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There are hundreds of Hill tribe villages in Chiang Rai. The Karen, Akha, Hmong, Lahu, Lisu, Palong, and Mien (Yao) villages can all be found here. Chiang Rai is a melting pot of different hill tribe groups making it the perfect place to discover authentic hill tribe culture, and traditional hill tribe life.

Chiang Rai’s proximity to China, Laos and Myanmar, means that historically, the hill tribes crossed over the borders to settle in the highland areas of Chiang Rai. Some settled here in search of arable land for farming, whilst others fled persecution in their native lands. The result is that Chiang Rai is a melting pot of ethnic minority groups (hill tribes) and their villages are scattered throughout the province. The different hill tribes live harmoniously together, and it’s common to find different groups and their villages located in close proximity to one another.

The size and nature of villages in the area varies enormously. From villages with only a small number of families that have little to no electricity tucked away in deep forest, to larger villages with modern infrastructure such as paved roads and WiFi located near main roads.

Palong Hill tribe Girls Doi Angkhang

Palong Hill tribe Girls

There are a few hill tribe villages in Chiang Rai which have been set up for the purposes of tourism. These allow visitors to have a brief insight into hill tribes if they only have a short amount of time in the area. Some of these villages will be more commercial in feel, offering nothing in the way of cultural learing. And others can be more educational. Either way these villages provide an important livelihood and income for its members, and serve as a way to preserve ethnic traditions and culture.

Akha Villages in Chiang Rai

Ban Lorcha is an Akha hill tribe village located in Mae Salong. It was originally set up in the 1970’s , by local Akha villagers in response to the growing number of tourists arriving at their village, wanting to look around and curious about Akha culture. With the help of a local organisation, the villagers decided to take management of the situation, and form a model village whereby tourists could visit and learn about Akha hill tribe culture, as part of an organised visit. Today at Ban Lorcha, there are village guides who accompany visitors around the villages, showing them different aspects of village life from traditional houses, and an organised trip there includes demonstrations of traditional Akha life, such as traditional hunting techniquies, dancing and weaving.

Ban Lorcha Akha hill tribe village, Chiang Rai

Ban Lorcha Akha hill tribe village, Chiang Rai

Hmong Villages in Chiang Rai

There are numerous Hmong villages in Chiang Rai, if you are lucky you may see the Hmong women carrying out traditional embroidery which are colourful cross-stitch like patterns on black material. Hmong villages can also be identified as they have wooden houses built on the ground and unlike other tribes their houses are not on stilts.

Lahu Villages in Chiang Rai

The Lahu can also be found in Chiang Rai. Their villages tend to be more primitive in nature compared to other tribes. They live in stilt bamboo houses and their villages are more likely to have dirt paths rather than paved roads. From our experience, breaking-the-ice as a visitor seems to be the most difficult in Lahu villages, making it even more important to travel with a local hilll tribe guide here.

Non-Touristic Hill Tribe Villages

The entire countryside of Chiang Rai is scattered with ‘real’ hill tribe villages, where hill tribes and locals are living everyday life uninterrupted by tourism, most of them forging a livelihood as farmers or engaged in agriculture of some form. The nature and size of villages can vary enormously. From villages tucked away in remote forests with only a small number of families that have little to no electricity, to larger and easily-accesible villages with modern infrastructure such as paved roads and WiFi. It’s going to be tricky for anybody who’s not local to the area, to know which villages are good to visit. A local guide can also make recommendations on what villages, which hill tribes and where they are located.

How to visit

There are hundreds of hill tribe villages scattered throughout Chiang Rai, and whilst anybody can walk in and visit one, we don’t recommend arriving without a guide. You’ll receive a much warmer welcome if you visit with a local guide – hill tribe communities are close-knit, which means that a hill tribe guide will often have connections in the village.  A hill tribe guide can also teach and show you about hill tribe culture and way of life first-hand, sharing their knowledge and cultural roots – something that can’t be found in guide books or with city guides. If you would like to visit hill tribe villages in Chiang Rai, we can help arrange a trip for you. For more info on how to do this please contact us

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