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Chiang Mai and the North

An 8-day tour through the spectacular mountains of northern Thailand's former infamous Golden Triangle

Off the beaten track north Thailand tour

Chiang Mai and the North is an exciting 8-day north Thailand tour through the remote mountains, villages and historic towns of some of the well-known, as well as rarely-visited, parts of the kingdom.

The tour begins in Chiang Mai where we’ll explore the quaint lanes, colourful markets and ancient temples of the old city as well as sampling some of the local specialities in the lively street bazaars. From here we’ll head north to the remote Thai, Burma border town of Tha Ton to embark on a 3-day adventure by foot and by boat up the Kok River and into the hills where we’ll stay in villages of the Lahu and Akha ethnic groups, before finishing in mountain-top Mae Salong. This unusual town, perched atop a narrow ridge, was originally settled by fleeing Chinese Republican (Kuomintang) soldiers and their families after defeat by Mao’s People’s Army and was formerly infamous as a centre for the opium trade. These days the town is better known for its tea plantations, colourful hill-tribes and mountain vistas.

Descending from the hills we’ll explore some of Chiang Rai Province’s sites including the Mae Fah Luang Botanical Gardens, Sob Ruak where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar) meet and of course the famous ‘icing-sugar temple’, Wat Rong Khun. The tour ends with a return drive through the forest-covered mountains to Chiang Mai.

This exciting journey by road, foot and boat through a picturesque, fascinating but often little-known region is suitable as a stand-alone tour for those with less time or can be complemented perhaps by one of our Thai beach and island extensions?



Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.

Day 1 - Chiang Mai - walking tour of the old city

Arrival in Chiang Mai and afternoon walking tour of the lanes and ancient temples of the old city before an evening visit to the famous night bazaar.

Extra accommodation in Chiang Mai before or after your tour is available on request

Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Walk,  Meals: D,

Day 2 - Tha Ton - north through the mountains

Departure from Chiang Mai for the far north, with a scenic drive to the remote border town of Tha Ton. On the way, we will stop to visit the fascinating cave temples at Chiang Dao, before checking out the spectacular views at Tha Ton Pagoda situated high on a mountain-top straddling the Thai, Burmese border.

Overnight: Tha Ton Transport: Minibus,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 3 - Yafu - trek through the hills

Beginning with a descent by boat of the scenic Kok River, we’ll trek through the region’s dramatic and picturesque mountain scenery with an overnight stay in a Lahu settlement as guests of the village school teacher.

Overnight: Yafu Village Transport: Boat, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 4 - Aye Village - hike to an Akha village

Our hike continues across streams and through the forests of this spectacular and remote mountainous region. Overnight stay in Aye with a family of the Akha tribe in this rarely-visited, and still very traditional village.

Usual hiking 5-6 hours although treks can be tailored to any fitness level

Overnight: Akha Village Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 5 - Mae Salong - tea and opium

Morning transfer by truck to the fascinating town of Mae Salong,  originally founded by Chinese Republican soldiers (Kuomintang), who took refuge in the area after defeat by Mao Tse Tung’s communist forces. The town was off limits for many years due to its role as a centre for the opium trade, but is now known for tea plantations and spectacular scenery as well as being the centre for the local hill-tribe peoples. Time to wander around the picturesque mountain-top town and perhaps participate in a tea tasting ceremony?

Overnight: Mae Salong Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 6 - Chiang Rai - the Golden Triangle

An early start to visit the morning hill-tribe market before continuing to the magnificent botanical gardens at Mae Fah Luang.  From here we’ll travel north to Sob Ruak and the Golden Triangle itself, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma meet and where we’ll take in the unusual Opium Museum, before continuing to Chiang Rai for our overnight accommodation.

Overnight: Chiang Rai Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L,

Day 7 - Chiang Mai - return to Chiang Mai

Morning scenic drive through the mountains to Chiang Mai with a stop on the way to visit the spectacular Wat Rong Khun Temple. Mid-afternoon arrival with time to stretch your legs or just relax by the pool before an evening farewell dinner.

Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D,

Day 8 - Chiang Mai - at leisure and end of tour

Tour ends after breakfast.  For those staying on in Chiang Mai, check out the local markets, visit the famous Doi Suthep or a Thai cookery lesson can be arranged.

Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged on request.

Overnight: Departure Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, 

Print Itinerary


The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.

Thailand, local cuisine

Just a few of the many highlights

Chiang Mai, Thailand's laid-back northern capital and Chiang Rai, former centre of the infamous Golden Triangle. Explore the spectacular mountains, river valleys, villages, local markets an of course cuisine, of this scenic region

  • Discover the ancient temples, bustling markets and quiet lanes of Thailand's charming northern capital, historic Chiang Mai
  • Fascinating overnight stays in traditional hill-tribe villages as guests of one of the local families
  • Day tour of the infamous Golden Triangle region: border markets, scenic landscapes, ancient cities and of course the famous Opium Museum
  • Mountain trekking; hike through the hills, valleys, villages and farmland of Chiang Rai's picturesque landscapes
  • Overnight in Chiang Rai, capital of the Golden Triangle region with an evening tour of the town's lively night bazaar
  • Authentic Thai food; spicy curries, delicately flavoured soups, street market noodles, North Thai specialities and even hill-tribe cuisine

Air Departures (UK)

  • 11 May 19 1,525 GBP
  • 6 July 19 1,525 GBP
  • 24 August 19 1,525 GBP
  • 5 November 19 1,525 GBP
  • 7 December 19 1,525 GBP

Land Departures

  • 12 May 19 725 GBP
  • 8 July 19 725 GBP
  • 25 August 19 725 GBP
  • 6 November 19 725 GBP
  • 8 December 19 725 GBP

Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed

*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Chiang Mai

*Land departure dates correspond to the FIRST day of the itinerary.

We choose our hotels based on a combination of location, comfort and convenience. Here is a *selection of the types of hotel/rooms you can expect to stay at on this tour...

20 Lodge, Chiang Mai view

  • Delightful lush garden setting & pool
  • Quiet location in the Old City
  • Small, friendly and a welcoming family style

Yafu village home-stay, Chiang Rai

  • Home-stay in Yafu - a village of the Red Lahu ethnic group
  • Spectacularly sited on a mountain top with awesome views
  • Our overnight spot on a 2 day trek

Ban Hom Muen Lee Resort, Mae Salong view

  • Chinese-style decor in the old Kuomintang base of Mae Salong
  • All rooms with private balconies and stupendous views
  • Mountain-top location in this quaint and quirky town

Laluna Resort, Chiang Rai view

  • Comfortable individual chalets in a stunning tropical garden
  • 5 minute tuk-tuk ride from the town's lively night bazaar
  • Pool, spa, massage and excellent in-house restaurant

*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.

Visa Info & Notes

This information is for anyone embarking on this tour and does not pertain to long-stay visitors or expats.

Most nationalities simply receive a 30-day visa waiver stamp on arrival at Bangkok or Chiang Mai airports.  Your passport must be valid for a full 6 months, in good condition with no pages torn or missing, and while we can’t find any specific information regarding number of blank pages, as usual in South East Asia, you’re better off with at least 2 available.

Importantly you may be asked for proof of onward travel and proof you have sufficient funds for your stay.

More details, including a list of all nationalities eligible for the visa waiver, can be found on our blog A Round-Up of Thai Entry and Visa Requirements for Visitors

Further info: more details and photos of our Chiang Mai and the North tour

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