Is Northern Thailand worth visiting?
A question asked by many when planning a visit to Thailand and one which has a simple answer – YES, YES, YES!
In fact, if you are only able to visit one part of Thailand in your lifetime, make sure you make it Northern Thailand.
There is so much to experience and do in Northern Thailand that you could spend a lifetime of holidays exploring the region. Stunning mountains, fascinating culture, more outdoor activities than you can shake a stick at, cool hotels to relax and re-charge your batteries, superb food, no crowds and, we have to say this, incredible Tuk Tuk Adventures!
So why should you visit Northern Thailand?
For many people their first thought of Thailand is of islands and beaches or perhaps the grid-locked streets of Bangkok. But, the mountains are where Thailand keeps her real beauty and the North is where the mountains are at their best.
From the towering peak of Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, at over 2,500 metres to the never ending rolling peaks of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, mountains define the North and give it it’s serious ‘wow’ factor.
If you just like soaking up the views there are plenty of accessible places to drive to and to stay with stunning views. If you are more active and enjoy hiking and trekking then you’re not going to be disappointed. And if you’re somewhere between the two then there are Tuk Tuk Adventures through the mountains giving you the best of both worlds!
Thailand has for decades sold itself on it’s culture and warm and friendly people and the North is where this is at it’s best. With many different Hill Tribe communities to explore and learn about, all with their own different languages, culture and ways of life and a laid back, gentle way of life in the valleys, Northern Thai people are incredible warm and welcoming to visitors from overseas giving you the opportunity to experience for yourself the charm that travellers fell in love with 30+ years ago in other parts of the country before they became a little ‘over-done’.
Head a short distance from any town and into a small community and you’ll find people happy to chat, delighted to help you sample local specialities and to show you why Northern Thailand really is the best destination in the country.
Activities and Adventure
Northern Thailand is the countries hub for action and it’s the perfect destination for anyone looking to get out and about and explore. From kayaking along rivers to climbing cliffs, from hiking through deep forest to driving Tuk Tuks along remote mountain roads. And for the super fit, there is some of the best cycling anywhere in the world. You don’t have to be an adventure junkie to enjoy Northern Thailand but if you are, you’ve definitely come to the right place.
Amazing hotels and places to stay
Northern Thailand has a great range of places to stay for all budgets – from the super luxurious Four Seasons resorts in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to Karen Camping experiences in a remote forest clearing. Swish ‘city’ hotels such as 137 Pillars and the Anantara to lovely wooden bungalows perched over rice terraces. And, you can now take advantage of Thailand’s current love for camping with some incredible ‘glamping’ opportunities throughout the whole region. The theme however that holds all these options together is the lovely laid back nature of the North, the focus on incredible views across mountains, valleys, rice fields and tiny communities and the sense that this is how a holiday really should be.
Thailand is rightly feted around the world for it’s food and one of the joys of travelling anywhere in the country is the awesome food on every corner. And the North is no different – brilliant food often served in stunning locations. And of course Northern Thailand is home to Khao Soi – one of the tastiest dishes anywhere in the country. We challenge you only to have one bowl per sitting – it’s just not possible!
For much of the year the weather in the North of Thailand is perfect for exploring. In the winter it’s noticeably cooler than the rest of the country – and in fact up in the mountains it can get quite cold overnight and in the early mornings – perfect for trekking, cycling etc. And in the rainy season, whilst you may get wet in the odd downpour, the sense of adventure when travelling through lush forest in full bloom and beautiful rice fields is magical. The summer (March to May) can be pretty hot in the North – and hotter than much of the rest of the country – but humidity levels are always lower than steamy Bangkok and the South and no matter where you are there’s always a cool coffee shop to rest in the shade and refuel/
Everyone’s heard of The Grand Palace and Wat Pho in Bangkok, and at times it can feel that everyone in the world is visiting at the same time. Head to Northern Thailand however and you can experience not only some of the most significant Temples in Thai culture but also some of the most beautiful, the most remote and those with the most wow factor. And, other than a handful of very famous Temples in the region, you’re not going to be pushed around as crowds all try to get the same perfect selfie shot!
For many, a visit to Thailand is not complete without being able to see and learn about elephants, Thailand’s national symbol. Whilst you can see elephants elsewhere in the country, Northern Thailand has some of the very best options to visit these wonderful animals surrounded by forest and mountains. From small private elephant homes to the opportunity to hike deep into the forest to observe elephants going about their daily lives, there is no better part of the country to get a sense of the majesty of these incredible animals.
Value for money
Thailand has long been known as offering great value for money as a holiday destination but over the past few years the islands and beaches of the South have become more and more expensive as has Bangkok. But Northern Thailand, whilst it does it’s fair share of very expensive places to stay, still offers incredible value for money and a genuine welcome for travellers. Head just a little way into the mountains and you’ll find stunning hideaways for half of what you’d be paying in the South. Fancy some refreshing fruit, well it’s all around and considerable cheaper than what you’d pay in Bangkok and on the islands. Looking for that perfect street food dish? Well you’re going to be spending a lot less than you would in Bangkok and the more touristy areas of the South.
Value of course isn’t all about being cheap – but no matter what level of budget you’re travelling on, Northern Thailand just seems to deliver value over and above everywhere else.
Escaping the crowds
Whilst some people love to travel in a crowd or to party with thousands of others, we’ve always felt that you can do that just as well at home so why shell out on the airfare? If you’re looking for a holiday away from crowds of other travellers then Northern Thailand is the perfect option. Sure, Chiang Mai city can get busy from time to time as can it’s biggest tourist draw of Wat Doi Suthep. But head just a few minutes outside the city and it’s easy to be on your own feeling as if you’re breaking new travel ground. Northern Thailand seems to have it about right – enough local and international travellers to create a nice travel atmosphere but never too many to make things feel awkward.
That ‘Northern’ vibe
Hard to define but Northern Thailand just has a great ‘vibe’. The North is known by Thai people as being a laid back, ‘gentle’ part of the country and they are not wrong. You’ll have to take our word for it and experience it for yourself but if you’ve only ever been to Bangkok and points further South you’ll be blown away by how chilled and welcoming Northern Thailand is – and what is better than ‘chilled and welcoming’ when you’re on holiday.
So, is Northern Thailand worth visiting? The answer of course is a resounding YES
For the best best adventures in Northern Thailand join The Tuk Tuk Club – award winning, unique travels by Tuk Tuk through the very best of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. Take a peek at our adventures here
To explore more about the wonder of Northern Thailand and to get ready for the adventure of a lifetime take a look here