- Trek among hill tribe villages in Thailand’s northern highlands, learning about the distinctive cultures of the Karen, Akha, and other ethnic groups.
- Explore Chiang Mai’s bustling markets, hop aboard a rickshaw to discover its golden temples, and talk with a Buddhist monk.
- Hike two of southern Thailand’s spectacular national parks, exploring pristine rainforests punctuated by fantastic karst peaks, emerald lakes, and waterfalls.
- Experience the white-sand paradise of Krabi, kayaking amid limestone cliffs, snorkeling coral reefs, and biking to island villages.
From the mountains of the north to the white-sand shores of the south, venture off the beaten path in Thailand on a multisport adventure that adapts our activity to each stunning location. From our initial base in Chiang Mai, explore the city’s glittering stupas and colorful markets, and hike to a sacred mountain-top temple. Venture into the highlands to trek among hill tribe villages and witness their fascinating traditions. Then fly to the southern coast, where we embark on an array of hiking, kayaking, and biking excursions amid the karst peaks and turquoise lakes of Khao Sok National Park and the jungle-clad islets and lagoons of Krabi.
Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand’s dynamic capital, and check in to our hotel. Gather for a trip orientation, then enjoy a free afternoon to relax, or join our guide on a city tour. Visit the city’s spiritual center at Lak Mueang and the spectacular Wat Po temple complex, learning about Bangkok’s founding in the 18th century as the capital of Siam. Marvel at the elegant pavilions of the Grand Palace—still home to royal offices—and the stunning statue of the Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew. At the riverside Wat Arun, catch the reflection of the temple’s towers in the water, then return to the hotel for an evening at leisure.
Catch a morning flight to Chiang Mai. Upon arrival, set out to explore Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, home to one of Thailand’s most important Theravada Buddhist pilgrimage sites: the mountain-top temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Walk along one of the park’s forested trails and climb over 300 steps, adorned with intricate sculptures of mythical naga, or serpents, to reach the glittering temple. Stroll the temple’s courtyards to view its gilded stupa, and see Buddhist legends depicted in sculptures and murals throughout the grounds. Later, walk to the park’s headquarters and visit a tree nursery managed by ecologists from Chiang Mai University, where we’ll hear about local reforestation efforts. Then join a naturalist for a hike among banana trees, giant figs, ferns, and palms. After a picnic lunch, learn about the region’s folklore as we continue hiking to the summit of sacred Doi Pui mountain. Return to Chiang Mai in the afternoon, stopping en route at the beautiful Montatarn waterfall. Check in to our hotel and enjoy a welcome dinner. (3–4 miles walking/hiking, 3–4 hours)
This morning, visit one of Chiang Mai’s local markets to pick up delicious items for a picnic lunch. Browse stalls selling exotic fruits and vegetables, fried rice, and Chiang Mai sausage. Then drive past rice paddies and winding rivers into the hills, arriving at a village of the Karen people, one of Thailand’s ethnic hill tribe groups. Learn about their centuries-old traditions and witness daily life in the village. Afterward, hike through the forest to another nearby village for a conversation about Karen culture. Continue to a scenic waterfall to enjoy our picnic lunch and a dip in the refreshing mountain waters. Then hike downhill for several hours, following a sparkling river to a village in the Mae Wang Valley. From here, drive to a rafting camp on the Wang River, where we set out on a relaxing float on traditional bamboo rafts. (4–5 miles hiking, 4 hours; 45 minutes rafting)
Set out to explore the countryside around Chiang Dao, a rich agricultural region encircled by mist-shrouded mountains and inhabited by numerous hill tribes. Savor exotic fragrances and flavors at the market in Mae Malai, learning about ingredients that are integral to Thai cooking. Drive further into the countryside to visit a village of the Akha hill tribe, known for their elaborate traditional costumes. From here, we hike to a nearby Lisu hill tribe village and learn about the evolving livelihoods of this ethnic group, which once depended on poppy cultivation. Continue hiking through unique ecosystems—including bamboo glades and dipterocarp forests—on our way to the village of Pang Daeng Nai. Meet members of the Palong hill tribe, which fled to northern Thailand from Myanmar (Burma) in the 1980s. Visit the village shrine; observe daily life; and hear about the Royal Projects—initiated decades ago by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej to protect natural resources, eradicate opium production, and bring economic prosperity to rural areas of Thailand. Afterward, drive to the famed Chiang Dao Caves and venture inside the main cavern to explore otherworldly chambers adorned with stalactites and Buddhist shrines. (4–5 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
Choose to rise early for a morning visit to Chiang Mai’s bustling markets. Stroll past vendors cooking up spice-infused specialties, locals haggling over prices, and brightly-clad monks collecting alms. Return to our hotel for breakfast, then head to the riverfront. Climb aboard a samlor, or rickshaw, and navigate colorful streets en route to the towering red ramparts of Tha Phae Gate, one of the original city gates that has been reconstructed. Get immersed in Buddhist traditions as we explore two spectacular temples: Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Sing. We’ll also have an opportunity to meet a Buddhist monk. Later, transfer to the airport and fly south to Phuket—Thailand’s largest island. Upon arrival, drive to our lodge situated at the edge of Khao Sok National Park.
Stretching along Thailand’s southwest coast, Khao Sok National Park boasts a breathtaking wilderness of karst peaks, turquoise lakes, and tropical rainforest. The park encompasses southern Thailand’s largest area of virgin forest, home to rare wildlife including the Asian elephant, Malayan tapir, and spectacled langur. Keep an eye out for these elusive creatures—as well as monkeys and birds—as we embark on a hike through lush forest, passing caves and waterfalls. Marvel at towering buttress roots and twisting liana vines bridging gaps in the green canopy. Weather permitting, visit Civet Cave or a series of waterfalls, and learn about medicinal plants from our local guide. Tonight, enjoy a demonstration of traditional Thai cooking methods, which use bamboo and palm leaves over an open fire. Savor the smoky flavors of recipes that have been passed down through generations. (2–3 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Spend the morning exploring one of the highlights of Khao Sok National Park: Cheow Lan Lake, an enchanting realm of emerald waters, jungle-clad islets, and towering cliffs. Board a long-tail boat for a scenic cruise among the lake’s fantastic karst formations, with opportunities to swim in the clear waters and kayak into narrow inlets to view the lake’s geology up close. Enjoy a traditional Thai lunch of fresh fish and flavorful curries before returning to shore. Later, drive to the coastal town of Krabi, situated on the Andaman Sea. Here, where we board a shuttle boat and cross the bay to our secluded beachfront hotel, nestled within its own private bay. (1–2 miles hiking, 2 hours; 30 minutes kayaking)
This morning, depart our hotel by boat and return to Krabi, where we transfer to Ao Thalane. Board a long-tail boat and cruise offshore to Ko Hong—an island known for its stunning limestone cliffs and emerald lagoon. Set out by kayak to discover the island, gliding between soaring limestone walls and rocky outcrops. Alternatively, don a snorkel and fins to explore shallow coral reefs swirling with fish, and soak up the sun on one of the island’s white-sand beaches. In the afternoon, enjoy a kayaking excursion in Ao Thalane, a network of dense mangrove forests framed by dramatic karst formations. Navigate narrow passageways between cliffs and keep an eye out for kingfishers, herons, and macaque monkeys among the mangroves. Later, return to the mainland and enjoy dinner in Krabi. (2–4 hours kayaking)
Today, we travel inland to a landscape of jungle-clad hills punctuated by sharp karst peaks. Hike through tropical forest and climb to the summit of Khao Ngon Nak Mountain, taking in spectacular views of the Krabi Mountain range and the Andaman Sea. After our hike, head to a tranquil beach to enjoy a seaside lunch. Later, a short boat ride across the Krabi River to Ko Klang—a small island surrounded by mangroves. Here, we hop on mountain bikes to explore the island, biking winding paths among traditional fishing villages and artisan workshops where residents keep age-old crafts alive. Try your hand at batik cloth painting, chat with locals at a farming community, and enjoy a traditional Thai snack. Back at our beachfront hotel, celebrate our adventure at a festive farewell dinner. (4–6 miles hiking, 4–5 hours; 7–8 miles mountain biking, 3–4 hours)
Return by shuttle boat to Krabi and transfer to the airport. Fly to Bangkok, and enjoy a free afternoon to explore the city on your own or relax at our hotel.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to connect with your flight home.