Thailand is incredibly diverse – the mountainous jungle up north is populated by numerous minority tribal groups and has stunning national parks, while tropical islands in the south have some of the world’s best beaches and diving spots. It is wonderful to contrast the mega-city bustle and excitement of Bangkok with relaxed and friendly provincial towns and villages. Traveling with us you’ll have the chance to taste a less-touristy slice of the country and uncover the true essence of Thailand.
This 6-week journey takes you through Thailand by exploring some of the most stunning beaches in the world in Koh Lanta, get hands-on in an environmental project, heading on to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary, and learn about mindfulness in a yoga and meditation retreat. Immerse yourself in local communities; discover Thailand’s fascinating cities and culture; explore the incredible jungle and beaches; gain skills with lessons in Buddhist meditation, scuba diving, and rock climbing. Join us on a journey to the heart of Thailand for a life-changing Mini Semester Program abroad!
✓ Want to relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world
✓ Are interested in immersing yourself in a new culture
✓ Love activities like scuba diving, yoga, rock climbing and Thai boxing
✓ Are enthusiastic about animal welfare and conservation
✓ Would like to discover spectacular temples, jungles and vibrant markets
This program helped me grow as an independent traveler while having my incredible instructors as guides to fall back on. I learned more about myself and I feel much more educated on culture and life in general post-program. I would recommend this program to literally anyone. Everyone could benefit from this and you’ll be able to succeed further in life after experiencing the world. Pacific Discovery offers this program to learn and see the world safely. I would tell my pre-program self to jump all in with both feet and take it all in! I loved this program and I’m grateful for the opportunity because I’m genuinely a changed person; I’m a better person because of my travels in Thailand, my instructors, and my group members!”
- Cabell Haneberg, 2021 Student
Our Program Quiz can help you find your perfect Program match! Or get the full Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions and testimonials!
We arrive in Bangkok, having journeyed from the West to the East. Our time will focus on getting to know each other and creating a positive and reflective group culture to support us in realizing our program goals. Then enjoy a yummy lunch at the market, where we can sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of market life around us. Hidden in the busy Bangkok streets are some of Thailand’s most beautiful religious and cultural sites, and this week we get to visit them and see their beauty in person. Including Wat Pho, The Grand Palace, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Arun, and many more!
After orientation, we take the train to the jungles and ruins of Ayutthaya, a historic city and kingdom in Thailand. This UNESCO World Heritage site was the capital of Siam for around 400 years and holds many grand monuments and temples. In Ayutthaya, we will head out on a tour of this magical city, seeing all of the sights and wonders that it has to hold, and all from a mountain bike!
Departing Ayutthaya, we journey to Sukhothai, another UNESCO World Heritage site that is famous for its ancient temples. 1000 years ago, Sukhothai was the capital of Thailand. Today it is a tranquil quintessential Thai town. We will explore the complex of temple ruins before continuing by minivan, north to Chiang Mai.
We start the week out by making our way to Chiang Mai and enjoy a delicious dinner at Chiang Mai’s famous night market. Concealed by the mountain ranges on all sides, Chiang Mai is rich in culture and tradition, filled with quaint shops and restaurants, and friendly, smiling locals.
We will be staying at an ethical elephant conservation park near Chiang Mai that aims to solve some of the problems surrounding elephant exploitation in Thailand. Despite a ban on logging, elephant habitat is still being lost and as few as 500 wild elephants are left within Thailand and they are threatened. Over 2,000 domestic elephants, trapped in the traditional elephant tourist industry, have a bleak future. We will be up close and personal with these kind and unforgettable animals for a few days, helping care for them and exploring the complex issue the animal conservation world is currently facing.
The end of the week is all about empathy and understanding. We will be based in the forest just outside of Chiang Mai and work to support one of the minority tribes in northern Thailand.
We will continue to work alongside a transparent NGO that helps to empower at-risk girls to end trafficking and exploitation within their communities and works to break the cycle of poverty in Thailand.
After finishing up our time volunteering near Chiang Mai, we head to Pa Pae for a yoga and meditation retreat! We begin our days with chanting and meditation, before getting a Buddhism and meditation workshop. We will then head out into the open to discover meditation with nature, the perfect way to find inner peace. We will also take part in some gardening before an Enlightenment Of Buddha Ceremony and a lantern bonfire in the evening!
Our week starts in Kanchanaburi, where we start to learn about a local organization that works to protect and reestablish wildlife corridors that allow animals to drink from the river Kwae. They also work on developing sustainable techniques and systems for living in harmony with nature.
We will spend our week gaining a better understanding of the state of the environment, biodiversity and conservation while being immersed in on-the-ground projects. We will explore issues of waste management at a recycling center, make the perfect mud bricks to build our own mud house, care for tree saplings at a tree nursery, and learn more about wildlife conservation and issues of exploitation at another elephant sanctuary. There will also be time to explore the surrounding area of Kanchanaburi, see stunning waterfalls, swim in the river Khwae, trek through the jungle, and spend a cosy night by the campfire.
When it’s time to say farewell to northern Thailand, we travel to Khao Sok National Park. This National Park is a remnant of the oldest and most diverse rainforest in the world, and is home to the largest flower in the world. Based from our very own treehouse, hidden amongst the jungles of this National Park, we will explore the area. We spend our days hiking, tubing and exploring this lush green jungle environment.
Next, it's time to open your mind with a morning session of yoga and meditation. There isn’t a place in the world more perfect to find inner peace than Khao Sok National Park. Bursting with beauty and tranquility, you’re sure to find your peace here.
Say goodbye to the jungle and hello to the beach as we head down South to Railay Beach! Railay is a peninsula on the mainland only accessible by boat, surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs, jungle and the clear waters of the Andaman Sea. It’s one like no other, and you are sure to fall in love with its golden sand and crystal clear water. We will get up high with a bit of rock climbing before taking out a kayak to explore the islands. On our last few days, we will take a morning hike up to a stunning viewpoint, learn to recreate the Thai dishes that we have come to love by now, and chill out on the beautiful beaches.
We head over to Koh Lanta, known for its stunning white beaches and tasty local cuisine. The first glimpse of Koh Lanta is truly mind-blowing. Luckily, we’ve got you covered and you will be experiencing a balance of the best bits. We will start with a three-day diving course! Southern Thailand is famous for many things, but the amazing scuba-spots are definitely at the top of that list! It’s time for us to explore the wonders of Koh Lanta from below the waves as we begin our exploration under the surface of the ocean.
We will also try our hands at Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as ‘Thai Boxing’. Immerse yourself in two days of lessons and learn the most famous form of boxing in Thailand and the country’s national sport. After our mind-opening time in Koh Lanta we head back to Bangkok to reflect and discuss our time here in Thailand. It’s been a wild ride and now it’s time to bid farewell to Thailand, your new friends, and your instructor, as you hop on board your flight and head off on your next adventure, wherever that may take you!
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.
✓ All in-program travel and transport
✓ All accommodation
✓ All meals (not including snacks)
✓ All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects and entry fees as described in the itinerary
✓ Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
✓ Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
✓ Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves
✓ Certificate of Program Completion
Low Activity Level: Anyone with an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this mini semester! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program.
Low Camping Level: You won't be camping on this program. You will spend your nights on this mini semester program in comfortable guesthouses and modern hotels.
Medium Service Learning Level: You will be able to make a difference to the local community during your stay. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and do some hands-on learning about local issues.
Our accommodation will vary from simple guesthouses and community homestays with shared facilities, to modern hotels with private bathrooms. Laundry and Wi-Fi will be available some days, except while on expeditions or on homestays. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.
Food is undoubtedly a highlight when travelling in Asia and throughout there will be the opportunity to eat authentic Asian food. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $10 per day for.
All meals are eaten out at restaurants due to the local culture and accommodation. An average day on program would consist of the following:
Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand
To make things easy for you, we partner with a full service travel agency that can arrange flights, appropriate travel insurance and post program arrangements for our students.
They have access to a "Cancel For Any Reason" or CFAR travel insurance for US citizens in participating states. This optional travel insurance product allows travelers to cancel for any reason whatsoever up to two days prior to departure and still receive a significant refund. This allows you to keep planning for the future while avoiding the stress and the financial worry of canceling a program if you need to.
Our program locations and itineraries have been carefully selected and modified to minimize risk of exposure to anyone outside the group with most being located in rural areas. This allows for a more focused learning environment, as well as a safe haven from the stress of our modern world.
We've been working hard and watching closely to any CDC recommendations about group sizes and testing requirements to come up with options that will allow you to have a safe, healthy, and stress-free Gap Year experience. We do the hard work so you can come and enjoy the fresh air, adventures, and new friends!
We have been running successful Thailand programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look!
Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.