If you’re looking for some sun, sea and exquisite nature, then a trip to Southern Thailand is going to have all that and more. One of the best things about the southern region is that it’s so relaxing and slow-paced, but each place offers something different and unique. In this three-week Southern Thailand itinerary, you can spend time relaxing on the pure white beaches, rock climbing the iconic limestone cliffs, diving with whale sharks, and hiking through Thailand’s wildlife-rich jungles. And so much more!
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How many days in Southern Thailand do you need?
The south of Thailand is a beautiful region and somewhere you could easily spend several months exploring and not see it all.
To see all the highlights, allow three weeks as the minimum amount of time you should spend in Southern Thailand. This will allow you to visit the islands, national parks and top attractions in the region.
If time is not an issue for you, then I recommend you spend a month in Thailand, and just spend an extra day in each place to have some downtime and soak up the beach life.
The ultimate 3 week Southern Thailand itinerary
This Southern Thailand itinerary starts in Phuket, since it’s an easy place to fly into. If you have arrived in Bangkok, feel free to turn this itinerary on its head and do it backwards.
Day 1-3: Phuket
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and a popular tourist destination known for its gorgeous beaches, tropical landscapes and vibrant nightlife. Because of its size, I recommend spending three full days exploring Phuket.
Start by exploring the Old Town of Phuket, with its colourful Sino-Portuguese architecture, charming cafés and shops.
Walk down Soi Romanee Street and Thalang Road, which are both lined with stores selling boutiques and artisan food.
If you happen to be in town on a Sunday, there is an incredible street food market that takes place late afternoon into the evening.
In the afternoon, head up to the Big Buddha, where you will find 360 panoramic views of the island. You can also partake in meditation sessions and get blessed by a monk.
After a day of exploring Old Town, head to Patong Beach and Bangla Road in the evening for a lively nightlife experience.
Another popular thing to do in Phuket at night is watching a Muay Thai fight at Patong Boxing Stadium.
Spend the day on the beach! Phuket has several amazing beaches, from the quiet and relaxing Kata Beach to the pristine Kamala Beach, there is a beach suitable for any type of traveller. If you enjoy watersports, head to Patong Beach for jet skiing, paragliding and banana boat rides.
I recommend hiring a scooter and beach hopping for a day. In the evening, head over to Rawai Beach to try some delicious and fresh seafood.
Take a day trip to James Bond Island and Panyee Floating Village. There are several tour operators where you can book this iconic day trip all over Phuket, but make sure you visit a few places and negotiate a good price. You can also find competitive prices online.
This day trip takes you to visit Wat Suwan Khuha, aka the Monkey Cave, where you can see a cave temple that has been occupied by monkeys.
After that, you take a long-tail boat over to Talu Cave in Phang Nga Bay, where you can canoe through the lush limestone rock formations and lagoons.
You then make a stop by James Bond Island, so named because it featured in the 1974 movie “The Man with the Golden Gun.”
The last stop is Panyee Island, also referred to as the floating island. This is a self-sustainable village built on stilts. Walk around the village and see the school, the market, and even the football pitch that floats.
This is a full-day tour from Phuket so you may want to take it easy in the evening.
If you would prefer to stay on land for your third day in Phuket, you can also visit one of Phuket’s more adventurous attractions. You can go zip-lining, visit elephant sanctuaries or try ATV riding.
Day 4-5: The Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands are perhaps the most famous image of Southern Thailand. They are known for their pure white sandy beaches, limestone rock formations and laid-back island vibes.
Here’s how to spend two days in the Phi Phi Islands.
Start your day by taking a ferry or speedboat from Phuket to the Phi Phi Islands. Once you arrive, head straight to Maya Bay, which became famous after it was featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio film, the Beach.
While you cannot swim on the beach at Maya Bay due to the population of reef sharks, it’s still a gorgeous beach and worth a visit.
In the afternoon, take a longtail boat tour around the island, stopping at Monkey Beach, Viking Cave, and Pileh Lagoon.
You can find tour operators offering boat tours around the island, or you can book a private boat and ask them to take you where to go. If you have a group, this is a much better option as you can visit Maya Bay after the boat tours leave and have a more chilled experience.
End your day with a sunset cocktail at one of the beach bars.
On your second day, explore the main island of Phi Phi Don. Take a hike to the Phi Phi Viewpoint for panoramic views of the island or visit the Princess Lagoon, known for its emerald green waters.
In the afternoon, go kayaking or take a boat tour to Bamboo Island or Mosquito Island. In the evening, enjoy a seafood dinner on the beach or dance the night away at one of the island’s many bars.
If you are into snorkelling or diving, you might want to spend your second day doing an advanced scuba diving experience in Koh Phi Phi.
You can get your PADI certificate, or if you already have one, you can join advanced diving tours to swim with sharks.
Day 6-9: Krabi
The next stop is Krabi. This is a stunning province in Southern Thailand known for its limestone cliffs, jungle treks, hot springs and beaches.
First, you will need to get the ferry from the Phi Phi Islands to Krabi. You can get a boat directly over to Krabi from Koh Phi Phi, which takes around two hours.
Ao Nang is a popular place to stay in Krabi since you can get tours to all the main attractions, and it also has a lovely beach.
Once you arrive in Krabi, spend the day relaxing in Ao Nang, visit the beach, hike up the Monkey Trail and watch the sunset from a secluded beach at the end of the trail.
Explore the natural wonders of Krabi. Wake up early and hike the Dragon’s Crest Trail, a beautiful hike through the jungle with lush views over the ocean.
In the afternoon, head to the Tiger Cave Temple, a Buddhist temple built into a cave and home to a stunning golden Buddha statue. Hike up 1,200+ steps to the top of the mountain for more views.
In the late afternoon, rest your weary legs in the Emerald Pool, a stunning natural pool with crystal-clear waters surrounded by lush forests. Alternatively, head over to Krabi Hot Springs and relax in the hot thermal waters.
I recommend hiring a scooter to drive around to all these spots on this day.
Get back out on the water by taking a boat tour of the famous Four Islands; Chicken Island, Poda Island, Tub Island and Koh Mor.
Enjoy snorkelling, swimming, and sunbathing in these beautiful locations.
Head to Railay Beach, a beautiful beach which is only accessible by boat and features towering limestone cliffs and world-class rock climbing.
There are also several caves to explore, and a stunning beach. You could easily spend a full day in Railay soaking up the island life atmosphere and relaxing on the beach.
Day 10-12: Koh Samui
Now it’s time to head over to the Gulf of Thailand, starting with the largest island in the Gulf, Koh Samui.
You’ll start your day by travelling from Krabi to Koh Samui, which takes 3 hours and 45 minutes by bus and ferry.
After checking into your hotel, you might want to take it slow in the afternoon. It’s recommended to stay on the northern side of the island, where you have beautiful beaches with calm waters.
Bang Po is a good area as it’s also close to where you will catch the pier to your next island, Koh Phangan.
Spend the rest of the day exploring the north side of the island, visit the Big Buddha and go for dinner in the Fisherman’s Village, a historic neighbourhood in Bophut that has retained its traditional charm and authentic architecture.
If you have energy, you can even go for a game of Foot Golf, which is way more fun than you think it would be!
Spend your second day riding around the island, visiting secluded beaches and driving up to some of the island’s most impressive waterfalls.
I recommend hiring a scooter or a car and drive yourself, but if you are not confident about a scooter then do get a car as some of the hills on the island are steep.
In the evening, experience the lively atmosphere of Chaweng Beach, known for its nightlife.
Take a trip to the Ang Thong Marine National Park, a group of islands known for their natural beauty including limestone cliffs, pristine beaches and clear waters.
Go kayaking, snorkelling and hike up to the viewpoint where you can see panoramic views of the national park.
Day 13-15: Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is a relaxing island in the Gulf of Thailand which is known to have a more laid-back, backpacker vibe. Most people who come here end up staying for months, so be warned, you may just fall in love…
Start your day by getting the ferry over from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan. There are many different ferries, speedboats and tour operators. It’s recommended to get the speedboat over to Haad Rin, and then stay somewhere on the south of the island.
After that, rent a scooter and drive over to Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach, known for its crystal-clear waters, white sand, and quiet beach vibe. Depending on how much time you have, you may want to stop off at the waterfalls in Koh Phangan National Park on the way back.
In the evening, visit the Night Market in Thongsala where you can sample some of the local food and buy souvenirs, or visit Haad Rin for some lively nightlife. If you time your visit right, you may be on the island for one of the world-famous full moon parties that take place in Haad Rin.
Spend your second day exploring the island’s beaches. Drive around the west side and north side of the island and be sure to check out Zen Beach, Secret Beach, Haad Salad, and Mae Haad Beach and Koh Ma Island.
A great sunset spot is the 420 bar at the top of the hill overlooking Mae Haad Beach, or you can visit Zen Beach, which is famous for its sunset hippy crowd who play music and do acro-yoga.
Visit the secluded Bottle Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on Koh Phangan, which is only accessible only by boat or hiking (technically you can drive, but it’s very dangerous).
In the afternoon, head to some of the island’s waterfalls such as Than Sadet Waterfall, a picturesque waterfall that is surrounded by lush greenery.
Spend the evening enjoying delicious seafood in Chaloklum fishing village.
Day 16-18: Koh Tao
Koh Tao is the smallest island in the Gulf of Thailand, but don’t underestimate it, there are many things to do here. It’s known for its world-class diving and snorkelling, as well as beautiful beaches and mountains.
On the first day, you will need to take the ferry from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao, which takes around 2 hours on the slow ferry.
Once you arrive, settle into your hotel and then head over to Sairee Beach, one of the most popular beaches on the island. This is a popular place to stay on the island as it has many hotels and guest houses.
Spend the afternoon enjoying the beach, swimming, sunbathing, and snorkelling in the calm waters.
In the evening, head to the night market in Mae Haad to sample some of the local food and buy souvenirs.
Spend your second day exploring the island’s beaches and snorkelling to see marine life. Head over to Freedom Beach if you want a beautiful and calm beach or head to Shark’s Bay for snorkeling.
It’s so named because it’s known to have a colony of black-tip reef sharks, but you can also find turtles, octopi, sea cucumbers and many other marine animals.
In the afternoon, head over to Tanote Bay for some more snorkelling and relaxing on the beach.
In the early evening, hike to the West Coast Viewpoint for panoramic views of the island before heading back to Sairee for delicious seafood at one of the island’s many restaurants.
Take a snorkelling or diving trip to Shark Island, Southwest Pinnacle, or Chumphon Pinnacle, where you can see colourful fish, sea turtles, and even reef sharks.
You can also find tours that take you out to swim with whale sharks if you visit in the right season (March to June).
In the evening, take a hike to the viewpoint over Koh Nang Yuan, a small island known for its stunning views and breathtaking beaches.
Day 19-21: Khao Sok National Park
The last stop on this southern Thailand itinerary is Khao Sok National Park, a beautiful natural reserve known for its lush rainforest, stunning limestone cliffs and beautiful lake.
Start by taking the ferry and then the bus from Koh Tao to Khao Sok National Park. This is a long journey and will take anywhere between 5 hours to 13 hours, depending on whether you get the speedboat or slow ferry.
There is an option to take a night ferry/bus, leaving at 9pm and arriving at 10am. If you don’t mind sleeping on the bus, you can do this so you have an extra day in Khao Sok, otherwise, you can use the first day as a travel day.
Since you will arrive in the afternoon or early evening, you might want to rest up for the rest of the day.
If you feel up to it, the Night Safari is a great first-day activity. You leave your hotel at around 7pm and spend two hours walking in the jungle with a local knowledgeable guide.
Nighttime is when all the nocturnal animals come to play, so you have a good chance to see frogs, lizards, chameleons, snakes, spiders, tarantulas, bats, monkeys and many other animals.
Another good thing about the night safari is you can use the national park ticket (around 200 baht) for the following day.
Spend your second day exploring the Khao Sok Lake and cave systems. You can get a boat ride across the lake, have lunch at a floating village, and trek through the jungle in the afternoon.
You can also spend the night on a floating bungalow on the lake, which allows you to have a good chance to see wildlife that tends to visit the lake in the early morning.
Khao Sok has about 300 elephants in the park, and they prefer to visit the lake early in the morning, so if you stay in the bungalows you have more chances to see them.
Spend the last day doing something fun and adventurous. In the morning, go tubing down the Sok River, where you can see the park’s incredible scenery up close and enjoy the relaxing feeling of floating through the water.
In the afternoon, visit the Nam Tok Mae Yai waterfall, known for its emerald-green pools and picturesque surroundings.
In the evening, head to Surat Thani to get a night train back to Bangkok to end your Southern Thailand itinerary.
Getting around Southern Thailand
It’s really easy to get around Southern Thailand and to travel from place to place.
When it comes to getting around the area, renting a scooter is the way to go. You can find taxis and public buses, but they are usually quite expensive, especially on the islands in the Gulf of Thailand.
If you’re comfortable driving a scooter, it will be the most cost-effective way to get around and allows you the most flexibility.
When getting from place to place, you can get long-distance buses for travelling on land and ferries to get to the islands.
12go.Asia is the site to use for booking transport from place to place. It has the most competitive prices and every connection is sorted for you.
You can also book transfers with your operators but these tend to be more expensive.
FAQs about visiting Southern Thailand
Where is considered part of southern Thailand?
Southern Thailand can be defined as anywhere below the Kra Isthmus range in Ranong. On the map, it is the section where Myanmar’s border with Thailand ends and ends at the southernmost tip of Thailand where it borders with Malaysia.
How much do you need for three weeks in Southern Thailand?
Budgeting is never easy, but the good news is that Thailand is quite affordable. The islands tend to be a bit more expensive, but you can always save on your budget by staying in hostels. A good figure to have in your head when visiting Southern Thailand is $50 USD per day. You likely won’t need this much.
What language is spoken in southern Thailand?
Most people in Southern Thailand speak Thai and Pattani-Malay. A lot of people speak English, but you may find in some restaurants you will need to use Google Translate or point to the menu to say what you want.
Final thoughts on this Southern Thailand itinerary
Southern Thailand offers something for everyone. From stunning white-sand beaches to lush rainforests and vibrant towns and villages, there is no shortage of things to do and see.
With an abundance of delicious food, welcoming people, and a laid-back atmosphere, southern Thailand is the perfect destination for those looking to relax, recharge and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Hopefully, this guide gave you some inspiration for how to spend your time in this exotic region in Thailand. A trip to Southern Thailand is an experience that will stay with you forever.
If you have any thoughts on this Southern Thailand itinerary, please share them in the comments below!