3 weeks Thailand: the ideal itinerary

Plotting the ideal Thailand travel itinerary when you have 3 weeks is not so easy. Thailand is a huge country and each particle has its own charms and beautiful nature. The distances are great, so unfortunately you have to make (a lot of) choices. You want to see as much as possible, but not be constantly traveling.

We spent months tinkering with our tour of Thailand and how much we enjoyed it when it finally arrived. Although the original idea was to combine Northern and Southern Thailand, this soon proved to be too much. The North deserves a trip of its own! We decided to focus on a 3-week round trip through Southern Thailand and a small piece of Central Thailand.

In this travel blog, we show you our ideal itinerary, tell you the highlights of each location and explain how to get there (unfold the accordions). Sometimes you can travel somewhere in three ways; we’ll give you the pros and cons of each option.

We did this Thailand itinerary in February 2023, in high season, that is. This is a safe month in terms of weather, but it is also the busiest month. If you are traveling in a different period and want to make the same itinerary, be sure to check if you are in the right season. Thailand has different rainy seasons across its regions.

Table of contents

This round trip is based on 3 weeks (21 nights), but you can also stick to this itinerary if you have longer time. At each place where we would spend extra days, we mentioned it. So if you go for 4 weeks, you can still follow this itinerary, with maybe an extra island! Also at the bottom of the blog are the places we would add or remove with more/less time.

#1 Kanchanaburi

Why Kanchanaburi?

As for us, there is one main reason to go to Kanchanaburi: the waterfalls. Kanchanaburi is home to Thailand’s most beautiful waterfalls: the Erawan and Huai Mae Khamin. Both parks have 7 floors of waterfall fun.

But the region offers much more. Does “The Bridge over the River Kwai” mean anything to you? It is one of many monuments to a black history dating back to World War II.

Furthermore, Kanchanaburi is a place not yet discovered by mass tourism and still has unspoiled nature. You will find beautiful temples, rice fields and mountains where you can sometimes walk around all alone.

It is really doable to travel directly to Kanchanaburi after arriving in Bangkok. We opted for a private cab to avoid too much hassle after more than 24 hours of travel. This was a wonderful start to our trip.


How many days in Kanchanaburi?

We recommend at least 4 nights if you want to see some highlights and also relax a bit at the beginning of your vacation. If you don’t want to schedule a relaxation day at all, 3 nights will probably suffice as well. Do you have much more time? Rent a car and explore the beautiful surroundings!

Route: from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

There are three different ways to get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. You can take the train, a shared minivan or a private cab. We explain all options below, including duration and price.


Option 1: By train

By train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

This is the most beautiful and also the cheapest option. The train departs from Thonburi station.

The train to Kanchanaburi goes twice a day. At 7:50 and 13:55. Reservations are not necessary, you can buy tickets on the spot and cost 100 baht (€2.70) per person. The train ride takes about 3 hours.

By the way, Thonburi is not very well connected to public transportation. The easiest way is to go to Khao San Road, take the ferry there, and after a bit of a walk you will be at Thonburi station. Of course, you can also choose to take a Grab, Bolt or cab.

Option 2: With a minivan

By minivan from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

You can also take a van or minivan. For that, you need to travel from BKK to Mochit New Van Terminal or Chatuchak Station. You travel by minivan from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi for €4 to €8 and take 2.5 to 3.5 hours.

You can buy minivan bus tickets through Bookaway or 12Go Asia.

The disadvantage of the minibus is that it stops at the Kanchanaburi bus station, which means you have to take another cab to the center, if your hotel is located there.

Option 3: Private cab

By private transport from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

A cab costs between €45 and €80, depending on your departure point. So you pay a little more from the airport.

You can book this private cab in advance so that someone will be waiting for you when you arrive by plane. You can book a cab through Bookaway or 12Go Asia.

We often do everything by public transportation, but after a journey of more than 24 hours, it was quite relaxing to travel directly by cab.

Good Times Resort in Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi hotel tip

Good Times Resort is located in the city of Kanchanaburi and on the river. It is a nice and quite luxurious start to your vacation. Close to everything, but complete peace and quiet on the resort grounds.

👉 Check out the hotel on Booking.com

#2 Krabi

Why Krabi province?

Krabi is a beautiful province located on the Andaman Sea, in Southern Thailand. You will find one of the most beautiful coastlines in Thailand. To admire these, head to the Railay Peninsula or book a day tour to the Hong, Phi Phi islands, or the 7 islands just off the coast of Ao Nang.

But there is also much to do inland. The Tiger Cave Temple with its 1,237 steps, the Esmerald pool, hiking to the Khao Ngon Nak viewpoint and kayaking in Ao Thalane are just a few options.


How many days in Krabi?

We recommend staying at least 4 nights total in Krabi. But if you have more days, definitely consider extending your stay. The region is beautiful, but very touristy. If you have longer time, consider staying on one or more islands instead of taking a day tour. Consider the Phi Phi Islands or the quieter Koh Lanta.

If you have to choose a hotel in Krabi, you will find that you are faced with a difficult choice: do you stay on Ao Nang or on Railay? We could not choose and stayed in both places for 2 nights, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Want to know what we think about it? Then fold out the question below.



Staying overnight on Ao Nang or Railay?

Ao Nang was not “our place. It is very commercial, garish, full of Indian restaurants and we missed the real Thailand. However, it was an ideal place for shopping and day tours in both the interior and the islands. Plus, the sunset there was quite beautiful! Ao Nang itself has a wide beach which is certainly not the prettiest, but really fine as the first beach of the trip.

Ao Nang Hotel tip: Aonang Inn

Aonang Inn had the highest value for money of our entire trip. You have all the modern conveniences here and it is clearly visible that it is a new hotel. The hotel is close to the beach and also to the street with all the bars. Check out the hotel here on Booking.com.

At Railay, we fell in love after the day tourists left. Because Railay is popular with day tourists and the beaches are quite crowded then. But before 11 a.m. and after 4 p.m., the island becomes a quiet place with a real backpacker vibe. It is full of reggae bars and the atmosphere is convivial. The downside is that for every excursion you have to take the boat first and everything is just a little more expensive. Despite being a peninsula, you can only get there by boat and it really has a wonderful island feel.

Railay Beach Hotel tip: Rapala Rock Wood Resort

This hotel is located at Railay East. A ten-minute walk from the beautiful, busy beaches. This stretch of Railay is nice and quiet, has cozy bars, restaurants and beautiful patches of mangrove forest. The bungalows are super nice and we spotted Dusky Leaf Monkeys in front of our cottage! Check out the hotel here on Booking.com.


Still can’t decide? Visit our page on Krabi to get an impression of the places.

Route: from Kanchanaburi to Krabi (Ao Nang & Railay)

To get to Krabi from Kanchanaburi, you have to travel via Bangkok. From Bangkok fly to Krabi, or take a bus. Once in Krabi, take a minivan or cab to your accommodation in Ao Nang or Krabi town. There you can possibly take the boat to Railay. We explain all options below, including duration and price.


1. From Kanchanaburi to Bangkok

The same three options are available as the trip to Kanchanaburi. This time we chose the train ourselves, a beautiful route through nature and quaint villages. From Thonburi station, we took a Grab to DMK airport.

By train from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok

The train from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok goes twice a day. At 7:19 and 14:48, the train takes about three hours.

Reservations are not necessary; you can buy tickets at the station. A train ticket costs 100 baht (€2.70) per person.

The train arrives in Bangkok at Thonburi station. Then you can take the ferry to Khao San Road or take a cab, Grab or Bolt.

By minivan from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok

You can also take a van or minivan. These all leave from the Kanchanaburi bus station. If your hotel is located in the center, you can take a (motorcycle) cab up to the bus station.

The minivan takes about 3 hours and costs €4 to €8. You can book your tickets here through Bookaway or 12Go Asia.

Private transport

Of course, you can also take a cab to Bangkok. It costs between €45 and €80, depending on your exact destination. You can book a private cab here through Bookaway or 12Go Asia.

2. From Bangkok to Krabi

From Bangkok to Krabi by plane

The fastest and fairly inexpensive way to travel to Krabi is by domestic flight. There are several flights a day and you have a choice of two airports: BKK and DMK.

We chose DMK because the flights here were the cheapest. DMK is an airport for low budget airlines like Charleroi is in Belgium.

A one-way flight with Thai Lion Air cost us €38 per person, including 23 kg of luggage. The flight takes an hour.

Check all flights from Bangkok here.

From Bangkok to Krabi by bus

There are also (night) buses from Bangkok to Krabi. These take 10 to 13 hours and cost €20 to €30 per person. You can also take the (night) train to Surat Thani first, the bus trip to Krabi will only take 3 hours.

You can book tickets through 12Go Asia.


3. Krabi airport to Ao Nang

From the airport, you can take a minivan to Ao Nang. Prices seem non-negotiable and cost 150 baht per person (€4), including luggage. They drop you off at your hotel.

Of course, you can also take one of the private cabs at the airport.

4. From Ao Nang to Railay

If you want to stay overnight on the Railay Peninsula, buy a single ticket at Ao Nang pier. When you leave Railay, buy another single ticket at Railay West.

Going to Railay for just one day? Then you can buy a return ticket directly in Ao Nang.

In either case, a round-trip ticket costs 200 baht per person, or 100 baht per boat trip. 100 baht is about €2.70.

Railay Rapala Rock wood Resort

Railay hotel tip

This hotel is located at Railay East. A ten-minute walk from the beautiful, busy beaches. This stretch of Railay is nice and quiet, has cozy bars, restaurants and beautiful patches of mangrove forest. The bungalows are very nice, each has its own roof terrace and we spotted Dusky Leaf Monkeys in front of our cottage!

👉 Check out the hotel here on Booking.com

#3 Khao Sok

Why Khao Sok National Park?

Khao Sok is home to the oldest, tropical rainforest in the world. The nature here is truly breathtaking and it is one of the most special places in Southern Thailand.

Beyond the incredibly large and spectacular rainforest, most people come here for one thing and that is Lake Cheow Lan. You can book a day tour here, but even more fun is to opt for the “2 days 1 night tour. You then sleep on the lake, in a floating bungalow. A very special experience to sleep like this in nature, without mobile coverage and completely disconnected from the world. That doesn’t have to be primitive at all by the way, there are more luxurious options as well. 👉 Read all about our experience with the ‘2 days 1 night tour’ on Cheow Lan Lake here.

But you can also do fun things in Khao Sok Village. Consider a night safari, hiking through the rainforest by yourself, organized treks and kayaking or tubing on the river.


How many days in Khao Sok?

We recommend staying here for at least 3 nights. If you opt for the 2 days 1 night tour, you can basically travel straight to your next destination on the second day, but it’s much chillier to spend another night in Khao Sok Village.


Where to stay in Khao Sok?

Khao Sok is a huge nature reserve, so it can sometimes be confusing exactly where to stay. What most people do, and what we can also recommend, is to book accommodation in the “Khao Sok village,” officially called Khlong Sok.

You will find many accommodations here, some more remote than others. If you do not plan to rent a car or motorcycle, it is best not to be too far from the village.

For example, we chose Khao sok Jungle Huts Resort. Within walking distance of the park entrance for when you want to go for a walk by yourself, but also close to all the restaurants.

From Khlong Sok do a day (or several days) excursion to Cheow Lan Lake, some 65 km away.

How do you book the 2 days 1 night tour?

It is best to stay a total of three nights in Khao Sok. You book a hotel on day 1 and (the same) hotel on day 3. Then, upon arrival, you can book the “2 days 1 night tour” through your hotel or one of the other providers. You can then leave your backpack or suitcase at the accommodation when you go to the lake, so you can go out on the water with only the essentials.

There are usually two options for the tour. You have a shared bathroom and a private bathroom. The floating bungalows with shared bathroom are often called “primitive. A small room that just fits a mattress and fan. If you choose the private bathroom, it costs about 300 baht (€8) more per person. You will get a larger, luxurious room with its own shower and toilet.

In general, all tours are quite similar in terms of activities and type of bungalows. The size of the group may vary, though.

We can 100% recommend the tour through Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort, just choose the bungalow with private bathroom.

👉 Want to know everything about the 2 days 1 night tour?

Route: from Ao Nang to Khao Sok

You have two options to travel from Ao Nang to Khao Sok (Khlong Sok). You can take a shared minivan, or a private cab. We explain all options below, including duration and price.


Option 1: minivan

By minivan from Ao Nang to Khao Sok village

The cheapest way to travel from Ao Nang to Khao Sok is by minivan. This one takes 4 to 5 hours and costs 400 baht (€10).

With most tour operators where you can book in town, you are first taken to Krabi town and then take the minivan to Khao Sok village. Check ahead of time if your luggage is included in the price; it is common to have to buy an extra seat for large backpacks or suitcases.

Want a direct minivan to Khao Sok village? You can book those here through Bookaway or 12Go Asia.

Option 2: private cab

By cab from Ao Nang to Khao Sok

A cab from Ao Nang to Khao Sok costs between 2,300 – 3,000 baht (€60 – €80). The trip takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The cab will, of course, drop you off at your hotel. You can book a cab in advance through Bookaway or 12Go Asia.

Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort

Khao Sok hotel tip

Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort equals waking up in jungle huts with monkeys that occasionally come to your window to watch. When you arrive at these jungle huts you realize you are in the rainforest. What. Is. This. Delicious. Want to get out of the jungle and have a nice dinner and a drink? Or a massage? A five to ten minute walk puts you in the village!

👉 Check out the hotel on Booking.com

#4 Koh Phangan

Why Koh Phangan?

Say Full Moon Party, you say Koh Phangan. But whether you want to experience this celebration or not, Koh Phangan is a true gem.

We deliberately skipped the Full Moon Party. We chose the quiet period and how much we enjoyed this island! On Koh Phangan you will find beautiful beaches, Thailand’s most fun jungle and beach parties, as well as pristine jungle, viewpoints, yoga and wellness retreats, temples, waterfalls….

By the way, an absolute must-do day trip is the Ang Thong National Marine Park. 42 islets with beautiful underwater world, the most beautiful beaches and we even saw whales there! You can take this day trip from either Koh Phangan or Koh Samui.


How many days in Koh Phangan?

Koh Phangan is quite large so we recommend staying here for at least 6 nights. We stayed 3 nights in the south at Haad Rin and three days in the north, at Mae Haad. The north is a lot quieter than the south. We would not have wanted to miss both places, but would have liked to stay at both much longer. Especially if you still want to have some beach days and catch a party. Also, Koh Phangan sounds like your little island, consider staying longer if you can!

Route: from Khao Sok to Koh Phangan

To get to Koh Phangan, take a minivan from Khao Sok to Donsak pier to take the ferry there. We explain everything to you below, including duration and cost.


From Khao Sok to Koh Phangan

Khao Sok – Surat Thani – Donsak Pier – Koh Phangan

From Khao Sok, take a minivan to Surat Thani. There you then transfer to another minivan, which will take you to Donsak pier.

At Donsak pier take ferry to Koh Phangan (Thong Sala pier).

You can buy tickets through your hotel. We paid 700 baht per person (€19) for the entire trip. You get one voucher that you can exchange into tickets anywhere.

Prefer to arrange it yourself? It is equally expensive to book the entire itinerary through Bookaway or 12Go Asia. This includes minivan and ferry tickets.

A night in Surat Thani?

If you decide to stay another night in Surat Thani, you can buy tickets to Koh Phangan here. These tickets are flexible; they can be cancelled or changed up to 24 hours in advance.

Other island options

Does Koh Phangan not sound like your island at all? Then check out nearby Koh Samui or Koh Tao. Koh Samui would be especially ideal for families who love resorts and Koh Tao is the Valhalla for diving enthusiasts.

Tommy Resort on Haad Rin

Koh Phangan hotel tip

Tommy Resort is located on Haad Rin beach. Outside the Full Moon Party, this beach is a fine place to hang out. In the middle of the coziness and the most beautiful spots of the island are easily accessible. The hotel has a nice pool, is located on the beach and has nice rooms and good beds.

👉 Check out the hotel on Booking.com

#5 Bangkok

Why Bangkok?

You either love Bangkok or you hate it. It’s probably where you arrive by plane and where you leave again. We deliberately chose to keep Bangkok for the end.

We had already heard from quite a few people that it can be disappointing to be so caught up in the chaos of the city after a long trip. Therefore, we too decided to travel on immediately. We do have to admit that it also took some getting used to being in a big, “dirty” city after 17 days of nature. But after less than 24 hours, we loved the city 🙂

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, a huge city, so there is a lot to do. Shop in modern and large malls, have drinks at the finest rooftop bars, stroll the night markets, visit temples…, you name it. And if you do long for a return to nature, you can go to the jungle island, or Lumphini Park.


How many days in Bangkok?

You won’t be bored in Bangkok and we recommend staying at least 4 nights here as well. This way you will get to know the city a little bit and maybe you too will fall a little bit in love with this metropolis. We could have stayed there much longer, but, Thailand is actually too beautiful to stay too long in the city – and this article was written by a city girl 😉

Route: from Koh Phangan to Bangkok

There are several options to get from Koh Phangan to Bangkok. The fastest is to fly from Samui, but that is also the most expensive option. It is cheaper to go to Surat Thani and fly or take the train or bus from there. You will be on the road much longer, though. We’ve written out all the options for you, including prices and duration.


Fastest option: Via Samui to Bangkok

Koh Phangan (Thong Sala Pier) – Samui (Bangrak pier) – Bangkok BKK Airport

The fastest option to get from Koh Phangan to Bangkok is the following.

  1. You take the ferry to Samui Bangrak pier at 9:30 or 2:30 p.m.
  2. Then take the mini van or cab to the airport (10 minutes).
  3. Fly from Samui to Bangkok in an hour
The ferry & minivan to Samui airport

You can book ferry and minivan here in advance. On GetYourGuide, choose the option: From Koh Phangan to Samui Airport. We booked these tickets well in advance, as this ferry only goes twice a day. We took the departure time, added 75 minutes and then booked our flight two hours later. Everything was arranged perfectly and we even got there earlier than expected.

You can also book the ferry separately through the little office on the pier, but keep in mind that you will still have to take a cab to the airport.

From Samui airport to Bangkok

Then you will take a plane to Bangkok. This domestic flight is a bit more expensive than other domestic flights. This is because the Samui airport is owned by Bangkok Airways. So no other airlines fly here.

The earlier you book, the cheaper. We paid €107 per person, including 23 kg of luggage. This was 3 months in advance and that was already slightly more expensive than we had seen 6 months in advance. Prices start from €62 per person.

Samui Airport, by the way, is a very fine airport. I could have stayed there much longer. The airport is full of Instagram-worthy swings, beanbags and cute boutique shops. We stuffed ourselves with delicious food there, but that turned out to be a big mistake! Even though the flight was less than an hour, we got a good meal on board. It’s basically take off, eat and land again.

Check the flights here.

Cheapest option: via Surat Thani to Bangkok

Koh Phangan (Thong Sala Pier) – Donsak pier – Surat Thani – Bangkok

Because Samui airport is owned by Bangkok Airways, you pay more for the domestic flight to Bangkok there. If you want cheaper travel, you have options below.

From Koh Phangan to Surat Thani

From Thong Sala Pier in Koh Phangan, take the ferry to Donsak pier. There you will then board a minivan that will take you to the city of Surat Thani. From the city you can travel on to Bangkok more cheaply.

You can buy tickets from Koh Phangan to Surat Thani here. Depending on your choice, they take care of the entire route to the bus station, train station or airport.

From Surat Thani, you have three choices:

1. Flying from Surat Thani to Bangkok by domestic flight

After flying from Samui, flying from Surat Thani is the fastest way to get to Bangkok. There are several airlines and almost every hour there is a plane going. Prices range from €20 to €46, booking early can pay off! The flight takes 1 hour and 15 minutes.

2. The (night) train to Bangkok
The night train saves you accommodation and is a fun way to travel. The night train from Surat Thani to Bangkok takes about 13 hours and tickets can be purchased from €7. For that price, you have a chair with a fan. For the real sleeping cars, you pay between €16 (fan) and €22 (air conditioning).

If you don’t want to take the night train you still have train 40, which takes “only” 10 hours, tickets cost €19 each.

3. The (night) bus to Bangkok
Depending on which bus you take, the bus from Surat Thani to Bangkok takes 9 to 15 hours. Tickets cost between €17 and €25 each.

Check out the options on 12Go Asia here.

Additional option: via Chumphon

It is also possible to travel to Bangkok via Chumphon. However, this option seems attractive to us only if you are traveling from Koh Tao.

Infinity pool @ Amara Hotel in Bangkok

Bangkok hotel tip

We love infinity pools and Amara Bangkok Hotel has a very nice one! It is wonderful to end the trip in luxury and be able to swim with a view of the beautiful skyscraper MahaNakhon.

👉 Check out the hotel on Booking.com

Round trip Thailand: 3 weeks itinerary

If you follow our itinerary you will end up with the following itinerary, totaling 21 nights:

  1. Kanchanaburi: 4 nights
  2. Krabi (Ao Nang & Railay): 4 nights
  3. Khao Sok: 3 nights
  4. Koh Phangan: 6 nights
  5. Bangkok: 4 nights

We recommend staying at least three nights everywhere so you can get to know the place a bit. But more is always better! Do you have a few extra days? Then we do not recommend choosing an additional destination, but rather adding these days to Krabi, Koh Phangan or Kanchanaburi. There is so much to do that you can easily fill your days. Do you have to skip a place? Then we would skip Krabi. It is beautiful there, but we are not into mass tourism.

Keep in mind that each move takes almost an entire day; the distances are very long. If you do want an additional destination, it’s best to choose islands nearby. In the Andaman Sea (Krabi), we would consider Koh Lanta or Koh Phi Phi. Want to get your diving certification? Then consider Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.

Can I do this route the other way around?

You certainly can! We did choose this route very deliberately for the following reason:

  1. We did not want to fly on directly from Bangkok because we were afraid of missing the connection. Which turned out to be justified fear, as we were delayed 3 hours.
  2. We had already read up on Krabi, but were afraid these beaches would disappoint after Koh Phangan. And it had been. The beach at Ao Nang was fine as the first beach of the vacation, but the whole town was more disappointing otherwise. Railay, on the other hand, is one of the most beautiful beaches ever!

About our ideal Thailand itinerary in 3 weeks

This was it, the itinerary we made in February 2023. It was a wonderful trip and we wish we could stay much longer in this beautiful country.

In this blog you saw many links where you can book tickets to get from A to B. It’s good to know that you can also book everything locally. Some people like to have everything fixed in advance; others prefer to arrange everything locally. If you book everything locally, the guide prices in this blog can also be useful for negotiating 😉

Hope you got something out of this long travel blog. I have done my best to make the information as complete as possible.

Have questions, additions or have you seen a mistake? Let us know in the comments!