Beyond the beach: Northern Thailand lust-list

Sawasdee friends! I’m Sasha, an STA Travel intern and self-confessed southeast Asia obsessive, so naturally I just had to share a few of my fave spots in Thailand…

We’ve all heard of the famous Thai beaches – from full moon parties on Koh Phagnan to surreal dive spots on Koh Tao. But what is actually beyond the beautiful beaches? ‘Who cares?! I just want to enjoy my SangSom bucket next to the shimmering sea!’ I hear you shout from behind your device. I feel you…but travelling with a tour group like Contiki ensures you see those beautiful cultural sights without skimping on fun! Let me share some of the best non-beachy destinations.

1. Kanchanaburi – home to Erawan National Park, you’ll find luscious forests, stunning tiered waterfalls and hidden serene streams. This totally Instagram-worthy destination offers a selection of waterfalls, so once you’ve gotten sweaty from the hike up, cool off in the refreshing blue lagoons and splash away pesky fish who try to nibble at your feet!

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2.       Ayutthaya – The ex-capital of the Kingdom of Siam, this forgotten city has endless ruins offering a glimpse into its glorious past. Since becoming a UNESCO world heritage site, tantalising temples have been restored so you can get a real feel of what this once regal city was like.

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3.       Chiang Mai – nestled within forested foothills, this wonderfully laid-back city is a haven for temples. Bursting with history and culture, Chiang Mai offers delicious Northern Thai cuisine, so forget your beloved pad-thai and instead welcome beautifully fragrant dish, Kôw soy (noodles in a warming curry broth) – yum! As well as temples and tasty food, enjoy bustling night markets, entertaining lady-boy cabarets and elephant villages.

4.       Pai – Tucked away in the mountain valleys of Northern Thailand, close to the border of Myanmar, this small town set on the Pai River has recently become a backpacker hotspot. With quirky bars, live music clubs and colourful hostels, it’s no wonder this luscious spot is becoming increasingly popular. Marvel at the rice paddies, explore some of the waterfalls and the Pai Canyon…because who can say no to a dramatic ‘gazing into the distance’ photo op?

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Visit all of these fab spots and more on the Northern Thai Highlights trip or if you still need a bit of sun, sand and sea in your life, choose one of Contiki’s many other tour options, including their 9 Day Thai Island Hopper to fulfil your beach bum desires.