The north of Thailand is home to some of the country’s most breathtaking natural wonders. Before reaching the hilltop village of Ban Jabo and receiving the warmest of welcomes, travellers will trek up into the mountains to meet Thailand’s remote hilltribe communities, depart from magnificent Chiang Mai and travel through a national park to Lahu and Karen villages, spend time with a shaman, explore deep caves by bamboo raft, and take in the lush jungle scenery.
Chiang Mai is bustling and can feel crowded at times, but if you take your time, you can still get a good sense of the relaxed way of life of the locals. It is a well-known backpacker centre, and there are many historic sites to visit in addition to tons of activities. On Sundays, the old quarter puts up a lively night bazaar, where you can sample a variety of delectable street foods and shop for trinkets. To fully appreciate the evening street food scene, take a street food tour.
Then there are the Buddhist temples, which can help you learn more about the beliefs and practises of Buddhism. Wat Chiang Man is the city’s oldest temple, Wat Phra Singh is its most revered, and Wat Phan Tao is its smallest and (potentially) most attractive.
A great starting point for excursions further into the northern jungles in Chiang Mai. You can go to various hill tribe villages like Ban Mae Jok, which have low-rise wooden houses and quiet green gardens surrounding them.
Visits to elephant sanctuaries are among the most well-liked activities in Chiang Mai. However, do your research to ensure that the sanctuaries don’t permit riding, have the elephants chained up, or use bullhooks or prods to control them. Ask your hotel about the best sanctuary; some of them have actually saved the elephants from a lifetime of labour.
Chiang Rai is the starting point for the more unknown regions of the north, close to the border with Laos, while Chiang Mai serves as a fantastic hub for the more well-known treks and excursions. You can go on a Mekong river cruise, visit the town of Mai Sai, which serves as a border crossing into Myanmar or visit the Opium Museum to learn more about the region’s history.
The ghostly but elaborate white temple of Wat Rong Khun is the architectural highlight of Chiang Rai, a small but lovely city. This is a great place to enrol in a cooking class so you can impress everyone back home if you want to bring something more impressive home than trinkets.
Some Thais view Lampang, also known as “Mueang rot ma,” or “horse carriage city,” as Thailand’s last paradise.
The capital of Lampang Province and the third-largest town in Northern Thailand is Lampang. The sizable town makes a good starting point for day trips or for recovering from a mountain hike. You’ll feel as though you’ve stumbled into an unexplored Thai town because it is still relatively undiscovered in terms of tourism compared to Chiang Mai.
Choose a cultural excursion to Lamphun (the former capital of the Hariphunchai Empire) and Lampang to explore their temples and historic ruins, giving you a glimpse into Thailand’s past, if you’re in Chiang Mai and want to spend the day in the Lampang Province.
The architecture and history of these temples from the Lanna era will stay with you for the duration of your trip, and there are plenty of temples to visit in this area. You’re probably beginning to realise how significant temples and religion are in Thailand, particularly in the north.
Mae Hong Son
Compared to some of its neighbours in Northern Thailand, Mae Hong Son is much more relaxed. The area also has a strong Burmese influence because it is so close to the border and has a more remote feel. This four-hour tour will give you an overview of Mae Hong Son’s top attractions so you can decide where to spend more time exploring for the remainder of your trip.
The Mae Hong Son Province includes the hippie town of Pai, which is a popular destination for travellers who want to see Northern Thailand. This location combines the best of both worlds with a bustling centre that hosts nightly food markets with a variety of foods from around the world, not just Asia. The remote atmosphere that visitors often yearn for after experiencing busy cities, with hostels and hotels tucked away among fields and mountains, and a scattering of unique bars and eateries to encourage socialising while exploring a new place. Get on a scooter and explore the various landmarks and tourist attractions in the area, including the Pam Bok Waterfall and the well-known Land Split.
Mountains and Beyond
The lovely marked trails of Doi Khun Tan National Park are located to the east of Chiang Mai. Traveling west will bring you to Mae Hong Son, also known as “the city of three mists,” which is encircled by the Shan Hills. Take the time to travel to places like Pai, a small hill station town popular for treks and activities within the Mae Hong Son Province and close to the Myanmar border, if breathtaking mountain scenery is your thing. And if rivers are more your style, continue north to the Kok River.
Thailand is more than just a beachside hammock and the busy markets of Bangkok. Check out our adventure tours in Thailand.