There are stacks of packages on the market that could make it onto lists of the best small group tours to Thailand. This is the fabled Land of Smiles, after all. It’s one of the planet’s most sought-after destinations, touting everything from gold-tipped Buddhist shrines to elephant-filled jungles, soaring mountain peaks to beaches so white you’d think they were made from talcum powder. Who wouldn’t want to come?
Honestly, if for some bizarre reason Thailand hasn’t yet sneaked its way onto your bucket list, now’s the time to change that. This country at the very heart of Southeast Asia has reigned as the OG of backpacking ever since the first hippies came in the 60s. Today, it can add luxury hotels and honeymoon islands to its resume, along with remote hill towns, motorbike loops, and cities that buzz and fizz with life all night and day.
This guide will home in on the best small group tours in Thailand for the coming season. They are the packages that we think really stand out from the crowd when it comes to traveling through the home of pad Thai noodles and mango sticky rice. Some are classy affairs with luxury accommodation and high price tags to match. Others are more firmly on the backpacker side of the equation. Let’s get started…
Thailand Express with Real Gap
If you’re short on time but want to make sure you check off a whole stack of Thailand must-sees, there are few curated travel plans that can hit the notes as well as the Thailand Express tour with Real Gap. For one thing, it comes from a company that really cut their teeth offering budget-friendly romps for backpackers around the Land of Smiles, and we personally know a whole bunch of people who’ve completed their packages with only good words to say.
So, what’s included? The focus is really on southern Thailand and southern Thailand alone, apart from a day or two in buzzy Bangkok to get things rolling. After glugging cold Chang beers on the Khaosan Road with your new travel pals, you’ll hop south to Koh Phangan, an isle of white-sand beaches in the Thai Gulf (and the home of the Full Moon Party, no less, but you’ll need to time your trip with the moon itself if you want to be a part of that!).
The later stages of the trip take you across to the idyllic diving hub of Koh Tao and then across to western Thailand, where it’s the Phi Phi islands that take center stage. You’ll wrap the whole thing up with sunbathing sessions on gorgeous Monkey Beach, bouts of Muay Thai boxing, and partying in Phi Phi’s main town.
Tailor Made Thailand with Abercrombie & Kent
Cash not a problem? Like the luxury end of the spectrum? There’s a fantastically curated tour of Thailand from acclaimed upscale travel outfitters Abercrombie & Kent that might be just what you’ve been searching for. It strips back many of the packed itineraries on this list to keep it beautifully simple…
Phase one: Explore Bangkok. Phase two: Go north to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Phase three: Go south to the islands. The whole thing takes 11 days in total and will set you back $10,000 per person. But you’re paying for something that’s a little more out of the ordinary than the typical backpacker romp.
You can rest assured that there won’t be any rough-around-the-edges hostels involved here. All your stays are top-draw hotels with boutique lodgings and beachfront locations and whatnot. There are also some proper A-lister frills included or added as optional extras, from bespoke massage therapies to cooking lessons with award-winning chefs. Nice.
Total Thailand Trip with Contiki
Just as the name implies, the Total Thailand trip is all about exploring the stand-out destinations of the Land of Smiles in one fell swoop. Over the course of two whole weeks, you’ll hop from north to south, seeing both halves of the country in a plan that includes reggae bars and night bazaars in the jungles and sunset cocktails by the side of the bath-warm Andaman Sea. Let’s dig a little deeper…
The first portion of Contiki’s Thailand flagship takes you through Central and Northern Thailand. They are fascinating corners of the nation that rarely command the covers of travel brochures like the beaches of the south. The starter is a jaunt to Kanchanaburi, a town steeped in WWII history but also right on the cusp of the gorgeously turquoise Erawan Waterfalls. Later, you pass through the ancient capital of old Siam and then onto the northern city of Chiang Mai, for shopping and Lanna culture.
The beach portion of the adventure is hardly a comprehensive run-around of Thailand’s finest sands. To do that would take months and months. What it is: A chance to hit some of the most famous spots on the Andaman coast. You’ll go island hopping in Krabi province to see towering rock stacks and bays laden with sea turtles. But you’ll also paddle through the narrow waterways of the Khao Sok National Park on your own little kayak.
Contiki are a tried-and-tested name in the industry with plenty of completed tours to their back. They run this adventure for around $2,500 per person with a promise to reduce carbon emissions where possible and offer plenty of pay-for addon options as you go.
Explore Northern Thailand with Intrepid Travel
Ask anyone who’s been to both the north and the south of the Land of Smiles and they’ll tell you just how different they are. While the south is about chilled beach towns and luxury resorts that spill into the Indian Ocean, the north is a rich vein of culture and tradition that has been influenced by ancient Siam, the Lanna kingdom, and even Burma. It’s the one to go for if history and heritage is your thing.
Intrepid Travel have a very simple three-stop trip that aims to take in the mainstay draws in the northern region. It begins in enthralling Old Sukhothai. That’s one of the oldest cities in the country, now anchored on an ancient archaeology park that has stupas and temples that date back through the centuries.
After that, you push on to the mountains around Chiang Mai. That ushers in one of the real highlights of the Intrepid Travel package – a homestay with a local family of farmers. You’ll learn all about the tos and fros of life in the rice paddies, visit craft markets, and cycle through the countryside under the sun.
The finale will be the city of Chiang Mai. It’s a wonder, with more historic Buddhist shrines than you can shake your mango juice at. It’s also seen as the shopping mecca of the nation, offering not one, not two, but three separate night market areas where you can buy just about anything if your haggling skills are up to it!
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Express with G Adventures
If all you’re interested in are the cities of Thailand, be sure to check out the Bangkok to Chiang Mai Express package from G Adventures. It makes a point of shunning the, shall we say, less cerebral destinations in the country for the culture-brimming towns that lie between the capital and the second city up north.
The good news is that there are plenty of places dotted in between both of those. They make for a natural itinerary. As such, the plan will take you through the Royal Palace and food bazaars of Bangkok, onto the WWII river town of Kanchanaburi, across to the temple-dotted wonder city of Ayutthaya, and then deep into the north for shopping in Chiang Mai itself.
It’s a short, sharp hit of Thai culture that’s low on sunbathing but big on curiosities. We’d also say it then puts you in great stead to hop on a flight down to the islands once you’re done and relax on the beaches at your own pace – connections from Chiang Mai to Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui go daily so there are plenty of departure choices.
The best small group tours in Thailand – our conclusion
If you’re searching for the best small group tours in Thailand then you’ve come to the right place. The adventures we’ve listed above are the ones that we think really stand out from the crowd when it comes to offering once-in-a-lifetime trips to the fabled Land of Smiles. They’ll take you to the glimmering bays of the gulf islands, the rock-topped beaches of the Andaman, the sleepless heart of Bangkok, and the mountain towns of the north, all while focusing on offering personalized support and treatment.