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Best places in North Thailand? Check out my Northern Thailand Travel Itinerary!

Updated: Jun 16

Impressive tempels near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand is an amazing country. We visited the North, Bangkok, Kanchanaburi and the South. We had the opportunity to do this trip together with local friends, which made it even more special and authentic. It was a trip to never forget!

This first blog post will cover the best places and things to see in the Northern Thailand.

Sawasdee Ka! Welcome to Northern Thailand

How to get there

Most people will arrive in Bangkok, and from there, you have a few options to reach Chiangmai:

  • Night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: This takes about 11 hours and is a budget-friendly option. First class bookings are recommended for comfort.

  • Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: This takes about 1 hour and is still cheap with airlines like AirAsia.

  • Car rental: Driving yourself takes around 10 hours without stops, but you can make interesting stops in Ayutthaya and Sukhothai along the way.

We decided to take the night train to experience the local public transport.

the Night train from Bankgkok to Chiang Mai in Thailand


  • It’s an easy way to get to the North. You arrive early in the morning.

  • No need to pay for a hotel night.

  • Onboard toilets and shower, beds made by the train staff.

  • Families can book connected cabins.


  • The train makes many stops, even during the night.

  • Limited visibility of the landscape as it gets dark early.

  • No food available on the train, so buy provisions beforehand.

  • Even First-class sleeping isn't very comfortable.

Once in the North, it's best to book a car hire or private driver to get around. Chiang Mai has many temples to visit that not close to each other.

Northern Thailand Travel Itinerary

Visited Places: Chiang Mai – Doi Suthep – Chiang Dao – Pai – Doi Inthanon

Chiang Mai

In Chiang Mai, you need at least 5 days to explore. If possible, include a weekend to visit the Weekend Night Market.

lovely pool at Lamphu House in Chiang Mai

Stay: We stayed at Lamphu House , a budget friendly hotel close to the city center and the airport. Very clean rooms, an industrial design, a nice swimming pool, and a great breakfast, it's excellent value at about 25 USD per night, including breakfast. Note that there is no elevator, and we stayed on the 2nd floor.

Fun things to do:

meeting the Thai elephants at the elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai
  • Visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: We researched to find an ethical and ecological sanctuary where elephants are well-treated. This sanctuary impressed us with its dedication to positive change. (no poaching, riding, overworking or abusing) We did the morning tour and enjoyed feeding, bathing and washing the elephants. Hotel pickup and a Thai lunch are included.

Find out more about elephants in Thailand in this interesting article of my dear friend Jenny.

lovely cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Follow a Thai cooking Class: We loved the Akha Kitchen evening class, where we cooked 11 dishes. For those who want to buy ingredients at a local market, the morning class is recommended.

It’s a fun way to learn about Thai cuisine and culture.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai, located high in the surrounding mountains. Chiang Mai. We visited in the evening to catch the sunset, and the view over the city was breathtaking.

Tips for Visiting Temples in Thailand:

  • Always take off your shoes

  • Cover your arms and legs

Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao cave in Northern Thailand

This small village is located at the base of Doi Chiang Dao Mountain, 75 km from Chiang Mai. The main attraction here is Chiang Dao Cave, which extends for almost 12 km. You can explore the lit areas on your own or take a guided tour deeper into the cave with a small oil lamp. Watch out the many bats!

Stay: near Chiang Dao is without any doubt: The Tree House Hideaway offers a unique and luxurious experience, and was one of the highlights of our trip.


Pai is a small village in the northwest with a cool, laid-back bohemian atmosphere. It's popular among backpackers, with many shops and bars on the main street. In the evening, food stalls offer delicious streetfood.

the beautiful garden of Pai Village Boutique hotel, Thailand

Stay: Pai Village Boutique Resort, in this beautiful boutique hotel along the banks of Pai River. It has a beautiful garden with rustic wooden cottages. We also loved the delicious breakfast here.

Things to Visit Near Pai:
Yun Lai viewpoint near Pai, Northern Thailand
  • Yun Lai Viewpoint: A 10-minute’s drive offers stunning views.

  • White Buddha Tempel: A meditative walk up 353 stairs leads to this majestic white Buddha overlooking Pai. Free entrance, open daily from 6 am to 6pm.

Doi Inthanon

views on the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon

A visit to this highest mountain (2565 m) is a must. Doi Inthanon National Park, known as “The Roof of Thailand”, covers an area of 482 km2. We visited in April, and the cooler temperatures (around 16 °C )during our hike were refreshing. The park features beautiful waterfalls and diverse bird species (around 500 different species).

Entrance fee: 300 Bath, Car: 30 Bath

Opening hours: daily from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm (Except for Kew Mae Pan Trail: closed from June to October)

Practical Tips for Traveling in Northern Thailand

  • Transportation: Renting a car is convenient, but buses and trains are also reliable and affordable.

  • Currency: The Thai Baht (THB) is the local currency. ATMs are widely available, but carry some cash for smaller purchases.

  • Weather: Northern Thailand can be cooler than the rest of the country, especially in the mountains. Pack accordingly.

Food and Dining

Northern Thai cuisine is distinct and delicious. Don’t miss out on trying these local dishes:

  • Khao Soi: A creamy, spicy noodle soup topped with crispy noodles.

  • Sai Oua: Northern Thai sausage made with herbs and spices.

  • Sticky Rice with Mango: A sweet and satisfying dessert.


We very impressed by the beauty and nature of Northern Thailand. Although April is the hottest month and also burning season, it’s not the best time to visit. The best period to visit Thailand is from November to February.

Want to read more about our trip? Check out my complete travel itinerary and more Thailand content here.

Plan your Affordable Luxury Trip to Northern Thailand

I hope you enjoyed reading about the Northern Thailand Travel Itinerary and discovering its hidden gems. If you need help planning your trip or want more information, feel free to contact me. Northern Thailand awaits with its blend of affordable luxury, iconic landmarks, and unique destinations!

 *Disclaimer: This post contains affiliated links which means that purchases made through these links reward Destination Explorer a small commission without any additional charge for the purchaser. 


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Jun 16
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Lovely itinerary! would you add Chiang Rai to a visit to Northern Thailand?


Wandering Wren
Wandering Wren
May 06, 2022

I am so happy that your long awaited family trip finally happened. Thank you for this comprehensive post about Northern Thailand. As you say it is challenging with the heat and the pollution at this time of year, so you know it was fabulous despite these issues. Can't wait to read the next post!

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