The Right Way to Visit Northern Thailand

When you think of the stunning tranquility of Thailand—the lush greenery surrounding hand-woven hammocks, golden Buddhist temples, ancient mangrove forests—you’re probably thinking of Northern Thailand.

While the country’s southern beaches get most of the international attention, the northern jungles are coming strong into public eye. Adventure enthusiasts are flocking north to hike and zipline through the verdant canopy, while cultural travellers are drawn to Chiang Mai’s yoga retreats, independent cafes and unique festivals. With a unique cuisine inspired by the mountains and jungles, you’ll find fewer coconuts and more bitter herbs, along with fresh river fish, sticky rice and an assortment of fresh fruits.

Taste the noodles! (Outpost/Michael Fraiman)

When the Tan Your Mind team visited the northern jungles, we were so captivated by the vibe and hospitality that we changed travel plans to stay north an extra day. Between the hill tribes who are eager to share their culture, temples bejeweled in dazzling colours or gorgeous treks barely a half hour outside Chiang Mai, it’s seriously hard to get bored in Northern Thailand.

And unlike Bangkok, it’s actually easy (and affordable) to get around, too, with taxis, tuk-tuks and even Uber at your disposal. Travelling from the walled-off Old Town, packed to the edges with palpable history and buzzing culture, to any of the numerous day trips around the city turned out quicker than we’d anticipated.

Chiang Mai monk tour

Wat Suan Dok is one of the most impressive temples in Chiang Mai. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

Of course, while Chiang Mai is relatively relaxed, no trip to Bangkok is complete (or even easily doable) without visiting Bangkok. The best tours of Northern Thailand will show you both, justifying at least a day of urban exploration among the monolithic skyscrapers and tuk-tuk rides.

Plus, en route to Chiang Mai sit the classical temples of Ayutthaya, once the capital of Siam, a convenient ride just north of Bangkok, where you can cycle through rice fields. Even Kanchanaburi, home to the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai, makes for a breezy and worthwhile excursion to discover yet another side of this impressive country.

Bangkok, a street food capital of the world. (Outpost/Michael Fraiman)

So we were pretty pumped to find that Contiki got Thailand the way we wanted to show it. We’re proud to have partnered with them to save you $150 off your next trip to Thailand, which you can apply toward their Northern Thai Highlights tour—that way you can taste the papayas, bound up the hillsides, browse the monuments and discover Thailand for yourself—the right way.

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