activities and sightseeing attractions than other Thai destinations like Phuket or remote Krabi.MORE ABOUT KOH SAMUI
Tradition is at the heart of Thai culture, so much from the past still celebrated in the present. This remains a staunch Buddhist country, centered on a conservatism that some don't expect. Culture isn't just an extra on our private Thailand tours, it's a focal point of the daily itinerary. Ideas of spirituality impress on so much of your experience, whether in a temple from the 15th century or the incense that swirls amongst the atmosphere of a local market. Even at a beach resort, there are opportunities for these connections with Thai culture, perhaps told through the cuisine or maybe narrated by an indigenous sea gypsy.
This is the Land of Smiles and it is local culture that has you beaming from ear to ear. Visit a Muay Thai gym, discovering the harmony and dedication of the national sport. Go looking for gibbons and other rare wildlife in the jungle. Trek with an elephant through the forest in the spirit of the mahouts. How about cooking classes that reveal the culture of street food, so many exotic treats that can then be pushed on a local cart? Thailand luxury travel effortlessly transports you into this cultural paradigm, with local experiences at the heart of every day.
Thailand has blossomed in the last ten years, growing into one of the world's most popular destinations. We were organizing private tours when the country was a rural backwater, when getting around posed many challenges. We know the hotels that have always rewarded the luxury traveler. We've sourced the locals that provide the most insightful knowledge. And we're always exploring the country, testing out new experiences and hotels.
Combine Thailand with exceptional destinations close by, including the magnificent Khmer temples of Angkor, sublime Luang Prabang in Northern Laos, the rainforest jungles and wildlife of Borneo, and across the border, a newly emerging Myanmar. City stopover options include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown, and Hong Kong.