Destination Travel Guide Nan, North Thailand

Welcome to Nan province in North Thailand where live is still slow and tranquil. Nan province is  tucked away in the most eastern part of North Thailand and was once a sleepy province. And even nowadays Nan province still one of the most remote & off the beaten track province's of Thailand, where nature blends well with culture and ancient temples. In modern times Nan province 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 tourists and even slowly some foreigner tourists are coming to Nan province. The main destination for visitors of Nan province is its capital Nan town 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 province 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. To read more about traveling in Nan province have a look at my latest Travel Blog postings. To receive updates by email from Traveling 2 Thailand click on SUBSCRIBE at the top right.

Destination Travel Guide Nan province, North Thailand
Photos of Nan province in North Thailand

The Highlights of Nan province

Of course the real highlight of Nan province is not a building or a place, but the authentic way of life. The signature of Nan province 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 province are the National Parks and mountains with waterfalls and small hill-tribe villages of Hmong and Tai Lue. And for motorbike riders Nan province is heaven for Motorbike Riding with stunning routes like the famous Bo Klua Loop

Destination Travel Guide Nan province, North Thailand
Markets in Nan town, North Thailand

Popular Destinations in Nan province

Besides the famous highlights Nan province 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 province

Nan province is a great place to go for traveling off the beaten track like in the mountains around Thung Chang, Ban Sakad 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.

Destination Travel Guide Nan province, North Thailand
Ancient Salt Pits in Bo Klua (left), The Christian School Museum in Nan town (right)

What to do in Nan province?

Nan town makes a perfect place to stay 2 or 3 nights. 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.

Then it is time to go for a 1 or 2 nights touring in the northern part of Nan province to explore the mountains of Doi Phu Kha and visit places like Pua, Ban Sakad 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 or Tat Luang 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.

Destination Travel Guide Nan province, North Thailand
Hmong people in Nan province
  • National Parks & Caves, 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 7 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 province. Many temples in Nan province are build in Tai Lue architecture and some of them have beautiful old murals. The two most famous temples in Nan town 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 in Nan town 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 province 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 Museum about the history of Nan town with many photos of Nan in the old days. Besides museums you will also find some Art in Nan province. 
  • Festivals & Events, the most famous festival is the Nan Traditional Boat Racing Festival at the end of the raining season. Running & Bicycling events are the new trend in Thailand and also in Nan province of course.
  • Massage, when you are tired of all the impressions than it might be time to take a famous Thai massage at one of the massage saloons. 
  • Waterfalls, in Thai called namtok, and with mountains in Nan province there are also many waterfalls. Famous are Namtok Sila Phet and Namtok Tat Luang.
  • Places of Interest like the Old City Wall, Silverware, Nan Noble House or Hmong villages in Manipruek. 
  • Things to Do, like Rafting on the Wa River or Hiking to a Coffee Plantation.
  • Old Buildings can luckily still be found in Nan province, but mostly of course in Nan town.
  • Memories of Nan province to keep alive the history.
  • Bicycling in Nan province with almost empty roads in the mountains Nan province is heaven for bicyclist people.
  • Motorbike Riding in Nan province, with stunning routes in the mountains of Nan province, not much traffic and mostly good roads. Yes Nan province is motorbike riding heaven in Thailand.

When to go to Nan province?

Of course you can travel to Nan province the all year around, the weather is as hot as everywhere in Thailand during the hot season of April and May. Then from June 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 province 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 in Nan province?

Although Nan town 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. Also upcountry you will find an abundance of Home-stays, Guesthouses, Hotels and Resorts, mostly in places like Bo Klua, Ban Sapan, Pua and Na Noi.  As said Nan province is not busy with tourists but during Public Holidays / Long Weekends (especially during the cool season) many Thai people will be visiting Nan province. During those days it might be a good idea to make a reservation in advance. For more information about accommodation in Nan town see Accommodation or have a look at my Comprehensive Accommodation Reviews.

TIP Check available accommodation at BOOKING or AGODA

Where to eat & drink in Nan province?

🍺 🍷 Nan town is a small provincial place 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. Upcountry the choice of restaurants & pubs is a bit limited, but still there are some great restaurants & pubs to be found. For more information about restaurants & coffee shops in Nan town see Food & Beverages or have a look at my Comprehensive Food & Beverages Reviews.

How to get to Nan province?

  • ✈️ Nan Nakhon Airport (NNT) in Nan town can be reached by air from Don Muang Airport (DMK) with Air Asia and Nok Air. 
  • 🚌 Nan Bus Station, in Nan town can be reached by bus from / to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and even Phuket or Rayong.
  • By mini-van Nan town can be reached from / to Den Chai, Phrae and Huai Kon.

Where to go next from Nan province?

  • 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. 
  • Phrae is about 120 km South of Nan town and is famous for its colonial history from the teak wood industry with many beautiful old teak wooden houses. 
  • Phayao is 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. 
  • Loei the most off the beaten track province of North-East Thailand is about 370 km South-East of Nan town. The route to Loei is a stunning journey along the Thai-Laos border passing National Parks, Rivers, Waterfalls and old Temples. 
  • Luang Prabang in Laos is the former royal capital city of Laos. From Nan to Luang Prabang via the International Border Crossing at Huai Kon, is about 370 km and takes about 8 - 10 hours. 

More about Nan province

Disclaimer : All information is created in good faith and is an expression of fair comment.

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