A hidden gem of a province, Nan was once an independent kingdom and is now a refuge for travelers who wish to explore the natural beauty of northern Thailand and its rich cultural heritage in peace and tranquility.
A quiet and tranquil province, Nan is nestled in a verdant valley in northern Thailand along the border with Laos. Because of its relative proximity to Luang Prabang, the historical capital of the Laotian Lan Xang kingdom, the earliest settlers in the area were Lan Xang’s Laotians, ethnic Tai who are distantly related to the Tai people who settled in central Thailand. These early settlers established themselves around present-day Pua district, which is rich in rock salt deposits, about 700 years ago. The earliest Nan rulers allied themselves with neighboring principalities to establish the kingdom of Lan Na. The center of power in Nan eventually moved south to the fertile Nan River basin, where the capital of Nan exists to this day. Nan’s history, development, and architecture were greatly influenced by various neighboring kingdoms, in particular Sukhothai, which played important political and religious roles in shaping the development of Nan. Over the centuries however, Nan alternated between being an independent principality under the control of Lan Na, Sukhothai, Burma and Siam in that order. In 1558, the town was conquered and depopulated by the Burmese. By the late 18th century Nan forged an alliance with the new Bangkok centered Rattakosin Kingdom and existed as a semi-autonomous kingdom with a line of monarchs that ruled from 1786 until 1931. Today, Nan is still the home of numerous Thai Lue and other hill tribes who retain many of their fascinating customs and traditions.
The rural province of Nan is an attractive region of northern Thailand where there are high populations of hill tribe communities, including Hmong, N’tin, and Khamu. Much of Nan is devoted to agriculture, particularly rice and fruit cultivation.Nan features six national parks, including the stunning Doi Phukha National Park, which contains mountains nearly 2,000 m high. The rich natural beauty of Nan makes it an ideal destination for trekking as the remote province sees far fewer visitors than neighboring Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. The provincial capital of Nan has a relaxed charm, an interesting history, some impressive temples, and a good museum. There are also a number of quality restaurants and bars along the town’s riverfront to plan your adventures into the countryside or relax after sightseeing in the town.
- If you plan to visit in October, the city comes alive for the annual Nan boat races; try to book your room early!