Golden Triangle, Chiang Saen, Pai, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
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.
Chiang Rai – 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.
Golden Triangle – 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.
Thaton – 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.
Mae Hong Son – 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.
Mae Chaem – 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.
Chiang Mai – Standing on Thailand’s Highest Peak
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.
Chiang Mai – 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.
- Explore some of Thailand’s finest ancient temples, the glorious architecture either in evocative states of ruin, or fastidiously restored to its original beauty
- Discover village markets and indigenous hill tribes in the very far north of Thailand, these rural delights offering an immersive journey back in time
- Experience the relatively unknown beauty of two of Thailand’s finest natural wonders, the mystical Tham Lod Caves and the panorama covered Doi Inthanon National Park
- Visit some of Asia’s most enchanting small towns, each engulfed by breathtaking surroundings; picturesque Pai and serene Mae Hong Son are just two of the highlights
- Relive the history of the region with poignant visits to old Burmese style temples, towns integral to WWII, and the Hilltribe Museum
- Enjoy a relaxed pace that suits the tranquility of the region and ensures absolute submersion in the ubiquitous natural splendor
This handcrafted itinerary carefully blends the diverse highlights of Northern Thailand, elevating every mood as the magic of a region comes alive. At its heart, this vacation is indelibly tranquil and laid-back. The gentle rhythm of life always delights visitors, and it’s always complemented by thick coatings of untamed nature and immersive cultural journeys. This 8-day vacation unveils Northern Thailand in the most luxurious of manners, effortlessly blending natural wonder, ancient architecture, charming towns, and indigenous culture. Start in Chiang Rai and end in Chiang Mai, with your own luxury vehicle and driver making a loop through the meandering green mountains of this mesmeric region. Each day moves at an easy pace, with the journeys always interspersed with hidden highlights well off the tourist radar. This is the version of Thailand that time forgot, achingly intimate and bursting with authenticity. And it’s effortlessly elevated by the world class luxury touches that the country is becoming famous for.
Begin your vacation in Chiang Rai, a historic town covered in elegant sights and intriguing narratives. Feel the spirituality of its old temples and explore the vibrant market before journeying to the Golden Triangle and the ancient kingdom of Chiang Saen. Nestled on the Mekong River, with Myanmar visible in the distance, you’re engulfed in forest clad mountains and vividly green valleys. On day three you head to the very northeast of Thailand, ascending to 2,000 meters above sea level and exploring hill tribe villages unchanged for millennia. It’s not so much a look at history but a journey back in time, the vivacious colors and ebullient smiles a lasting reminder of this special corner of the world.
After three days of culture you then delve deeper into nature. Like everywhere on this trip, Pai showcases an indelible sense of calm and harmony with nature. Wonders are hidden in the jungle and day five picks a path through the trees; explore the eerie yet beautiful Tham Lod Caves and spend the night beside the charming Burmese temples of Mae Hong Son.
Highlights keep cascading from this unique vacation, every day offering a new angle and panorama. On day six your graceful long-tail boat ride along the cataracts of the Pai River will reveal the quaint delights of the riverside as memorable as the green mountain peaks. Discover a throbbing rural market then explore the intriguing WWII history of Khun Yuam. After exploring Northern Thailand in rich personal detail it’s time to admire it all from the sky, day seven taking you to Thailand’s highest peak and impossibly beautiful panoramas. Finish the journey in Chiang Mai, thoroughly rested yet filled with unique vacation memories.
$1,535 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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