You could spend six months in northern Thailand and not experience all it has to offer, but even with just two weeks you can still have a great experience.
One of the advantages of the north is that there are so many places to go that it's pretty easy to get away from the tourist hot-spots and see something a little more off the beaten track.
The north of Thailand is particularly popular for its hilltribe trekking. Trekking can be organised from all the main tourist centres in the north. Be sure to read our advice on picking the right hilltribe trek for you.
Pay attention to the weather! There's few things as miserable as two weeks awash in jungle floods. More climate information can be found here: Travelfish interactive weather map.
The suggested minimum time for a trip like this is two weeks, though three to four weeks is far more comfortable.
1) Bangkok -> Ayutthaya (historic centre, ruins)
2) Ayutthaya -> Lopburi (ruins, monkeys) 3) Lopburi -> Phitsanulok (flying vegetables, temples)
4) Phitsanulok -> Sukhothai (historic centre, ruins)
5) Sukhothai -> Chiang Mai (northern capital, temples, trekking)
6) Chiang Mai -> Chiang Dao (nature, trekking)
7) Chiang Dao -> Tha Ton -> Chiang Rai (trekking, temples)
8) Chiang Rai -> Lampang (temples, elephant centre)
9) Lampang -> Bangkok
One day: return flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
One day: if you leave Ayutthaya on the morning train, you can jump off at Lopburi, see the temples and monkeys then hop back on an afternoon train onto Phitsanulok
Two days: Skip Sukhothai and Phitsanulok
Three days: Skip Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Phitsanulok and Sukhothai
Two days: From Chiang Rai strike northwest to the unique town of Mae Salong.
Two days: From Chiang Rai head north to the riverside town of Chiang Saen and then onto Chiang Khong.
Three days: Backtrack from Chiang Dao to visit Soppong.
If you want to work some island time into your holiday, the Thailand: Northern Explorer can easily be combined with Thailand: One week holiday for a bit of sun and sea at the beginning of end of your trip.
View Two weeks in Northern Thailand in a larger map
To help you work out how you'll get around, we've listed the trip durations for the various forms of transport available. Note that with the exception of flight times, these are average trip times, so no hate mail if you take the slow train.
|THAILAND: Northern explorer - two weeks in northern Thailand|
|Chiang Mai||Chiang Dao||-||1:00||-||-|
|Chiang Dao||Chiang Rai (via Tha Ton inc. boat)||-||6:00||-||-|
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.