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Thailand is mostly known for its beautiful tropical beaches in the South. However, the Northern part does offer a lot as well. Chiang Mai, for example, offers the best night markets in Northern Thailand and I've never eaten Thai food so authentic and cheap as in this city. Another great thing that only can be experienced in the North is meeting people from hill tribe villages such as in the small mountain town Pai.

In 2019, I planned to see the North just for several days but ended up being there for two weeks. I came back home without even seeing the ocean but with lots of new friends and experienced adventures.

For those, who are seeking adventure travel and like to follow off-beaten paths, I've created this ten days Northern Thailand itinerary that can also be included in an existing itinerary.

Day 1-2: Arriving in Bangkok

You probably arrive in the bustling city of Bangkok (1), which is absolutely worth seeing and perfect for adjusting to Thailand's culture. Before heading North, I recommend spending two nights in Bangkok first, exploring your first temples here, visiting the vivid Khao San Road, and just getting to know the country itself.

Day 2-5: Travel to Northern Thailand

There are several ways to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (2), depending on your budget and your preference. Here are the three most popular options:

  1. The fastest and most convenient way is by plane. There are several airline companies operating flights daily from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The flight only takes a little more than an hour.

  2. Another option for heading North is by train and very popular, especially among backpackers that want to travel cost-efficiently. The train follows a beautiful path and shows the beauty of Thailand's countryside. The train ride takes around 11 to 14 hours.

  3. The cheapest option is by bus. As with the other two options, several companies operate daily. The journey itself takes 9 to 12 hours. It would be best to take a night bus and get some sleep during the trip.

No matter which option you took, after arriving in Chiang Mai you should stay three nights and visit the Buddhist temples of Chiang Mai, explore the historic old town, visit the many Chiang Mai Night Markets, and most importantly enjoy the best street food!

Day 5-7: Relaxing in Pai

After you spend your days in Chiang Mai it's time to change location again and drive or take a bus to Pai (3), a picturesque town in the mountains. Pai is known for its laid-back vibe and is perfect for doing some yoga, or meditation. Explore Pai Canyon, visit the hot springs, or take a cooking class while there. I recommend staying two nights here.

Day 7-8: Visiting Hill Tribe Villages in Mae Hong Son

Next, the destination is Mae Hong Son (4), a town surrounded by hills and forests. Here you have the chance to explore a nearby hill tribe village and learn more about their culture. There's also another Buddhist temple that can be visited that also offers a nice view. After one night in Mae Hong Son, it's time for changing location.

Day 8-10: Visit the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Chiang Rai

This will be your last destination while being in the Northern part of Thailand and an absolute highlight. Although you probably have seen lots of Buddhist temples (and do not want to see even one more) you can get excited about the temples in Chiang Rai (5).

There are two famous Buddhist temples:

  • the white temple (Wat Rong Khun)

  • and the blue temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)

Both are an absolute must-see while being in Chiang Rai. Another great thing to do is take a boat ride to the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet.

After spending two nights in Chiang Mai it'll be probably time to head back to Bangkok and catch your flight back home, or head South and explore the beauty of Thailand's beaches.

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