Welcome to Nan in North Thailand, where life is still slow and tranquil

Nan province tucked away in the most eastern part of North Thailand, once a sleepy off-limit area, is still one of the most remote & off the beaten track province's of Thailand, where nature blends well with culture and ancient temples. Nowadays Nan has an airport, comfortable boutique hotels and trendy coffee shops, along with picturesque villages in the mountains, but 40 years ago Nan was considered a wild region and sometimes even off-limited for traveling. Time has changed however and the centuries old temples built in Tai Lue architecture style with beautiful murals, green mountains and ethnic minorities are now starting to attract Thai and even slowly some foreigner tourists are coming to Nan province.

The main destination for visitors of Nan province is its capital Nan and nearby surroundings. It is however not the only place of interest, especially those who love outdoor activities might find their way to places like Pua, Bo Klua, Thung Chang, Na Noi and Mae Charim. Upcountry Nan offers nature, mountains and culture from the famous Ancient Salt Pits of Bo Klua and the Yellow Ghost Hill-Tribe to waterfalls, coffee plantations, markets and rivers.

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A showcase of Nan - Thailand

The Highlights

Of course the real highlight of Nan is not a building or a place, but the authentic way of life in Nan province. The signature of Nan is the slow life of Nan. The main destination for visitors is Nan town with its historical center and centuries old temples like the famous Wat Phumin with its beautiful murals and the quite unusual Buddha statue with 4 faces. Upcountry the main destination is Bo Klua in the mountains of Doi Phu Kha National Park with the famous Ancient Salt Pits of Bo Klua. Another highlight of Nan are the National Parks and mountains with waterfalls and small hill-tribe villages of Hmong and Tai Lue.

Popular Destinations

Besides the famous highlights Nan offers some nice small places like Pua that was once the old capital of the Nan Kingdom and now a favourite destination within Nan province. Or the mountain village Bo Klua located in a valley high in the mountains of Doi Phu Kha, famous for its Ancient Salt Pits.

Off the Beaten Track & Hiking in Nan - Thailand

Nan is a great place to go for traveling of the beaten track like in the mountains around Thung Chang and Bo Klua. Places where you can still travel without seeing an 7/11 supermarket, ATM or other tourists. Although slightly modern life came also to the comfort of the small villages in the mountains, the people there are still living a simple life mostly in wooden houses and with a traditional way of life. In the mountains are villages of ethnic minorities of Hmong, Tai Lue, Yao and Khamu who are sometimes still wearing their traditional cloths.
Ancient Salt Pits in Bo Klua and the Christian School Museum in Nan - Thailand

What to do?

Nan town makes a perfect place to stay 2 or 3 nights to explore the historical center and nearby attractions. While in Nan town you could make a walking or bicycling tour through the Historical Center of Nan or experience the old tradition of giving alms to monks. Walking on Sumon Thewarat Street is a great way to get lost in the small soi's of Nan town and find Silverware Workshops or old teak-wooden houses like Khum Cha Thep Mala House.

After that you could go for a 1 or 2 nights tour in the northern part of Nan province to explore the mountains Doi Phu Kha and visit places like Pua and Bo Klua. In Nan town life is slow, but upcountry outdoor life is awaiting for you.  The more adventures one's could go Canoe on the Nan River, Wild Water Rafting on the Wa River or Hiking in Doi Phu Kha National Park. Or do the famous Bo Klua Loop by scooter ,motorbike or even by bicycle. Going upcountry you might fancy a refreshing swim at Sila Phet Waterfall, Visit the Mlabri (Yellow Ghosts) ethnic minorities in the mountains of Ban Luang, see the famous Ancient Salt Pits of Bo Klua or see sunrise over Nan valley at Wat Khao Noi.


Hmong people in Nan - Thailand

National Parks in Nan, where nature meets adventure. Great places for jungle trekking, enjoying nature and wild water rafting. Doi Phu Kha National Park is the longest stretched National Park of Thailand, bordering Laos and with the highest peak of 1.980m above sea-level. Besides National Parks there are also a few smaller Forests Parks and Royal Projects.

Temples, as in any place in a Buddhist country there are many temples in Nan. You might have visited many temples already in Thailand, but temples in Nan are different in design and art as compared to temples in Central Thailand. Many temples in Nan are build in Tai Lue architecture and some of them have beautiful old murals. The two most famous temples are the Wat Phumin for its murals and the Wat Phra That Chae Heang for its good luck for people born in the year of the rabbit.

Markets, Thai people like to eat fresh food so there are markets everywhere and everyday. The most famous markets are the Nan Morning Market and the Weekend Market. Upcountry along the road you will find other kind of markets, the so called Jungle Markets where local mountain people sell their vegetables, herbs and sometimes mushrooms.

Museums & Art Galleries, although Nan is in a far away corner of Thailand, you will be surprised to find some nice museums & art galleries. Like Nan Riverside Art Space with modern art and the Nan Christian School about the history on Nan with many photos of Nan in the old days. And even upcountry you will find some beautiful small temple museums.

Festivals, of course the famous Thai festivals like Loy Kratong and Songkran are celebrated in Nan. But Nan is famous for the Nan Traditional Boat Racing Festival at the end of the raining season and the Hercules (Kwang) Beetle Festival in Pua in September.

Massage, when you are tired of all the impressions then it might be time to take a famous Thai massage at one of the massage saloons. Only some hotels offer massage. Luckily there are massage saloons but be aware that in Nan town there are some massage saloons that offer a bit more as only massage.

When to go?

Of course you can travel to Nan the all year around, the weather is as hot as everywhere in Thailand during the hot season of April and May. Then the monsoon season begins that lasts until end October with chance of heavy rains and some local flooding. From November to March the cool season hits the North of Thailand and temperatures in Nan province may go down to about 5℃ during night time (December-February). Nan is an attractive destination all year around, but for outdoor activities it is recommended to visit during the cool season, from September to February.

Where to sleep?

Although Nan is (luckily) not as much visited by tourists as example Chiang Mai, there is a good variety of accommodation all over Nan province. From a simple Nan Guesthouse to a tranquil Nan Seasons Boutique Resort. As said Nan is not a busy province with tourists but during Public Holidays / Long Weekends (especially during the cool season) many Thai people will be visiting Nan. During those days it might be a good idea to make a reservation in advance. For Hotels, Resorts and Guesthouses see Accommodation.

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Where to Eat & Drink?

Nan is a small town province and the culinair delights are not Western food, but local northern Thai and Lao food. Although luckily there are also a few restaurants serving good Western food like Gin RstaurantVoila Kitchen and Lemongrass Restaurant. Small restaurants for breakfast, lunch or dinner are all over Nan town in the small streets, just like in the places as Pua or Bo Klua. For Food & Drink see Food & Drink.

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How to get there & around?

Nan town can be reached by air with Air Asia and Nok Air to Nan Nakhon Airport (NNT) from Don Muang, Bangkok (DMK). And of course with the bus from / to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and even Phuket and Rayong to Nan Bus Station.

Where to go next?

  • Chiang Rai, the gateway to the Golden Triangel is about 220 km North-west of Nan town, a very scenic route passing Waterfalls, National Parks and Mountains along the Thai-Lao border. A very popular route for riding motorbike or scooter. 
  • Phrae, about 120 km South of Nan town, an town with a colonial history from the wood industry. A great place to stay overnight and from there continue to Lampang or Uttaradit.
  • Phayao, about 150 km West of Nan town and located along the beautiful Kwan Phayao lake. A great place to stay overnight and from there to continue to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. A great route for riding motorbike or scooter.
  • Loei, the most off the beaten track province of North-East Thailand is about 370 km South-East of Nan town, a stunning journey along the Thai-Laos border passing National Parks, Rivers, Waterfalls and old Temples. A great route for riding motorbike or scooter.
  • Luang Prabang (Laos), the former capital city of Laos. From Nan to Luang Prabang via the international border crossing at Huai Kon, that is about 370 km and takes about 8 - 10 hours. 

More at Traveling 2 Nan - Thailand

Traveling 2 Nan - Thailand is a subsidiary of Traveling 2 Thailand, a travel blog by The Little Elephant in Thailand. Traveling 2 Nan - Thailand aims to provide in English all information for travellers to Nan province in North Thailand, with the purpose of promoting Nan - Thailand and to open the doors & windows of Nan - Thailand for travellers.

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