Magic & Mystery Tour of North Thailand

A 8 day trip to Thailand 
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North Thailand radiates both charm and mystery, the exuberant green mountains smothered in magic and fresh experiences. Elegant ancient ruins, hill tribe villages, pristine jungle, enchanting towns, effervescent nature; this handcrafted vacation offers a compelling blend of highlights, each epitomizing the endless enchantment of an evocative region. And it always comes with the omnipresent feeling of serenity and a beguiling rhythm of life. 

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Chiangrai, Doi Tung -Maesai Border, Golden Triangle, Long Neck Hilltribe, Chiang Saen, Mai Sai, Doi Mae Salong, Thaton, Chiang Dao, Pai, Tham Lod Caves, Mae Hong Son, Khum Yuan, Mae Chaem, Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Relaxing Welcome to Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai provides an idyllic first stop, nestled in luxuriantly green mountains and imbued with a long intriguing history. Gaze from the plane window at the thick coatings of jungle, admiring the untamed landscape you’re about to explore. Your private driver is waiting in arrivals, his huge smile synonymous with the region and his calm professionalism reflecting Thailand’s commitment to luxury travel. You’ll be traveling in a spacious modern saloon vehicle; keep the windows up for the air-conditioning or wind then down for first photos of the mesmeric natural surroundings. Mountain peaks dot the horizon, valleys seem to roll on forever, and everything bursts with dazzling vibrancy. The green of Northern Thailand is unlike any green you may have seen before.

The rest of the day is deliberately left free, giving you time to relax and recuperate at the sumptuous hotel. The driver is at your disposal and can give many suggestions for great local restaurants and interesting places to explore.

Day 2: The Elegance of Chiang Rai and the Beauty of the Golden Triangle

Wake to the smells of Northern Thailand; local coffee beans getting roasted, fresh pineapple being sliced, incense flickering across from ancient temples. Senses elevated, you explore Chiang Rai, spending the morning touring the indelible sights and sounds. Admire the King Meng Rai monument and ride into the old market area. Traders’ shouts float across stalls of fresh fruit and colorful cotton, every angle appearing like a photo from the front cover of National Geographic. Continue the local immersion at Wat Phra Kaew, barefooted red robed monks guiding you through rooms of evocative spirituality. Wat Rong Khun offers a very different temple experience, the unique kanok architecture bringing an aesthetic charm, before the city adventure culminates at the fascinating Hilltribe Museum. Here you get a great overview of the intricacy and complexity of hill tribes in Northern Thailand. Tomorrow you’ll be visiting one.

Leave Chiang Rai and head toward the Golden Triangle, your driver always willing to stop for some glorious mountain photos. Three countries convene at this picturesque destination along the Mekong. Gaze out at Myanmar. Turn around and you’re looking into Laos. Look down below and you find the remains of the ancient Kingdom of Chiang Saen, standing in a beguiling state of ruin, half consumed by the river. Crumbling brick is coated in yellow ribbons, Buddha statues are resplendent against the red rock, and moss creeps around the archways of intact temples. Then a long-tail boat picks you up from the Mekong River bank, taking you on a cruise between three different countries. Before heading to your elegant hotel there’s time for a quick stop at the Hall of Opium, a museum dedicated to the eradication of opium trading and opium addiction.

Day 3: The Indelible Delights of Far Northern Thailand

A quiet road weaves north, curling through the mountains until you’re at a giddy 2000 meters above sea level. Life in these remote valleys remains virtually unchanged for centuries and the villagers extend welcoming waves as you pass by. It’s wonderfully idyllic and peaceful…until you arrive at the bustling markets of Mai Sai, the atmosphere engulfed with a soundtrack of trading. Colors juxtapose, stalls bring fresh smells to the nostrils, and the bewildering vibrancy more than compensates for the noise. Soak it all up and then return to tranquility with a wander through the majestic Mae Fah Luang Gardens. Then, completing the return to absolute serenity, visit the Doi Tung Temple.

Weave towards Doi Mae Salong and take a break at one of the town’s elegant coffee plantations. It can’t get much fresher than sitting with a steaming mug in hand and gazing out across the coffee fields. Fully energized you head into the trees and a remote Padaung Long-Necked Hill Tribe village. Women’s necks are covered in brass rings, the inimitable practice starting from when girls are just five or six years old. Other dazzling shocks of brass cover arms and shins, contrasting with colorful ribbons of cotton. This tribe is less visited than ones near Chiang Mai and none of their ancient practices have been westernized. For incredible photos of rural Thai life there’s nowhere better. Take your time and soak up the village, admiring both the people and their humble yet alluring lifestyle. From here it’s just a short journey to Thaton and a great hotel on the outskirts of town.

Day 4: Elephant Trekking Through the Jungle and Onwards to Charming Pai

Today is all about exploring the jungle. It starts on elephant back, Thailand’s biggest residents taking you on a ride into the wilderness. Weaving and winding, your tusker picks a path through the trees, stopping on command whenever you want to capture it all with the camera. There’s an encompassing silence here, broken only by a pachyderm footstep or a trunk swatting away an overhanging branch. Your elephant knows the route, and it knows that bath time is near. Jump down and watch their playful water antics, or stay on board as the elephants shoot immense jets of water from their trunks. Elephants are smart, astonishingly smart when you consider the game of pachyderm football you’re watching, or their ability to perform peculiar tricks.

There are two traditional ways out of the jungle; take an ox-pulled cart or board a bamboo raft and float down the river. Both offer sublime immersion in pristine jungle landscapes. Your guide is waiting and you return to a more modern form of transport. The picturesque road to Pai is filled with quaint stops, including the Mok Fah Waterfall and the Pong Duad Hotsprings. Journeys in Northern Thailand are never dull or tiresome. The rich delights of the scenery are a huge part of the region’s attraction, and every few miles you encounter the enduring smiles of a local or group of villagers. Beautiful Pai is today’s stop, the pre-dusk light covering it in an additional layer of wizardry. Wander the alluring streets and enjoy the grace of a town that’s quickly becoming one of Thailand’s next great destinations.

Day 5: Lost in Thailand’s Natural Wonders

In this rural piece of paradise you’re seemingly a million miles away from modern civilization and Western influence. Even the trees begin to hold an element of mystery as you journey into the off-the-beaten-track depths of Northern Thailand. Despite being one of Asia’s most impressive natural wonders, the Tham Lod Caves receive limited visitors. A tiny river winds through the caves and a bamboo raft and kerosene lantern provide the only means of exploration. Three huge caverns await, each filled with stunning limestone formations and dramatic stalagmites and stalactites. Shine the lamp and you discover ancient teak coffin remains, an eerie addition to the visual delight.

Your smiling driver is always waiting for you and each day's itinerary can always be amended dependent on the mood. For example, today you might choose to spend some time in the cute Tham Lod Village. Or decide to continue to the Tam Pla park, another place to discover ancient caves dissected by wiggling creeks. After a hearty lunch you continue the mesmeric journey and gently roll into Mae Hong Son by mid-afternoon. Rugged mountains gaze down on this exemplar of tranquility and the pristine blue lake provides an idyllic spot to write postcards and relish the quietude. Dotted around town are Burmese style temples, very different in style from those you have seen in Chiang Rai. Incense smoke floats into spiritual rooms, white and gold facades reflect in the lake’s water, and huge Buddha statues hide behind tiny doorways. You’ll spend the night overlooking the lake in Mae Hong Son.

Day 6: Serene River Journeys and Thailand’s Charming Mystery

Northern Thai life revolves around its rivers and some villages remain only accessible by boat. Board an elegant long-tail boat and take a cruise along the Pai River’s cataracts, the delights of the riverside explored at a gentle pace. Women wash clothes in the shallows, children wave hello from the banks, and fishermen head out in their small wooden canoes. Like Mai Sai on day three, the calm transforms to vibrant excitement as you reach a small market on the Thai-Myanmar border. Your driver waits on the riverside and he whisks you onwards to Khun Yuam, a town with an intriguing WWII history. The relics left behind here are from Japanese soldiers; uniforms, military equipment, personal artifacts, everything abandoned as the soldiers evacuated. From here you travel to Mae Chaem, another town with an indelibly serene atmosphere that encourages gentle exploration and meeting the locals.

Day 7: Standing on Thailand’s Highest Peak and Onwards to Chiang Mai

Wake to the sounds of rural Thailand; a temple bell flickering in the distance, a morning fruit trader wandering the streets, a dozen evocative sounds floating across the lake. This vacation has taken you deep into the jungle, revealing an intimate and uncovered look at the beauty of Northern Thailand. You’ve seen it all from up-close, and now you admire it from the sky. Doi Inthanon National Park is home to the country’s highest peak and it’s just a short hike from where your driver can park. Ascend to the summit and marvel at the panoramas, a great blanket of green extending in every direction. Valleys roll and swerve into Myanmar, peaks jut above snaking rivers, and all 360 degrees have you pressing the camera shutter.

But Doi Inthanon is not just about a single summit, this ancient park is coated in wonder. Chao Inthawitchayanon built his shrine amidst this carpet of green, the former prince of Chiang Mai bringing a spiritual dose of beauty to this delightful corner of the world. Hike along Michael’s Trail and keep savoring new vistas, or choose to sit back in a cafe and gaze out at the incumbent natural wonder. From here you drive to Chiang Mai, the largest city in Northern Thailand and its cultural heart.

Day 8: Exploring Chiang Mai and Fond Farewells to Northern Thailand

This morning offers a chance to explore Chiang Mai’s most impressive cultural attractions. With the dawn light coating everything in a seemingly mythical haze, you climb 309 steps to the spectacular chedi of Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. Beneath you is another unforgettable vista, but behind you are some of Thailand’s most impressive murals. Keep ascending through the coffee plantations to a cute cafe where local Arabica is delivered at its fragrant best. Then descend to the town and explore old city walls and historic gates, each subtly different from the last. Completing this immersive vacation is a sensual walk through a local market, the vivacious colors complimented by a laid-back atmosphere.

In the afternoon you’re transferred to Chiang Mai Airport. Say a fond farewell to your driver and ascend above the landscape that you’ve explored in such rich depth. Within an hour of departing you’re probably already planning when to return.

Thailand vacation packages can be extended and further customized. Browse the reviews for travel agents for Thailand to read traveler reviews.

Price

Price 

Zicasso recommends the following guidelines for customized Thailand tour packages, excluding international flights:

  • 5-star: USD $450 - $1,000+ per person per day
  • 4-star: Minimum USD $350 per person per day
  • 3-star: Minimum USD $300 per person per day

The customized package will include accommodations, airport transfers and other transportation within Thailand, guided tours or activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip.

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.