10 Days in Thailand: An Itinerary for First-Timers

boats by the beach in thailand
by Danny Newman // 0 Comments

Thailand is a traveler’s paradise. I mean, it just ticks all the boxes of what you want from a destination!

Cheap? Tick. Cheerful? Tick. Easy to get around? Tick. Drool-inducing food? Tick. Outrageous natural beauty (giving you plenty of chances to try these nature captions for Instagram out for size)? Tick. Awesome sunny weather? Tick (so don’t forget to pack the best travel shorts possible!).

Do you have 10 days in Thailand coming up? You’re sure to have an incredible time. But you might be wondering exactly how to make the most of your trip. After all, it’s a surprisingly big country, which can make planning the perfect Thailand trip a challenge.

Want an idea of what to do in Thailand? I’ve put together an example 10 day Thailand itinerary to help.

Note: This post includes affiliate links.  See disclosure for more information.

How to Spend an Unforgettable 10 Days in Thailand

Thailand has so many amazing cities, beaches, and other attractions.  Is it possible to fit it all into a 10 day vacation?  While you can’t see all of Thailand, I do have suggestions to plan a “best of Thailand in 10 days” trip.  Let’s review the itinerary day by day.

Day 1 – Chiang Mai 

Most people fly into either Bangkok (the capital city) or Chiang Mai, in the north to start their trip. For this 10 day Thailand itinerary, I chose to start in Chiang Mai.  It’s a lovely blend of European influence and Thai heritage, which creates a lively yet welcoming atmosphere. There’s also masses of Thai history and places of cultural interest to experience.

With a dose of jetlag likely weighing down your eyelids, you can spend your first day in Thailand chilling out and easing into your trip. If you’ve got the energy, then wander through the city, exploring the countless temples that dot the land and enjoying the new sights, smells and sounds around you.

view over Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep Temple
The view over Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep Temple. Both the temple and the view are worthy of your time.

Day 2 – Chiang Mai

Hopefully, the chilled-out first day worked its magic, and a good night’s sleep has helped you through the worst of your jetlag. It’s now day 2, which means it’s time to get busy! Rather than tell you what to do, I’ll give you an idea of what’s on the table…FYI, the things I’ve listed below could all be fitted into one very long and busy day, if you fancied it, or you could take a guided tour like this one.

Things to Do in Chiang Mai

a) Check Out the Temples

You might have done this yesterday already. But, if you didn’t, then today’s the day! You could easily spend an entire day just walking through the city and visiting the mass of Thai temples here. After all, there are 300 of them scattered around the city! Take a bit of cash to cover the entry fee and meander around, embracing the ancient history on your doorstep.

Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai Thailand, a must during your 10 days in Thailand
Doi Suthep is one of many temples in Chiang Mai that you need to visit.

Doi Suthep is one of the temples you must visit as it’s one of Chiang Mai’s (and Thailand’s) major attractions. Since it’s 12km out of town and up a mountain, you’ll want to rent a scooter (or hop on one of the famous red taxis) to get there. You’ll be glad you made the effort. The view from up there is spectacular, second only to the grandeur of the temple itself. Spend an hour or so taking in the view and wandering through the temples grounds.

b) Visit the Hmong Tribe Village

If you make it to Doi Suthep, make sure you go a little bit further to the Hmong Tribe Village. This is another worthy stop, high up in the hills and overlooking the land with the city at its feet. Again, the view is awesome, but the village itself is definitely the main attraction. It’s just beautiful and atmospheric, with gardens to amble through and give you a glimpse at what rural Thai life was in the past.

c) Visit the Grand Canyon

I never made it to Chiang Mai’s answer to the Grand Canyon. But, from what I hear, it’s a fun little place to check out. Once upon a time it was a quarry that’s been filled with rain water over time. Now you can spend a day swimming, diving, boating and frolicking in what’s essentially a man-made gorge.

d) Enjoy a Night out

The nightlife in Chiang Mai is well-known as well. Fancy a drink in the evening? You won’t struggle to find a bar offering one. If one drink leads to another, you’ll have a selection of clubs to stumble into afterwards too!
Don’t go too hard, though- tomorrow you’re taking a famous road that’s renowned in Thailand for making people feel sick.  If you are looking for a calmer evening, the night market is also worth checking out.

Day 3 – Chiang Mai to Pai

Today you’re heading further north, to the little oasis that is Pai (pronounced ‘Pie’). First, you have to get there though, which is easier said than done for some. It only takes a few hours to get there, but the road has 762 turns in it- and most of them up a mountain. Remember that you’re in Thailand too, where the bus drivers are a little bit mental.

Those turns are taken at stomach-churning speeds, making queasiness commonplace among travelers. It’s worth the effort though. Pai is spectacular, and totally different to anywhere else in Thailand. It’s a quaint, picturesque, and super chilled out hippy town in the forested hills of the north! And, assuming you make it there by late morning, you’ll have the rest of the day to enjoy it. If I were you, I’d grab some lunch and sit down for a while to settle your stomach!

The Big Buddha in Pai Thailand
The Big Buddha in Pai is the perfect spot to catch the sunset.

Next, hire a bicycle to venture a little further afield. Head to the Big White Buddha for sunset, and then make your way back into town to visit a major Pai attraction: the Night Market. Spend the evening trying amazing Thai street food and soaking up the atmosphere.

Day 4 – Pai

More Pai anyone? One afternoon isn’t enough to really get a sense of what Pai’s all about. So, in this Thailand itinerary I’ve given you another (almost) full day to experience it properly.

With time on your hands, I’d rent a scooter to visit the attractions in the surrounding area. There are waterfalls and walking tracks galore, as well as another mightily impressive canyon to visit. Alternatively, you can just chill out all day and do nothing! Pai’s a good place for that. The river that runs through town makes for a lovely place to just sit and relax.

I loved Pai, so I recommend spending another night here. Honestly, I’d just head back to the night market again for some more great food, and maybe a cocktail in one of the bars. Alternatively, you could hop on an afternoon bus out of town and back to Chiang Mai for the night, ready for Day 5, when we make our way to Krabi, one of my favorite places in Thailand.

Day 5 – Pai to Chiang Mai to Krabi

Day 5 is a travel day. Your starting point (and the amount of travel time ahead of you) depends on what you did yesterday.  If you are still in Pai this morning, then you will need to get the early bus back to Chiang Mai. Of course, if you’re already there, then you’ve got it a little bit easier.

It’s time to head south, to the Thai Islands you’ve probably been fantasizing about for months! To get there in reasonable time, I recommend taking the airplane, flying direct from Chiang Mai to Krabi. An alternative route would be taking the night bus from Pai to Bangkok (via Chiang Mai) at the end of Day 4, and then flying to Krabi from Bangkok. It’s a monster journey, but if you wanted to see the capital, then this is a good way to do it!

However you get there, you’ll arrive in Krabi at some point on Day 5. You’ll probably be tired after a long day on the road. Skip Krabi Town and go straight to the beach at Ao Nang or Mueang (a little further west). I totally recommend a stay at Reset hostel in Mueang. The people who run it are lovely, the breakfast is free, and it’s an awesome place all-around.

Alternative Day 5: Pai to Bangkok

Let’s imagine for a moment that you decided to take the night bus to Bangkok from Pai, instead of flying Krabi from Chiang Mai. The capital city might not be my favorite place in Thailand, but it’s still definitely got a lot to offer! I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest if you wanted to spend a day seeing the sights and embracing the atmosphere.

You can easily wile away 24 hours or so walking the streets, visiting a few of the temples (I recommend taking a tuktuk between them to save time), exploring the amazing markets, and sampling the endless array of street food stalls you find there.

wat arun in bangkok thailand
Wat Arun is one of the temples to see in Bangkok

Then there’s the obligatory visit to Khao San Road to think about. This is arguably the most famous street in Thailand, thanks to its feature in The Beach (that Leonardo DiCaprio film from way back when!). It’s a busy, bustling, touristy hotspot that’s packed with bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, tattoo parlors and all sorts of quirky things to see and do.

From Bangkok, you could then take the plane to Krabi on Day 6.

Day 6 – Krabi (or Krabi to Koh Lanta) 

Krabi is the gateway to many of the Thai islands you’ve heard so much about. However, there’s also a huge amount to do here. Aside from some epic beaches, there are hikes, temples in the mountains, crystal clear pools of water in the rainforest, and day trips to tiny islands in the middle of the ocean.

krabi thailand
Krabi may be known as the gateway to the islands, but it has a lot more to offer.

You could easily spend an entire day or two here (I’ll go through more of what to do in Krabi in a moment). However, depending on how badly you want to go to the islands, an alternative way to spend day 6 is to skip Krabi and head straight to Koh Lanta- a beautiful and super-chilled out island!

If you followed this Thailand vacation itinerary to a tee, you’d be heading there on day 7 anyway. However, that only leaves 3 full days on the islands. If you want more, then heading to Koh Lanta on day 6 isn’t a bad bet.

Things to do in Krabi

a) An Island Tour

One of my favorite days in Thailand was spent touring the nearby little islands. A local guide can take you out to some of the most popular ones.  It’s massively touristy, but totally worth it. These islands are quintessential paradise. Expect azure, crystal clear waters set to a backdrop of stunning cliff faces. You’ll love every second of it.

b) Visit the Emerald Pool (AKA the Crystal Lagoon)

Travelers who make it to Krabi love the Crystal Lagoon. It’s also known as the Emerald Pool, with crystal clear water that makes it great for a swim on a hot day. You need to get a scooter or pay for a tour to get there. However, the beauty of the spot means it’s worth the effort.

c) Soak in the Krabi Hot Springs

Thailand’s a hot place, so going to some hot pools might not sound too appealing. However, these hot springs are pretty close to the Emerald pools, which makes combining the two stops a logical choice, and a quality Krabi day trip. Enjoy the pools (called the Klong Thom hot springs) to a backdrop of a lush rainforest. Too hot? Hop into the freshwater stream nearby to cool off.

Wat Tham Sua aka tiger cave temple in Krabi Thailand
The view from Wat Tham Sua will be worth the effort to get there.

d) Climb Up Wat Tham Sua

Wat Tham Sua, also known as the Tiger Cave Temple, is another top Krabi attraction. It’s also good for anyone wanting a bit of exercise! Starting at an impressive set of caves, you go up a leg-burning 1,237 steps to the temple itself. The Wat at the top is an impressive sight, and the views justify the effort you went to getting there.

Day 7 – Koh Lanta

If you skipped Krabi, then you may already have made it to Koh Lanta! However, for everyone else, it’s time to take the quick boat ride over. Of the islands I went to, Koh Lanta was my favorite. It’s far quieter and more chilled out than many of the other islands people visit, though there’s still a buzz and nightlife readily available if you want it.

Spend the day exploring the beaches here, and be sure to visit the famous lighthouse too. Love puppies? Head to the dog shelter on Koh Lanta as well! You can cuddle and even walk the dogs there until your heart’s content.
Make sure you catch the sunset here too, which, without fail, was incredible every night.

koh lanta in thailand
Koh Lanta is one of the quieter islands.

A quick note, though:
Heading straight to Koh Lanta means you miss out on Railay Beach, which is another major tourist draw in Thailand. It’s truly beautiful and known as a climbing haven too. But it’s also very busy- not to mention relatively expensive. Feel free to head to Railay instead of Koh Lanta. However, I decided to give it a miss and didn’t regret it at all.

Day 8 – Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi

Start the day with a chilled out morning on Koh Lanta. Make the most of the relative peace and quiet, though, because today you head to the wild island of Phi Phi. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But, if you want a crazy night on an island, then Phi Phi is the place to do it!

I’m not going to lie. It gets a bit mental here. Phi Phi’s tourist central, and most people are there for one reason: to drink, dance, and party until the early hours! It’s very very fun, but expect a sore head on day 9.

Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi has some of the most beautiful beach scenery you will ever find.

Having said that, you can escape the drunken fervor of the main strip! Phi Phi’s blessed with more amazing natural beauty. Do the short island walk to the other side, and you’ll find some quieter beaches with a far more relaxing vibe. Don’t forget to go to the lookout for sunset either. Everyone does it, so get up there early to grab yourself somewhere to sit. Remember to take some cash with you as well, as you’ll have to pay a fee to be allowed in.


Day 9 – Koh Phi Phi to Krabi

It’s your penultimate day! I’m going to assume that you’ll be like 95% of the people on Phi Phi, and bleary-eyed and hungover this morning. Heck, you might even still be partying…

Anyway, depending on how you feel, spend the morning enjoying the quieter side of Phi Phi. Fewer people are around in the morning, meaning you actually have a chance to find a patch of beach to yourself. Go for a dip, do some sunbathing, sip on a coconut, and embrace the beauty of the island.

Sooner or later, though (probably later morning or early afternoon), I recommend hopping on the boat back to Krabi, where you’ll be flying out of on day 10.

Day 10 – Krabi Flight

After an epic 10 days in Thailand, it’s finally time to head home. While you can fly from Krabi International Airport, how you spend your remaining time is totally up to you.

Assuming your flight is later in the day, you could check out the beach at Ao Nang, or spend a few hours exploring Krabi Town. Alternatively, just make the most of being on a Thai beach for another few hours before returning to reality!

Making the Most of Your 10 Day Itinerary Thailand

There you have it: an unforgettable 10 day itinerary Thailand.

Thailand is an incredible place to travel around. Full of immense beauty and awesome things to do, anyone who goes there is sure to have a whale of a time.

With a huge amount on offer, knowing how to plan an itinerary there can be tough, especially when you don’t have much time to play with. If you’re in the process of planning 10 days in Thailand, I hope this post has provided some ideas on how to have the best trip possible.


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Expert Tips for Your Thailand Vacation

  • Don’t be afraid to Thai food, but be warned it could be more spicy than what you are used to.  It’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and order it mild at first.
  • Pack an outfit (or two) that will cover your shoulders and knees to wear if you want to visit the temples.  A shawl is a good alternative to long sleeves.  You will need to take off your shoes when you go inside.
  • It’s not safe to drink the tap water in Thailand, so be sure to pack a reusable water bottle.  You can fill it up at your hotel or the water dispensers in the street. 

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Last Updated on February 28, 2023

About the Author

Danny Newman is currently writing and traveling his way around the world in a bid to figure out exactly what he’s doing with his life. He’d love you to follow along with his journey over at What's Danny Doing and Facebook.