Rice paddy fields in Northern Thailand
If you've enjoyed the stunning beaches of the south, you simply can't say you've “seen” Thailand until you also see the north
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com / Nantarpat

Embark on Adventure with This Two Week Itinerary of Northern Thailand

Your Trip, All Ready to Go

Cities, adventures and temples — oh my!

Northern Thailand has a totally different feel from the south. If you’ve enjoyed the stunning beaches of the south, you simply can’t say you’ve experienced all a Thailand holiday has to offer until you’ve also experienced the north— it’s like comparing night and day.

Unfortunately, two weeks isn’t enough time. After over four years in the country I still feel like it’s still not enough time, so I guess we’ll make do with what we have, right?

I have a pretty awesome two-week itinerary here for you, but there’s no right way to travel north Thailand, so it’s OK to be flexible and do what you feel like once you’re there. However, if you’re a planner or just want things to be easy and done for you, here you go!

Day 1: Transit

Enjoy Bangkok and get ready to start your adventure first thing the next morning. Take the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The overnight train is an experience in itself so this popular route fills up quick. If you miss it, just grab an overnight bus ticket.

Pro tip: Buy straight from the bus or train station to make sure you don’t get overcharged or get involved with the common scams the tourist buses often involve.

Days 2-5: Chiang Mai

Sawadee Kaa and welcome to Chiang Mai!

Here you will enjoy the culture and food that Thailand offers. There are literally hundreds of temples in this city — but don’t worry, you won’t need to make much effort to see them. You’ll be passing them on the way to your hotel and when you walk around the corner — they are everywhere! The only must-see temple you’ll need to make an effort to see is Doi Suthep, one of the most popular temples in the country.

Chiang Mai offers up some excellent shopping as well. Ask your hotel what market is going on that night. There are multiple markets and special ones open on the weekends.

If you’re keen and experienced, rent a motorbike and explore the things outside of the city. Sit lakeside for a lovely Thai meal at Huay Tung Tao, go visit the Erotic Garden, travel further to see some waterfalls, and visit Doi Inthanon, the country’s tallest mountain.

Pro tip: Stuff your face with some delicious khao soi — you’ll thank me later.

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Days 6-8: Chiang Rai

Have you seen that famous picture of the bright white temple? Well, here’s its home. It’s a gorgeous temple and very unique. The artist might still be painting on the inside which holds a bit of a surprise — you’ll have to go in to see.

The Black House makes for a mighty morbid day with a complex of skulls and skins of animals strewn about black houses — it’s just a downright bizarre sight.

There’s a market at night, a clock tower with a light show, and a few other temples of interest. If you’re willing to travel outside of the town, there’s a hot spring, waterfall, and even a beach!

Days 9-12: Pai

This is a personal favorite of mine. Be sure to set an alarm for the day you need to leave, because otherwise you’ll certainly lose track of time. This laidback hippy town is a real treat and an excellent way to start winding down your adventurous week.

There’s plenty to see and do, such as waterfalls, hiking, a canyon, excellent food, a market, rafting, and more, but most come here to just chill out. It’s a beautiful small town set in a valley and surrounded by small mountains. Grab a book, a coffee, and just hang out in your hammock, or rent a motorbike and go exploring. It’s all up to you!

Day 13: Sukhothai

This small city might not offer much, but the one thing it does offer is quite magnificent. Once the Thai capital city (we’re talking in the 13th century), these fallen ruins will captivate its visitors.

The brownish red bricks, tall majestic Buddhas, and various temples in a square complex are quite intriguing. Take a bike ride, ride in a tuk tuk, or walk around the massive grounds of ancient temple ruins and be sure to brush up on the history prior to going to make sure you know what you’re looking at, unless you find a guide.

Day 14: Transit

Well, that’s it folks! I know time flew by, but there’s always next year. Either take the train or bus from Sukhothai back down to Bangkok.

Pro tip: Check to see if AirAsia is having a sale or promotion on flights. Sometimes the flights can be as much as a bus ticket or not much more. This will save you tons of time.

The north of Thailand offers a wealth of places to go, but if you follow this itinerary, you’ll see some of the hottest places to go.

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