The Top 10 Destinations in Northern Thailand for 2023

Northern Thailand is home to some of Thailand’s most beautiful natural wonders. Its culture is rooted in the unique ancient Lanna Kingdom in this region. Its unique taste and their love for food are unparalleled. There are beautiful natural scenery, interesting culture and delicious food. What else can you ask for?
When exploring Thailand’s non-mainstream routes, northern Thailand must be a region worthy of your attention, but there are more than 17 provinces. How can we know which places are worth visiting? Well, that’s why I decided to write this article.
In this guide, based on my personal experience in traveling in these provinces, I have compiled a list of 10 best places in northern Thailand that you should visit for those who want to deeply understand the unique culture of Thailand.
First of all, let’s look at all the best tourist destinations in northern Thailand on the map below.
Map of the best tourist destinations in northern Thailand
1. Chiang Mai

The exterior of Wat Lok Moli in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Located in the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai is the once prosperous capital of the 700-year-old Lana Kingdom. It is an ancient city that perfectly integrates the leisure and incredible mountains of the north and a series of historic buildings and activities, waiting for you to explore.
For those who are looking for a more leisurely and traditional city than Bangkok, Chiang Mai is one of the best tourist cities in Thailand.
The old city of Chiang Mai is surrounded by the ancient city wall of Lanna. There are many truly amazing ancient buildings, some of which have a history of more than 700 years. You can rent a bike for a day, explore the city in your leisure time, visit some places, such as Wat Lok Moli, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh or Wat Doi Suthep on the top of the towering Doi Suthep.
Chiang Mai also has the best night market and pedestrian street in the country. Every Sunday, the main road in the old city will become a busy pedestrian street, where you can buy good goods and souvenirs.
Not to mention, Khao Soi – the unique delicious noodles in this region, and Sai Au – the spicy Chiang Mai sausage are the foods you must taste when you are in northern Thailand.

A woman with an elephant in Chiang Mai
In short, Chiang Mai is a place that should be at the top of your Thai tourism list. It has achieved a balance between tradition, culture and affordability. You can’t find any city to compare with it.
2. Duoyintanan

A backpacker looking over the platform at Kew Mae Pan Trail, Doi Inthanon
Mount Doyntarong, not far from Chiang Mai, is the highest mountain in Thailand at an altitude of 2565 meters (8415 feet). The weather here is what you would not normally encounter in Thailand. From cooler mountain winds than usual to sometimes frost in the early morning of winter, it would be a pity to go to northern Thailand without climbing this magnificent mountain.
In Doi Inthanon National Park, you will find some of the most amazing waterfalls in Chiang Mai Province, such as the powerful Wachirathan Falls and the charming waterfalls of Mae Ya Falls.
At the top of the mountain, you can also take some hiking trips. One of the best hiking trips there is the Kew Mae Pan Trail. You can hike along the ridge, where you can see the sea of clouds hovering on the valley below at the highest point in Thailand.

The grand pagodas of Doi Inthanon on a cloudy day
There are countless things to do in Doi Inthanon. Because Doi Inthanon is so beautiful and convenient, it is no problem to recommend this place as one of the best tourist destinations.
3. Meihongsen Ring Road

A woman with a red umbrella standing in a tea plantation surrounded by Chinese building at Baan Rak Thai, Mae Hong Son.
The Mekong Sen Ring Road is probably one of the best road trips you can make in Thailand. The starting point and ending point of the Mekong Sen Ring Line are in Chiang Mai. It will take you around the remote northern province of Mekong Sen on a 600km long highway and take you through some of the most charming scenery you have seen in Thailand.
The Mekong Ring Road will take you to Mae Sariang and other places. This is a quiet remote town, located on the bank of the Yu’an River, the capital of the Mekong Province. There are many amazing Burmese style temples, sunflower fields in Mexico are all over the mountains you can see, the Chinese style town Baan Rak Thai, and the famous tourist attraction Pai County.

Lit up Wat Chong Klang and Wat Chong Kham at Sunset in Mae Hong Son
Because there are many things to do at each station on the loop line, and you can take all the incidental trips, it takes 3 to 10 days to cross the Mekong River basin and truly see what this remote hinterland can provide.
As long as you are ready to drive the more than 1860 curves you will encounter on the ring road. Yes, they have calculated these curves. You can even buy a T-shirt at the night market that says “I have conquered the 1860 curves of Night Glory”.
Since your journey will start and end in Chiang Mai, you can rent a car or motorcycle from many rental stores in Chiang Mai, and then you can easily complete the loop and visit each tourist attraction one by one.
4. Qinglai

An aerial shot of Phu Chi Fa from Doi Pha Tang in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is another must-see province in northern Thailand. It looks like a sleeping provincial city. There is nothing to do, but there are many things better than it looks.
First of all, Qinglai is the site of one of the most beautiful and complex temples in the country – the White Temple. The whole structure is covered by extremely fine sculptures and sculptures, all made of glass and painted white. This is a temple different from any temple you have seen before.
Not far away, you will also find the all-painted blue temple called the Blue Temple, which is another great work of art. The huge Wat Huay Pla Kang Chinese temple is the location of the huge Guan Yi statue, and the colored statue of Wat Saeng Kaeo Photoyan.
As you can see, Qinglai is famous for its beautiful works of art, which is also the characteristic of the province. Its history is also very rich, with the ancient city of Qingsheng, where you will be able to witness the boiling between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, which share the border.
The area of Qinglai is so large that there are so many beautiful places and interesting towns to visit. You can expect to spend about 5 days in Qinglai to visit all these places. There are also one-day tours from Chiang Mai, which can take you to the Blue and White Temple, but I strongly recommend that you spend more time in Chiang Mai than just one day.

A person sitting on the moon art installation reaching to the top at the Village of Illumination in Singha Park, Chiang Rai
In addition to the White Temple and the Blue Temple, there are many things to offer here.
5. Nanfu

A person looking at the murals in Wat Phumin in Nan
Nanfu is an upcoming new place among local tourists. It is one of the most interesting provinces in northern Thailand. It has its own unique culture, tourist attractions and natural environment, which can be compared with the scenic spots in Chiang Mai and Chiang Lai.
For centuries, South China used to be an independent kingdom called Nanzhu, which was isolated for most of the time until it was incorporated into the surrounding kingdoms (Lanna and Myanmar).

A crowded Nan Night Market
After being abandoned for many years under the rule of Myanmar, it gained sovereignty in the 18th century and became a semi-autonomous kingdom of Siam (Thailand). It was not until 1931 that South Island was fully incorporated into Thailand, restoring its rich culture, diverse traditions and revitalizing its economy.
South Island and its history, to a certain extent, metaphor what is happening in South Island, because it is increasingly favored by travelers who want to surpass Chiang Mai and explore the depths of northern Thailand.

The gold exterior of Wat Sri Panthon in Nan
Nanshi has a rich history and still retains many beautiful ancient relics. One of the most important landmarks of Nanshi is Wat Phumin. There you can see well-preserved murals of the Nanguo period, depicting the life cycle of Buddha and the local life scenes at that time.
South China also has its own White Temple (Wat Ming Muang), which is similar to the White Temple in Qinglai, as well as the Golden Temple of Wat Sri Panthon, and more buildings that show the unique architectural style of South China located on the outer edge of the city.
Nanshi is also the location of Sinthao Yanchi Village, which is probably one of the most unique places I have visited in Thailand. The village is famous for its natural rock salt ponds. Its ancient local community has been living on these ponds for several centuries.

2 baskets of salt at Sinthao Salt Pond in Nan
You can walk around the village, enter many wooden cottages, and witness how they extract salt from these salt pools using the ancient traditional mechanism passed down from generation to generation in the community. There is no such thing in other parts of Thailand.
For nature lovers, I know many of you. South Island is also one of the best places to watch stars at night. Doi Samer Dao is a bare mountaintop and a popular camping site. It has an amazing 360 ° panoramic view, which allows you to see the galactic belt passing through the sky, which you can’t see anywhere else in Thailand.

Sea of clouds as seen from Doi Samer Dao in Nan
There are many things to do in South Island. It may take you 3-4 days to see everything. If you are going to spend more time in South Island, be sure to check out our South Island Tourism Guide below.
6. Payao

An aerial shot of the sea of clouds at sunrise in Phu Langka, Phayao
Pajau is a province in northern Thailand, and few tourists come here to visit. So what can Pajau have to play? Surprisingly, there are many things! I spent three days in Pajau Province. I spent 3 days exploring Pajau. I was completely shocked by the large number of beautiful and undiscovered places. I never knew such places existed.
First of all, I didn’t realize that Payao is a lakeside city, which reminds people of those beautiful lakeside cities in Europe. Its huge lake, known locally as Kwan Phayao, is an artificial lake. It was formed decades ago due to the construction of nearby dams, making this city one of the most photogenic places in Thailand.

A woman standing in front of Wat Nantaram in Chiang Kham, Phayao
As the city is located on the east bank of the lake, the sunset of Pajau Lake is one of the most beautiful sunset spots you can experience in northern Thailand.
Many locals often come out in the evening, sit by the lake and bathe in the last sunshine of the day. Then the street becomes a pedestrian street, with shops and street snacks waiting for you to explore.
Payao is indeed a charming city, but if you don’t believe the photos above, then the dreamlike landscape at the sunrise of Pranka will certainly play a role.
Phu Langka is one of my favorite places in Palau. I was completely shocked by the landscape around Pranka, especially at sunrise, how dreamy and beautiful it was.
If you visit Pranka in the daytime, you may think that the scenery is good and that’s it, but when you see it at sunrise, the low clouds fall from the mountains to the rice fields. This is a quite spectacular sight.

An aerial shot of the sea of clouds at sunrise in Phu Langka, Phayao
There are many things you can do in Pajau. In order to see these places, you must stay in Pajau for at least 3 days, stay in Pranka for one night, and stay in Pajau for another night. It is not far from Chiang Mai, so if you are looking for a non-mainstream place, it is this place.
7. Fry

A backpacker watching the sunrise in Phrae
Farai used to be one of the largest teak trading centers in Thailand, but now, people don’t know much about this small province located on the edge of the kingdom of Korana.
More often, Frey is just a transit station for travelers to Nanfu, another popular destination in northern Thailand. But what these travelers don’t know is that there are a large number of undeveloped natural and hidden gemstones around Frey.
From the unique rock formations of Pae Muang Pee Forest Park (where you can hike) and all the hidden natural attractions of Mae Yom National Park to all the old teak houses of the last ruler of the Old Palai Kingdom in the city, Palai has achieved a perfect balance between tradition and nature.

A backpacker watching the sunrise at Pha Ing Mok in Phrae
You can do many things here. It is estimated that you will spend at least two nights to visit all the beautiful teak temples and museums in the city, and spend some time driving to camp in the nature in the undeveloped mountains of Frye.
8. Nanbang

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat from a drone in Lampang, Thailand.
When you think of the best place in Thailand, most people will go directly to Bangkok or Chiang Mai. But I have found through many years of global travel that only a quiet place like Nanbang, which is often neglected by many people, will leave you the longest memory.
Nanbang is the gateway province to the kingdom of Lanna. Continue north from Bangkok, and you will see the architectural style of temples and buildings change from the modern style of central Thailand to the more traditional, teak-made and Burmese inspired architectural style unique to northern Thailand.
The tourist attractions in Nanbang, such as Wat Si Rongmuang, the all-teak temple built by the Shan immigrants in Myanmar, and the Baan Louise Museum, the former residence of the teak logging company operated by Louise T. Leonowens, all well reflect the past of its forestry and the roots of Lanna.
Not only that, Nanbang also has one of the most beautiful and photogenic pagodas in the country, called Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat or the air temple. You will find several white pagodas built on the jagged top of a limestone mountain in the remote area of Nanbang.

All the dishes you can order at Aroy One Baht Restaurant in Lampang, Thailand.
Nanbang is a great place to stay away from all tourists in Chiang Mai and spend some quiet time exploring all beautiful scenic spots with bicycles or carriages in their leisure time. I strongly recommend that you stay in Nanbang for at least 2-3 nights to truly realize the justice of this place.
9. Suketai

Me standing in the ordination hall at Wat Maha That in Sukhothai, Thailand.
Suketai, a small town located in the north of Thailand, was the first capital of Siam in the 13th century. It was founded by the great King Ram Kangheng and is considered as the cradle of Thai civilization.
This is the birthplace of all traditional things. From art to architectural style, you can see it all over the country. There is no better place to understand the history of the Thai people than in Suketai.
In Suketai, you will find the huge Suketai Historical Park, where you can visit many well-preserved 13th century ancient buildings by bike, so that you can enjoy the style of Suketai Kingdom in those days.

The exterior of Wat Si Chum in Sukhothai, Thailand.
From Wat Maha That, the main and largest temple group in Suketai Historical Park, to the 15-meter-high ancient Buddha statue in Wat Si Chum, Suketai and its well-preserved ancient sites are quite worth seeing.
10. Fishanouk

We standing in front of Wat Wihan Thong in Phitsanulok, Thailand.
Phitsanulok, a capital with a history of 600 years and a population of 800000, is located on the South River in northern Thailand. It may not be the city people want to visit when they travel in Thailand. But for those who want to explore unique places rather than go to places where everyone goes, this city provides a unique and real face, allowing people to understand the real situation of Thai lifestyle outside the tourist cities.

King Naresuan statue inside Chan Royal Palace Historical Center Museum in Phitsanulok, Thailand.
Fishanouk is probably one of the most authentic cities you can visit in Thailand. The unfiltered life of local people here reflects the real life of most people in Thailand, rather than those who live in big cities such as Bangkok or in tourist destinations such as Chiang Mai or Phuket.
Due to its historical significance, you will find that there are many beautiful ancient scenic spots for you to visit, such as the famous Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahatha, where there is the statue of Phra Phuttha Chinnarat, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful and magnificent Buddha statues in Thailand. This temple has a history of more than 700 years. 700 years of history! Let this sentence settle down.
In Fishanouk, you can find several ancient temples and pagodas, but one of the most beautiful attractions here is the ancient ruins of Wat Wihan Thong, where you can see that several ancient ruins built in the 15th century still exist.
You can also visit Chen’s Royal History Center to learn more about Fishanouk and its great role in the history of Thailand. Fishanouk is a great city that can start your journey in northern Thailand. If you plan to visit the province, you are expected to spend 2-3 nights here to see what this place offers.
According to my personal experience, these are the 10 best tourist destinations in northern Thailand. Do you plan to visit northern Thailand for the first time? If you have any questions about these places, please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments below.
Now that we have all the information we need, it’s time to plan your trip to Northern Thailand! Here are some resources to help you travel.
What to pack. To help you start packing, here are 60 basic travel equipment that I carried during my trip to northern Thailand.
plane ticket. Skyscanner and Expedia are the best places to start looking for cheap flights and great deals from your country.
get accommodation. Hostelworld, and are the final choice platforms for searching amazing hotels and hotels with reasonable prices.
Family Hotel. Vrbo is the best platform to find more local experiences in northern Thailand. In this way, I can meet the local people at the first time and have access to local information I don’t know.
Travel insurance. Heymondo will provide you with a large number of insurance options to protect your travel. New users can enjoy a 5% discount.
vehicle. 12go is a good place to find bus and train schedules in Southeast Asia and buy tickets online, otherwise there will be no English online.
Car Rental. is a great and reliable platform for finding car rental in northern Thailand.
internet. Airalo is the best way to obtain SIM card and have reliable Internet access during the trip to Northern Thailand. What you need is a smart phone compatible with esim. You can install it on your mobile phone before traveling.
One-day tour and tourism. Vitator, GetYourGuide and TripAdvisor are excellent platforms for searching activities in northern Thailand.
Tickets and discounts. When I want to find cheap tickets for tourist attractions in northern Thailand, Klook is always my preferred website.
Do you plan to travel to northern Thailand independently?


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