Thailand is aptly known as the ‘Land of Smiles’ thanks to the beautiful Thai people who welcome you with a wide grin and laughter that spreads all the way to their eyes. The best way to get to know the locals and share some warm quintessential experiences is to explore Thailand with a small group. On a small group tour, you get to interact with the people that call this beautiful place home and enjoy unique experiences thanks to your local guides and the insider knowledge of your tour leader. Here are just some small group tours that will showcase the people and places that make Thailand so special.
Whether you are short on time or looking to make some unique memories during your exploration of Thailand, there are some great small group tours that focus on just one region or experience in depth. To really immerse yourself in the local communities, pull on your hiking shoes and head off on a Northern Thailand hilltribe trek. Get off the beaten path into the rice paddies and lush valleys of the north en route to the hilltribe villages that call this region home. Stay in a homestay with the friendly locals, learning about their cultures and traditions, and explore the surrounding jungles, cave systems and swimming holes – all made possible by your Chief Experience Officer and specialist trekking guides.
Nestled in the north of Thailand also lies the Elephant Nature Park. Roughly 60 kilometres (37 miles) out of Chiang Mai, this special project provides a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants who have suffered mistreatment. You can visit the Elephant Nature Park and get to know the stories of the rescued elephants, no doubt falling in love with these humble species (if you weren’t already!). Help feed your newfound elephantidae friends from a viewing platform before watching them play in the river during bathing time.
Stick to the backroads (and waterways) of Thailand as you explore Bangkok and the River Kwai. Take a long-tailed boat along Bangkok’s canals and kick back on a scenic ride down the Chao Phraya River. Experience agricultural life in rural Thailand and share a traditional lunch with a local family, before making yourself at home in your tented riverside camp. You’ll check out the bridge on the River Kwai, spend time relaxing in a floating hotel, and enjoy an authentic Mon dance and music show as the sun sets. Dreamy!
Travel to Southern Thailand to uncover the treasures of Khao Sok National Park, where you can relax in your boutique tent decked out with a private bathroom, air conditioning, and a wooden deck to perch on and enjoy in the rainforest views. Trek through the dirt trails and riverbed tracks keeping your eyes peeled for elephants and Langur Monkeys and perhaps cool off in one of the waterfalls that cascade through the park.
The south of Thailand is also known for its stunning beaches, where you can swim, snorkel and kayak to your heart’s content. Enjoy the beach life on Thailand’s east coast with a homestay on the little island of Koh Pitak, getting to know the locals of the charming fishing village. Chumphon awaits with an uncrowded coastline to explore and plenty of snorkelling spots to enjoy, Koh Tao boasts coral reefs flitting with fish and beautiful palm-fringed beaches, and Koh Samui comes alive with bustling markets and an energetic nightlife.
Thailand’s west coast beaches are no less impressive. Ao Nang is the perfect base to hop on longtail boats out to the idyllic islands and enjoy a massage on the beach. Its main street is home to open-air restaurants and bars to kick back and enjoy some local cuisine and a beer, and you can also go on a little spree at the shops if you choose. Take a sea kayaking trip to the mangrove forest of Ao Thalane discovering hidden lagoons and local wildlife, and maybe try your hand at some Thai specialities during a cooking class. Chill out away from the tourist trail on Ko Yao Noi and enjoy a picnic lunch on one of the pretty islands in Phang Nga Bay, before winding up your trip in the tourist haven of Phuket.
Have you got 17 days? Get to know Thailand in depth, kicking off in Bangkok with a tuk tuk tour and a visit to the iconic sights such as Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. Travel to Kanchanaburi crossing the famous bridge over the River Kwai, and on to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site of Ayutthaya. Visit a working Buddhist temple and the ancient ruins of Sukhothai, cruise the Mekong River, explore Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, and visit the Elephant Nature Park. Spend time in the evergreen rainforests of Khao Sok National Park and on the beaches of Phuket to wrap up an in-depth immersion into Thailand.
Do you love all things outdoors and active? Then you can hike, bike and kayak your way around Thailand over two weeks. Trek to the hilltribe villages of the north, cycle around Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya, and kayak on the Andaman Sea in the south. After a hands-on exploration? You can see all of iconic Thailand and get under its skin with National Geographic journey exclusives, including a meeting with Monks at Wat Chedi Luang and a guided rainforest eco-walk in Chiang Mai. There truly is something for everyone – Thailand has many faces, all of which are smiling.