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Top 5 Photography Picks in Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand often called the ‘Lanna Kingdom’, is a photographic gem in south east asia that will delight any travel photographer. The photo opportunities here are rich and diverse, from the mountainous topography which shares long and lofty borders with Myanmar, to the deep forests and colourful ethnic minorities- commonly referred to as ‘hill tribes’. Over the last ten years we’ve travelled with amateur and professional photographers, exploring the many facets of northern Thailand through a lens – we have marvelled at some of the best scenery in Thailand and shared fascinating cultural encounters with villagers.
Here are some of our favourite photographic destinations, which should be on any travel photography trip to Thailand.

1. Phu Chi Fah

Best visited during the winter months of November -February, the peak of Doi Pha Mon mountain range which borders Laos, 5 hours north of Chiang mai, is popular with Thai tourists but remains unknown to westerners. From the summit, you can enjoy a 180 degree view, over the Doi Pha Mon mountain range.

The peak of ‘Phu Chi Fah’ is famous for its stunning views at sunrise where you’ll see the tops of mountains that peek up above a blanket of fog – looking like islands on a floating sea of white mist. At the magnificent sunrise, you can see the sun rise up and above a cloud-lined horizon, oozing orange and pink layers into the morning sky.

A photo of Phu Chi Fah speaks for itself……..

Phu Chi Fah sunrise

Phu Chi Fah sunrise

2. Mae Hong Son Loop

The Mae Hong Son loop route, a route which claims 1,864 curves on the road, through the most forested province in Thailand (Mae Hong Son) is one of the most one of the most  mountainous and scenic routes in Thailand.

Mae Hong Son Loop road

Mae Hong Son Loop road

3. Phayao Lake

A little known beauty, this semi-natural freshwater lake is well off the tourist trail and you won’t see any foreigners here. Sunset over this serene lake, is another picture postcard moment in Thailand. If you’ve heard of Inle Lake in Myanmar, then this is the equivalent of Inle Lake of Thailand

Phayao Lake, Chiang Rai

Phayao Lake, Chiang Rai

4. Hill tribes

Ok, this is not a destination, but photography in northern Thailand would not be complete without a mention about its ethnic minorities – commonly referred to as hill tribes. Home to around 8 different ethnic minorities (Karen, Akha, Hmong, Lahu, Lisu, Palong, Yao) the potential for colourful portrait opportunities are everywhere. It goes without saying that there’s a whole book of ethics when it comes to taking pictures of the locals here, so we’ll save that topic for another future blog post. Just a quick note – to say that some hill tribes believe that having a picture taken of them will bring them bad luck, so tread carefully….and always ask permission before you point and shoot.

Karen hill tribe , Thailand

Karen hill tribe , Thailand

5. Hilltribe villages

Traditionally the hill tribes dwell together in villages, scattered throughout northern Thailand. Some of them tucked away in the precipices of mountains, surrounded by forests and fertile plains. The more remote and traditional villages have only dirt paths and rickety bamboo stilt huts. The captivating scenes in a village, from the wrinkled face of a village elder smoking a pipe, to a farmer chewing betel nut, to women weaving intricate panels of cotton on a back-strap loom; depict the fascinating culture and way of life of these hill tribes.

There are so many photogenic gems in northern Thailand, from grand and well-known sites such as the White temple in Chiang Rai to the smaller and simple moments of village life. For a sample Northern Thailand Photography Itinerary or for more info please contact us.


  1. Lena says:

    I have read about the different hill tribes in Thailand before and would love to visit them if I have the change at the beginning of next year. It would, of course, be an amazing picture opportunity as well.

  2. Jenia says:

    That winding road would get me so sick! The hill tribe villages sound amazing though. It always fascinates me how groups of people can live so close together and yet have different languages and customs.

    • Eric says:

      Yes, anti-motion/sickness tablets beforehand are always recommended if you’re prone to getting car sick – It’s definitely worth it though 🙂

  3. These are great tips, Northern Thailand is a beautiful place to visit and we can’t remember to get over that way again.

  4. Wonderful photo ideas/opportunities. Mae Hong Son Loop interests me the most and I really hope to get there someday!

  5. Lauren Pears says:

    Northern Thailand really is just so beautiful. I would love to explore more of the region as I only went to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai has some gorgeous rural surrounds but there’s so much more I need to see.

  6. Lara Dunning says:

    These are all great places and I’d love to take photos at Phu Chi Fah and Phayao Lake. Just stunning! I’d love to visit the hill tribes, but as someone who as their undergrad in Anthropology, I would be most likely not take any photos, even though I’d want to. 🙂

  7. Yukti says:

    I never knew that Thailand has so many beautiful natural landscapes. I have been to Bangkok only and therefore missed all these beautiful landscapes. You have captured hidden gems of Thailand including those beautiful Hill Tribes.

  8. Rohini says:

    If I were to go Hilltribe village would have been my favourite . Great information.

  9. Phayao Lake reminds me of visiting Cheow Lan Lake in Southern Thailand. The photos over the water were some of the best we captured from our entire trip. The heavy humidity, reflections, and light made for a photographer’s dream.