Northern Thailand is one of the regions in Thailand which is untouched and unexplored by many. Its the mountainous region which doesn’t get too cold throughout the year! The culture in this part is inspired by the Lanna, Shan, Karen and other indigenous groups. By far the friendliest part of Thailand I have traveled to. This is the right time to go explore it if you are one of those who dislike hyped up touristy places. To spend the best time in northern Thailand, I have put together an Itinerary you can follow. To know where and how you can spend your holiday. Basically I am jotting down all the things I covered in my six days around northern Thailand. You can alter the itinerary accordingly or add places like Chiang Rai and Chiand Dao which I did not cover.
Day 1 / Chiang Mai
Once I reached Chiang Mai, I checked into my hotel and went to explore my first destination which. Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temples in Chiang Mai which was built in the 19th century. They say that a hermit called Suthep lived on this mountain and the temple is named after him. The location of the temple makes the view from there magnificent. There are many fun superstitious beliefs which you can try out yourself at this temple. One of them is trying to lift a golden Elephant after making wish. If your wish is going to be fulfilled the golden Elephant will appear to be heavier. Try it! It is one of the most popular tourist attractions and the temple is literally dripping in gold. You have to go through 309 stairs to reach the temple as it is at the top of the hill but you can take the elevator too. After exploring the temple I spent the rest of the day in Chiang Mai.
Day 2 / Chiang Mai – Pai / Explore Pai
Next day I started my journey towards Pai taking the 1095 road which is known for its 762 curves. This road is one of the best I’ve been in Thailand. Perfect for a road trip. Once I reached Pai I took a stroll at the Memorial Bridge which was built during the world war 2. After that I checked into my hotel. I stayed at the Quarter which is just a minute’s walk from the night market. This hotel is one of the best in Pai. Pai is quite a small town with hippie culture! You will be amazed to see so many Western tourists here at the Reggae bars. Head to the night market and stuff yourself with Thai street food. Try the sticky rice pancakes and home made ice creams! There’s a lot to shop here, things are pretty cheap in this part.
Day 3 / Pai – Mae Hong Son
After having my breakfast you I started my journey to Mae Hong Son. This time the road I took had 1000 curves, roads with curves are very common in this region and extremely scenic. Driving around this region is crazy fun! There are many things you can do on the way to Mae Hong Son. My first stop was the Lod Cave. It is about an hour drive from Pai. The cave shows that even the dark spots can be beautiful. There are coffins which are 100 years old. The cave consists of three connected caves : Doll cave, Column cave, and Coffin cave. A visit to this cave will surely refresh your Geography class lessons on Stalagmites and stalactites. There are no artificial lights inside the cave and that’s why you have to be accompanied with a compulsory guide who carries a big lantern inside. I spent around an hour inside as there’s so much to see. The enchanting Nam river flows through the cave making it even more beautiful. You can get onto the bamboo rafts and go from one column of the cave to the other. Read more about Pai here.
Once you’re done with Lod cave continue your journey towards the Black Lahu Village which is also on the way to Mae Hong Son. You must communicate with the people at this village to know more about their life and what they do as a community. I have written an elaborate post about Black Lahu village here. Read this article for more information. Then I visited Ban Rak Thai village which is the last village of Thailand beyond which lies Myanmar. Its home to the Chinese community and feels like the Switzerland of Thailand. It has a beautiful lake and is famous for its tea plantations. Reached Mae Hong Son and rested up!
Day 4 / Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang
Woke up early to experience Tak Bat. It is a very important part of the Thai culture. Tak Bat is a ceremony which is performed early morning to offer alms to the Monks in return for their teachings they provide to the people. I went to the nearest morning market to see the local’s way of life and to buy fresh fruits and food for offerings to the monks. After this I went around sight seeing. Mae Hong Son has some beautiful waterfalls and hot springs which you should not miss. By noon start your journey towards Mae Sariang, this route is dotted with sticky waterfalls, hot springs and splendid views. Stop wherever you feel! I stopped at a tiny village called Pon City to see how they make hats in this region and then headed straight to Mae Sariang. Since I reached there pretty early I did a bit of sight seeing and then headed to the local night market which is always the favourite part of Asian towns.
Day 5 / Mae Sariang – Chiang Mai
On the fifth day I started my journey towards Chiang Mai. My very first stop was Boa Kaew – Silvicultural research centre. It is a Pine forest, gives you that Bollywood feel, great for photography. After which I headed to Op Luang National Park. If you love nature, you will love this place. It is the natural national park. There you can see many types of forests and magnificent sticky waterfalls. Do not forget to visit the Vachiratharn waterfall. Stop for a quick lunch at the Royal project. Then head towards Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. Doi Inthanon national park is full of incredible natural space with flora and fauna, camping and hiking sites. This national park is the starting point of the Himalayas. Do not forget to carry your layers because it gets a little cold in this part as this place experiences micro climate. After this I spent sometime at the Royal Pagoda, the view from the twin Pagodas is breathtaking! Then on the way I stopped at the Karen village which is famous for its coffee. This village has been producing coffee for over 30 years and every stage of the production is handled by the locals in the village itself. You can see how they make coffee and taste it too. Reached Chiang Mai had dinner and rested.
Day 6 / Ciang Mai
There is so much to do in Chiang Mai. The first thing I did was shopped. Visited the local markets and the mall near my hotel. Then headed to Bo Sang Umbrella village. The place where you can see many beautiful handmade umbrellas. They are all beautifully handcrafted and decorated. You can buy those umbrellas as
souvenirs. Also, watch the artisans making them. Had lunch at meena Rice Based Cuisine which is famous for the 5 types Thai rice, oh so colourful but everything is organic. Spent the afternoon at Baen Chang Elephant park, an ethical and sustainable eco tourism elephant sanctuary. Experienced how to bathe and feed Elephants, basically learnt how to take care of them. It is by far one of the best sanctuaries in Thailand to be close to Elephants. Good thing is they do not support Elephant riding. In the evening I went around the night market.
Day/7 Chiang Mai – Delhi
On this last day I managed to visit Royal Park Rajapruek, it was built on the 60th anniversary of the Majesty King. You can skip this if you are not too fond of gardens.Then I visited the MAIIAM contemporary art museum. This is a private museum owned by a family over 30 days. The art and culture of the family is permanently preserved there but the museum owner also lets other artists showcase their work. this place was rather rad and worth it. Right after this I headed to the airport to get back to Delhi.
Commute – Getting Around Northern Thailand
If you prefer to get around on your own you can book a car for the time you are there. Self driven or with a chauffeur, its pretty cheap in Thailand. Sometimes even cheaper than India, bargain everywhere possible in Asia (yes it works). Most major car rental companies operate in Thailand like Avis, Budget, National, Sixt and Hertz. I would recommend to hire a car and driver from one of the private companies at 2000 baht per day. This is perfect for a road trip around this region. Also, if you plan to do this itinerary by hopping on buses you can rent motorbikes or scooters in each town. If you are just doing Chiang Mai you can opt for uber or Songthaew (pronounced as songtail) the latter is cheaper and go for it if you do not mind sharing space with strangers.
Hope this road trip itinerary helps you when you are planning your trip to Northern Thailand. You can alter the itinerary as per your liking and added places like Chiang Rai which I did not cover. Hurry up and plan your trip since this part of Thailand is pretty untouched. If you ever need any help with itineraries from this part of the world you can get in touch with me on Instagram or on my mail and I will share it with you!