What is the best time to visit North Thailand?
What is the general consensus?
The general consensus is that the rainy season is not the best time to visit North Thailand. According to Met office from the UK, the best time to visit North Thailand is between November and February. The temperatures are at their most bearable and there is not much rain. The rainy season is between July and October, which Met doesn’t consider a good time to visit. They recommend visiting in the hot season from March until June. Having lived in Thailand for more than 31 years I disagree with this recommendation. In our opinion, the rainy season aka the “green season” is generally very underrated. Yes, trekking in the rain is not pleasant but there are other factors that make the rainy season a very attractive and beautiful time of the year
Weather is very unpredictable
In North Thailand, we have wet and dry rainy seasons. No year is the same. Sometimes the first rains of the year fall in early April, sometimes in late May. In 2022 we had a couple of days of heavy rain early with flooding in many places as a consequence. Every year we have short dry spells that last a week or so and periods when it rains only in the evening and at night. During the dry season from November until February, we have had a couple of days that it rained so also that season is very unpredictable. Overall, you have to be a bit lucky with the weather. Of course, you have a greater chance to enjoy trekking with blue skies and no rain during the dry season but the rainy season has its own attractions.
Rain and Fog on the mountain
Especially on the mountain the weather in the rainy season can be unpredictable and, sometimes, unpleasant, depending on your preference. The forest in foggy conditions can be very attractive and mystical. Especially on Doi Suthep and Doi Inthanon the visibility can be limited and you might have absolutely no view at viewpoints.
The rainy season is a great time to visit North Thailand
The rainy season is a great time to visit North Thailand. We have organized many trekkings and trips at this time of the year. Many of our guests come from Europe where July and August are the school holidays so it is the high season for families. So what are the attractions of the rainy season in North Thailand? First of all, nature is at its best. The forests are lush and green. The waterfalls are much more impressive than in the dry season and the rivers can be very wild. The skies are beautiful and much more clear than during the dusty dry season. You will not get more beautiful blue skies than in the rainy season. There is no better time in the year for landscape photos. Besides that the air is fresh and clean and the rain cools off.
Sunrise and sunset in the rainy season
The rainy season has without a doubt the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Getting up early in the morning has its reward in possibly observing the most spectacular sunrise of your visit to North Thailand. The cloud cover can add a special touch to a picture of the sun rising in the east. I have posted a couple of examples. In general the light for taking pictures is best in the rainy season.
Verdant green rice fields
The rice fields in North Thailand are at their most beautiful during the months July, August and September. June usually is the rice planting month but it might be late May or early July, depending on where you are. In general, most rice growing areas in North Thailand only have one harvest per year.
Rice fields in October are still nice but the closer we get to the harvest month of November the rice plants approach maturity and turn yellowish brown. That also has its attraction but we prefer the shades of green. Rice fields in the rainy season are spectacular and one of the reasons to visit North Thailand in this period.
Beware: it can be muddy and slippery
There are downsides to this lovely time to visit Thailand though: trails can be muddy and slippery. Apart from that, you can have several consecutive days of rain if you are unlucky. Then again, rainstorms can be absolutely awesome and more powerful than you might have experienced before. Overall, there is no best time of the year. I consider the months of March and April the less attractive months of the year because of the agricultural burning and, sometimes, extreme heat. It can become very dusty as well. We are always happy if we get the first rainfall after the dry season. One thing I forgot to mention: during the rainy season you can get very wet but seldom cold. That can happen in places like Doi Inthanon or on other mountains but in general you dry up pretty quickly.
The best time for waterfalls
The rainy season is the best time in North Thailand for waterfalls. The best destination for waterfalls is without a doubt the Doi Inthanon National Park. There are other great waterfalls such as the Mork Fah waterfall in Doi Pui-Doi Suthep National Park, the Bua Tong waterfall aka the Sticky Waterfalls, and the Khun Korn waterfall in Chiang Rai province. We recently hiked the Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail which runs partly along the Pha Dok Siew Waterfall. It was raining during the walk but the awesome, thundering waterfall made up for that.