7 Best Places To Visit In Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand is an incredibly beautiful part of the world, blessed with rolling hills and mountain ranges, huge swathes of green space and the glory of the great outdoors.

For many Western tourists in particular, the North of Thailand remains relatively unexplored — at least compared with Bangkok and the tourist-heavy islands.

We’ve put together this guide to the best towns and cities to visit while ‘up north’, all of which will provide great insight into the nature, history and culture of unique Northern Thailand.

Let’s take it away…

Post Contents

Chiang Mai

northern thailand

Northern Thailand’s largest city is overflowing with charm and culture, and is the hub of an abundance of things to see and do, including bustling street markets, incredible restaurants, fantastic nightlife, intriguing temples, and plenty of places to chill out in the sunshine and enjoy the view.

The city is the former seat of the Lanna kingdom, and within the walls and moats of the Old City at the heart of Chiang Mai lies a rich tapestry of history and traditional Thai culture.

What’s more, it is surrounded by a breathtaking landscape of rainforest covered mountains, tumbling cascades, and rolling hills, dotted here and there by the villages of the local Hill Tribe peoples.

Factor in plenty of time here during your trip to Thailand — you’ll still be hard pressed to explore all the delights Chiang Mai has to offer.

>> Read our complete guide to Chiang Mai

Hotel pick: Chala Number6

hotels in chiang mai

Chala Number 6 is a modern and exclusive boutique city hotel featuring all the comforts and amenities of a five star property yet inspired by the historic Lanna era.

The hotel compound consists of rooms and suites surrounding a communal core with swimming pool, crowned at its centre by an exquisitely carved traditional lhong, or rice barn, where cultural activities and arts and crafts are held each day.

Spacious accommodations are richly furnished in a typically Thai style, and feature private balconies with city or garden views, en suite bathrooms, cable/satellite TV, and air conditioning.

The hotel also boasts a state of the art fitness centre, a stylish Lanna contemporary dining room serving classic Thai dishes and international cuisine, and a bar.

  • Central location
  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Fitness centre
  • Bar

north thailand

Chiang Dao

north thailand

By Andrea Schaffer (CC BY 2.0 licence)

Less than 50 miles north of Chiang Mai in a fabulous jungle setting at the foot of Doi Chiang Dao mountain, Chiang Dao is a gateway to some excellent hiking and nature watching experiences, as well as being blessed with one of Thailand’s deepest and most interesting caverns marked by the venerated temple Wat Tham.

On Tuesday mornings a sprawling flea market takes over the town, and there are also some first rate restaurants to enjoy here all week too.

From Chiang Dao it’s just a half hour drive to Pha Daeng National Park, where there are some spectacular waterfalls and soothing hot springs.

Hotel pick: Azalea Village

hotels in chiang dao

Not far from the Chiang Dao city centre in beautiful natural surroundings with stunning mountain views, Azalea Resort has 21 charming individual 1 and 2 bedroom cottages furnished in traditional Thai style and decorated in warm tones with solid hardwood floors.

Each cottage features a seating area, private outdoor terrace, en suite bathroom, LCD TV, air conditioning and refrigerator.

The resort features a luxurious spa and wellness centre for the ultimate in relaxation, and the Azalea Restaurant creates delicious Thai and international cuisine using only the finest local, seasonal ingredients.

  • Spa and wellness centre
  • Swimming pool
  • Restaurant
  • Bar

north thailand

Chiang Rai

best place to go in northern thailand

It may be small as cities go, but the delightful provincial town of Chiang Rai has a unique feel all of its own, and harbours an impressive collection of nearby attractions.

The area is perhaps most famous for the incomparable White Temple, studded with glass that glitters like diamonds, and its opposite — the Black House — which holds eerie and surreal works of art by Thai artist Thawan Duchanee.

Chiang Rai is also an excellent base for white water rafting on the Kok river, experiencing a visit to one of the nearby local hill tribe villages, or exploring the blissful Singha Park in the heart of the city.

>> Read our complete guide to Chiang Rai

Hotel pick: Nak Nakara Hotel

hotels in chiang rai

This fashionable 4 star hotel in the centre of Chiang Rai offers elegant rooms with en suite bathrooms, individual climate control, satellite TV, Wi-Fi, a safe and a work desk.

Some rooms have a view looking out across the lovely hotel gardens or the vast outdoor swimming pool with poolside snack bar.

Close to many attractions including the Walking Street market and Hill Tribe Museum, Nak Nakara Hotel also has a spa and wellness centre where guests can relax and unwind with a Thai massage, a fitness centre, and there is an excellent restaurant nearby.

  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Spa and wellness centre
  • Fitness centre
  • Snack bar

north thailand



By Patty Ho (CC BY 2.0 licence)

Pai is well known as a laid back mountain town set in a pretty valley with a bohemian atmosphere.

It’s a great place to try out some of the nearby activities like bamboo rafting and elephant trekking.

It’s also a great destination to just come and chill out and soak up the ambience. The walking street market comes alive at night and is a fantastic spot for shopping and cheap eats.

There are numerous cafes, bars and restaurants, and if you come to party you won’t be disappointed.

>> Read our complete guide to Pai

Hotel pick: Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm

hotels in pai

The picturesque 4 star Pai Village Boutique Resort & Farm has a lovely rural setting in lush gardens surrounded by mountains on the banks of the Pai River.

Touting a rustic chic vibe, accommodations are Thai style cottages, each with cosy interiors, private terraces, and en suite bathrooms.

American classics and traditional Thai fare is served at The Blue Ox restaurant, and the bar serves creative cocktails, fine wines, and spirits.

Traditional Thai massage using organic herbs grown in the resort’s gardens are available at the resort spa.

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Spa and wellness centre

north thailand


where to go in north thailand

By mohigan (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Situated in the wide Nan River valley in Thailand’s northernmost province, Nan is a surprisingly cosmopolitan town rich in history and culture.

Originally settled by migrants from China, Burma and Laos among others, the mix of cultures can be seen in the local architecture, temples, and art.

This attractive riverside town boasts a lively city market, fine architecture, museums, and stunning national parks.

It’s also home to some of the best restaurants in the north, and there are miles and miles of rocky mountains to explore for the intrepid traveller.

Hotel pick: Nantrungjai Boutique Hotel

nan hotels

56 super chic air conditioned rooms are available at the 4 star Nantrungjai Boutique Hotel, each benefiting from private balconies or terraces, en suite bathrooms, 32-inch plasma televisions with cable, refrigerators and minibars.

Located just a short hop from the city centre and close to the airport, the hotel invites guests to take a dip in the open air pool with poolside bar, or borrow a bicycle to explore the delightful city of Nan on two wheels. Thai, Chinese and international cuisine is available at the hotel restaurant.

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Outdoor swimming pool

north thailand

Mae Hong Son

northern thailand

By Steven Belcher (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

Remote and tranquil, Mae Hong Son, near the Burmese border, is ringed by majestic mountains which offer visitors the chance to experience many different outdoor adventures including excellent trekking through incredible jungle scenery and boat trips on the river.

This non touristy town is laid back and friendly, and a dominant feature is the serene lake in the centre which makes for a idyllic setting for a picnic or drinks, or a workout at the outdoor gym.

There are also several Shan style temples, a venerated bamboo bridge, a weekend market with delicious street food, and a smattering of good restaurants and cafes.

Hotel pick: The Imperial Mae Hong Son Resort

hotels in mae hong son

The 3 star Imperial Mae Hong Son Resort sits in a private patch of tranquil teak woodland just 10 minutes away from the airport and a short distance from Mae Hong Son town.

There are 104 well furnished rooms and suites beautifully decorated with touches of local ethnic décor, and benefiting from private balcony, en suite bathroom, refrigerator, and satellite TV.

The large free form swimming pool close to the spacious garden is the perfect place to relax with a drink and snacks from the pool bar.

The open air Golden Teak restaurant offers a romantic setting to enjoy authentic northern Thai dishes as well as a selection of International Cuisine.

  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Balconies with views

north thailand


north thailand

Due to being a major thoroughfare for people travelling from Chiang Mai to the rest of the north, Lampang is often overlooked as an actual destination.

It is in fact the second largest northern city, and whilst it may not be bursting with attractions this riverside town is nonetheless blessed with some glorious antique buildings and temples, fabulous markets, a pleasant river front promenade, and a growing number of cosmopolitan cafés and restaurants.

It’s also known for it’s cheerfully painted horse drawn English style carriages, which make for a fun change from a tuk tuk for getting around.

Hotel pick: Karpenter Lampang

hotels in lampang

Transformed from an 30 year old house into stylish minimalist loft style accommodation, this five bedroom house located in downtown Lampang offers unique rooms for travellers who are looking for a peaceful and friendly place to stay.

The 5 rooms are named for different woodworking tools, and are decorated using industrial chic wood, concrete and steel details.

All rooms feature a flat screen TV, en suite private bathroom, and air conditioning. A communal lounge and kitchenette area provides a place to meet fellow guests and to make a coffee or tea.

north thailand

Which are your favourite places in Northern Thailand?



About Author

Staff Writer for What's On Sukhumvit

Comments are closed.