There's so much to see in beautiful northern Thailand, and this four-day trip offers a quick hit of the highlights. Enjoy spectacular mountain vistas, challenge yourself on a high-octane rafting adventure, and explore the temples and culture of Thailand's diverse people. You'll swim in waterfalls and hot springs, drink coffee in a Hmong village, and feast on flavorful Chiang Mai delicacies.

Highlights

  • Explore the beautiful mountain town of Pai
  • Go rafting on the rapids of the Pai River 
  • Relax in hot springs and swim in waterfalls
  • Hike up a mountain to a Buddhist temple and Hmong village

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights
Day 1 Travel from Chiang Mai to Pai
Day 2 Rafting on the Pai River
Day 3 Rafting to Mae Hong Son, drive to Chiang Mai
Day 4 Hike Doi Suthep, visit Hmong Village

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Travel from Chiang Mai to Pai

The bustling Pai night market

Starting from Chiang Mai, your driver will bring you 3.5 hours north to the laidback town of Pai. This scenic route winds through over 700 twists and turns in the rolling green mountains and tropical forests of northern Thailand. You'll break for lunch when you arrive in Pai, where you'll stay for the first night of the trip.

Spend the afternoon exploring this backpacker's haven, full of cute cafes, a vibrant market and fantastic nightlife. You'll find a huge array of street food from all different cuisines, as well as super-healthy options for those looking for raw, vegan, or gluten-free fare. If you're feeling adventurous, rent a motorbike and visit some of the beautiful surrounding waterfalls and hot springs, or hike the steep, but rewarding trails of Pai Canyon. A guided trek can be arranged, if you prefer.

Day 2: Rafting on Pai River

Rafting Thailand
You'll hit the rapids of Pai River on a two-day rafting trip

Get right on the water today for the first day of a thrilling two-day guided rafting excursion. After coffee and breakfast, you'll travel from Pai to the starting point on the river. Following a safety briefing, board the raft and make your way west on the Pai River through the lush jungle. The current will start off gentle, but you'll soon hit wild, bouncing rapids.

Break for a picnic lunch under a tropical mango tree, then get your adrenaline pumping again as you take on churning Class IV (advanced) rapids, the most challenging of the trip. You'll come to some hot springs and a fluoride mine, eventually stopping to swim and relax in a small waterfall pool. Spend the night at a bamboo jungle camp, where you'll enjoy a welcome drink and a delicious home-cooked meal over a wood fire. Relax in your hut or tent amid the sounds of nature for the night.

Day 3: Rafting to Mae Hong Son, Fly to Chiang Mai

Pai waterfall
On your rafting trip, you'll stop to swim in a waterfall pool

This morning you'll get back on your raft after breakfast and continue down the middle fork of the Pai River. Paddle until you reach the Khong River junction, where you'll stop and take a relaxing dip in the hot springs and a detoxifying mud-bath. From there you'll continue to a clear stream, where you'll have a picnic lunch before tackling some more lively rapids along the Pai gorges.

Later on you'll paddle through a farming region in the Mae Hong Son Valley, where you'll end your rafting trip in a nature reserve in the mid-afternoon. After rinsing off and collecting your belongings, you'll drive to the town of Mae Hong Son, near the Burmese border. If there is enough time, stop by the lake in the center of town and admire its stunning white and gold Shan temple. Then head to the airport for a quick domestic flight back to Chiang Mai, northern Thailand's largest city.

Day 4: Hike Doi Suthep and Visit a Hmong Village

Doi Suthep temple
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep near Chiang Mai

Today you'll conquer Doi Suthep Mountain. This hike is an easy one, with rolling terrain along a ridge covered in pine trees and wildflowers. Halfway to the top, stop in at a Hmong village. The Hmong people are one of Thailand's many hill tribes that populate this mountain area. Sip on some locally-produced coffee with locals, and learn about their culture and traditions. From there you'll trek downhill to the magnificent 800-year-old Doi Suthep temple. The golden Buddhist wat is sacred to many Thai people, and offers sweeping views of Chiang Mai in the valley below.

In the afternoon you'll return to Chiang Mai, where you can spend your last night immersing yourself in the local cuisine. Fill up on khao soi (a tangy, spicy curry soup), lemongrass-stuffed rotisserie chicken, or if you're feeling adventurous, try boat noodles, a popular pho-like street food with an intense, pork blood broth. Then head to the airport for your onward flight, or stay on in Chiang Mai for further adventures.