12 Best Places To Visit In Northern Thailand

Best Places To Visit In Northern Thailand

Published on August 31st, 2023

Welcome to Northern Thailand, a region renowned for its enchanting natural beauty and vibrant cultures.

Nestled between Laos and Myanmar, this area boasts thickly forested mountains inhabited by diverse hill tribes, each with its unique language and customs.

The provincial capital, Chiang Mai, beckons with its ancient temples dating back to the illustrious Lanna Kingdom, such as the awe-inspiring 14th-century Wat Chedi Luang and the sacred, gilded Doi Suthep Temple, which offers breathtaking views from the nearby Mt. Suthep.

Northern Thailand’s allure lies in its rich tapestry of cultures rooted in the legacy of the Lanna Kingdom, resulting in a unique and unmatched culinary experience.

Here, you can savor the delectable flavors that epitomize the local love for food.

But Northern Thailand isn’t just about flavorsome cuisine; it harbors some of the country’s most captivating natural wonders.

Its lush jungles, pristine landscapes, and mountainous terrains provide the perfect setting for trekking adventures and encounters with elephants in their natural habitat.

While many travelers flock to Bangkok or the southern beaches and islands, Northern Thailand offers an alternative and captivating destination.

Small villages dot the landscape, giving you an opportunity to experience a way of life vastly different from the bustling cities.

If you seek an immersive journey into Thailand’s heart, this list of top destinations in Northern Thailand is your gateway to exploring historical parks, delving into the unique hill tribe cultures, and discovering the allure of the famed Golden Triangle.

Prepare to be enchanted by the amalgamation of nature, culture, and gastronomy in this mesmerizing corner of Asia.

1. Chiang Mai

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The once prosperous capital of the Lanna Kingdom in Northern Thailand, is a captivating city offering a perfect blend of cultural heritage and natural beauty.

Surrounded by rugged mountains and lush forests, it provides a laid-back and traditional vibe distinct from bustling Bangkok.

The ancient city walls enclose a treasure trove of well-preserved temples, bustling markets, and narrow streets.

Atop the towering Doi Suthep Mountain lies the awe-inspiring Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, an ancient temple offering breathtaking views of the area.

Chiang Mai is also renowned for its vibrant night markets and walking streets, providing an array of goods and souvenirs.

Beyond the city, you can explore Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest peak, with stunning waterfalls and diverse flora and fauna.

Visiting traditional hill tribe villages allows you to experience their unique customs and way of life.

A highlight of Chiang Mai is its delectable culinary delights, including famous dishes like khao soi noodles and mouthwatering street snacks, promising a delightful gastronomic experience.

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2. Sukhothai Historical Park

Sukhothai Historical Park thailand

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Located in the lower northern part of Thailand, holds immense historical significance as the first capital city of Siam in the 13th Century, founded by King Ramkhamhaeng.

Often called the cradle of Thai civilization, it preserves the essence of traditional art and architecture seen throughout the country.

The massive Sukhothai Historical Park allows visitors to bike around well-preserved ancient structures from the 13th Century, offering a glimpse into the glory of the Sukhothai Kingdom.

From the grand Wat Maha That to the impressive 15-meter high Buddha Image at Wat Si Chum, the ancient sites in Sukhothai are truly remarkable.

While once the heart of Thailand, Sukhothai is now a smaller city renowned for its historical ruins.

The Sukhothai Historical Park offers a captivating journey into Thailand’s ancient past, featuring well-preserved temples, monuments, and ruins.

Renting a bicycle is the best way to explore the sprawling park, divided into five zones that showcase the evolution of Sukhothai’s art and culture over time.

The serene atmosphere and lush greenery make it an ideal place for contemplation and reflection, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking insight into Thailand’s rich history.

3. Pai

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It is a picturesque town in Northern Thailand, nestled in the Mae Hong Soon Province along the Pai River.

It offers a wealth of natural attractions, such as gorges, hot springs, and waterfalls like Mo Paeng Waterfall.

The charming Pai Walking Street is filled with food stalls and handicraft shops, while the nearby Baan Santichon showcases a traditional Chinese village with Yunnan cuisine.

For adventure seekers, Pai provides exciting activities like white-water rafting, trekking in the mountains, tubing down the river, and observing elephants in the Pai River.

Nightlife thrives on Raddamrong Road, with open-air bars, live music, and affordable drinks.

Historical sites like the World War II Memorial Bridge and the Chinese village of Santichon offer cultural insights.

South of town, Pai Canyon captivates with its narrow ridges, deep ravines, and breathtaking views of lush green valleys and distant mountains, making it a favorite spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts.

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4. Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son thailand

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An exceptional road trip in Thailand, starting and ending in Chiang Mai. Covering 600 km, it takes travelers on a breathtaking journey around the remote northern province of Mae Hong Son.

The region’s stunning landscapes make it one of the best road trips in the country.

Mae Hong Son, though located in Northern Thailand, offers a distinct cultural experience that sets it apart from the rest of the country.

Bordering Myanmar, the area is influenced by the Shan ethnic group, giving it a unique atmosphere.

Trekking is a popular activity in Mae Hong Son, with many accommodation options providing guides for outdoor exploration.

Visitors can enjoy notable attractions such as the Su Tong Pae Bamboo Bridge, Tham Pla Fish Cave, Pha Sua Waterfall, and Pang Tong Palace during their treks.

5. Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai thailand

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A must-visit province in Northern Thailand, may seem like a sleepy town, but it offers much more than meets the eye.

It is home to the stunning White Temple, known for its intricate glass sculptures and unique design.

Chiang Rai’s rich history is evident in the ancient city of Chiang Saen, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge.

The province’s artistry is showcased in attractions like the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten), blending traditional and contemporary Thai architecture.

The Night Bazaar in the city center offers a vibrant market experience with local handicrafts and delicious street food.

Chiang Rai also serves as a gateway to the famous Golden Triangle, where you can explore the Mekong River, visit nearby villages, and experience the diverse cultures and lifestyles of the region.

Include Chiang Rai in your itinerary while exploring the wonders of Northern Thailand.

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6. Lampang

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It offers a unique and tranquil cultural experience. As the gateway to the Lanna Kingdom, it showcases traditional Burmese-inspired teakwood architecture.

One of its highlights is Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat, a photogenic temple perched on a limestone mountain, providing a breathtaking sight.

Known as the ‘City of Horse Carriages,’ Lampang exudes a nostalgic charm with its well-preserved historic district, featuring teakwood houses and local markets.

A visit to Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, an impressive temple dating back to the 13th century, is a must for its serene Lanna-style architecture and revered Buddha image.

Nature enthusiasts can explore Doi Khuntan National Park, boasting lush forests, scenic trails, and stunning waterfalls.

Animal lovers should head to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center for an immersive experience with these majestic creatures, offering activities like elephant rides and river bathing.

Lampang is a peaceful and enchanting destination, perfect for creating lasting memories away from the crowds.

7. Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon thailand

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Thailand’s highest mountain at 2,565 meters, offers a refreshing change from typical Thai weather with cooler temperatures and occasional frost in winter.

Located near Chiang Mai, it is a must-visit destination in Northern Thailand.

Within Doi Inthanon National Park, visitors can admire stunning waterfalls like Wachirathan and Mae Ya, and embark on hikes such as the Kew Mae Pan trail, offering breathtaking views of sea clouds hovering above the valley.

The park’s high elevation creates a unique climate, making it a haven for diverse flora and fauna.

Well-maintained trails wind through lush forests, allowing visitors to explore the natural beauty of the area.

At the Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon, guests can learn about the local flora and agricultural practices in picturesque gardens.

Doi Inthanon National Park is a captivating escape with its misty mountains, waterfalls, and abundant greenery, defying the tropical weather stereotypes associated with Thailand.

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8. Nan

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An upcoming pearl in Northern Thailand, boasts a rich history and unique culture that rival popular destinations like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

Once an independent kingdom, Nan has preserved beautiful remnants of its ancient past, including the well-preserved murals at Wat Phumin, showcasing scenes of Buddha’s life cycle and local life from the Nan Kingdom era.

The city’s architecture stands out with its own White Temple (Wat Ming Muang) and the Golden Temple of Wat Sri Panthon.

Nan is also home to the extraordinary Sinthao Salt Pond Village, where locals have been making salt for centuries.

Nature enthusiasts will be enchanted by Nan’s stargazing opportunities at Doi Samer Dao, offering a stunning panoramic view and a chance to witness the Milky Way like nowhere else in Thailand.

Nestled amid lush mountains and verdant valleys, Nan is a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper exploration of Northern Thailand beyond the popular tourist spots.

The town’s rich heritage and well-preserved historical sites, including Wat Phumin and the Nan National Museum, offer a captivating journey into the region’s fascinating history and indigenous culture.

Consider taking a boat trip along the Nan River to immerse yourself in the picturesque countryside during your visit to this remarkable province.

9. Mae Sai

Mae Sai thailand

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It is a renowned shopping area in Chiang Rai province, situated at the border with Tachileik, Myanmar.

Popular with both foreign tourists and locals, the market offers a diverse range of goods, including jewellery, gemstones, electric appliances, clothing, accessories, shoes, and snacks.

Tourists can walk across the border to Myanmar after obtaining a border pass or joining an organized tour group.

Mae Sai, the northernmost destination in Thailand, is more than just a stepping stone to Myanmar; it has its attractions too.

Wat Phra That Wai Dao, a beautiful temple open to the public, and a smaller Burmese temple are must-visit sites.

The town also features a striking giant scorpion statue symbolizing Thailand’s strength and past military prowess.

In addition to its cultural attractions, Mae Sai is a great place for shopping at local markets, with popular souvenirs including imported jewels from Myanmar and intricately carved items made from local sandalwood.

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10. Phrae

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Often overlooked by travelers passing through to Nan, holds a treasure trove of untouched nature and hidden gems.

From unique rock formations at Pae Muang Pee Forest Park to the hidden spots of Mae Yom National Park, Phrae offers a perfect blend of tradition and nature.

With a history dating back to the Lanna Thai Kingdom, Phrae boasts remarkable historic structures and teak wood residences from the old Phrae Kingdom.

Being off the beaten path, the city provides an authentic Thai experience without the crowds of international tourists.

Visitors can explore teak-built attractions like Pratabjai House, Khum Chao Luang, and remnants of the old city wall, immersing themselves in the city’s rich heritage and natural beauty.

11. Golden Triangle

Golden Triangle thailand

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A mountainous region where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge, located at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers.

It was once notorious for opium production but has now become a popular tourist destination known for its scenic surroundings, including rice paddy fields, tribal villages, and mystical mountains.

Sop Ruak, a small village, is the center of Thailand’s Golden Triangle.

Today, visitors can explore the region’s cultural diversity and natural beauty, with boat trips along the rivers offering stunning views where the three countries meet.

The Hall of Opium Museum in Chiang Saen provides insights into the history of opium production and efforts to combat drug trafficking in the area.

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12. Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao thailand

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Chiang Dao, meaning “City of Stars,” is nestled above the Menam Ping gorge on Doi Chiang Dao Mountain, the third highest mountain in Thailand.

The area is known for its impressive limestone peaks and a picturesque village with a tranquil northern Thailand atmosphere.

Located in Chiang Dao National Park, the region experiences fog for most of the year, maintaining cool temperatures during winter and rainy seasons.

The main attraction is the Chiang Dao Cave, a vast complex of interconnected caverns boasting impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.

Inside the caves, visitors can find sacred shrines and statues, creating a mystical ambiance.

Hiking enthusiasts can conquer Doi Chiang Dao, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.

Alternatively, those seeking a cultural experience can visit Wat Tham Pha Plong, a hillside temple with over 500 steps providing panoramic countryside views and a serene environment for meditation.

Chiang Dao is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and those looking for a peaceful retreat in northern Thailand.

Intrigued by the wonders of Northern Thailand? Embark on a journey beyond the bustling cities and popular tourist destinations, and discover the hidden gems that await in this enchanting region.

From the lush forests of Doi Inthanon to the mystical Chiang Dao Cave, the beauty and diversity of Northern Thailand are sure to captivate your senses.

Immerse yourself in the rich cultures of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Phrae, and marvel at the ancient temples and historical sites that whisper tales of the past.

Venture off the beaten path to explore the tranquil villages and experience the warmth of Thai hospitality.

Don’t miss the chance to witness the breathtaking landscapes, taste the delectable local cuisine, and create unforgettable memories in the “City of Stars” and beyond. Northern Thailand awaits your curiosity – so come and explore!

Map OF The Best Places To Visit In Northern Thailand



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