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The Mae Hong Son Loop

The lush green north

A 600-kilometre long road trip through lush green northern Thailand: the Mae Hong Son Loop takes you to mysterious caves, spectacular views and gurgling waterfalls. Explore humid jungles, mist covered mountains and sleepy villages.

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Northern Thailand is breathtakingly beautiful. Whereas the south is hot and tropical, the north offers a (relatively) cooler climate and an abundance of lush green nature. The Mae Hong Son Loop begins in trendy Chiang Mai, leads through the hippie village of Pai to authentic Mae Hong Son before returning to Chiang Mai. Along the way you will encounter caves, waterfalls and great coffee bars. Although you can easily complete this road trip in four days, the more time, the better!

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Chiang Mai

The most fun city in Thailand

Although it's the second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai has preserved much of its provincial charm. The city is nestled in the green foothills of the Himalayas. Here, life follows a more leisurely pace, the local culture is quite different from the south and you will be in for a culinary treat!

Temples and coffee

Home to more than 300 ‘wats’ in and around the city, Chiang Mai is not short of temples. Among the many temples, the Wat Sri Suphan stands out for its silver-coloured paint. At night, the building is lit up in various colours. Just outside the city, on Thailand's highest mountain, stands the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, an enormous temple complex. Climbing the 309 steps of the dragon stairway that lead to the 600-year old golden ‘chedi’ is an experience in itself.

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Tired of temples? Tucked away amidst vast coffee plantations, Chiang Mai also features a host of trendy coffee bars that wouldn't look out of place in Paris or New York City. Especially inside the walls of the city centre you will find plenty of choice. A perfect excuse to rest your feet and unwind over a latte or cappuccino.

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Sprawling night market

Make sure to include a Sunday in your stay so you can visit the Sunday Walking Street. From 4 pm to midnight, numerous streets downtown are closed to traffic and transformed into an enormous outdoor market that extends for over a kilometre. Admire the street performers, shop for handmade souvenirs and peruse the local artwork. And don't forget to sample the amazing street food! You may be tempted to leave Chiang Mai, but you would miss out on many more beautiful sights that await along the way.

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762 curves ahead to Pai

Pai is a fabulous hippie village in the middle of the mountains north of Chiang Mai. The road to Pai is legendary. In a three-hour time span you will navigate 762 curves in the road. Travelers prone to motion sickness may be less thrilled, but once you arrive you can reward yourself with a well-deserved “I survived the road to Pai” T-shirt. There are several buses a day departing from Chiang Mai to Pai. Or if you are feeling adventurous, rent a scooter and tackle the road yourself. No matter how you travel, this will be an unforgettable journey.

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Sweet nothing

Pai is a lovely, small town with three bustling main streets, traversed by the picturesque Pai river. Lively Pai Walking Street draws crowds 365 days a year and is always a fun destination, especially at night. Beyond that there isn't much to see in Pai, but that's exactly the point. Pai is perfect for chilling and soaking up the soothing energy of this mountain village.

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If you need a reason to leave your hammock, take a walk across the Boon Ko Ku So bamboo bridge, visit Pai Canyon or feast your eyes on the sunset from Yun Lai viewpoint.

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Tham Lod

Float through a cave on a bamboo raft

After Pai, you reach the most idyllic section of the Mae Hong Son Loop. A landscape filled with epic vistas begging to be photographed. The 1.5 hour drive from Pai leads you along the mysterious Lod cave (Tham Lod in Thai). A magical spot with ancient coffins, impressive stalactites, a long underground river and enormous catfish. Most of the cave can be accessed on foot, but to reach the most beautiful far-flung corners, take a bamboo raft before continuing your way via the wooden steps.

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Mae Hong Son

The city of three mists

After another 1.5 hours, you will reach Mae Hong Son. Wedged between the misty mountains, it's also known as the “City of Three Mists”. This typical mountain village lies close to the border with Myanmar and is surrounded by misty jungle, a paradise for fans of outdoor activities.

Ban Rak Thai lies right on the border with Myanmar. The village was founded in the 1960s by Chinese fleeing the communist regime. As a result you still find lots of Chinese signage, Chinese food and the special oolong tea, grown by the local population. The village offers many opportunities to sample this fine tea.

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The last stretch of the Mae Hong Son Loop from the park to Chiang Mai is not the most inspiring stretch of road, but it does give you time to reflect on the many impressions of your journey.

Doi Inthanon National Park

To the top

Thailand's highest mountain, Doi Inthanon rises 2,565 metres above sea level and is located in the homonymous national park. Eight waterfalls cascade down the slopes of the mountain. A vast network of walking trails leads you to the park's sights. On top of Inthanon are two temples built as a tribute to the former king Bhumibol who ruled Thailand until 2016, and to his wife.

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