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Are you interested in seeing what the best of northern and southern Thailand has to offer? Check out this 3 week Thailand itinerary, which explores must-visit places, like Chiang Mai and Bangkok, as well as off the beaten track destinations, like the magical Khao Sok National Park.

How to Spend 3 Weeks in Thailand | The Wanderful Me

If you’re like me, planning a trip to Thailand is hard! There’s far too many decisions to make…

Where should you visit–the north or the south? And how long should you go for? Should you visit extremely popular destinations, like Phuket, or more underrated places, like Khao Sok?

Well, I’m here to help you decide with an amazing 3-week Thailand itinerary that features a beautiful blend of both northern and southern Thailand! In just 21 days, you’ll experience vibrant cities, stunning mountains, picturesque beaches, and so much more.

Planning a southeast Asia trip? Make sure to read my blog on all the miscellaneous SEA travel tips you’ll want to know before you go!

You’ll find the following Thailand destinations on this itinerary:

  • Bangkok (3 nights)
  • Chiang Mai (3 nights)
  • Pai (2 nights)
  • Chiang Mai (1 night)
  • Krabi/Ao Nang (3 nights)
  • Khao Sok National Park (3 nights)
  • Koh Tao (3 nights)
  • Bangkok (1 night)

Aside from Bangkok, which I have already been to numerous times, this is a like-for-like route that I took when I backpacked Thailand for three weeks in November.

Personally, I think it’s the perfect itinerary for seeing all aspects of what Thailand has to offer, from islands and jungles to national parks, culture, little-known gems, and more. With that said, let’s get into it, shall we?

Are you more interested in seeing the south of Thailand and spending your days island hopping and laying on beaches? Take a peek at my 3-week southern Thailand itinerary here!


Bangkok (3 Nights)

I think two full days in Bangkok is the perfect amount of time to spend in this vibrant, bustling and sometimes chaotic city!

No matter what time you arrive in Bangkok, I recommend taking your first day easy. Check into your hotel, hostel or homestay and have an relaxing day of simply walking around, eating your first delicious meal in Thailand and having an early night for a good night’s sleep.

Things to do in Bangkok:

  • Explore the Grand Palace
  • Visit Wat Pho and Wat Arun (be sure to wear the right clothing!)
  • Go on a walking tour (there are many that occur throughout the day)
  • Party on Khao San Road
  • Experience a different side of the city on a river cruise
  • Spend time at the floating markets
  • Go shopping at popular shopping malls like Terminal 21 (Asok), MBK Center and Platinum
  • Visit Jim Thompson’s House
  • Relax and read a book (or scroll through TikTok!) in Lumphini Park
  • See a ladyboy show (like a cabaret — SO fun!)
  • Feed your foodie side on a Bangkok food tour

There are so many things to do in Bangkok, too many to list here! However, on your second full day in Bangkok, I highly recommend going on a day trip to the ancient city of Ayutthaya!

This is where you can find the famous buddha head in the tree and walk around numerous temples that used to make up the bustling urban city of Ayutthaya.

Where to stay in Bangkok:

Bangkok → Chiang Mai

Next up on this three-week Thailand itinerary is Chiang Mai. When determining the best way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you have three options:

  • Overnight Train — 10-12 hours; 1,000-1,300 Baht
  • Overnight Bus — 9-12 hours; 6,000-1,000 Baht
  • Flight — 1 hour; 900-1,500 Baht

While a flight is the shortest option, taking the train or a bus is by far the most sustainable one. I recommend the overnight train, as this is the most popular mode of transportation when going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

That said, the VIP buses are also very nice! And usually pretty comfortable. Personally, I always use 12Go Asia when booking my transportation around Thailand! It’s great.

Sunscreen is an absolute must when traveling Thailand! To reduce your environmental impact, I recommend bringing a plastic-free, zero waste sunscreen. Check out my list here!

Chiang Mai (3 Nights)

Chiang Mai is my absolute favorite destination on this three-week Thailand itinerary! Sometimes referred to as “the Bangkok of the north,” Chiang Mai is a vibrant city nestled between mountain ranges.

It features bustling markets, wondrous temples, an incredible foodie scene, great local shopping and is often the jumping off point for numerous multi-day trekking adventures.

After spending a couple days here, you will no doubt love Chiang Mai as much as I do!

Wat Chedi Luang, one of the most visited temples in the center of Chiang Mai, Thailand, and a must-visit when you're in Thailand for three weeks.

Best things to do in Chiang Mai:

  • Explore the Sunday night market (I suggest you plan to be here for this — it’s phenomenal!)
  • Visit the temples (Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Lok Moli)
  • Wander around Chiang Mai Old Town
  • Watch sunset at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (I did this tour and it was fantastic!)
  • Take at a Thai cooking class (I LOVED the Vegan Heaven Thai cooking class!)
  • Relax by getting a Thai massage
  • Go hiking at Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Eat your way through the city at one of Chiang Mai’s many delicious vegan restaurants
  • Try Khao Soi — a fantastic northern Thai creamy and nutty curry
  • Explore nearby waterfalls (Huay Kaew and Bua Thong are popular)
  • Ethically view and engage with elephants at the Elephant Nature Park (NO riding or bathing — which is best!)
  • Go on a day trip to Chiang Rai (this is where the famous “White Temple” is!)

Where to stay in Chiang Mai:

Chiang Mai → Pai

After Chiang Mai, it’s time to head to Pai. To get from Chiang Mai to Pai, you’ll take a 4-ish hour van ride. This generally costs between 200-400 baht.

Typically, you can book this with your hostel or hotel. However, if you want to keep it simple and do it ahead of time, you can also book your van ride with 12Go Asia.

One of the many beautiful temples that are dotted across Chiang Mai, a must-visit location when you're traveling Thailand for 3 weeks.

Pai (2 nights)

Another favorite destination of mine, along with countless other backpackers, Pai is a colorful little town located in northwest Thailand.

What used to be a quiet, laid-back and off the beaten track destination has transformed into a bustling place with a vibrant night market, tons of backpacker-friendly hostels, exciting jungle parties, a broad spectrum of gorgeous natural attractions, countless vegan and vegetarian cafes, and several yoga schools (it’s kind of hippy-ish!).

With Pai being located in the mountains of northern Thailand, the best things to do here generally involve natural sites and attractions, like waterfalls and the infamous Pai Canyon.

Depending on what time you arrive from Chiang Mai, you should rent a scooter and explore as soon as you can! I recommend getting the earliest van from Chiang Mai but this may not be possible depending on how busy it is in Thailand.

Looking up at the Big Buddha in Pai, Thailand.
Views of mountains in the distance at the "Love Pai" viewpoint.

Top things to do in Pai:

  • Wander the Pai Walking Street Night Market
  • Watch sunset (or, even better, sunrise!) at Pai Canyon
  • Explore Pai’s many surrounding waterfalls (Pam Bok Waterfall, Mo Paeng Waterfall, Mae Yen Waterfall)
  • Relax and soak in Pai’s hot springs, like Sai Ngam or Tha Pai Hot Springs
  • Go tubing down the river (this is a popular hostel activity!)
  • Get your yoga on — Bodhi Tree Yoga Pai and Pai Yoga Shala are popular!
  • Adventure to Nam Lod Cave (really great day trip!)
  • Experience Pai’s exceptional nightlife
  • Chill at a cool cafe in the mountains (Two Huts Pai and Pambok Coffee are popular!)
  • Eat your fill of delicious and healthy vegan and vegetarian food in Pai

Where to stay in Pai:

Pai → Chiang Mai → Krabi

Next up on this ambitious 3-week Thailand itinerary is Krabi! Depending on the time of your flight, you may need to spend one night in Chiang Mai.

However, if you can, I’d recommend condensing your travel into one day. For instance, if your direct flight from Chiang Mai to Krabi is in the evening, grab an early morning van from Pai to Chiang Mai and make your way to the airport.

Though you’ll be tired by the end of this full travel day, you’ll have one more night to spend in another destination, like Krabi or Koh Tao!

As always, I recommend booking your van transportation from Pai to Chiang Mai with 12Go Asia. For your flight, I always use Skyscanner to book flights when backpacking Southeast Asia.

The bamboo bridge is a must-do while visiting Pai on your 3-week Thailand trip.

Krabi (3 nights)

Typically, when backpackers go to Krabi, they stay in the area of Ao Nang (although, Krabi Town is pretty fun as well!). Ao Nang is where you’ll find the beach and day trips that depart to popular nearby destinations like Railay Beach, Phi Phi Islands and the infamous “7-Island Tour.”

The area around Krabi is super fun. With an endless amount of water activities (like tours and snorkeling trips), a myriad of natural rock formations (hello, limestone mountains!), amazing temples, lots of delicious restaurants and cafes, a great party scene and so much more, you won’t get bored here.

Views from Ao Nang beach in Krabi, Thailand.

Great things to do in Krabi and Ao Nang:

  • Spend the day on the sea and hop around to different islands (I recommend this 7-island sunset with snorkeling + BBQ!)
  • Visit the notorious Emerald Pool (check out this tour if you don’t want to rent a scooter to get there)
  • Go rock climbing at Railay Beach
  • Explore Krabi Town and its vibrant night market
  • Get a relaxing Thai massage in Krabi Town or Ao Nang
  • Visit the Phi Phi Islands on a day trip tour (go to the famous James Bond island!)
  • Ascend the 1256 stairs to Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave Temple)
  • Take a dip in the hot springs at Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve
  • Marvel at the beautiful sea life on a snorkeling or scuba diving tour
  • Go on a day trip to the famous Maya Bay
  • Hike to Khao Ngon Nak Viewpoint for an insane view of the limestone karst mountains
  • Immerse yourself in wildlife and go jungle trekking

Where to stay in Krabi/Ao Nang:

Krabi → Khao Sok National Park

The easiest way to get from Krabi to Khao Sok National Park is by bus or shuttle van. You can typically book this with your hostel, however it can sometimes be sold out, which is why I recommend booking ahead of time through 12Go Asia.

Do you want to travel more sustainably? Read my guide on 20 simple ways to practice ecotourism and be a more green traveler!

Sophie snorkeling around the Phi Phi Islands in southern Thailand.

Khao Sok National Park (3 nights)

Next up on this great 3-week Thailand itinerary is my favorite destination: Khao Sok National Park! Located north of Phuket and Krabi, this is a Thailand destination that is still somewhat off-the-beaten track (at least, compared to other places like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan).

Khao Sok National Park stretches across 280 square miles and is basically one giant man-made lake (Ratchaprapha Lake).

While that sounds pretty boring, this incredible park boasts some of the oldest rainforests in the world; vibrant wildlife (think wild elephants, monkeys, gibbons, tigers, and endless bird varieties); fantastic swimming, paddle-boarding, and kayaking opportunities; and limestone karst rocks that tower above its sparkling, deep blue waters.

Riding on a boat through Khao Sok National Park with unbelievable views of limestone karst mountains in the distance.

One of the best ways to experience Khao Sok National Park is on an overnight trip.

Personally, I went on an overnight tour with Coco Hostel, which cost around 1,800 Thai Baht. This included staying on a floating bungalow in the middle of Ratchaprapha Lake, all of our meals, and a couple tours (jungle hike and safari boat tour). I booked the tour ahead of time by messaging them through the app.

It was awesome. And I would do it again in a heartbeat! Seriously, you won’t regret visiting Khao Sok National Park when backpacking Thailand for three weeks.

Riding on a boat in Khao Sok National Park.
Coco Hostel's floating bungalows at Khao Sok National Park.

Khao Sok National Park → Koh Tao

Getting to Koh Tao from Khao Sok National Park is quite the endeavor but worth it!

Though it takes anywhere from 10 to 15 or more hours, this means you’ll get to living your best island life quicker, instead of spending a night at a stopover hostel or hotel in Surat Thani or somewhere closer to the islands.

Personally, I booked my Khao Sok to Koh Tao transportation through Coco Hostel because they offered a super fast route that was done over the course of a day, rather than an overnight boat.

This involved getting on an early morning shuttle bus to Donsak Pier in Surat Thani and then jumping on a fast boat ferry to Koh Tao (with a stop in Koh Phangan).

All in all, this took around 10 hours and involved a lot of waiting around during each connection.

Two people paddle boarding while visiting Khao Sok National Park, one of my favorite destinations on this 3-week Thailand itinerary.

Koh Tao (3 nights)

After a couple weeks of mountains, temples, jungles, and national parks, it’s time to indulge yourself in island life on Koh Tao!

Also known as Turtle Island, Koh Tao is a lovely little island located off the Chumphon peninsula and north of Koh Phangan (AKA the full moon/half moon party island). It features an incredible snorkeling and diving scene, picture-perfect beaches, a vibrant nightlife, lots of cute cafes and eateries, and beautiful viewpoints.

Aside from Koh Chang, an island located on east side of the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is by far one of my favorite Thai islands to visit.

One of the many viewpoints on the gorgeous island of Koh Tao, Thailand.

Best things to do in Koh Tao:

  • Relax on the beaches and soak up the sun
  • Rent a scooter and explore the island
  • Get PADI certified (Koh Tao is one of the best and cheapest places in the world to get your scuba certification!)
  • Go on a snorkeling tour across Koh Tao’s many vibrant bays
  • Watch the sunset from a beach or rooftop bar
  • Hike to one of Koh Tao’s viewpoints (John Suwan Viewpoint and Fraggle Rock are great!)
  • Party it up on an exciting pub crawl
  • Take a Muay Thai class
  • Visit Ang Thong Marine Park

Where to stay on Koh Tao:

The golden Sairee Beach on the island of Koh Tao! This is one of my favorite destinations and a must-visit on a 3-week Thailand trip.
Sairee Beach at sunset on the lovely island of Koh Tao, a must-visit destination on this 3-week Thailand itinerary.

Koh Tao → Bangkok

After spending 3 weeks in Thailand, it’s time to make your way to your departure destination! For many backpackers, this will likely be Bangkok.

However, you could also fly out from Koh Samui, Krabi, or Surat Thani. These are popular departure destinations for those going to places like Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

You can easily get to Bangkok from Koh Tao via ferry and bus. You can either book this transportation through 12Go Asia or your hostel, hotel, guesthouse, etc.

Depending on how you prefer to travel, this will either be a full travel day (early morning departure and late arrival) or an overnight journey (spending your night on an overnight bus, typically from Chumphon).

The benefit of doing an overnight journey is that you will save some money on accommodation, which is a plus for many backpacking Thailand on a budget!

In Bangkok, depending on your budget, I recommend booking a nicer hotel! Since you’re only spending one night in the city, it’s a good opportunity to relax and rejuvenate after your bustling three week Thailand trip.

Some nicer (but still affordable) hotels I recommend in Bangkok include:

Sophie walking around the Ayutthaya Historical Park temple ruins. This place is a great option for a day trip when visiting Bangkok on your 3-week Thailand trip!

With that, this 3-week Thailand itinerary featuring a beautiful blend of mountains, temples, culture, and islands comes to an end!

I don’t know about you, but this is the perfect type of trip for me, as it includes a wide range of activities, like beach-bumming, hiking, and eating ALL the delicious Thai food in culture-packed places.

To help you plan the best possible trip, keep reading to see my advice on how much to budget and my Thailand travel tips.


How Much Does Backpacking Thailand for Three Weeks Cost?

One of the top questions I get when writing about backpacking Thailand is, “how much does it cost?”

While this will vary from person to person, as every traveler is different and spends money on different things, I generally recommend that backpackers budget around $40-$120 per day (£30-95 GBP/$55-$165 CAD).

At the very minimum, $30 per day, but this is really only achievable you minimize the amount of tours you go on, minimize how much you drink, and cook some meals at your hostel.

Additionally, I think it’s important to mention that southern Thailand costs more than northern Thailand. For instance, a vegetarian or tofu Thai curry at a local restaurant in northern Thailand costs around 60 THB ($1.70 USD), whereas in southern Thailand this same curry costs around 90 THB ($2.50 USD).

Regarding accommodations, I found that nice hostels and hotels cost around 400-500 THB ($11-14 USD). However, it’s important to note that I traveled with other people, which allowed us to split the cost of private rooms, making our stays even cheaper!

Overall, I recommend that backpackers budget around $900 for their 3-week Thailand trip, whereas the average traveler should budget around $1,500 and luxury travelers around $3,000.

Thailand Travel Insurance

Insurance is a MUST when traveling Thailand! In this country, many things can go wrong–and you should be covered if (and likely when) they do.

Personally, I go with either World Nomads or SafetyWing. Both offer great travel insurance, but World Nomads is more suited for the adventurous traveler, while SafetyWing is more affordable.

All My Best Southeast Asia Guides

To ensure you have the best 3-week Thailand trip possible, check out my helpful southeast Asia travel guides! From preparation tips to what you can expect while you’re there, these guides have the information you need.

Tell me, what do you think about this itinerary? Are you in the midst of planning a 3-week Thailand trip? If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments below!

Sophie xx

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