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Thailand offers everything you would expect from a tropical destination, whether it’s the idyllic islands in the south or the mountainous green landscape of the north. Then there are all the cultural highlights; the gorgeous temples, the mountain tribes, and the local food in northern Thailand. You have to experience all of it, which is why we’ll be to trying to persuade you to visit the north of Thailand as well!

Did we mention that we love Northern Thailand?!

Let’s put it like this: we lived in the north for six months, and there wasn’t a day that went by that we weren’t blown away by how beautiful this part of Thailand is.

The vibrant and green landscape, scattered with neatly trimmed rice paddies surrounded by mountain tops, covered in layers of morning fog, changed every day – especially during the rainy season. It was an absolute privilege to live there.

Do yourself a favor, read the list below and incorporate Northern Thailand into your itinerary. You definitely won’t regret it!

1. Nice and cheap!

The north of Thailand is cheaper than the south in every way. Transport is especially cheap. For just a few euros you can go on long, meandering rides through the mountains, which is much cheaper than having to pay for a speedboat to take you to a tropical island.

The food is incredibly cheap as well, and there are excellent local restaurants serving traditional Thai dishes everywhere. Have the Khao Soi – a yellow, coconut flavored curry with soft chicken and egg noodles!

Road 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai

Road 1095 from Chiang Mai to Pai

2. Waterfalls, mountains, jungle, and caves

Northern Thailand is blessed with green mountains, hidden waterfalls, and miles of dense jungle. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and never ceases to amaze.

Rent a motorbike or a car and go on an awesome road trip. We highly recommend going from Pai to Mae Hong Son along road 1095. It will take you past viewpoints, caves, waterfalls and authentic mountain villages.

On the road to Lod Cade at Soppong

On the road to the Tham Lod Cave at Soppong.

3. More freedom!

We feel freer in Northern Thailand. Here, you’re not dependent on an expensive ferry or speedboat to take you places. No, it’s you who decides when and where to go.

Even if you don’t have a private mode of transport, it’s possible to arrange for a taxi and put together a tour. Enough taxi drivers are willing to drive you around for a fixed price. For a private cab, expect to pay between 1,000 and 2,000 baht per day. You’ll be free to go wherever you feel like!

The view from Phu Chi Fa-mountain in Chiang Rai

The view from Phu Chi Fa-mountain in Chiang Rai. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

4. People are friendly(-ier)

We noticed that the people in the north of Thailand are a lot more laid-back than citizens in Bangkok – or anywhere else in Thailand. Go to any village in the area; you’re guaranteed to be welcomed by those traditionally Thai smiles lighting up the faces of Thai children, cheerfully greeting you by calling out “Hellllooooo”.

Thailand is famous for its friendly locals

Thailand is famous for its friendly locals. Photo credit: Josch13

5. The food is lovely (and cheap!)

Thai cuisine is fabulous, and there are lots of excellent restaurants around – particularly in the north. All the food served here is freshly prepared and cheap. You can order a whole table full of different dishes, rice, and drinks, for two persons, for a mere 200 baht. So keep the Khao Soi (yellow coconut-favored curry with fried noodles), the Sai Oua (Thai sausage) and the Pad Se Ew (thick noodles) coming!

Are you in the north? Then definitely try Khao Soi!

Are you in the north? Then definitely try Khao Soi!

6. Less tourists

Of course, Chiang Mai and Pai have become quite popular during the last few years, but in Northern Thailand, it’s easy to escape the hordes of tourists. Also, you’re not approached as much on the street (like taxi or tuk-tuk drivers) then you are in Bangkok or in the south.

Pai Walking Street

The insanely fun Walking Street in Pai. Highly recommended!

7. Diverse (mountain)temples

Of course, you know about Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai or the Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, but there are so many other remarkable, though less known, temples in Northern Thailand. Go on a quest and discover some of them, like these mountain temples in Lampang!

Wat Phrabat Pu Pha Daeng in Lampang

Wat Phrabat Pu Pha Daeng in Lampang. Photo credit: Thanate Tan

8. Interesting mix of cultures

The north of Thailand oozes atmosphere and culture. A testament to that are the border towns near Mae Hong Son, the mountain tribes that live in the middle of the jungle (not the touristic Long Necks!) or the diverse array of temples in and around Chiang Mai. To know exactly where you are, just check any local menu. Fantastic!

A local farmer in Mae Hong Son

A local farmer in Mae Hong Son

9. Less dependent on the weather

It’s great when it’s sunny and it doesn’t rain – this goes for Northern Thailand as well, of course. Still, can you see yourself sitting on a beach dressed in a poncho? Probably not. But if the weather’s bad in the north of Thailand, you can still go on jungle walks, mountain hikes or just relax on your dry balcony in Pai.

A sunny shower, as seen from our little balcony in Pai.

A sunny shower, as seen from our little balcony in Pai.

10. The luminous rice fields of Thailand’s north

During the rainy season (June to October) you can enjoy gorgeous rice paddies in the north of Thailand. The dry paddy fields of the previous months have turned into vibrant green plots of land plowed by farmers using buffaloes. This is what you want to see; the tourist highlights interspersed with local life!

You'll come across beautiful rice paddies

You’ll come across beautiful rice paddies

Domestic flights from north to south Thailand

Don’t forget that in Thailand it’s very easy to travel long distances cheaply (and quickly!).

Domestic flights are often very cheap; it’s possible to fly from one side of the country to another for less than 25 dollars. Check out the best ways to find the cheapest domestic flights here!

Besides domestic flights, you can also take the sleeper train. You’ll be traveling hundreds of miles while sleeping – and it’s pretty adventurous too. Mariska compared it to a school trip. Here’s how to book a ticket for the sleeper train in Thailand!


What do you think of Northern Thailand?



Author Sander

Former elementary school teacher, storyteller, sports enthusiast, and adventurer. Love to do the "impossible", which is usually the exact opposite of what’s expected.

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