North Thailand Family Tour
Take the family off the beaten track into Thailand's spectacular northern mountains
The Hills of Mae Salong
A fascinating and varied 2-week North Thailand family tour. The delights of Thailand’s beaches and islands are world renowned but these mist-shrouded mountains, lush forests and remote villages of the far North are still waiting to be discovered.
Beginning with an unusual public transport tour of Bangkok’s famous sites and its lesser-seen back streets, we’ll head north via the ruined, ancient capital and now UNESCO World Heritage Site, of Sukhothai to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern capital. From here we’ll continue into the forests, valleys and hills of Chiang Rai and Mae Salong – the infamous former Golden Triangle Region – for an exciting journey by foot, road and river, including overnight stays as guests in hill-tribe villages.
This is a private family tour and therefore can be organised on dates to suit your family and does not have set dates. The price is based on a family of 4 sharing two twin/double rooms. Flights are extra and vary according to the season. Please ask for our most competitive quote..
For those with a few more days to spare get the most out of your airfare with one of our various beach and island stay extensions – suitable for any time of the year, and available on request.
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
Day 1 - Bangkok - arrival and time to explore the area
Arrival in Bangkok and check in to a comfortable, downtown hotel in the City’s Banglamphu district. Afternoon to relax, recover from your jet-lag by the pool or explore the area’s lively markets and street-life before a welcome local-style Thai dinner.
Extra nights in Bangkok prior to your tour are available on request.
Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Walk, Meals: D,
Day 2 - Bangkok - city tour with a difference
City tour with a difference – central Bangkok by riverboat, skytrain, tuk-tuk and canal boat. We’ll see the famous sites and what lies behind the famous sites! Visits will include the Grand Palace, fabulous Wat Phra Keow (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Siam Square and the fascinating Jim Thompson House Museum.
Overnight: Bangkok Transport: Train, Boat, Walk, Tuk Tuk, Meals: B,
Day 3 - Bangkok to Sukhothai - up-country by train
Morning departure by train across the Central Plains and their emerald green rice paddies, to up-country Phitsanulok town – the Gateway to the North. Lunchtime arrival and a visit to the local handicraft museum. Transfer to nearby Sukhothai town with the afternoon to relax in our guesthouse garden or discover the local markets.
Overnight: Sukhothai Transport: Minibus, Train, Meals: B,
Day 4 - Sukhothai - World Heritage ancient city
Bicycle tour of the nearby, ancient city and now UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sukhothai – former capital of Siam – which, with it’s crumbling sandstone temples, ancient carvings, towering Buddha statues and lotus-covered ponds, is one of the country’s most sacred and evocative sites.
Overnight: Sukhothai Transport: Bike, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 5 - Sukhothai to Chiang Mai - heading north
Scenic drive through the mountains to Chiang Mai with stops at Lampang’s famous Elephant Hospital and a country market. Check in to our centrally located hotel with time to relax by the pool or explore the area before an evening tour of the town’s famous night bazaar.
Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 6 - Chiang Mai - walking tour of the ancient city
A morning walking tour of the lanes, ancient temples and markets of Chiang Mai’s old town with the afternoon at leisure to perhaps check out some local handicrafts, try out one of the famous traditional massages or just relax by the pool?
Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Walk, Meals: B,
Day 7 - Chiang Mai to Tha Ton - across the mountains
Departure from Chiang Mai for the far North with a scenic drive to the remote border town of Tha Ton, including a stop on the way to visit the fascinating cave temples at Chiang Dao, before checking out the spectacular views at Tha Ton Pagoda situated high on a mountaintop straddling the Thai/Burmese border.
Overnight: Tha Ton Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 8 - Kok River - boat and hike through the hills
Beginning with a descent by boat of the scenic Kok River, we’ll trek through the region’s dramatic mountain scenery with an overnight stay as guests of the village school teacher in a Lahu settlement.
Overnight: Yafu (Lahu Village) Transport: Boat, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 9 - Middle of nowhere - hike to an Akha village
Our hike continues across streams and through the forests of this spectacular and remote mountainous region. Overnight stay as guests of a Akha minority family in a rarely visited, and still very traditional, village.
Overnight: Akha Village Transport: Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 10 - Mae Salong - tea and hill-tribes
Morning transfer to the nearby town of Mae Salong. Originally founded by Chinese Republican soldiers (Kuomintang), who took refuge in the area after defeat by 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: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 11 - Golden Triangle - morning market and botanical gardens
Opportunity for 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 the bustling Burmese border market at Mae Sai. Visit Sob Ruak and the Golden Triangle itself, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma meet, and where we can take in the unusual Opium Museum, before continuing to Chiang Rai for our overnight accommodation.
Overnight: Chiang Rai Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 12 - Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai - return through the mountains
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 and perhaps take in one of the town’s street markets.
Overnight: Chiang Mai Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, D,
Day 13 - Chiang Mai - morning at leisure and end of tour
Morning at leisure in Chiang Mai, (for those with time to spare, check out the local markets, visit the famous Doi Suthep, or a Thai cookery lesson can be arranged) and end of tour.
Extra nights in Chiang Mai after your tour are available on request.
Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged.
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
Just a few of the many highlights
Discover Bangkok by tuk-tuk, 'Skytrain and canal boat before heading north, by way of a cycling tour of the World Heritage ancient city of Sukhothai, to the picturesque mountains of the former 'Golden Triangle'
- Discover Bangkok - famous sites, temples, markets, museums as well as the hidden parts that few visitors ever see
- Discover the ancient temples, bustling markets and quiet lanes of Thailand's charming northern capital and historic town Chiang Mai
- Day tour of the infamous Golden Triangle region: border markets, scenic landscapes, ancient cities and of course the famous opium museum
- Explore the picturesque ancient capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sukhothai by bicycle
- Mountain trekking; hike through the mountains, valleys, villages and farmland of Chiang Rai's picturesque landscapes
- And of course the opportunity to sample the world famous Thai cuisine - in the places the locals eat at - and meet the friendly residents
Air Departures (UK)
Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed
*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Bangkok
*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...
Nanda Heritage Hotel, Bangkok view
- Based around a beautifully restored 1920s teak family villa
- The award winning design combines traditional and modern
- Great central location for restaurants, cafes and shopping
20 Lodge, Chiang Mai view
- Delightful lush garden setting & pool
- Quiet location in the Old City
- Small, friendly and a welcoming family style
Foresto Sukhothai view
- Delightful, tropical garden setting with pool
- Central yet quiet location in Sukhothai Town
- Boutique style with a fusion of modern & traditional Lanna
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
Visas: While most nationalities receive an automatic 30-day stamp on arrival, so you can dispense with visa on arrivals, e-visas etc – in terms of the small print and variations to the rule Thailand has some complex regulations and there are still a few details to watch out for plus various bilateral arrangements between Thailand and other nations do throw up a lot of anomalies. Firstly, 6 months passport validity is required and while we can’t find any specifications regarding number of blank pages, as usual in these parts, you’re better off with at least 2 available.
The following nationalities benefit from a visa waiver or exemption scheme and passport holders will automatically receive 30-day stamps on arrival at any Thai international airport: Australia, Canada, UK, US, certain EU countries plus citizens of other Asean member states. Generally, citizens of western and central European EU countries are included while those of some newer, particularly eastern EU nations aren’t. Conversely, several South American nationalities receive 90-day visas so do check in advance. A full visa exemption list can be found here. Note this is a visa waiver and not a tourist visa.
If arriving by a land crossing then the situation gets more complicated and regulations do change frequently. Normally most above nationalities are also entitled to a 30-day visa exemption stamp while other passport holders will receive 15 days though the latter is again worth checking in advance. Commonly used land crossings for the purposes of our tours would be Tachileik/Mae Sai (from Myanmar), Poipet/Aranyaprathet and Prum/Ban Pakard (from Cambodia) and Vang Tao/Chong Mek for Ubon (from Laos). The nitty-gritty also varies from one land crossing to another – some of which may be very little frequented by foreigners – so to be on the safe side have passport photos and photocopy of your main passport pages to hand.
Importantly, and this can in theory go for airports too, you may be asked for proof of onward travel and proof you have sufficient funds for your stay. We reckon these are more aimed at long-stay visitors and though we haven’t come across either rule being applied to casual tourists they are specified on the Thai immigration site and they do have these rules in their armoury.
If you’re not covered by any of the above or have any doubts or if you intend to stay more than 30 days then you will need to apply in advance for a Thai tourist visa. The validity of single entry tourist visas is generally 60 days but again can vary depending upon nationality and you need to make an application at your nearest Thai embassy. (Cost is approximately $30 or equivalent in local currency.) If you are planning on exiting and re-entering Thailand more than once then you can also apply for a multiple entry tourist visa costing approximately $150. (Precise costs and waiting time vary from one embassy to another.)
Furthermore, citizens of states not covered by the visa waiver system can also apply for a visa on arrival at an international airport. This is a 30-day one costing 2,000 baht payable in Thai currency only. Again you may be asked for proof of onward travel and funds.
The above can be construed as unnecessarily complicated and furthermore regulations do change on a regular basis so again, please check beforehand if you’re not a passport holder from one of the usual suspects Canada, France, Germany, UK, et al. We have in the past come across smaller Thai embassies providing inaccurate or out of date information and anecdotal travellers’ tales are – well anecdotal – so the official Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs site should, in theory, be your best source.
Tipping: we recommend a kitty system for smaller, daily tips such as hotel/restaurant staff and local drivers. Amounts inevitably vary with group size but would generally be in the region of 100 baht ($2-$3) per person per day. For your guide/tour-leader tip – who will accompany you for the duration of your tour – we’d recommend approximately $20-30 per person total for the former though of course, this is always discretionary and performance related. (Local currency or USD are fine.)
Meals: Although Thailand’s world-renowned cuisine needs no introduction its highly varied regional cooking – firey southern-style, Chiang Mai and northern specialities, Bangkok and central Thai fare plus the ubiquitous I-san (northeastern) cuisine – is far less known. Also bear in mind that authentic local food in Thailand may be considerably different to your neighbourhood Thai restaurant at home. Our emphasis will be on local-style food – including market and streetfood – including aforementioned regional specialities while chilli tolerance levels will of course be taken into account by your tour-leader.
Breakfasts are either buffets or a la carte in smaller hotel; lunches on the road are typically simpler dishes such as variations on noodles or fried rice while your tour-leader will generally order more elaborate-style dinners consisting of a selection of local fare. Both vegetarians and vegans are very easily catered for. For any other likes and dislikes please remind your tour-leader at the start of the tour. A number of meals are not included, which allows you to ‘do your own thing’ or take a break if you’re feeling ‘riced out’.
Accommodation: all choices fall into the comfortable 3* range, with an emphasis where possible on the smaller, ‘boutique-style’, and are en-suite and air-conditioned with, where possible, pools. We have posted a selection of sample accommodation on the lefthand hotel tab but please note that as we try and avoid the larger hotels, availability, in high season particularly, means we use several options in each destination.
Activities: note that no activities are compulsory and that any offered, including trekking, can be tailored for any fitness level or alternatives suggested.
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