Highlights of Northern Thailand: itinerary + tips

by suitcasestoriesbe
Thailand travel route itinerary-9

From visiting ancient temples to strolling around night markets, hiking tea plantations and driving through breathtaking nature. The highlights in Northern Thailand can’t be missed when you travel to Thailand! From Bangkok, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and Pai, here’s the ultimate travel itinerary for Northern Thailand including the best things to do, our favorite places to stayrecommendations on where to eat, and tips on how to get around. To help you visualize our route we’ve put it together on a map as well. Are you ready? Let’s go…

Read also: Island hopping in Thailand: the best islands to visit

Tip: if you are traveling solo or would like to join an organized trip, definitely check the tours of Tourradar here. They have amazing trips in Thailand!

Highlights of Northern Thailand in 9 days: an overview of our travel route

START Chiang Rai | END Bangkok

DURATION 9 days

METHOD OF TRANSPORT Plane + bus

BEST TIME OF YEAR December-April

WHEN DID WE GO February-March 2019

HIGHLIGHTS Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Pai, Bangkok

Highlights of Northern Thailand: itinerary + tips

Bangkok

When you travel to Thailand, you start or end your trip most likely in the big, crazy city of Bangkok. It’s a place like nowhere else in the world. Impressive temples, cozy rooftop bars, authentic markets, amazing food, and funny tuk-tuk rides. There are just so many things to do in this awesome city, you can never get bored.

Recommended stay

  • 2-4 days

Where to stay

Things to do

Where to eat

  • Ethos (our most favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurant, cozy bohemian atmosphere, close to Khao San Road)
  • Eagle Nest Bar & Sala Rattanakosin Eatery and Bar (our favorite two spots for stunning sunset views of Wat Arun Temple & Chao Praya River)
  • Broccoli Revolution (100% plant-based/vegan restaurant close to Sukhumvit, tasty and healthy dishes, cozy atmosphere)

How to get in Bangkok

  • Bangkok Airport (Suvarnabhumi International Airport) is Thailand’s biggest airport and one of the most popular transportation hubs in the world. There are daily flights to every continent which makes it very easy to travel to. We personally love to book our flights with Qatar Airways (check for flights here) or use the website of Skyscanner.com, where you can easily search and compare tickets from all different airlines in the world.

Book your flights to Bangkok here

  • From Bangkok International Airport you can take the Airport Rail Link City Line which is the fastest way to travel to the city center, the full journey takes 30 minutes, every 15 minutes, prices are around THB 45 per person/one-way ($1,5)
  • Another option is by Grab taxi, prices are around THB 500 per car/one-way ($16)

Read also: The 11 best and free travel apps every traveler needs

Chiang Mai

With over 300 temples and a charming old city area, Chiang Mai can’t be missed when you go to Thailand. There is plenty to see and experience, which makes it easy to stay for 4-5 days without getting bored. We loved to rent a scooter, explore the beautiful surrounding countryside, wander around the night markets and hop in one of the many trendy eateries and shops. Super cozy city!

Recommended stay

  • 3-5 days

Where to stay

Things to do

Where to eat

  • The Salad Concept (the perfect place to create your own healthy salad bowl, a great place to have lunch)
  • The Hideout (a small cozy bar with some good vegan/vegetarian options like salads, bagels & juices)
  • By Hand Pizza Cafe (the best vegan brick oven pizza we ever had, a lovely small setting for dinner too but be sure to arrive early enough)

How to get in Chiang Mai

Pai

One of our most favorite places in Thailand! Pai is a cute little town located in the mountains of Northern Thailand and has an incredibly relaxed atmosphere. Rent a scooter and drive to the Pai Canyon, visit the nearby waterfalls, explore the caves and enjoy the best street food. We bet you’ll not want to leave Pai.

Recommended stay

  • 3-4 days

Where to stay

Things to do

  • Rent a scooter and drive around the surrounding countryside (around THB 200 ($7) per scooter/day)
  • Climb 200+ stairs to the White Buddha and have incredible views over Pai
  • Stroll around Pai town at night and enjoy the best Thai street food
  • Visit a traditional hill tribe village and meet the Karen Long-Neck people
  • Relax at Pai river
  • Visit the Tham Lod cave
  • Watch the sunset at Pai Canyon

Where to eat

  • Food Truck Thai Food Bar (best Thai street food bar ever, delicious vegetarian dishes that can be made vegan, sweet funny owner)
  • Earth Tone cafe (everything is great about this place, lovely atmosphere, amazing healthy food, and good prices. Our favorite spot in Pai!)
  • Queen Falafel (best falafel street food)

How to get in Pai

  • From Chiang Mai, by bus, 3 hours, prices are around THB 200 per person ($7), check schedules and prices here
  • Or by scooter (part of Mae Hong Son Loop, 3-4 hours, but be beware of the 762 windy turns!)
  • From Chiang Rai, by bus, 3-4 hours, prices are around THB 300 per person ($8), check schedules and prices here

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai, or also called as Chiang Mai’s ‘little sister’, is a beautiful city located in the northernmost of Thailand. The city itself is super relaxed surrounded by plenty of stunning nature and tea plantations. You can easily explore Chiang Rai on foot or rent a scooter and drive through the countryside and visit all the nearby temples. There is also a great night market and a variety of good restaurants.

Recommended stay

  • 3 days

Where to stay

Things to do

Where to eat

  • Kunda Cafe (delicious vegetarian and vegan food)
  • Connect Cafe (great place to have breakfast or lunch, close to the station where you take the bus to Chiang Mai)
  • Smiling Moon (very delicious and cheap local dishes, vegetarian/vegan-friendly)

How to get in Chiang Rai

  • From Pai, by bus, 5-7 hours, prices are around THB 600 per person ($19), check schedules and prices here
  • From Chiang Mai, by bus, 3-4 hours, prices are around THB 300 per person ($8), check schedules and prices here
  • We took the buses of GreenBus which operate very frequently and are very comfortable. Note: buses are quickly fully booked, so we recommend to book in advance.

Tip: if you would like to combine Laos afterward, consider joining the amazing 2-day cruise along the Mekong River which brings you to Luang Prabang in Laos. (we did it the reverse way and loved every single minute of it. An unforgettable experience!)

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