Start at Thailand's second largest city and the unofficial capital of the North: Chiang Mai. Stroll the night markets after perusing the graceful art and architecture of Lanna, a kingdom with 6th-century roots that survived phases of independence and tribute to either Ayutthaya or Pegu of modern Myanmar, until becoming part of Siam/Thailand for good. Pop up to Chiang Dao to tap a confusion of caves before continuing north to the flower-draped fields and mountain vistas of Doi Ang Khang in Fang, where you also might sprinkle in hot springs and Shan-style temples. Turning east near the border with Myanmar, stop for lunch or a night in Tha Ton, the launch point for a scenic Kok Riverboat cruise that will leave you in Chiang Rai, home to a wide assortment of attractions to rival Chiang Mai.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao, Doi Inthanon, Doi Ang Khang Royal Agricultural Station
Activity Activity Nature & Wildlife, Culture, Active
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Unwind in spiritual Chiang Mai

Unwind in spiritual Chiang Mai

Day 1–3 in Chiang Mai

Nestled in the mountainous north of Thailand and surrounded by lush countryside, the former seat of the Lanna Kingdom is perhaps best known for its 14th to 17th-century temples, including the former royal temple Wat Chedi Luang and mountaintop Wat Doi Suthep. Although its wonderfully preserved historic centre is now surrounded by a sprawling modern city — in Thai the name Chiang Mai literally translates as “new city” — visitors will find plenty of time to relax in this peaceful northern metropolis, whether it is visiting one of its many temples at dawn, hiking to a nearby waterfall or enjoying a rejuvenating Thai massage.

Don't miss

Stroll the night markets of Chiang Mai

Stroll the night markets of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s night markets offer the best shopping and eating in Thailand’s second city. Try Warorot Market for northern Thai street food or the night bazaar for an authentic Thai shopping experience.

Scale Doi Inthanon, Thailand's tallest peak

Scale Doi Inthanon, Thailand's tallest peak

Not a mountain climber? Relax. A switchback road climbs this 2,565m peak, which stands as a once-in-a-lifetime destination for many Thai tourists. The views do not disappoint and a mountain break from the heat is always welcome, but it's the cheery atmosphere among Thais crossing the peak their bucket list that carries many visitors away.

Venture into the hidden caves of Chiang Dao

Venture into the hidden caves of Chiang Dao

Day 4–6 in Chiang Dao

Lying in the shadow of the craggy peaks of Doi Luang Chiang Dao mountain and surrounded by rainforest, lies the small rural village of Chiang Dao. Only two hours drive from Chiang Mai, this countryside retreat offers a selection of options for outdoor enthusiasts, from climbing Thailand’s third highest mountain to exploring the impressive 12km-long Chiang Dao limestone cave complex. Visitors can bathe their tired limbs in one of the nearby hot springs or hike to a refreshing waterfall in Pha Daeng National Park.

See family photos and mountain flowers in Doi Ang Khang

See family photos and mountain flowers in Doi Ang Khang

Day 7–8 in Doi Ang Khang Royal Agricultural Station

Of the scores of doi — "mountain(s)" in the Northern dialect — worth visiting in Northern Thailand, few have the effect of this 1,928m hill station blanketed in praya suekrong (Thai cherry blossom) and other temperate flowers and birdlife.

Explore Chiang Rai province

Explore Chiang Rai province

Day 9–10 in Chiang Rai

Near the borders of Laos and Myanmar lies the smaller and lesser visited former seat of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Rai. This small provincial town offers visitors several important historical and cultural attractions — including Wat Rong Khun, or the “white temple”, which isn’t actually a temple at all, but an ambitious art exhibit built in 1997. Chang Rai also serves as the perfect relaxing base from which to explore the region's many attractions and gorgeous countryside.

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