Northern Thailand Adventures are the perfect way to spend your time travelling and getting into the heart of this wonderful country. Sure, you could kick back under a palm tree with a book or two at the beach or spend your time sweating your way around Bangkok, but Northern Thailand is where all true Thailand adventures take place!
A lovely slow pace of life, fascinating and varied customs and culture, awesome mountains and forest and delicious food and fruit everywhere you turn. And that’s before you even start to consider the incredible range of places to stay throughout this amazing part of the world. Thailand has used the phrase ‘Amazing Thailand’ for years, we think it actually sits best with ‘Amazing Northern Thailand’!
Whilst you can have an amazing experience exploring Thailand without stretching your legs or raising a sweat, the best way to get under the skin of this part of the world is definitely to get out and about and do something a bit different or unique. Hiking, cycling, climbing, driving Tuk Tuks – there really is something to keep all adventurous travellers happy everywhere you go throughout the Northern Thailand region.
The mountains and the communities that live in them
At The Tuk Tuk Club we believe passionately that the real charm and attraction of Northern Thailand are the mountains and the people that live in them. Sure, Chiang Mai city is a great place to explore for a day or two but what makes Northern Thailand so special are the never ending mountains, the twisting and winding roads, the Hill Tribe communities dotted all over the region and the sense of adventure the region delivers.
What are the very best Northern Thailand Adventures?
The Tuk Tuk Club’s 11 Day Northern Thailand Adventure
Of course the absolute best way to explore and experience Northern Thailand is with The Tuk Tuk Club’s 11 Day Tuk Tuk Adventure!
Travelling through the heart of the mountains of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces, staying in a range of fantastic different places – from laid back Hill Tribe villages to 4* boutique hotels with amazing infinity pools – travelling along remote mountain roads in our specially built Tuk Tuks and being right in the heart of the adventure every step of the way.
Taking in remote Temples, amazing elephants, towering waterfalls, hiking in the forests, exploring caves – this really is a Northern Thailand Adventure at it’s very best. And of course you get to become a member of the very exclusive ‘Tuk Tuk Club’.
Full details of the 11 Day Adventure can be found here and don’t take our work for it that it’s the best way to have a Northern Thailand Adventure, have a look at what our intrepid Tuk Tuk travellers have said about their time in Northern Thailand with us! You can even have a peek at a video giving a great insight into the adventure, enough to get you booking your space right away!
DIY Northern Thailand Adventures
Many travellers arrive in Northern Thailand with a very loose idea of what they are going to do and no real plans in place – and in many ways this is a lovely way to travel giving you the ultimate freedom to roam as you please and speed up and slow down as you wish on your travels, after all there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a minivan day after day and not really experiencing anything on your adventure.
Northern Thailand is a great destination to explore under your own steam. There are plenty of high quality car hire services in Chiang Mai and throughout the region – we’d always recommend renting a bigger car over a smaller car and an SUV or similar if your budget stretches that far – and, armed with Google Maps you really can get all over and have the enjoyment of feeling like you’re breaking new ground.
However, do remember that a superb guide – and by law all guides in Thailand are Thai and fully trained and licensed – can add a huge amount to your trip through their understanding and knowledge of the region. Whether it’s information about different Hill Tribe communities or simply knowing where the very best food is, a local guide can be the difference between and great and an amazing Northern Thailand Adventure. If you’re travelling under your own steam then do think about hiring a local guide either for your whole trip or from time to time in key locations. And if you’re looking at serious hiking / trekking then of course a local guide is essential – you don’t want to be making the local newspapers as search parties are hunting for you!
Northern Thailand is the perfect part of the world for a cycling adventure and there are lots of superb companies organising multi-day cycling adventures throughout the North of Thailand. Alternatively, if you’re an experienced rider and are happy taking a fair bit of kit with you – one two many punctures can make for a frustrating day of walking! – it’s also an amazing place to head off on your own, with the same caveats of course as above in that a great guide can really open up so much of the region.
Some of the best cycling outfits in Northern Thailand are:
- Spice Roads – one of the oldest and still one of the best multi-day cycling outfits with some great routes in the North
- Grasshopper – a range of great cycling and great cultural visits, well worth a look
- Cycling Chiang Mai – a new outfit but run by some of the best cyclists in the region who really understand what cyclists are looking for. Definitely worth chatting to
Hiking / Trekking
One of the best ways to be adventurous in Northern Thailand is to head deep into the mountains on a trek. Whilst you can get a sense of the beauty of the forest on a short half or one day trek, if you’re relatively fit and fine overnighting in pretty basic / simple villages then a multi-day trek can be the adventure of a life time. And the further from the main towns of the North you head, the more adventurous the trek is likely to do be.
Once you’re in somewhere like Chiang Mai it can feel as if every other shop is promoting a million and one treks to all and sundry and it can be incredibly difficult to work out which one to choose. For us there are a few questions you should always ask:
- What’s the maximum size of the group? – you don’t really want to be part of trek with 50 other people do you
- How many other companies are offering this same trek? – again, there may only be 10 people in your group but what happens if there are 10 other companies hiking the same route on the same day!
- How much walking is there each day and how much uphill is there on each day? Of course this is very much up to your own levels of fitness and how much you want to push yourself. But there’s nothing worse than choosing a trek that’s harder than you thought and you spending all your time feeling exhausted, and vice versa. Be honest with yourself and remember that it can be pretty hot and humid and long steep sections can really take it out of you.
Here are a few recommendations of treks and companies that are well worth having a look at when planning a great Northern Thailand Adventure
- For DIY travellers, the short hike along Pha Dok Siew Nature trail, in the foothills of Doi Inthanon, is a lovely way to experience the beauty of the mountains, forest and also to take in stunning waterfalls. A local guide is compulsory and you’ll find them waiting at the entrance to the hike each day.
- Green Trails are one of the very best small scale trekking companies in Northern Thailand. With deep knowledge of the region and the communities in the mountains you can be sure of a very well planned and expertly guided trek.
- All Trails is a fantastic resource to research different hiking and trekking routes throughout Northern Thailand. You can easily spend hours researching all the different routes that have been upload onto the site and planning some superb walking in the North
This should of course start with the caveat that if you’re not an experienced motorbike rider than Northern Thailand isn’t the best place to learn! The roads can be steep, the bends are tight and the very best adventures tend to be the off-road routes needing a fair bit of experience.
However, if motorbike’s are your thing – and if you’re an off-roader – then you’ll probably think you’ve arrived in paradise in Northern Thailand. Whilst the roads are incredible, there are still huge numbers of communities only accessible by dirt trail throughout the region and a motorbike is the best way to explore them.
There are lots of companies throughout the North planning and offering different motorbike adventures in Northern Thailand and our advice is to do your research and chat to a few different companies to get a feel for whether they are right for you.
One organisation we’ve met several times on our Tuk Tuk Adventures is Edelweiss Bike Travel who have always seemed incredibly well organised and with great tour leaders so they are perhaps a good place to start your research
As you can see there’s no shortage of adventure to be had in Northern Thailand and we’d urge you to get to the region and explore the next time you travel to Thailand, or in fact the next time you travel full stop! You just can’t beat the combination of mountains, forest, culture, food and great weather (even the odd downpour in the rainy season is great fun) that Northern Thailand offer’s and the ease with which you can get your adventure started.
Even if you’re not looking to join a Tuk Tuk Club Adventure, if you’re looking for any advice on Northern Thailand Adventure’s just get in touch and we’re always happy to make recommendations. The fact you’re keen to experience Northern Thailand is enough for us! And for more information about travel in Northern Thailand take a look at all our Northern Thailand articles here