Northern Thailand, home of the ancient Lanna kingdom, offers a great diversity of activities. The old Lanna capitals of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are filled with ancient monuments and museums, and markets selling the distinctive local textiles and handicrafts. Smaller towns, such as Nan and Lamphun, offer a more low-key charm. Away from the main settlements, the scenery of Northern Thailand is stupendous: mountains, forests (some of them teak), rice fields set in verdant valleys, and several spectacular national parks. The more adventurous visitor can join a trek to remote villages inhabited by hill tribes where elements of lifestyle have changed little in hundreds of years.
Chiang Mai is justly famed for its 300 temples, fine shopping, distinctive Northern cuisine, and (despite its size) relaxed pace of life.
Doi Inthanon National Park incorporates the highest mountain in Thailand. Visitors come for the stunning scenery, including several waterfalls, and rich wildlife.
Lampang is a thriving town which hosts colorful festivals. It contains a number of important wats and a museum of Lanna artifacts.
Mae Hong Son, a rapidly developing tourist center, is particularly popular with budget travelers. The town’s main attraction is its beautiful mountain setting.
Doi Tung, a mountain set in beautiful forested country, is crowned by an important pilgrimage site.
Chiang Rai has long dwelled in the shadow of nearby Chiang Mai, but is now rapidly developing into a significant tourist center in its own right. Its monuments and wats may not be as numerous, but the city is an excellent source of hill-tribe handicrafts and a starting point for trekkers.
Nan is a wealthy, sleepy town with several quirky wats, a good museum, and a spectacular mountain setting. Every October the Nan River is filled with colorful canoes taking part in the Lanna boat races.