Immerse yourself in the fascinating culture, heritage and scenery of northern Thailand with this magical round-trip from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. This region is bursting with historic monuments, dreamlike landscapes, gastronomic delights and wonderful wildlife. Discover the main temples, meet the gentle giants that are Asian elephants and come face to face with the hill tribes who have inhabited the mountain villages of the north since time immemorial.
Chiang Rai: The aptly named Black House museum has an eclectic collection of objects that leaves no one indifferent
Chiang Dao: The local market is a genuine Thai experience, with stalls selling fresh produce, craftworks and woven textiles
Chiang Mai: Head to Hang Dong for the best selection of shops selling arts, crafts, furniture and other Asian curios
A wide range of optional excursions and pre and post-programme extensions are available on request. Please ask tour designer Daniel Gregori for rates and conditions
Chiang Rai: Learn about local cultures at the Hilltribe Museum and during visits to remote tribal villages in the highlands then discover the dazzling Wat Rong Khun temple
Golden Triangle: See three countries from one spot in Sop Ruak at the confluence of the Ruak and the Mekong rivers
Chiang Dao: Enjoy an unforgettable encounter with Asian elephants in a special refuge
Chiang Mai: Visit the hilltop Wat Doi Suthep temple, cruise a river on a longtail boat, drop by a farm for a khantoke dinner and visit the magnificent temples of Wat Suan Dok, Wat Phra Sing and Wat Chedi Luang
Arrive in Chiang Rai and check-in at the hotel with the rest of the day free at leisure. Maybe explore the heart of the old town, which dates from the reign of King Mangrai in the 13th century or stroll around the bustling night bazaar to get a flavour of what makes Chiang Rai tick.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before heading to the centre to admire the iconic monument to King Mangrai en route to the Hilltribe Museum and Education Centre. Learn all about the dozens of hill tribes who for centuries have lived in the highlands around the city and how they have survived the spread of globalisation. Continue to the Mae Chan district to explore the remote hill tribe villages of Yao and Akha peoples, and experience their way of life first-hand. Take to the road for Mae Sai, a small border town with a busy market, before heading into the heart of the infamous Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. This natural wilderness gained an unwanted notoriety in the Sixties because of the abundant opium cultivation in the area. After lunch, continue to Chiang Saen to visit the hilltop Wat Phra That Chom Kitti, which is reached via a 350-step staircase. Return to Chiang Rai with rest of the day free at leisure.
Take to the road after breakfast at the hotel, heading for Chiang Mai. On the southern outskirts of Chiang Rai, stop at the magnificent Wat Rong Khun, a dazzling temple built in the 1990s. Its ornate all-white exterior, with embedded pieces of mirror, gives it a resplendent appearance, which makes it one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. Continue to Chiang Mai and, on arrival, visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the most revered temples in the country. This sacred location is at the top of a mountain from where you can appreciate stunning panoramic views over the city. To reach the temple requires a climb up a 309-step naga staircase. Alternatively, you can use the cable car (included) to reach the temple. Head to the riverbank and board a boat for a cruise along the scenic River Ping and drop by a farm to savour a delicious khao soi noodle curry as you enjoy dance performances while feasting on a traditional khantoke meal. After a walk through the local flower and fresh produce market, return to the hotel.
Take a walk on the wild side after breakfast, with a visit to an elephant camp in Chiang Dao province. The camp is located in a rainforest by the River Ping and offers a perfect natural habitat for appreciating these gentle giants. Learn about Asian elephants – their nature, their individual traits, their lifestyles, their talents and their charms, and get a glimpse into the unique and very real relationships between elephants and their mahouts. After lunch in a local restaurant, continue to Chiang Mai for an afternoon exploring this ancient city. Chiang Mai’s old town is still surrounded by remnants of the old defensive walls and a moat. Visit the historic Wat Suan Dok and admire its 48- metre-high Sri Lankan-style chedi, which overlooks the Royal Cemetery. Continue to Wat Phra Sing in the old town and appreciate the beauty of this large complex of more than 60 buildings before visiting 14th century Wat Chedi Luang in the very heart of the old city. In the evening, you can enjoy an optional khantoke dinner (not included).
Check out after breakfast. Departure transfer to the airport not included. Breakfast included.