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9 days in Northern Thailand: the ultimate itinerary

Northern Thailand is an incredible place, well worth a visit. In this article, discover my 9 days itinerary in northern Thailand. I give you my tips, accommodation and much more to help you organize your stay.

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My trip to Southeast Asia began in the beautiful region of Northern Thailand. I spent about 9 days there, discovering mainly Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai. I didn’t really have any specific expectations for this part of Thailand. My trip to Thailand was really planned at the last minute for personal reasons. So I arrived in Thailand a little at a loss as to what to do… Well, I can assure you that I quickly found out what to do, and what’s more, I joined one of my best friends for a few days!

To round up my 9 days itinerary in northern Thailand, I’ve prepared this article retracing my stay in this part of Thailand.

9 days itinerary in Northern thailand here in Chiang Rai

9 days itinerary in Northern Thailand

Day 1 – Arrival Chiang Mai

Our accommodation – Chada House

I arrived in the middle of the day directly at Chiang Mai airport after a stopover in Doha and Bangkok. I must admit I was a little tired. The first afternoon was therefore devoted to exploring the city and the famous Chiang Mai Night Market.

Chiang Mai’s Night Market is one of the city’s must-visit places. There are numerous food stalls, each more varied than the last. You’ll also find souvenir stands and lots more.

The night market here in Chiang Mai thailand

Day 2 – Chiang Mai

Our accommodation – Chada House

On our second day in Thailand, we set off to explore the city and its various temples. There are so many, some of them really worth the detour! We mainly let ourselves be guided by our impressions of the city, without asking too many questions. Some temples are free, while others require a small fee (10-40 Baht).

Chiang Mai also offers a number of cafés, including Coffee Telling, which I can’t recommend highly enough! Chiang Mai is also full of cool little stores.

Here’s a short list of some of the temples we visited in Chiang Mai:

  • Wat Chedi Luang
  • Wat Phra Singh
  • Wat Sri Suphan
  • Wat Lok Mol

Don’t forget to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders, or take a sarong to cover up! It’s often possible to borrow a sarong at temple entrances, if required.

Day 3 – Chiang Mai

Our accommodation – Chada House

Wat Pha Lat & Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

We set off at dawn to discover Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and Wat Pha Lat temples in the north of Chiang Rai. Our original plan was to walk to Wat Pha Lat via the Monk’s Path, then find another path to Wat Phrathat Toi Suthep. Spoiler, we never found the second path.

Well, we start our journey by taking a Grab to the trailhead. The hike to Wat Pha temple isn’t difficult and took just under an hour. The temple is nestled in the forest and offers a magnificent view of the city. This place is a real favorite! I highly recommend a visit.

We then headed back up the mountain to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple. As we couldn’t find the way, we hitchhiked to it. This second temple is completely different from the first. Firstly, the architecture is very different and, above all, it’s much more crowded. Despite the latter, I really enjoyed my visit. We took a cab back down to Chiang Mai.

If possible, I’d still recommend visiting both temples early in the morning.

End of the day

To end our day on a high note, we headed to a nearby hotel to enjoy the pool and recover from our morning’s experiences. And the icing on the cake was the restaurant where we dined, Kat’s Kitchen. I highly recommend a visit if you want to sample local cuisine at a very reasonable price.

the black and golden temple of Chiang Mai

Day 4 – Chiang Mia – Pai

Our accommodation – Kirina Wellness in the Valley

Departure for Pai

This day marks our departure for the Pai region, north of Chiang Mai. The journey to Pai takes around 4 hours. In order to enjoy part of the day in Pai, we left early.

I have to tell you, it wasn’t all plain sailing. The road to Pai has a lot of twists and turns, and the bus drivers don’t necessarily think about people with motion sickness… Bring your motion sickness tablets!

We used the 12go.asia platform to book our tickets. I highly recommend it!

Once we arrived in Pai, we headed straight to our Kirina Wellness accommodation located slightly outside the center of Pai. From there, we rented a scooter to explore the area.

The beautiful northern town of Pai in Thailand

Pai Canyon

To continue the day, we set off for Pai Canyon, a 25-30min scooter ride from Pai. You don’t need to walk far to discover this place, it’s just off the main road. The canyon is magnificent. What’s more, we were there during the rainy season, so the contrast between the orange earth and the surrounding greenery was impressive! Before I forget, access to the Canyon is free. On the way back, we stopped at the Wat Mai Huay Sai temple on the side of the road.

The Pai canyon in Pai Thailand, highlight of this 9 days itinerary in thailand

To end the day in style, we decided to eat at Pai’s Night Market. It was a great choice! The Night Market is home to numerous stalls, each better than the next.

Day 5 – Pai

Our accommodation: Kirina Wellness in the Valley

Our day began with a yoga class offered by our accommodation. I can only recommend Philomena’s classes! The second stop was a good breakfast at the Lemon Thyme Cafe, with good prices and excellent food.

Long Neck Karen Village

Our first visit of the day was to Long Neck Karen Village, located 5 minutes from downtown Pai. To be honest with you, I found it fun to explore this part of the culture. But I also felt that this place seemed to be staged without too much information about the Long Neck Karen. Not necessarily the place I’d recommend most. Admission costs 100 baht per person.

the long neck Karen in Thailand

Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge

Our second big activity of the day was the Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge. This is a very quiet and relaxing place. The bamboo bridges overhang the rice paddies and offer a really cool experience. There’s an entrance fee, but it’s well worth it. I’d advise you to go all the way to the end of the bridges, where there’s a cute little temple in the forest.

On the way back, we saw the sign for the famous Pam Bok waterfall. We hesitated for a long time, but the entrance fee got the better of us, 400 Baht per person. It was a bit too expensive for our taste.

Big Buddha

The last tourist stop of the day was Pai’s Big Buddha. We went there at the end of the day in the hope of seeing the sunset, but the clouds didn’t agree. But that didn’t change the beauty of the place. The view from the summit is magnificent, offering a 180° panorama of the Pai valley.

Day 6 – Pai – Chiang Mai

Our accommodation – Chada House

Before catching the bus back to Chiang Mai, we do a bit more yoga at Kirina Wellness. With our bus leaving in the early afternoon, we spent the rest of the morning walking around Pai. The drive to Chiang Mai went well, despite the many twists and turns and the feeling of being in Mario Kart.

We spent a quiet evening in Chiang Mai with a nice dinner at Kat’s Kitchen.

Day 7 – Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai

My accommodation – Baan Mai Kradan Hostel

After a brief goodbye with my best friend, I took the bus to Chiang Rai. The journey, unlike the day before, was very quiet. I arrived in Chiang Rai in the middle of the day, which gave me plenty of time to explore the city.

I wandered and let my instincts guide me through the streets of Chiang Rai. Don’t miss the city’s famous clock tower. Chiang Rai is a much smaller town than Chiang Mia, and more charming for my taste. There are numerous temples scattered all over the place.

We went to dinner, with several people staying in my hostel, at the Night Market. I found it very pleasant, with a wide variety of dishes. I recommend you try the Khao Soi and the market’s spring rolls.

the famous Kho Soi of Northern thialnd

Day 8 – Chiang Rai

My accommodation – Baan Mai Kradan Hostel

Today’s plan is to discover Chiang Rai’s 3 main temples, Wat Rong Khun (white temple), Wat Rong Suea Ten (blue temple) and Wat Huay Pla Kang de Chiang Rai.

Wat Rong Khun – White temple

I decided to go to the White Temple first and as early as possible to avoid the crowds. It was a very quick bus ride. I got there around 9.30am and it was already quite crowded. Entrance to the temple costs 100 baht per person.

Despite some of the negative reviews I’d heard about the White Temple, I really enjoyed my visit. The temple is hyper-touristy and that can spoil the visit a bit. But you have to remember that we’re tourists too, and it’s only natural that places with such architecture should become famous and popular.

Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple) & Wat Huay Pla Kang

After this first temple, I took the bus back to the center of Chiang Rai. From there, I decided to walk towards the Blue Temple in the north of the city. I have to admit that the city isn’t exactly a walker’s paradise, but in the end it all worked out.

The Blue Temple is an architectural gem in my opinion. Between the intense blue color and the various statues, I really fell in love with the place. Still, the temple is much less popular and well-known than the White Temple. Entrance is free.

After this visit, I took a Grab Bike to Wat Huay Pla Kang, which is located outside the city. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in my 9 days in northern Thailand. There are actually 3 sacred places on the site: the giant statue of the Goddess of Mercy, a Buddhist temple with architecture similar to that of the White Temple and a Chinese Buddhist temple. Despite the fact that the site is not easily accessible by public transport, I highly recommend a visit if you get the chance. To get back to Chiang Rai, I took a Grab Bike.

Day 9 – Chiang Rai – Bangkok

My accommodation – overnight bus to Bangkok

Today’s plan was to visit the Huay Kaew waterfall, about 1 hour’s scooter ride away. So I set off with my scooter rented from my hostel. But once there, I realized that the path to the waterfall was closed. It was a bit of a setback. After that, I returned to Chiang Rai and took the opportunity to explore the city a little more and get some work done.

In the evening, I took the night bus to Bangkok to meet up again with my best friend and continue our trip to Thailand.

To sum up, I really enjoyed this 9 days itinerary in northern Thailand. I enjoyed discovering a rich culture and a gastronomy a little different from the rest of Thailand.

The famous clock of Chiang Rai thailand

Getting around in Northern Thailand

Public transport

Getting around Thailand is easy. The country’s bus and train network is well developed. For everything to do with public transport, I generally used 12go.asia, which is in fact a ticket price comparator. I really recommend it, as it saves a lot of time in organization.

Taxis

The easiest way is to use the Grab application. It’s the Asian version of Uber.

Planes

To get to northern Thailand from other parts of the country, you can also fly. Flights are generally not very expensive and can save a few hours. Checked baggage is often not included in the ticket price. Be sure to ask!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this 9 days itinerary in northern Thailand, and that it’s given you plenty of ideas for your next trip!

Want to discover Thailand?

🏞 Chiang RaiHow to spend 2 days in Chiang Rai – Visit the White Temple of Chiang Rai – Best activities to do in Chiang Rai
🐘 Pai I The best things to do
🗺️ Itineraries I
🇹🇭 General information I How to move around Thailand – Visiting Thailand as a solo traveler

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