There are plenty of good reasons to visit Thailand’s north, including history and culture, lush mountains, a cooler climate, and an altogether cheaper, more authentic experience. Chiang Mai is the region’s tourist hub, and from here you can set out on a mountain adventure.
With the Lanna Kingdom in the area pre-dating Siam, northern Thailand is soaked in ancient history with temples and ruins all over the region. Chiang Mai is a 700 year old moated city with some well preserved attractions, while Sukhothai to the south is a World Heritage site and one of Thailand’s best treasures. Chiang Rai, Lamphun and Chiang Saen all also claim ancient roots.
A charming ancient Old Town mingles with a busy but laidback tourist scene that includes trekking excursions, handicraft shopping, spas and soft adventure trips to remote hilltribes…more
Thailand’s northernmost point alongside the mighty Mekong River, bordering Laos and Myanmar, is the mythical epicentre of the former opium trade which kept the region rich…more
Mae Hong Son
Escape to the north’s remotest town, reached via a rollercoaster five-hour drive through spectacular mountain scenery on the Burmese frontier. Relax here or decamp to bohemian Pai…more
The site of Siam’s earliest proper Kingdom and a World Heritage site, perfectly preserved for a day of culture and fantastic pictures amongst the historic temples and towering chedis…more
Northern Thailand guide – Culture, history and adventure
Soft adventure is the other main attraction, including trekking, elephant riding, all sorts of exciting activities in the lovely national parks, plus multi-day excursions. Mae Hong Son, Pai, the Golden Triangle and Nan are all outreaches of the Kingdom that entail some scenic driving and a chance to escape into the lush, forested mountain interior of Southeast Asia.
While first-time visitors to Thailand tend to overlook the north for its lack of beaches, it does offer a more cultured, ancient and authentic Thai experience. Chiang Mai may have become a little crowded with tourist services, but it’s only a 20-minute drive to some wonderful national parks.
Beyond the region’s capital are some impressionable and remote mountain locations, including spectacular waterfalls, villages of colourful hilltribe folk, lofty and cool landscapes plus typical rural communities unchanged by a modernising Thailand. It’s worth setting aside a week or more to explore some of these options, from the remote eastern town of Nan to the fantastic Doi Inthanon National Park.