Stunning mountainous scenery dotted with glistening waterfalls, lakes and rivers amidst lush green rice fields, Northern Thailand is one of the most unspoiled and beautiful areas in Thailand. Home to the highest mountain in the land (Doi Inthanon), Northern Thailand enjoys a cooler climate than the rest of the country, with temperatures reaching freezing in the highest areas. A variety of outdoor pursuits can be enjoyed here; from mountain biking, trekking, hiking, rock climbing, rafting and kayaking. Many backpackers come here to visit an elephant sanctuary – where former working and street elephants are now being cared for.
Northern Thailand also home to the country’s ethnic minorities; the Karen and Hmong hill tribes and the opportunity to arrange a homestay in a traditional village is available. Backpackers coming from bustling Bangkok and the touristy South of Thailand will experience a drastic change of pace here in the north… picturesque cities and quirky villages and a unique way of life will charms and enchants it’s visitors – so much so that you might end up staying here forever!
From the capital of the north, Chiang Mai, with its bustling weekend markets, hipster cafes and plethora of outdoor activities to the quieter town of Chiang Rai with the incredible White Temple and nearby hill tribe villages… the north of Thailand offers the backpacker much adventure! You will fall in love with the bohemian town of Pai, set in a lush green valley surrounded by waterfalls and hot springs and further West towards the Burmese border, the mountainous landscape of Mae Hong Son will blow your mind! On the way, be sure to stop of at beautiful Chiang Dao, famous for its bird watching and nature. All of the places mentioned are great places to arrange a trek into the nearby hills and visit hill tribe villages.
For a taste of Myanmar in Thailand, visit Mae Sot with its Burmese culture and food and mix of ethnic minorities. Or head East on a motorbike adventure to the little visited towns of Phayao and Mae Salong right on the norther border with Burma near the Golden Triangle with its tea plantations and Chinese Temples. And, perhaps on your onward journey into Laos, don’t miss a side of Thailand that backpackers rarely get to see, Issan (the north east), a vast empty area of rice fields that go on forever and authentic farming villages were it s very rare to see a foreign (farang) face. Before heading into Laos, many backpackers stay at the lively border town between Laos and Thailand of Nong Khai – famous for the mysterious ‘fire ball festival’ every November.
Destination Guides to North Thailand:
Check out our Trips in North Thailand!