12 Days 11 Nights Northern Thailand Road Trip Itinerary: Route Maps
Traditionally, many travelers embark on the classic Mae Hong Son Loop, beginning their adventure in Chiang Mai, making their way to Mae Hong Son, and circling back to conclude their journey in Chiang Mai. However, this alternative route offers a captivating twist, commencing and culminating in Chiang Mai but with captivating stops along the way. This extended expedition will encompass visits to Tak Province, Sukhothai Province, and Lampang Province, creating a 12-day, 11-night odyssey. If you’re prepared for a unique adventure, let’s embark on this exciting journey together.
DAY 01: Chiang Mai Arrival:
Upon your arrival at Chiang Mai Airport, you can either arrange to rent a car or pick up the pre-booked rental from your chosen provider. After securing your transportation, make your way to your accommodation. Depending on the timing of your arrival, if you find yourself in Chiang Mai in the morning and still brimming with energy, consider embarking on some exploration within the city. Start by visiting the iconic Tha Phae Gate, a prominent landmark in Chiang Mai. In the evening, venture out to experience the vibrant Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, renowned as the largest night market in the northern region. This bustling market offers a diverse array of lifestyles and nightlife activities. As you stroll along both sides of Chang Klan Road, you’ll encounter an array of shops and restaurants, all teeming with travelers and alive with the hustle and bustle of commerce. The atmosphere is electric, with the air filled with the enticing aromas of various cuisines and the sounds of enticing bargains. You’ll be serenaded by the melodies of street musicians, creating a memorable prelude to your upcoming adventure.
DAY 02: Chiang Mai Sightseeing: Route Maps
Embark on a captivating journey to explore the revered Prathat Doi Suthep temple, a site of profound historical significance and a prominent tourist attraction. This sacred temple is widely recognized among the Thai people as one of Thailand’s most hallowed places of worship. Perched atop Doi Suthep, a mountain located 14 kilometers west of Chiang Mai city, it stands proudly at an elevation of 1,053 meters above sea level. This remarkable site embodies both religious and historical importance within the Chiang Mai region, with its founding dating back to the year 1383. Ascending to the temple, you’ll encounter nearly 300 stairs leading to the sacred grounds. Inside the temple precinct, you’ll find the Mon-style pagoda, which enshrines the relics of Lord Buddha beneath its base. The temple’s full name, “Praboromathat Doi Suthep Woravihan Temple,” is a testament to its role in showcasing the rich Thai Lanna art alongside the cultural tapestry of Chiang Mai city. This beautiful sanctuary is a favored destination for pilgrims and tourists alike. Furthermore, the area surrounding the temple offers a stunning vantage point to admire the scenic panorama of Chiang Mai city.
Continue your adventure with a visit to Doi Pui Villages, a Hmong hill tribe settlement nestled within the pristine landscape of Doi Suthep Pui National Park in Chiang Mai province. Situated at an altitude of 1,658 meters above sea level, the village is surrounded by lush forests, towering pine trees, and plots cultivated with vegetables, fruits, and winter flowers tended to by the villagers. The winter months, spanning from December to January, witness the breathtaking blossoming of wild pink Himalayan cherry trees, adorning the mountains in a captivating display of nature’s beauty. Moreover, Doi Pui Village boasts a viewpoint that offers a mesmerizing perspective of the intricately arranged mountain ranges. Upon returning to Chiang Mai, your journey takes you to Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan temple, a prominent landmark situated in the heart of the city. This temple, one of the largest and oldest in Chiang Mai province, houses a grand pagoda within its sacred confines. Despite the top of the pagoda having succumbed to a major earthquake in 1545, it remains an invaluable and aesthetically striking symbol of Lanna heritage. This temple is known by various names, including Rajakudakan temple and Chotikaram temple, and it is believed to have been constructed around the year 1391, during the reign of King Prachao Sanmuangma, the seventh monarch of the Mungrai dynasty. The Chedi Luang Temple has witnessed extensive restoration efforts over the centuries and currently spans 60 meters on each side, solidifying its status as one of Chiang Mai’s most esteemed pagodas. Conclude your day by spending another night in Chiang Mai, reflecting on the rich cultural tapestry and historical treasures you’ve encountered during your journey.
DAY 03: Chiang Mai – Pai: Route Maps
The road from Chiang Mai to Pai is a scenic drive through the heart of northern Thailand. Departing from Chiang Mai, take Highway 107 to Mae Rim District. Once in Mae Rim, turn onto Highway 1095 and follow the steep, winding road towards Pai District. The road was built during World War II to connect Thailand with Myanmar, and it offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Along the way, you may pass by hot springs, waterfalls, and small villages. Once you reach Pai, you can start exploring the many tourist attractions that the town has to offer.
Nestled in the heart of Thailand’s northern mountains, Pai is a charming town renowned for its preserved Yunnan Chinese heritage and breathtaking natural scenery. A short distance away from the town center lies Santichon village, a tranquil enclave that transports visitors back in time to a bygone era. Traditional Yunnan Chinese dwellings, quaint embellishments, and a nostalgic ambiance permeate the village, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Pai’s early settlers. A short stroll from Santichon awaits the Yun Lai viewpoint, an enchanting spot that unveils the picturesque panorama of Pai city. Enveloped by verdant paddy fields and a rugged mountain range, this viewpoint presents a breathtaking tapestry of Pai, with mist-clad mountains creating a dreamlike backdrop in both winter and the rainy season. Witnessing the sunrise from this vantage point is a transcendent encounter that etches itself into the memories of all fortunate enough to witness it.
A visit to the Pai Canyon, also known as Kong Lan, is an enchanting encounter that unveils the marvels sculpted by nature’s patient hand over countless years. This extraordinary canyon has formed through a combination of soil subsidence and the relentless forces of wind and rain, resulting in deep trenches resembling majestic cliffs. Stretching over an area of more than 3 acres, the terrain features meandering ridge-like structures that offer a truly captivating spectacle. Pai Canyon’s environs boast diverse deciduous forests and a range of flora, further enhancing the allure of this unique attraction. Adventurous souls can trek along narrow and steep trails that wind along the canyon’s edges, treating themselves to breathtaking vistas of lush forests and deep chasms below. One of Pai Canyon’s highlights is the awe-inspiring view from its highest points. As visitors ascend these elevated vantage points, they are rewarded with sweeping panoramas of charming villages and farms nestled amidst the majestic mountains. The landscape presents a harmonious fusion of nature and human habitation, exemplifying the symbiotic relationship between the local community and the stunning environment.
The Merit Bridge, affectionately known as “Khokuso,” exudes its own distinctive charm as a bridge of faith, lovingly crafted by the villagers. This winding bamboo bridge gracefully meanders through lush rice fields, with the stunning mountains serving as an exquisite backdrop. The bridge serves a special purpose, facilitating the monks’ alms rounds and offering a convenient path for both tourists and villagers to traverse, affording them opportunities to make merit and bask in the splendor of the surrounding forests, mountains, and rice fields. Continuing your exploration, you’ll encounter the Wat Phra That Mae Yen Temple, perched atop a lofty hill in Mae Yen village. From this elevated perch, visitors are treated to awe-inspiring vistas of Pai city. Sunrise and sunset moments here are especially magical, as the sun’s golden hues accentuate the grandeur of the encircling mountain ranges. The view from Wat Phra That Mae Yen Temple is nothing short of awe-inspiring, leaving an enduring imprint on every visitor.
Spending a night in Pai allows visitors to savor the tranquil ambiance and embrace the unique atmosphere of this captivating destination. As the sun gracefully sets over the canyon, casting a warm glow upon the landscape, visitors can savor the enchantment of the moment and bid adieu to the day with hearts brimming with gratitude for the breathtaking beauty they have encountered. Pai is a natural masterpiece that leaves an indelible mark on the souls of those who explore its magnificence. With its rich cultural heritage, diverse natural attractions, and tranquil ambiance, Pai is a truly unique destination that offers something for everyone.
DAY 04: Pai – Mae Hong Son: Route Maps
Departing from Pai, your journey continues along Highway No. 1095, leading you to the captivating Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint. This viewpoint has earned acclaim from both Thai and international visitors, drawn by the breathtaking sight of a sea of mist that blankets the valley, interspersed with vibrant blooms. As you stand here, you’ll be captivated by the natural splendor that unfolds before you. Next, your exploration takes you to Tham Lod Cave, an archaeological treasure trove of immense importance. This cave is home to a stream called “Lang,” which flows from one end to the other, creating a mesmerizing underground world adorned with stalactites and stalagmites. As you venture deeper into the cave, you’ll have the opportunity to lay eyes on and even touch an array of ancient tools and utensils, believed to be over 2,000 years old. Beyond the awe-inspiring natural formations, the cave offers a host of other exciting activities, including bamboo rafting within its depths and short treks around its vicinity.
Continuing on your itinerary, you’ll visit Ban Nong Pha Cham Village, a Lisu Hill Tribe settlement. The Lisu people trace their origins to the Mae Kong River and Salween River regions in China. Over the centuries, they migrated to the north of Myanmar before finally establishing their homes in the northern regions of Thailand nearly a century ago. The Lisu community primarily relies on agriculture, cultivating crops and raising livestock. They engage in rice cultivation for sustenance and corn cultivation to support their livestock. In addition to consumption, animals hold cultural significance and play roles in various rituals. The Lisu people are renowned for their skills in sewing, embroidery, and crafting silverware. One of their standout features is the vibrant and eye-catching attire worn by Lisu women, which stands out among the hill tribes of Mae Hong Son province. Their simple yet rich traditions, colorful clothing, and welcoming nature leave an indelible impression on tourists who visit them.
Continuing your journey, you’ll arrive at Ban Jabo Village, home to the Lihu Hill Tribe. The Lahu people originally hailed from Tibet and later migrated to the southwest of China before gradually moving into the northeast of Myanmar. Over hundreds of years, they eventually settled in the northern regions of Thailand. The Lahu people prefer to build their villages on elevated terrain and lead a peaceful and spiritually inclined way of life. Agriculture, including rice and corn cultivation, as well as livestock raising, are their primary occupations. The Lahu are renowned as skilled hunters and maintain a strong connection to their cultural traditions and spirit worship. Despite cultural and linguistic differences, the Lahu people are known for their adaptability and welcoming demeanor, readily embracing visitors with warmth and hospitality. Conclude your day by spending the night in Mae Hong Son, reflecting on the rich cultural encounters and natural wonders you’ve experienced on this incredible journey.
DAY 05: Mae Hong Son Sightseeing: Route Maps
Embark on a picturesque drive along Highway No. 108 before veering onto rural Highway No. 3018 to reach the Long-Necked Karen village. Here, you’ll encounter an extraordinary sight as the women adorn themselves with single brass winding rings around their necks. This conservative tribal community has preserved its unique culture and traditions for generations, offering a rare glimpse into their way of life. Continuing your adventure, you’ll arrive at the Su Tong Pae Bridge, Thailand’s longest bamboo bridge. This remarkable structure serves as a vital link connecting the Suan Tham Phusama Temple and Kung Mai Sak village. The bridge traverses lush paddy fields and canals, providing a convenient route for monks and villagers. It’s an unforgettable memory for visitors, particularly during the rainy season when the bridge crosses verdant fields, and in winter when the golden grains shimmer in the sunlight, set against a backdrop of picturesque mountains.
Next, visit Baan Rak Thai village, nestled near the border between Thailand and Myanmar. This village was founded by Yunnanese ex-military personnel from the 93rd Division of the Chinese Nationalist forces who fled southern China during the communist revolution. Prepare to be captivated by the stunning mountain scenery, serene lakes, and vibrant shrubbery that adorn the village. Rows of lush green tea plantations gracefully curve along the mountainsides, inviting you to savor Yunnan cuisine and taste the finest tea in Mae Hong Son province. Journey onward to the tranquil Shan village known as “Baan Ruam Thai,” also referred to as Pang Oung. Tucked amidst rugged mountain ranges, this village boasts a breathtaking reservoir often likened to “Switzerland in Thailand.” The landscape is framed by pine forests and a kaleidoscope of winter flowers, with cool temperatures prevailing year-round. Witness the beauty of pine forests hugging the expansive reservoir, the enchanting morning mist, and the vibrant colors of flowers that continually attract visitors throughout the year.
Returning to Mae Hong Son, pay a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu temple, a revered place of worship situated atop Kong Mu Mountain. This temple comprises two distinct pagodas—the larger one constructed by “Chong Thong Su” in 1860 and the smaller one by “Phraya Singhanatracha” in 1874. From this vantage point, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the town, nestled amid a tapestry of mountains and valleys. Explore Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang, two temples that share a serene location beside a vast swamp. These ancient temples feature exquisite Burmese-style architecture and house revered Buddha images, including “Luang Paw To.” Wat Chong Klang is adorned with numerous Burmese woodcarvings and grand glass paintings portraying Buddhist history. Conclude your day with another night in Mae Hong Son, reflecting on the captivating cultural encounters and natural wonders that have defined your journey so far.
DAY 06: Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang: Route Maps
Departing from Mae Hong Son, your journey takes you to Mae La Noi district, following Highway No. 108 before turning onto rural Highway No. 1266. Your first stop is Huai Hom village, a Karen hill tribe settlement nestled amidst the embrace of nature and mountains. This village is characterized by its steep terrain, which serves as a source of headwaters and streams. The cool climate prevails year-round, providing a backdrop of stunning natural beauty in every season. The villagers primarily engage in agriculture, tending to farms and livestock. Additionally, they cultivate various vegetables, fruits, and even coffee. The Arabica coffee produced here is of exceptional quality, boasting a rich flavor profile and renowned for its excellent coffee properties. A noteworthy secondary occupation in this village is weaving, which encompasses natural cotton, calico, and wool from sheep. The woven textiles crafted from sheep’s wool in Baan Huai Hom represent a local tradition that involves natural dyeing and weaving techniques, showcasing the original weaving craftsmanship of the Karen people. The village’s simple lifestyle, distinctive culture, traditional attire, language, art, tribal rituals, and the warm and friendly smiles of its residents leave an indelible impression on all who visit.
After immersing yourself in the Karen culture and the splendor of nature, continue your journey to Ban La-ub village, home to the Lawa hill tribe. En route to the village, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of the natural beauty that envelops both sides of the road. Set atop a high mountain, the village enjoys a picturesque setting. The Lawa people have a long history in northern Thailand, characterized by unique traditional dress and their distinct language, which differs significantly from Thai. They adhere to a belief system that combines spirit worship with other religious practices. Like many other tribes, their way of life centers on agriculture, encompassing farming, vegetable cultivation, fruit orchards, and livestock raising. Additionally, the Lawa people are renowned for their skill in crafting silver ornaments. With warm hospitality, friendly greetings, deep-rooted faith and traditions, and breathtaking landscapes, the Lawa village never fails to leave a lasting impression on tourists who have the privilege of visiting. Continuing your journey, you’ll arrive in Mae Sariang District, reaching the town of Mae Sariang. Here, you’ll locate your hotel and spend the night, reflecting on the rich cultural experiences and awe-inspiring landscapes you’ve encountered along the way.
DAY 07: Mae Sariang – Mae Sot: Route Maps
Leaving behind the picturesque Mae Sariang District, your journey continues along Highway 105, a route that closely follows the Thai-Myanmar border. Your destination is Mae Sot District, with a captivating drive through Sop Moei District and the subsequent entry into Tak Province, passing through Tha Song Yang District along the way. As you make your way, take a delightful break to visit Mae Moei National Park, celebrated for its stunning vistas and panoramic viewpoints, particularly renowned for their breathtaking sea of mist viewing spots. Whether you choose to explore Mon Pui Mok, Mon Kru Ba Sai, Mon Krathing, Mon Kiew Lom, or Mon Poon Suda, each of these points offers a mesmerizing perspective of the majestic mountains and the sea of mist that blankets the region. Within the park’s office area, you’ll find well-marked signs guiding you to these viewpoints, along with information about the distances involved. The surroundings have been thoughtfully landscaped and adorned with beautiful ornamental plants, creating a serene and inviting atmosphere. The area around the office is lush and shaded, surrounded by pristine forests, and there’s even the chance to spot some of the region’s wildlife. Occasionally, creatures like deer or antelope grace travelers with their presence, adding to the natural beauty of the park. Your journey continues through Mae Ramat District before arriving in Mae Sot City, where you’ll spend the night. As you settle in for the evening, take a moment to reflect on the stunning landscapes and the serenity of nature that have characterized your adventure thus far.
DAY 08: Mae Sot Sightseeing: Route Maps
Mae Sot, nestled in Tak Province, is a renowned tourist district, distinguished by its proximity to the border and its role as a permanent border crossing point, notably the Mae Sot border checkpoint, which links to Myawaddy in Karen State, Myanmar. This crossing facilitates significant international trade and daily movement of people between the two countries. Consequently, Mae Sot City exudes a vibrant blend of cultures and traditions from both sides of the border. Surrounded by picturesque mountains and breathtaking natural beauty, Mae Sot offers a plethora of attractions for travelers to explore.
Begin your exploration of Mae Sot, a bustling border town where the energy is palpable. Venture into the city’s various temples, characterized by their grandeur and exquisite Burmese artistry. From there, head to Mae Kasa Village by retracing your path along Highway 105 and then veering onto rural Highway 4016, which boasts scenic beauty on both sides. It’s a journey of approximately half an hour to reach this charming village nestled in a valley. Mae Kasa Village and its surroundings host a wealth of tourist attractions, including the rejuvenating Mae Kasa Hot Springs, the picturesque Mae Kasa Waterfall, and the mysterious Mae Usa Cave. The waterfall, in particular, is a must-visit destination. It features crystal-clear waters and a stream that forms a basin resembling a large pond, inviting travelers to take a refreshing dip amid the wonders of nature. Besides swimming, the area surrounding the waterfall boasts a viewpoint where visitors can hike to soak in the beauty of the natural surroundings.
Continue your journey with a visit to Mae Kasa Hot Spring, a small hot spring enveloped by towering mountains and village farms. The water temperature here hovers around 70–80 degrees Celsius. Hot water streams mingle with the cold surface water, creating a warm stream with a subtle sulfur scent and rising steam. Nowadays, there are mineral baths available that lack the pungent sulfur odor, allowing visitors to soak in the soothing hot waters. The surrounding area has been thoughtfully renovated with manicured lawns and gardens, offering an engaging activity for travelers who can boil eggs in the hot springs. After immersing yourself in the Mae Kasa community’s way of life and unwinding with a relaxing soak, return to Mae Sot City to explore its vibrant nightlife. Spend another night in Mae Sot, soaking in the lively atmosphere and reflecting on the memorable experiences of the day.
DAY 09: Mae Sot – Sukhothai: Route Maps
Leaving Mae Sot behind, your journey continues along Highway No. 12 as you head towards Sukhothai Province. Along this scenic route, make a stop to explore the wonders of Taksin Maharat National Park. This park boasts a rugged mountainous landscape cloaked in dense, verdant forests, situated at an elevation of approximately 1,000 meters above sea level. Within the park’s boundaries, you’ll discover a wealth of attractions, offering choices for travelers to suit their preferences. These include the natural stone bridge, Pang Ah Noi Waterfall, Sam Muen Thung Waterfall, and Tham Than Lod Pha Khao Pha Daeng. The park office provides valuable information and directions to help you navigate your way to these captivating spots. After savoring the natural beauty of Taksin Maharat National Park, continue your journey to Lan Sang National Park, another natural gem nestled in complex mountainous terrain. The park is graced by the imposing Thanon Thongchai Mountain Range, which dominates its center. Umyom Peak, the highest point, soars to approximately 1,065 meters above sea level. The area is home to lush, fertile forests that serve as a habitat for wildlife and a vital source of water, giving rise to the Lan Sang Waterfall and numerous other cascades. Most of the park’s attractions center around waterfalls and picturesque viewpoints. The park office offers comprehensive information, including distances to these captivating spots. From Lan Sang National Park, journey further into Mueang Tak District before reaching Sukhothai Province. This province is steeped in ancient civilizations and teems with historical remnants. It’s a place where history comes alive, offering a rich tapestry of cultural heritage and historical significance. As the day draws to a close, you’ll find accommodations in Sukhothai City, where you can rest and prepare for further exploration of this historically rich province.
DAY 10: Sukhothai – Lampang: Route Maps
Your exploration of Sukhothai Province continues with a visit to the Sukhothai Historical Park, a site that spans approximately 70 square kilometers and served as the inaugural capital of Thailand during the 18th to 20th Buddhist centuries. During this period, the Thai people established the foundations of politics and economics, fostering a flourishing culture. In recognition of its historical significance, the Sukhothai Historical Park was designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1991. This site stands as a testament to the birthplace of significant arts and culture, marked by Thai characters and meticulous urban planning. The Sukhothai Buddhist sculptures, noted for their distinctive delicacy, are revered as the pinnacle of beauty in Thai art across various fields. The park is replete with numerous grand structures, including ancient Buddha images and over 70 ancient buildings outside the city walls, along with 26 within the walls. Notable sites include Wat Mahathat Temple, Wat Chana Songkhram Temple, Wat Traphang Ngoen Temple, Wat Sri Sawai Temple, Wat Si Chum Temple, and many others.
Your journey continues to Si Satchanalai District, where you’ll explore the Si Satchanalai Historical Park, another pivotal historical site within the province. UNESCO also recognized this site as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1991. It’s an archaeological treasure trove that exhibits traces of settlements dating back to prehistoric times, encompassing an area of more than 45 square kilometers with a total of 215 archaeological sites. The site is distinguished by its multitude of significant structures constructed from laterite. Five prominent archaeological sites are worth your attention, housing important temples such as Wat Chang Lom Temple, Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo Temple, Wat Nang Phaya Temple, Wat Suwan Khiri Temple, Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat Temple, Wat Suan Kaew Yai Temple, Wat Suan Kaew Noi Temple, and the City Pillar Shrine, among others. Thanks to its location amid pristine forest, relatively untouched by modern civilization, this historical park possesses unparalleled natural beauty and a remarkable completeness of ancient sites, making it a true gem in Thailand’s historical landscape. As your day of exploration in Sukhothai Province draws to a close, you’ll embark on a journey to Lampang Province, where you’ll arrive in the late afternoon. Find suitable accommodations in Lampang to rest and prepare for the adventures that await in this charming province.
DAY 11: Lampang – Chiang Mai: Route Maps
In Lampang city, embark on a delightful carriage ride to immerse yourself in the local way of life. These carriages travel along roads that once served as the economic arteries of Lampang, bearing traces of its past prosperity, including ancient buildings that line the streets, inviting tourists to admire their architectural beauty. The horse carriage has come to symbolize Lampang Province and was once the primary mode of transportation for locals. While technological advancements have rendered these carriages obsolete for everyday travel, they have persevered as a cherished symbol of the province, now exclusively used for tourism. From Lampang City, make your way to Chae Hom District to visit “Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn,” also known as “Wat Phra Bat Phu Pha Daeng.” This site is often referred to as a slice of heaven on earth. The temple pavilion and pagoda are perched atop a mountain, nearly 1,000 meters above sea level, and the only way to reach this serene sanctuary is by foot. The walking path spans approximately 1 kilometer and takes around 30 minutes to traverse. The trail is somewhat steep, winding through lush forests and punctuated by staircases. Along the way, you’ll be treated to the splendor of nature and the abundance of the forest. At the mountain’s summit, you’ll discover pavilions and more than 10 pagodas, each constructed with the unwavering faith of monks and villagers, a labor of love that spanned many years. Moreover, the mountaintop offers the most spectacular and captivating viewpoint, where you can drink in the breathtaking surrounding scenery. Below, you’ll have a clear view of Chae Hom District and beyond. Continue your journey to Chiang Mai Province, reaching Chiang Mai City in the late afternoon. Check in at your hotel for an overnight stay and take the opportunity to explore the vibrant nightlife of Chiang Mai before bidding farewell to this enchanting city. https://maps.app.goo.gl/i5G91kGbPc3c4rNN7
DAY 12: Chiang Mai Departure:
On your final day in Chiang Mai, make your way to the airport to conclude your journey. Return your rental car, complete the check-in process for your flight, and prepare for boarding. As the aircraft ascends into the skies, take a moment to reflect on the adventures and experiences you’ve had during your time in northern Thailand. Bid a fond farewell to this captivating region, carrying with you cherished memories of your travels.