The Best of North Thailand and the Best Route

Here you’ll find the ultimate itinerary and route which means you’ll get to see the best of North Thailand.

We spent just under 3 weeks travelling around North Thailand. And with being our 3rd (Ells) and 4th (Steff) times in Thailand… we thought we knew what to expect! But Northern Thailand quickly became our favourite part of Thailand and proved all of our preconceptions wrong!

A quick run down of our route over the few weeks;

Bangkok – 2 nights

Chiang Mai – 5 nights

Pai – 3 nights

Chiang Rai – 2 nights

Sukhothai – 3 nights

Ayutthaya – 2 nights

Bangkok – 1 night

You could probably do this Northern Thailand route in 2 weeks, but we like to take our time and really soak it all in and we were also doing some remote work along the way!

Chiang Mai is definitely the main place to use as your base and to shoot off to each of the areas – from Pai, we headed back to Chiang Mai to then drive to Chiang Rai and then back again to Chiang Mai to get to Sukhothai. Below is a break down of what exactly we did and how we from A to B (to C, D, E F…)


We’ve both been to Bangkok multiple times before, but I think trip we explore than we had ever done before!

Steff and Ells at The Grand Palace Bangkok during their 2 day trip to Bangkok

How did we get there?

This part is the easy part, even though its the furthest distance! We flex with British Airway from London Heathrow Airport into BKK Airport in Thailand. It took around 12 hours and it was a pleasant flight as BA tends to have more legroom than most long distance airplanes!

What did we do when we got there?

For a full break down as to what we got up to across our 2 days in Bangkok click HERE

But on the first day we visited the following places;
– The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha which cost 500TBH each to enter (£11.75/$15.00)
– Khao San road for some street food lunch!
– Phra Sumen Fort (a short walk from Khao San and is free!)
– Bangkok Ghost Tower
– Unicorn Cafe

The second day we had our flight in the evening but we got up early to explore;
– The Airplane Graveyard (it is a little far out so definitely schedule in at least half a day for this one).

For detailed information on the above places follow the link to How to Spend 2 Days in Bangkok

Where did we stay?

We stayed in a hostel/guesthouse in a private room which cost about £10 per night. It was super modern and really clean. So we highly recommend it!

You can find the hotel here – Dozeoff Guesthouse

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has got to be one of the highlights for the street food we had here at both the Saturday and Sunday Night Walking Street Markets! I am latterly salivating at the thought of the veggie gyozas that cost 50 TBH for 5! (£1.17/$1.50) And of course you cannot forget the the temples!

Steff admiring The Silver Temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

How did we get there?

There are 3 ways to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and that is to either fly, take the bus or take the train. We opted to fly because, although it was the most expensive option it was also the quickest! With just an hour flight at £20 each, you can’t really go wrong! Compared to the 10+ hours you’ll spend on a bus/train!

What did we do when we got there?

The main places we visited during our 5 days in Chiang Mai;
– Visited some of the main temples within the Old City Walls including Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Sri Suphan (Silver Temple) and Wat Phra Singh.
– Traditional Thai food market.
– Visited “The Iron Bridge” which crosses the River Ping.
– Ate a lot of food at both the Saturday and Sunday Walking Street Night Markets!

Where did we stay?

We actually stayed in 3 hotels across 5 nights. A budget hotel, a mid range boutique hotel and a luxury 5* hotel. We’d recommend all 3 of the hotels;

Tommy Huts Chiang Mai

Baan Saen Fang Hotel  you can also find our review of this hotel HERE

The Marndadee Heritage Hotel you can also find our review of this hotel HERE


Pai is definitely one of faves out out of all the places we have visited in Thaialnd. The food is amazing and the diverse amounts of attractions is awesome. Most of it either free or very cheap! If you are in North Thailand it certainly is worth the very windy 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai to visit. You’ll definitely regret it if you miss Pai!

Steff and Ells We Are Wandering muddy from climbing Pai Canyon in Pai, Thailand

How did we get there?

We took a 3 hour bus from Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station to Pai. We booked our tickets online for 150 TBH (£3.52/$4.50). But you don’t have to book if you don’t mind waiting a little! You can pick up tickets from the counters at the station. It’s really easy  and is the same price as online!

What did we do when we got there?

For a more detailed breakdown of the top things to do and see in Pai click HERE

There was so much to do and we didn’t fit it all in, but I think we managed to tick off the best of Pai in 3 days;
– Pai WWII Memorial Bridge
– Pai Canyon (try and go for sunset if you can!)
– Pai Land Split (make sure you try some of the produce the farmer offers, we left a small tip on 100 THB)
– Bamboo Bridge, Pai
– The Temple on the Hill (The White Buddha)
– Pai Walking Street Night Market (the food is UNREAL!!)

Where did we stay?

We stayed in this quirky little place on the outskirts of Pai (a 6 minute scooter ride to the walking street). The perks of this little place is it has a fantastic swimming pool that had views of the mountains and The Temple on the Hill. Gorgeous!

You can find the hotel here – Baan Kung Kang De Pai

Chiang Rai

we had been dreaming of visiting Chiang Rai for quite some time as we really wanted to visit The White Temple, so we mace sure we did not miss out on the opportunity to visit whilst we were this far up in Northern Thailand!

Steff walking across the bridge to enter The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand

How did we get there?

As we were in Pai and there was no direct route from Pai to Chiang Rai via public transport, we jumped back on the windy bus ride and headed back to Chiang Mai. Here we took a metered taxi from the bus station to the Airport where we picked up a hire car! This to you may seem like a expensive option but by the time you calculate the cost of two return bus tickets and then getting taxis around Chiang Rai and trying to find a sketchy bus to Phu Chi Fa, £40 for 3 days car hire was a bargain!

So we highly recommend hiring a car if you’re heading up to Chiang Rai, especially if you want to visit Phu Chi Fa!

What did we do when we got there?

Chiang Rai is full of awesome temples, but we weren’t just there for the temples…

– The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
– The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Sear Tean)
– Walking Street Night Market
– Chiang Rai Clock Tower
– Phu Chi Fa Viewpoint

Where did we stay?

We stayed in the cutest little hotel which over looked lush green rice paddies, offered morning yoga and had the yummiest whole foods cafe onsite which also catered for Gluten Free (Yey!) If you are visiting Chiang Rai we highly recommend you staying here – the owner and his wife are friendly and welcoming! The price for a comfortable double room with aircon is super reasonable too! We paid £27 for 2 nights for 2 people!

You can find the hotel here – Junsopa Resort


As the first Capital of the Kingdom and after hearing that it is mega beautiful and still quite undiscovered we were super excited to reach here! We were not disappointed!

Ells admiring just one of the magnificent Buddhas - Wat Si Chum, part of the Sukhothai Heritage Park in Northern Thailand

How did we get there?

It’s super simple to get to Sukhothai, you can just head to Chiang Mai’s bus station and look for the Win Tour desk. It cost around 300 THB each for the ticket (£7/$9) and it takes around 6 hours. You can either get the bus to the Old City of to the New City. We opted for the Old City as that’s where our accommodation was!

Don’t book online as all that is quoted online is private transfers which are about 4000 TBH! There is no need as you can just rock up to the bus station and buy tickets on the day!

What did we do when we got there?

So the whole purpose of heading to Sukhothai (translates to “Dawn of Happiness) is for the ancient temples from the 12th and 13th century. You have to buy park tickets for Central, North and West areas. Each area is 100 TBH (£2.36/$3) per person and 10TBH (£0.23/$0.30)for your bike pass. You can hire bikes in Old City for just 30 TBH (£0.70/$0.90) for the day – we highly recommend doing this as the weather is seriously hot and humid here!

The temples we visited were;
– Wat Maha That (the Buddha amongst the pillars)
– Wat China Songkhram
– Wat Si Sawai
– Wat Si Chum

There are obviously a lot more temples, but there are only so many to fit, so we did a bit of research before hand and decided on the main temples we wanted to visit. I’m glad we did because some are about a 15 minute cycle and its hot, like really HOT!

Where did we stay?

We stayed at the cutest little boutique hotel which only had 3 rooms, it was just a 4 minute walk from the Old City Main Street and right in the middle of all of the Sukhothai Historical Park Temples!

You can find the hotel here – Old City Boutique House


The second Capital of the Kingdom of Thailand – got to get both the kingdom capitals under out belts haven’t we!?

Ayutthaya was supposed to be more “touristy” according to blogs and other travellers we had spoken with. And yes admittedly there were more tourists than Sukhothai but it was still was busy like we’re used to! It was a nice slow flow of tourists at arch of the historical sites, still giving you that opportunity to snap the perfect snap!

Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya, North Thailand

How did we get there?

So this was a little more difficult than the trip from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai and that is because there isn’t a direct bus or train that goes from Sukhothai to Ayutthaya. But nether the less we found the trip fairly stress free even though there wasn’t much info online!

From Old City you can catch the public bus (near the Historical Park Entrance) to the New cities bus station – apparently the locals are only charged 20 TBH but they charge foreigners 30 TBH – we didn’t even ask how much as at the end of the day 10 TBH really is nothing to us and we were happy to pay the extra!

From the station you jump on the bus heading to Phitsanulok which cost just 40 TBH each (£0.94/$1.20) which takes around an hour.

From Phitsanulok you jump in a Songthaew to the train station, which costs just 30 TBH each and then in the main entrance head to the ticket counter and ask for the next ticket to Ayutthaya. The trains tend to go pretty regularly as this is the train that goes straight through to Bangkok from Ayutthaya!

Be prepared for this train journey – its about 6 hours and it gets pretty sweaty! There are a lot of people that get on and off and there is no air con – just a fan and the windows open!

What did we do when we got there?

We arrived fairly late and after being ripped by the tuk tuk driver to take us to our hotel because it was after 7pm we didn’t feel up to much so we just chilled out in our beautiful apartment. But the next day we got straight to it! The temples that we visited in Ayutthaya were;

– Wat Mahathat (confusing because there is also one in Sukhothai!)
– Wat Ratburana (literally right next door)
– Wat Lokkayasutharam (the reclining Buddha)
– Walking Street Night Market

We also used bikes to get around here as it was super handy getting to and from places! Our hotel actually let us use the bikes for free too! RESULT!

Where did we stay?

We stayed in a brand new guesthouse/hotel which we were super impressed with! Run by Bonnyawat and his wife who were super accommodating and even helped us with some meditation… you can read all about the the hotel and our experience HERE

You can find the hotel here – Krodyle Mindfulness House

Back to Bangkok

From Ayutthaya we headed back to Bangkok to catch our flight to New Zealand!

We took the short 2 hour train journey from Ayutthaya to Don Maung in Bangkok (we were flying out from Don Muang)

7 thoughts on “The Best of North Thailand and the Best Route

  1. Pai was one of the best places I visited in Thailand! So chilled out and amazing food. Also had amazing fun in Bangkok, did you guys get the bucket drinks from Khao San too? 😂 your itinerary of Thailand is really bringing it all back ❤️


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