Destination Travel Guide Nan province

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 is 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 also 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, Ban Sapan, 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. 

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Destination Travel Guide Nan by Traveling 2 Thailand
Photos of Nan province in North Thailand

The Highlights

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 olTemples 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 & Ban Sapan 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 or Route 1148.

Destination Travel Guide Nan by Traveling 2 Thailand
Markets in Nan town, North Thailand

Popular Destinations

Besides the famous highlights in Nan town, Nan province offers some nice small places like Pua that was once the old capital of the Nan Kingdom and is now a popular travel destination. Other popular destinations in Nan province are :

Off the Beaten Track & Hiking

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 by Traveling 2 Thailand
Ancient Salt Pits in Bo Klua (left), The Christian School Museum in Nan town (right)

What to do?

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 by Traveling 2 Thailand
Hmong people in Nan province
  • National Parks & Caves where nature meets adventure. Great places for jungle trekking, enjoying nature and wild water rafting. 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, mostly build in Tai Lue architecture and some of them have beautiful old murals. 
  • Markets Thai people like to eat fresh food so there are markets everywhere and everyday, like the Nan Morning Market and the Nan 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. 
  • 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 like Namtok Sila Phet and Namtok Tat Luang but there are many more.
  • Places of Interest like the Old City Wall, 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 with almost empty roads is heaven for bicyclist people.
  • Motorbike Riding with stunning routes in the mountains, not much traffic and mostly good roads it is motorbike riding heaven!

When to go?

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.

When traveling to North Thailand, Nan province included, in March & April be aware of the so called "burning season". During this months (and sometimes a bit longer and/or earlier) is smog haze in North Thailand due to burning of farm fields & garbage. Known area's are Chiang Mai, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and Nan. But make no mistake also the air in Bangkok or some places in North-East Thailand can be unhealthy for sensitive people. Check the air quality at World Air Quality Index. 

Accommodation

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. Have a look at Accommodation.

Food & Beverages

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 Rstaurant, Voila 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. Have a look at Food & Beverages.

How to get there?

Nan can be reached by air from Bangkok or by bus from almost all big cities in Thailand. And even by bus from Luang Prabang in Laos. And there are going mini-van's from the nearest train station Den Chai to Nan town and even to Huai Kon border crossing to Laos.


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. 
  • 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. 

Map of geographical location of Nan province

Destination Travel Guide Nan by Traveling 2 Thailand
Map of geographical location of Nan province in North Thailand

Map of Nan town

Destination Travel Guide Nan by Traveling 2 Thailand
Map of Nan town in Nan province, North Thailand

Map of Historical Center of Nan town

Destination Travel Guide Nan by Traveling 2 Thailand
Map of the historical center in Nan town in Nan province, North Thailand


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

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About this travel blog

I made this non-commercial travel blog for the sheer love of traveling and to make off the beaten track places more accessible for English speaking tourists and people living in Thailand. To travel beyond the beaten track & highlights. Enjoy! You do not have to become a (paid) member, there are no advertisements and you can use / copy all information from this travel blog as long it is not for commercial use and as long you refer to this travel blog.

One night in Bangkok and the world is your oyster

I belong to that race of men that don't fit in, a race that can't sit still, so they break the hearts of kith and kin and they roam the world at will. In 1985 I started to roam the world at will in Indonesia & Thailand and since then I did not stop. And now living in Thailand I am still roaming the world. If you have a question or need help in planning your holiday in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam ? Send me an email at Contact @ Traveling 2 Thailand

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