Being the coolest region of Thailand the north is ideal for vegetable growing, especially in mountainous areas. Many Thais prefer to visit during the cool season from November to February as the weather is cool and dry. If you plan to go camping in the Northern national parks don't forget to pack your sleeping bag and long sleeved tops.
Hearty curries, delicious aromatic sausages, sticky rice and barbecued meats are the order of the day in Northern Thailand. Enjoy sticky rice, a variety of grilled meats and steamed vegetables dipped in namprik num, a kind of spicy chilli relish.
Also typical of the region is Khao Soi, wheat noodles usually served with chicken or beef in a thin curry sauce to which pickled cabbage, chopped shallots and chilli oil are added to taste. Usually eaten around lunchtime so order early before restaurants sell out.
Songkran - April 13th - 15th
Thai New Year Celebrations, Chiang Mai
Although celebrated throughout the country the Northern city of Chiang Mai has become a hub for Songkran celebrations. Marking the end of the dry season and the coming of the monsoon rains the traditional method of imparting good wishes to others is by sprinkling scented water upon their hands. This has developed into the modern water fights that we see erupt around the city moat in Chiang Mai today. Arm yourself with a bucket or Super Soaker and have some fun!
Loy Krathong - Early November
Festival of Lights, Sukhothai
Also celebrated throughout Thailand Loy Krathong is one of the best preserved ancient festivals and a time when Thai people give offerings to the Goddess of the nation's waterways. Lotus shaped vessels known as krathong are made from banana leaves and housing a lit candle, incense sticks, flowers and coins are floated on rivers or lakes. During Loy Krathong paper lanterns illuminate the night sky as they carry with them the wishes of the individuals who released them. Although Chiang Mai is also a centre for popular Loy Krathong celebrations Sukhothai, Thailand's ancient capital is said to be the birth place of the festival and the historic park there holds a large celebration in magical surroundings every year.
Chinese New Year - Usually in February
Although not an official national holiday, Chinese New Year is widely celebrated throughout Thailand. Usually falling in February the celebrations mark the first day of the New Year according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Large celebrations including a street fair complete with dragon procession take place annually in Nakhon Sawan, some 200 kilometres North of Bangkok. Expect buildings to be adorned in red lanterns, firecrackers to be exploding outside every business, fireworks and a sea of red t-shirts baring the animal symbol of the coming Chinese New Year. Other notable celebrations can be found in Bangkok's China Town and Nakhon Ratchasima although most major towns will mark the event.
Chiang Mai – Thailand's Ancient Northern Capital
Known As: The perfect base for treks into the mountains and elephant riding in the surrounding areas. Peaceful Lanna-style temples. Great market shopping opportunities at the Sunday Walking Street Market and daily Night Bazaar.
Chiang Rai – The Golden Triangle
Known For: Being the meeting point of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. This sleepy town was historically an opium trading point to which a whole museum is dedicated.
Mae Hong Son – Mountainous Retreat
Known For: Lush mountainous surroundings and being home to numerous Hill Tribes groups. Poi Sang Long Procession, an annual Buddhist ordination festival which usually takes place between March and May. Also famous for the Bua Tong Blossom Festival in November in which the hillsides turn yellow as the buds of the Bua Tong, a sunflower like plant, come into bloom.
Lampang – Unspoiled Northern Thailand
Known For: Burmese-style temples and the Thailand Elephant Conservation Centre.
Sukhothai – Former Ancient Capital
Known For: Ancient city ruins of the Sukhothai Historical park (which is Unesco World Heritage Site) and being the birthplace of the Thai alphabet. A large celebration of the Loy Kratong Festival is held at the park annually.
Our Explore Thailand map was kindly supplied by our friends at The Tourism Authority of Thailand UK. Find out how you can order a paper copy of the map at their website.