Even though Bangkok and the southern beaches and islands attract most tourists, northern Thailand has a surprising number of great places to visit. Trekking up mountains is possible, and many small towns are populated by locals whose lives are very different from those in the big Thai cities. The region is home to beautiful jungles and unspoiled landscapes. Include northern Thailand in your next Asia trip if you want to see hill tribes and elephants in their natural environment. From historical parks to the well-known entrance to the Golden Triangle, this list highlights some of the best places to visit in Northern Thailand.
Phrae City is not your typical destination for tourists because it has a long history dating back to the Lanna Kingdom of Thailand and is home to several amazing historic buildings. Because of its isolation, Phrae is not overrun by foreign tourists, allowing you to better understand the real Thai culture. Many of the buildings are also made of teak because of their central location. The rest of the old city walls, Pratabjai House, Khum Chao Luang, where the King and Queen of Thailand stayed, and Pratabjai House are not to be missed.
2. Mae Sai:
The northernmost destination in Thailand is Mae Sai. Visitors to Myanmar use the city as a starting point, but there is plenty to do there on its own. Open to the public, Wat Phra That Wai Dao is an impressive temple surrounded by a small Burmese temple. In addition, the gigantic scorpion statue with its claws pointing toward Myanmar should not be missed. This demonstrates the Thai people’s strength and past combat prowess. The local markets in Mae Sai are fantastic places to shop. Jewelry imported from Myanmar and items carved from local sandalwood is two of the most popular souvenirs.
Nan prospered as a city-state of the Lanna Kingdom in the 14th century due to its position between Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang. In 1931, Nan was officially reintegrated into Thailand, and the people who live there are extremely proud of their homeland and heritage. Start your trip to Nan by going to the Nan National Museum, which is housed in the palace where the city’s last two feudal lords lived. The Nan King’s Teak House, which dates to the 19th century, Wat Phumin, which dates back to the 16th century, and the lively boat races that take place on the Nan River are also worth a look.
Make a pit stop in the Thai city of Lampang in the Northern River Valley. The city’s historic buildings and artifacts show that people have been living there for more than 1,000 years. Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao, home to the stunning emerald Buddha statues, Bang Sao Nak, also known as the “House of Many Pillars,” and the ancient city itself are worth a visit. Admire the architecture of Wat Phra That Lampang Luang and the exquisite 19th-century murals in the ancient city. The Gad Gonta Night Market brings Lampang to life on Saturday and Sunday nights when you can buy drinks, snacks, souvenirs, and food.
5. Mae Hong Son:
Even though Mae Hong Son is in northern Thailand, the distinct culture of the area makes you feel like you’re in a different country. Myanmar is just across the border from Mae Hong Son, and most of the locals are Shan. Consequently, the city is a must-see with a distinctive atmosphere that sets it apart from the rest of the nation. In Mae Hong Son, hiking is a popular pastime, and many lodges offer guided outdoor tours. During your walks in the vicinity, you can see the Su Thong Pae Bamboo Bridge, Tham Phra Fish Cave, Pa Sua Waterfall, and Pan Tong Palace. Additionally, the city is a stop on the well-known Mae Hong Son Loop. This scenic drive takes approximately four days and begins and ends in Chiang Mai.
Pai is a laid-back Thailand destination that is popular with backpackers and has a thriving outdoor recreation scene. Take a whitewater rafting trip, take a guided tour through the mountains, watch elephants splash in the Pai River, bathe in the river, or hike to the incredible Tha Pai hot springs. Go to the bustling Laddamron Road for the best nightlife. Live music and many open-air bars can be found on the street. Visit Santichong, a small Chinese town outside the city, and the World War II Memorial Bridge for history.
Sukhothai was Thailand’s capital and heart in the 13th century, but it is now a small city known for its archaeological sites. A glimpse of life in northern Thailand more than 800 years ago can be seen at Sukhothai Historical Park. To see more ruins in a shorter amount of time, you can rent a bike. There are several sections to the park, each of which requires an entrance fee. Ruined temples, impressive bridges, and massive Buddha statues are all visible here, all surrounded by stunning stucco reliefs.
8. Chiang Mai:
Chiang Mai, which is known for its temples and elephants, is the largest and most well-known destination in northern Thailand. There are more than 300 temples in Chiang Mai, but Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep outside the city center, Wat Phra Singh with its stunning murals, and Wat Chedi Luang are among the best. A building masterpiece from the 15th century. Spend some time in Chiang Mai’s many markets, particularly the well-known Night Bazaar.