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Major Cities in Northern Thailand

Nine provinces in the upper north, and eight provinces in the lower north, create a diversity of popular destinations for tourists and Thais to visit.

One thing is for sure, all 17 north Thailand provinces are mountainous regions that experience cooler temperatures and less rainfall.

Where are the Northern Thailand Provinces

The "Lanna Kingdom" shares its borders with Laos to the northeast and Myanmar in the north and west.

Amphoe Mae Sai is one of the busiest border crossings to Myanmar. It's also the most northerly district of Chiang Rai province.

Besides the Golden Triangle, this cultured region is a well-trodden area for numerous tourist attractions, especially:

But, for all of its Thainess, the principal difference between northern and southern Thailand is the landscape. North Thailand provinces have swathing mountain ranges and steep forested valleys. These regions are meant for hiking, river rafting, kayaking, and making visits to hill tribes.

Whereas, the provinces in the South of Thailand, particularly Chumphon, Krabi, and Phuket, are all coastal resorts with easy access to water sport activities.

As a consequence of that, a variety of picture postcard beaches and islands tends to appeal more to travellers and holidaymakers who enjoy being near the ocean (thalassophiles).

Reasons to Visit the North of Thailand

For the most part, spending a few weeks or months in north Thailand is going to be cheaper than the south. Thus, budget sensitive wanderers should head northwards for remote tree lined valleys and rolling hillsides.

The affordability factor is noteworthy, especially when paying for food, short and long stay accommodation, along with the general cost of using public transport (e.g. buses, taxis).

Climate of North Thailand

It's fair to say the seasons in northern Thailand are mixed. The winter months (December, January, and February) are pleasantly warm with clear blue skies.

Whereas, it is very hot in the summer months, especially from the beginning of April through to the end of June, with daytime temperatures hovering around 31° Celsius (88° Fahrenheit).

Here's the thing:

The north is a lot less humid than anywhere else in the kingdom (e.g. 55 - 80% relative humidity tends to be the norm).

Most of the international tourists think they don't have snow in northern Thailand. By and large that's true and it never snows south of Thailand's capital city Bangkok.

Yet, there can always be an exception. For example, the northernmost Thai province of Chiang Rai experienced a spattering of snowfall on the 7th of January back in 1955.

9 Provinces of the Upper Northern Region

1. Chiang Mai

It's fair to say that Chiang Mai province is the major city in northern Thailand, especially if you measure it by land mass (around 22,000 square kilometres).

For many of its residents and retirees, an abundance of mountain views and the slower pace of life are the key reasons why Chiang Mai is the best place to live in northern Thailand.

A one hour flight from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), or a 700 kilometre drive, will put you near the foothills of northern Thailand.

Northern Thailand Provinces: 9 Upper North and 8 Lower North Provinces ExplainedIn fact, Chiang Mai Airport (CNX) is a major regional hub that serves domestic and international travellers.

Tourist Attractions in Chiang Mai

Some of the important landmarks and cultural places to visit, include:

  • Bo Sang Umbrella Village
  • Doi Inthanon (the highest mountain in Thailand)
  • Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden
  • Rajapruek Royal Park
  • Tha Phae Walking Street (night bazar)
  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Note: Don't forget to try one of the acclaimed northern Thai dishes, such as Khao Soi, Hor Mok, and Nam Prik Ong.

Staying in Chiang Mai Province

Having some insider information about the different kinds of accommodation will be helpful when you visit Chiang Mai for the first time.

Another help guide lists a range of short and long term accommodation in Chiang Mai with links to further detailed reviews.

2. Lamphun

Despite being one of the smallest by land area, Lamphun province in the north of Thailand is a region full of historical treasures.

Since the era of Hariphunchai (the Mon kingdom), the remains of invaluable places for worship in Lamphun City, only 31 kilometres south of Chiang Mai, include:

  • Queen Chamadevi Monument
  • Ku Chang Ku Ma
  • Wat Phra That Hariphunchai Woramahawihan

Daytrippers should also consider sampling the delicious sweet longan fruit (Dimocarpus longan) and buying silk woven fabrics and flowers.

3. Lampang

Thailand northern provinces are notable for the friendly locals and small town atmospheres. The province of Lampang is the epitome of friendliness and retro ambience.

To prove a point, tourists can enjoy travelling around the zestful city in a horse-drawn carriage. Apart from that, there's no shortage of ancient architectural buildings and ancient landmarks to visit, especially by the White Land Bridge or the Wang River Ratchadaphisek Bridge.

4. Uttaradit

Any journey to Uttaradit province should include the popular landmarks dotted around the district and the esteemed stone pillars.

While you are there, the locals would never forgive you if you don't sample some of the regional products, especially the candy, langsat (Lansium parasiticum), and one of the thirty recognised species of Durio (aka Durian).

5. Phrae

It is fair to say Phrae province is awash with interesting cultural sites for foreign visitors to experience. In fact, many folk still refer to this region as "The Gate of Lanna East".

Some of the typical examples of famous architectural landmarks and proud heritage in this region include:

  • Wat Phra That Cho Hae
  • Wat Chom Sawan
  • Khum Wong Buri
  • Khum Chao Luang

If you're heading to any of the northern provinces of Thailand, Phae Muang Phi (a natural phenomenon of soil and sandstone) should be on your bucket list.

6. Nan

Most travellers head to Nan province to see the famous "Pu Man Ya Man" mural at Wat Phumin, recognised by some for whispering love around the world.

The nearby vicinity is also the location for the Nan National museum, famous for exhibiting the ancient art of Lanna Locality.

But wait - there's more:

If you are interested in important places of worship, Wat Phra That Chang Kham Worawihan and Wat Phra That Khao Noi are definitely worth a visit.

Nonetheless, the north part of Thailand has several natural attractions, and the province of Nan hosts many of them.

Be sure to check out Doi Samer Dao in Sri Nan national park and Doi Phu Kha National Park if you enjoy a spot of camping and glamping under the starry skies.

7. Phayao

This region doesn't have the biggest or busiest cities in northern Thailand, yet Phayao province is a restful and invigorating tourist destination.

For example, the charm of ancient civilisations combines well with a number of important holy places, such as:

  • Ancient Wiang Lor Phayao
  • Wat Phra That Chom Thong
  • City Pillar Shrine
  • Wat Si Khom Kham
  • Wat Analayotipyaram

Walking around the quaint towns and villages is a joy. But, tourists can also take a trip on the local tram to see the City of Phayao.

8. Chiang Rai

In fact, Chiang Rai province is the most northerly province in Thailand and about 800 kilometres from the Thai capital city of Bangkok.

It is a spectacularly mountainous region with the highest peaks at 1500m above sea level. Two bordering countries for this province are Myanmar and Laos (Lao PDR).

9. Mae Hong Son

There's a valid reason why Mae Hong Son province is also known as "the city of three mists". There are several high mountains that surround the region and they produce cooler air temperature and mistiness - no matter the season.

Despite that, or because of it, the city is rich in natural resources with no shortage of beautiful mountain ranges, evergreen forested valleys, and colourful swathes of wild flowers and fruit trees.

8 Provinces of the Lower Northern Region

10. Nakhon Sawan

It's easy to see why Nakhon Sawan province creates an ideal gateway between central Thailand provinces and most of the northern Thailand cities.

The low-lying terrain, straddled by the banks of the Chao Phraya River, is one of the major attractions for tourists and daytrippers.

Nonetheless, Bueng Boraphet is a natural lake that provides the perfect spot for birdwatching. This lake is the chosen habitat for a multitude of migratory bird species, such the bronze-winged jacana and the cotton pygmy goose.

11. Uthai Thani

It's true to say that none of the provinces in northern Thailand lack stimulating things to do and interesting places to visit. Well, Uthai Thani province is one that offers exactly that!

For example, Wat Chantaram (also called Wat Tha Sung) is one of the key tourist attractions. Visitors come to see the distinctive 100-metre glass and glitter sanctuary adorning the entire building.

Following that, it would be a missed opportunity if you don't go pay respect to the monks at Wat Sangkat Rattana Khiri (Sakae Krang Hill).

12. Kamphaeng Phet

If you are searching for north thailand cities and ancient towns with historical significance, you should add the province of Kamphaeng Phet to your list of must-see places.

Formerly called "Chakungrao City", this region in the lower north of Thailand provinces contains a number of important Archaeological sites and parks (some registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites).

13. Tak

Tak is one of the biggest provinces of all northern Thailand. It shares boundaries with Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai in the north, and Uthai Thani, Kamphaeng Phet, and Sukhothai to the east.

The popular tourist attractions in Tak province include Bhumibol Dam and Thi Lo Su waterfall at Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary.

14. Sukhothai

It's fair to say that Sukhothai is about as central as you can get out of all Thailand northern provinces. Put another way, there are nine provinces to the north and another eight Thai provinces surround its southern border (generally speaking).

As a consequence of that, Sukhothai province is jam-packed with historical sites. The majority reflect the civilisation of its glorious past, especially Sukhothai Historical Park (Old Sukhothai City).

15. Phitsanulok

Besides being an important destination for foreign tourists, the province of Phitsanulok is one of the most prosperous in Thailand. Many years ago, "Muang Song Khwae" was the appropriate name for a region that sits at the head of two major rivers, the Nan River and Kwai Noi River.

Nevertheless, you might regret not witnessing the magnificence of the Phra Buddha Chinnarat at Wat Phra Si Mahathat Woramahaviharn - said to be the most beautiful Buddha statue in the Kingdom of Thailand.

16. Phichit

In fact, Phichit province, also known as the "City of Crocodile", is one of the smallest provinces in the lower north of Thailand.

Many of the Archaeological sites built during the Sukhothai to Ayutthaya period (in Pichit Old City Park) still remain. The surviving structures include the city walls, pagodas, an arboretum, caves, and moats.

17. Phetchabun

Even though Phetchabun province is a touristy location, it's a region that excels in tranquillity and natural beauty. To prove a point, head to the highest peak at Phu Thap Boek and you will reap the benefits at this remote site.

Phetchabun is also a popular destination for pitching a tent, or glamping in the peaceful countryside. Thus, experiencing first light as the sun rises early in the morning is definitely an awesome goal to achieve.

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