The Land of Smiles is a beautiful destination and one of our favourite countries in the world. But with over 25 million annual visitors, Thailand is also one of the most visited destinations on the planet and one that has unfortunately suffered tremendously from over-tourism.
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The lack of sustainability practices in the past has led to many environmental challenges that are threatening Thailand’s waters, Islands, wildlife habitats, and cultural traditions.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news for first-time visitors, as opportunities to visit Thailand in a responsible way do exist, and eco-conscious travellers can find lots of great things to do on their first visit.
Here are our eco-friendly Thailand Trip Itinerary recommendations for first-time visitors.
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Thailand’s Initiatives In Sustainability Are Being Recognized
Unsustainable management of tourism hasn’t just caused harm to Thailand’s ecosystems, it has also led to uneven economic development. Large tour operators and foreign investors have benefited greatly, while local communities gained minimal economic benefits and negative effects on traditional culture. The COVID-19 pandemic forced a slowdown in Thailand’s tourism industry.
When Thailand reopened to international tourism, the country’s government announced the Bio Circular Green (BCG) Economy Model, which was created to steer increased investment towards sustainable development and environmental concerns. The BCG also has action plans for sustainable tourism, including initiatives to empower local organic farmers that supply hotels and restaurants.
These efforts in sustainability have already made positive changes. According to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Index for 2022, Thailand leads all other countries in Southeast Asia in global sustainability.
Bangkok — Two Days
Start your 2 weeks in Thailand in the country’s capital, Bangkok. While Bangkok is far from being an ecotourism destination, it offers a great introduction to Thai history and culture.
See The Amazing Architecture
Begin your Thailand itinerary by visiting the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun to admire the beautiful architecture and learn about the lives of Thai Kings.
If you’re a fan of modern architecture, there is plenty to see in Bangkok. There’s the pixelated King Power MahaNakhon, the dazzling EmQuartier building, the Naiipa Art Complex, and several more spectacular examples of modern architecture.
Skip Bangkok’s busy shopping markets, where sellers tout nothing but cheap, low-quality goods and clothing. Instead, opt to spend your time exploring a local floating market instead. Stock up on local fruits and vegetables and simultaneously help support small farmers from the area.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is particularly famous and is said to be the world’s largest weekend market. There are thousands of stalls to browse, offering everything from art to vintage comic books. This market is spectacular but be prepared for the crowds.
For window shopping and a big selection of food, Siam Paragon is a good place to spend a rainy afternoon. This complex is full of upscale shops and even has luxury car showrooms. The food hall offers Thai and International dishes, and it hosts an annual vegetarian festival.
Go On A Day Trip
To get out of the busy city, consider a trip to Suan Sampran, a family-run ecotourism park located about 35 minutes west of downtown Bangkok. The park’s mission is to educate visitors on Thai culture, sustainable development, and a healthy lifestyle.
Winner of several awards in sustainable tourism and responsible entrepreneurship, Suan Sampran is home to an organic botanical garden, the Sookjai Farmers Market, and Patom Organic Village, which is a community of crafters and artists that create all-natural crafts and products in traditional Thai houses.
This is a great destination for a day trip or even just a half-day, giving visitors a chance to slow down and appreciate the natural beauty of the Nakhon Pathom province.
See The Wildlife At Khao Yai National Park
If you have more time, another great destination for day trips is the Khao Yai National Park, located a few hours outside of Bangkok to explore the rare monsoon rainforest, home to Thailand’s last remaining wild tigers, gibbons, and wild elephants.
This is Thailand’s first national park, named for the mountain range that stretches between the central and northeastern regions of the country.
Keep in mind that single-use plastics are now banned from all national parks in Thailand, so make sure you have a canteen and plenty of water on hand. For safety reasons, Khao Yai and other national parks may close during monsoon season, so check the park’s website before planning your Thailand itinerary.
If you’d rather leave the logistics to someone else, there are several guided tours available that pick up in Bangkok, and be sure to do a bit of research on the operator to make sure that they follow ethical and sustainable practices.
Where To Stay In Bangkok
Opt to stay outside of the busy tourist areas of Khao San Road or Sukhumvit and choose accommodation in a less touristy part of the city, like the suburb of Silom. The suburb is home to Lumpini Park and is in close proximity to plenty of great authentic Thai restaurants, the Silom Night Market, art galleries, and rooftop bars from which you can take in the stunning Bangkok skyline.
There are plenty of nice hotels to choose from, but we recommend choosing one that has made a commitment to sustainable practices. Intercontinental Hotel Group has a number of hotels in Bangkok. Many of their hotels adhere to great environmental practices, and a number of Level 4 IHG Green Engage Hotels are located in the Silom Area.
Luxury Hotel In Bangkok
Voted one of the best new hotels in Conde’ Nast Traveler Hot List for 2023, The Standard is located in the hub of the city. The modern rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of the cityscape, a fully stocked minibar, and high-end perks like a rainshower and Nespresso machine.
You’ll be spoilt for choice with dining options. There are three award-winning restaurants at the hotel, plus two casual pubs and an in-house tea lounge. The Standard is home to the highest cocktail bar in Bangkok and the third-highest rooftop bar in the world.
You’ll be a short walk away from the attractions in Silom, and there are two train stations nearby if you want to take your adventures outside of the city centre.
Mid-Range Hotel In Bangkok
Located just a 10-minute walk from Silom Road, SO Bangkok offers stylish rooms with views of the cityscape or Lumpini Park. Guests also have access to a complimentary in-room private bar, luxury toiletries, and a spa bathtub.
This hotel is famous for its award-winning spa, designed with inspiration from the mythical Himmapan forest. Treat yourself to a signature treatment with natural ingredients or a traditional Thai massage. SO Bangkok also features two restaurants, a rooftop bar, and a chocolate cafe.
The hotel is just 200 metres from the Lumphini MRT Subway Station, so you’ll have quick access to attractions around the city.
Budget Hotel In Bangkok
Prince Theatre Heritage Stay Hostel is perfect for travellers looking for an affordable option that is centrally located. This hostel offers both private and dorm-style rooms, all including free toiletries, linens, and wifi.
Housed in a restored theatre, the hostel is faithful to the building’s cinematic history. Guests can watch a classic film on the Prince’s large screen, all while enjoying a cocktail inspired by the cinematic greats.
You’ll be surrounded by the temples, mosques, and landmarks of the old town, plus the Sathorn Pier is just a short walk away.
Koh Phangan — Three Days
Thanks to the Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan has earned a reputation as the premier party destination in Thailand, but many travellers don’t realize that this incredible island is also a paradise for ecotourism.
Enjoy The Natural Beauty Of Koh Phangan
Those looking to connect with nature will find plenty to do in Koh Phangan. Hike to the summit of Khao Ra, where you can enjoy amazing views of the bay and the tropical rainforest that comprises a large percentage of the island. Visit the Phaeng Waterfall, go diving at Sail Rock, and enjoy numerous beautiful hidden beaches that are dotted all around the island.
Watch The Stunning Sunset
Koh Phangan gets amazing sunset views, and there are plenty of restaurants and rooftop bars with fantastic vantage points. Secret Mountain is a great rooftop bar with a relaxed atmosphere, and l’Alcove Beach Bistro is one of many waterfront restaurants that offer fantastic food with a view.
Explore The Islands
If you have extra time, take a boat ride to the Ang Thong National Marine Park Reserve, an archipelago with over 40 islands, where you can camp overnight and enjoy some island hopping, snorkelling, and hiking. The neighbouring Koh Tao, or “Turtle Island,” is home to stunning coral reefs and marine life that make it a divers’ paradise.
Where To Stay On Koh Phangan
If you’re not here to party, avoid Haad Rin Beach and head north to enjoy a relaxing, quiet stay on one of Koh Phangan’s lesser-known beaches.
Luxury Hotel On Koh Phangan
Santhiya Koh Phangan Resort & Spa is just 160 metres from the beautiful Thong Nai Pan Beach and features luxurious rooms with panoramic sea views. All rooms are air-conditioned and include amenities such as minibars, whirlpool tubs, and wifi.
The resort has an onsite watersports centre for canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing. The resort’s restaurant serves Thai cuisine, and Santhiya’s Ayuravana Spa features a full menu of skin and massage treatments.
Mid-Range Hotel On Koh Phangan
Amaya Boutique Resort offers a more private experience, with just seven guest rooms that open to the resort’s pool or garden. Spacious rooms include a living area, a private patio, and a refrigerator.
The onsite cafe offers dishes created with seasonal, organic ingredients that are locally sourced. You’ll be a short walk away from three gorgeous beaches and restaurants in the surrounding village.
Budget Hotel On Koh Phangan
Papillon Bungalows in Baan Tai features comfortable beachfront accommodations with everything you could possibly need, plus plenty of additional perks. Guest will have a private bungalow with sea views, their own balcony, and a living area with a refrigerator.
Papillon Bungalows offers bicycle rentals and guided tours such as cooking classes, dive tours, hiking excursions, and local pub crawls. You’ll have the option of in-room breakfast, and there is a coffee house onsite.
With Baan Kai Beach at your doorstep, you don’t even have to leave!
Krabi — Three Days
Krabi serves as a great pitstop en route to the southern islands of Thailand, but it’s also an amazing destination for those interested in exploring the outdoors. Krabi is home to world-class rock climbing and offers great opportunities for caving, sea kayaking, camping, and hiking.
See The World Famous Khao Khanab Nam
VisitKhao Khanab Nam, two karst rocks that serve as Krabi’s landmarks, to hike to the top and admire a beautiful view from the summit. Take a ride on a traditional longtail boat to these limestone hills and the mangrove that lines the Pak Nam Krabi River.
Go On A Krabi Adventure
Join a rock climbing trip to Railay Beach or Ton Say Bay, take a trip over to the Pranang peninsula for some caving, or go sea kayaking at Ao Pranang Beach or rafting on the Songprak River. There is also a great weekend Night Market where you can sample plenty of local dishes from a variety of local stalls.
Where To Stay In Krabi
Luxury Hotel In Krabi
If you would rather park up on the sand, consider staying at the Green Leaf Certified Pakasai Resort on Ao Nang Beach. The resort’s spacious rooms feature private balconies with garden views, eco-friendly toiletries, and a refrigerator. Guests are welcome to herbal tea and snacks throughout the day, and the resort offers a traditional afternoon tea service.
The onsite Wellness Centre offers medicinal foods, therapeutic massage treatments, and yoga classes. Pakasai Resort can arrange a visit to a local organic farm, a kayak trip in a clear-water canal, and several other guided activities in the area.
The resort features the Dalah Restaurant, serving authentic Thai cuisine, and an onsite juice bar in the Tree Top Cafe. There are even more restaurants within a short walking distance, and bicycle rentals are available for those who want to venture out further.
Budget Hotel In Krabi
If you want to stay in Krabi Town, check out Family Tree Hotel — a family-owned eco-friendly destination that’s simple yet beautiful. The rooms are spacious and stylish, featuring modern amenities such as free wifi, refrigerator, minibar, and coffee machine.
Other conveniences offered by Family Tree Hotel include laundry facilities, bicycle rentals, and assistance with tour arrangements. The onsite restaurant offers a variety of cuisines, and there are lots of restaurants within a short walking distance.
Koh Lanta — Three Days
Koh Lanta consists of several islands, with the two largest being Koh Lanta Noi and Koh Lanta Yai. Most travellers stay on Koh Lanta Yai. The islands are a part of Mu Koh Lanta National Park, which boasts beautiful scenery and white sandy beaches. Koh Lanta is a quieter and more sophisticated version of Koh Phi Phi, more suitable for those looking for a quieter island stay.
Admire The Natural Beauty Of Koh Lanta
The islands offer plenty of ways to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of this region. You can spend your days relaxing on the beach, visiting Khao Mai Kaew Caves, kayaking through the rich mangrove forests, or taking a guided hike in Mu Koh Lanta National Park to discover caves as well as exotic birds and other species.
Where To Stay In Koh Lanta
Luxury Hotel In Koh Lanta
Located on a private beach, Long Beach Chalet features Thai-style bungalows and the iconic chalets on stilts. All accommodations feature private balconies, a dining area with a refrigerator, and air conditioning.
Long Beach Chalet’s tour desk can arrange a variety of water sports and day trips, and guests can even book a massage or yoga session right on the beach. The onsite restaurant offers Thai and International cuisines, or you can rent a bike, motorcycle, or car if you want to venture out.
Budget Hotel In Koh Lanta
For sustainable and affordable accommodations, check out Eco Lanta Hideaway Beach Resort, located in Long Beach. The resort’s Thai-style bungalows are constructed with eco-friendly materials and feature modern amenities such as air conditioning, an in-room refrigerator, and hot showers.
The beach is just steps away, where you can relax or go snorkelling. The onsite ECO restaurant offers Thai and International dishes prepared with local ingredients. There is also a spa and wellness centre onsite for guests.
Chiang Mai — Three Days
Chiang Mai is a popular destination in northern Thailand that, despite a steady influx of visitors, offers many options for eco-conscious travellers.
There are plenty of temples to visit, a great night market to explore, a few beautiful waterfalls to discover (Bua Tong Waterfalls and Mae Sa Waterfall are the best), as well as a chance to zip line and go mountain biking in Chiang Mai’s lush mountainous countryside.
Visit An Elephant Sanctuary
Those looking for a responsible way to interact with elephants will find plenty of elephant sanctuaries in the area. We recommend Elephant Nature Park, Thailand’s best-known elephant rehabilitation centre. Elephant Nature Park has won several awards for its commitment to rescuing and rehabilitating Thailand’s working elephants.
Go On An Exhilarating Hike
Chiang Mai also acts as a popular starting point for Hill Tribe treks, with many companies in town now offering eco-friendly trekking options that have minimal impact on the natural surroundings and local hill tribe communities that they visit.
Where To Stay In Chiang Mai
Unique Hotel In Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is teeming with beautiful, sustainable accommodation options. The Chai Lai Nature Reserve is perfect for people who love nature and escaping the crowds. The reserve prides itself on being the only accommodation option in Thailand where you can live with elephants.
You’ll have your own glamping-style bungalow with handmade bamboo furniture, an authentic thatched roof, and bathrooms with open-air showers. Each bungalow has a private balcony with stunning views of the surrounding jungle.
There is an onsite restaurant and bar, and guests have the amazing opportunity to have a hilltop dinner with panoramic views of the valley and elephants.
Chai Lai Nature Reserve is focused on sustainability and social causes, with all proceeds going towards the care of the elephants and Daughters Rising, an anti-trafficking organization that helps at-risk women and girls.
City Centre Hotel In Chiang Mai
For visitors looking for accommodation located close to Chiang Mai landmarks, THEE Vijit is situated in the heart of Chiang Mai, just steps from Tha Pae Gate, Three Kings Monument, and the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.
The hotel’s spacious rooms feature premium bedding, a minibar, spa-grade toiletries, and a rain shower. Thee Vijit offers a wonderful breakfast, and the onsite bar is renowned for its craft cocktails. Plenty of restaurants are nearby, and the Night Market is just a 15-minute walk away.
Alternative Options For Your Thailand Itinerary
This is the third largest island in Thailand and home to some of the best beaches in Thailand. Situated in the Gulf of Thailand, the island enjoys calm waters and clear skies for most of the year, making this a great alternative destination in the event of bad weather elsewhere.
Located on the northeast coast of the island, Choeng Men Beach is a gorgeous spot for a relaxing day, and there is plenty to explore inland. The island is home to three waterfalls – Na Muang, Hid Lan, and Khun Si, all accessible with a short hike through the jungle.
A great way to learn about Thai culture is with a cooking class, and this organic farm on Koh Samui offers experiences where guests harvest fresh herbs and vegetables and learn how to make authentic Pad Thai and other dishes.
Khao Phing Kan
Also known as James Bond Island, Khao Phing Kan is part of Ao Phang National Park. Famous for the iconic limestone karst towers featured in the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, this island has become a popular tourist destination.
Khao Phing Kan became part of the Ao Phang National Park, and tourism to the island is regulated in order to curb the erosion of the characteristic limestone towers.
There are guided tours of Khao Phing Kan, like this long tail boat cruise that takes passengers through the beautiful Phang Nga Bay, the Suwan Khuha Cave Temple, and of course, the famous James Bond Island.
Located in northern Thailand, this city is often overlooked by travellers. This area is full of natural beauty and culture and well worth a visit. Chiang Rai is home to the stunning architecture of the White Temple, Baan Dam, and the Blue Temple.
To experience more local culture, visit the Weekend Walking Streets when the city comes alive. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, car traffic is blocked from Thanalai Road and San Khong Noi Road, allowing pedestrians to sample street food, shop for souvenirs, and see live performances at night markets.
There are also several beautiful natural areas in and around the city to explore. Just a few minutes outside of the city are Pong Phrabat Waterfall and Pong Phrabat Hot Springs, and about 30 minutes south of Chiang Rai is the Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park.
There is also Phu Chi Fa Forest Park, which is about two hours east of the city but offers spectacular views of the valley from hiking trails.
Getting Around Thailand
There are plenty of options when it comes to transportation when visiting Thailand. Most of the country’s main tourist destinations have a domestic airport nearby, a well-developed bus system, and over 2500 miles of train lines. If you are travelling to the islands, you will find ferries to take you to and fro.
To make your trip as sustainable as possible, we urge you to use shared transportation whenever possible and to avoid flying when you can. If you must fly, consider carbon offsetting your flight.
We hope that this Two Weeks in Thailand Itinerary will help first-time visitors fall in love with this country and discover many great ways to explore its destinations in a responsible way.