Kingdoms of Thailand
Long before there was a country called Thailand, magnificent civilisations dominated Southeast Asia. It was in those kingdoms that Thai cultural identity first took shape.
Discover the beginnings of Thai culture through the ruins and relics of Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai and Sukhothai, with expert guides, delicious food, and a generous sprinkling of modern comforts along the way. This is a history buff’s dream tour of some of Thailand’s most iconic sites.
Transport in detail
All transfers will be by private vehicle with an English-speaking guide. There are a few longer drives (up to five hours), but there are opportunities to stop for sightseeing along the way.
This is a lovely, leisurely itinerary, with gentle activities, short-ish transfers, and nothing too far off the beaten track
It’s a shorter trip, which means it’s easily paired with a beach extension or a cruise to Luang Prabang in Laos
You’ll get to explore some of the most iconic and impressive historical sites in Thailand
Things to consider
This itinerary is mainly city-based, with a couple of forays into the countryside, so if you’re after the great outdoors it might not be for you
The destinations on this route are fabulous but well-trodden, so expect plenty of fellow visitors
This is a history-focused trip, so it goes without saying that an interest in history is a must!
Thailand’s capital is a lot to take in at first, but the best approach is to take a deep breath and dive straight in. Start with a street food tour that’ll have you exploring hidden alleys and residential neighbourhoods, and sampling mung bean crêpes and spinach-stuffed dumplings in between intriguing stops at Buddha-makers’ workshops and Chinese tiger-god shrines. Then, it’s time for some true Bangkok must-sees: the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The former has been the seat of Thai royalty for two centuries, while the latter is one of the city’s oldest temples. Welcome to one of the most exciting, overwhelming and contradictory cities in Asia.
Visit Wat Suthat, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bangkok
Sample traditional coffee and sweets in Bangkok’s backstreets
See the dazzling Royal Palace, and Wat Pho’s 46-metre reclining Buddha
As you head north, prepare to travel back in time to Ayutthaya: the capital of a sprawling Thai kingdom that flourished from the 14th-18th centuries. Though its ruins are now surrounded by a thriving modern city, you’ll get a sense of its former glory on a tuk-tuk tour of the temples — whitewashed spires and red-brick monasteries crumbling beside glassy lakes. Later, you’ll get an insight into a different period of history at Bang Pa-In, a royal summer residence where a Chinese-style palace stands alongside European-style statues and a Gothic temple with stained glass windows. Finally, take to the water with dinner on a beautiful converted rice barge: a regal end to an action-packed day.
Ride around the temple ruins in one of Ayutthaya’s distinctive “kermit” tuk-tuks
Take a longtail boat to Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, modified by successive kings over decades
Enjoy a dinner cruise on a converted rice barge
The finer detail
- Breakfast every day
- Five lunches: one at a local restaurant in Ayutthaya; one on the journey from Ayutthaya to Sukhothai; one on the way from Sukhothai to Chiang Mai; one of signature ‘Khao Soy’ curry noodles in Chiang Mai; one at Cabbages & Condoms, a community development restaurant in Chiang Rai
- One dinner: aboard a rice barge on a cruise around Ayutthaya
- Two full-day experiences: Ayutthaya Historical Park & Bang Pa-In Summer Palace; day trip to the Golden Triangle
- Seven half-day experiences: hidden temples and neighbourhoods of Bangkok; Royal Palace and Wat Pho in Bangkok; Sukhothai Historical Park; Si Satchanalai Historical Park; Wat Phra Doi Suthep and ethnic minority village visit; the temples of Wiang Kum Kam by bicycle; tour of Chiang Rai by samlor including the “White Temple”
- One evening experience: dinner cruise on a rice barge around Ayutthaya
- All entrance fees to sites included in guided experiences
- All internal transport & accommodation
Logistics and journey times
Car transfer from Bangkok airport to city (45 minutes)
Car transfer from Bangkok to Ayutthaya (1 hour)
Car transfer from Ayutthaya to Sukhothai (5 hours + sightseeing)
Car transfer from Sukhothai to Chiang Mai (4.5 hours + sightseeing)
Car transfer from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai (3.5 hours + sightseeing)
Car transfer for day trip to the Golden Triangle (1 hour each way)
Car transfer from town to Chiang Rai airport (15 minutes)
What's not included
- International flights
- Meals not mentioned
- Entrance fees to any sites not included in guided experiences
- Tips for guides & porters