1 Week In Northern Thailand: The Best 7-Day Itinerary
Wish to explore the best of Northern Thailand in one week? Look no further. This 7-day Northern Thailand itinerary will guide you through the some of the best destinations in the beautiful mountainous North – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Dao, Doi Inthanon National Park & Pai.
Day 1: Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Your Northern Thailand itinerary starts by taking a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai city, a journey which takes a mere hour and ten minutes. A red Songthaew (shared minibus), tuk-tuk or taxi from the airport will take you the city.
The old city of Chiang Mai is enclosed in red brick walls, resembling its glory days. Spend a day walking around the city’s narrow streets and along its canals.
You will see that the city has retained its charming appeal despite having embraced modernity. From swanky cafes and 5-star hotels to ancient temples and amazing Chiang Mai street food, it toggles on both ends of the spectrum.
There are many temples that you can explore on the first day of your 1 week Northern Thailand itinerary – the most popular ones are Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh. Close to the city lies Wat That Doi Suthep, perched on the top of the mountain. You can easily reach it by hiring a Songthaew or if you’re fit and healthy make the 2-hour steep climb on foot.
Related article – The 8 Best Chiang Mai Street Food Spots
Day 2: Day Trip to Doi Inthanon National Park
On day 2 of your Northern Thailand itinerary take a day trip to Doi Inthanon, the highest summit in Thailand. It’s a national park with astounding scenic beauty and a number of animal and bird species.
After enjoying the cool, cascading Wachiratharn Waterfalls, you can take the steep, but short climb to the summit. Check out the two Chedis which have been built in honor of the king and queen.
Alternatively, if you are one of the adventurous kinds, Chiang Mai has plenty of action, right from white water rafting, to ziplining through the rainforest to hiking in the jungles. Or for something totally different take a self-drive tuk-tuk tour into the countryside.
Head back to the city by evening and check out the famed night markets. They are great places to pick up funky souvenirs and cheap clothes. Night markets are also the best places to savour some mind-blowing local cuisine.
Day 3: Chiang Mai to Pai
Take a minibus from Chiang Mai and head to Pai, Thailand’s laidback mountain town. The bus ride would take around 4 hours as the roads are quite steep and winding. Better pop a motion sickness pill before starting the journey.
Tucked away in the mountains, Pai is full of lush greenery, gushing waterfalls and roaring rivers – the ideal place to be if all you want to hear is the sound of nature. This is where you are most likely to spot hippies sporting dreadlocks, idling away in the company of nature.
After a hectic drive, relax your body and mind the Tha Pai Hot springs. Nestled in the forest, it’s a short drive from Pai town. A soothing bath later, head back to town and enjoy a drink or two at a mellow pub.
Make sure to book yourself a room in Pai as the distance from Chiang Mai is too much for a single day trip.
Related article – Things to do (and not to do) in Pai
Day 4: Explore Pai’s natural wonders and return to Chiang Mai
Pai’s biggest attraction, one that you must not miss of this Northern Thailand itinerary is the Tham Lod cave. It’s an impressive cave with a river running through it. The entrance to the cave can only be reached in wooden rafts.
The huge cavern is filled with stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes and sizes. There are staircases to visit various parts of the cave. The trail on the opposite side of the cave leads into a forest.
You could also head to some beautiful waterfalls like Mo Paeng or Pam Bok. Or take a stroll through the Pai canyon which is best visited at sunset for spectacular golden views of the surrounding mountains.
Ensure that you have a scooter with you to navigate around Pai. There isn’t any public transport here.
Catch the last minibus that leaves for Chiang Mai.
Day 5: Take a day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao
Chiang Dao is a quiet mountain town which makes for a great rural getaway. Almost like a quieter version of Pai.
The roads are smooth and easy to ride, so it’s recommended that you do a self drive trip. It would take just around 1.5 hours to reach Chiang Dao so it’s easily doable as a day trip on your 7 day Northern Thailand itinerary.
Chiang Dao has plenty of interesting things to do. You can climb the Doi Chiang Dao, Thailand’s 3rd largest peak. It would take a total of 5 hours. Or you could take an easier trail through the forest and stumble upon the Chiang Dao caves.
The nearby Sri Sungwan Waterfalls makes for a great place to enjoy a splash of cold water. It’s a beautiful three-tiered waterfall flowing over peach coloured rocks.
Chiang Dao also has some amazing temples like the Wat Tham Pha Plong, which has a steep climb of 510 steps. The view of Chiang Dao’s treetops from temple makes it worth the effort.
And while you’re here, don’t forget to savour some delicious Thai and international cuisine at the two incredible restaurants at the Chiang Dao Nest resorts.
Return back to Chiang Mai.
Related article – Things to do in Chiang Dao
Day 6: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
No Northern Thailand itinerary is complete until you’ve been to Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai is a short 3-4 hour greenbus ride from Chiang Mai. It is home to one of Thailand’s most popular temples – Wat Rong Khun, more popularly known as the White Temple.
The exteriors of the temple are an architectural masterpiece. The interiors are just as incredible with murals of superheroes, villains and pop artists adorning the walls.
If you fancy, take a tour of the Golden triangle – a point on the river where the three countries Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet.
Hire a private cab or take a bus to get to the base of Phu Chi Fa, for your trek the next morning. You can stay at a guesthouse near the mountain.
Day 7: Trek to Phu Chi Fa
Early morning, get ready to witness the best sunrise you have ever seen. A short trek of 30 mins takes you to the summit, where you will see tripod and selfie stick toting tourists.
The sun rises amidst a sea of clouds, with the peaks looking like boats floating on the foamy sea. The rising sun illuminates the valley below, again a point where the three countries Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet.
After catching a breathtaking sunrise, head back to Chiang Rai to catch a bus back to Chiang Mai to finish your one week Northern Thailand itinerary.
Ensure you have your flight scheduled late evening or night time.
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