Motorcycling in Thailand has enjoyed a cult following for years and is now inching into the mainstream. Several travel agencies offer partially-catered, guided tours through the countryside and along the country’s most scenic roads.

Beyond following preplanned routes, the advantage of traveling with a tour is the included mechanical support and collision coverage. Motorcyclists focus on the northern reaches of the country, where less-traveled roads wind through the mountains and approach remote villages.

  • Mae Hong Son: One of the finest rides is a loop from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son. The route winds through the mountains of the far north and offers some of the best views in the country. Mexican sunflowers blanket the hillsides in golden blossoms during the cool season. Mae Hong Son is isolated and laid back, and offers the option of visiting Karen hill tribe villages.

  • Nan: Nan is a world away from the rest of Thailand and requires more than a day of driving for anyone planning to enjoy the view along the way. Route 1256 and 1148 are part of the Chiang Mai–Nan route. These roads are widely held as the finest avenues for motorcyclists in Thailand.

  • Golden Triangle: (Chiang Rai) - The Golden Triangle is Thailand’s most storied region, and rides through this region are a cultural experience. Visitors skirt the borders with Laos and Myanmar, stopping by numerous hill tribe villages and the quirky Opium Museum. The scenery is legendary, with mountains and remote temples. Rides to the Golden Triangle are usually launched from Chiang Rai.

  • Pai: A shorter route from Chiang Mai is a visit to Pai. This bohemian outpost is halfway to Mae Hong Son and offers similar mountain scenery. Pai is a great place to spend a night or two, with plenty of quirky bars and bungalows that appeal to independent travelers.

  • Phayao: The ride to Phayao can be launched from Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai or Lampang, or alternately as a two or three-day trip that stops in each city. The road to Phayao winds through the mountains amid a beautiful forest core. Phayao Lake is a major attraction, watched over by Si Khom Kham Temple with its unusual Buddha statues.

  • Phrao: (Chiang Mai) - Riding around Phrao entails plenty of mountain scenery. From Phrao riders can take Route 1150 to Wiang Pa Pao, a route that is shaded in heavy forest canopy. Hot springs and hill tribe villages, especially Lisu and Akha tribes, can be visited along the way.

  • Sankamphaeng: (Chiang Mai) - This is another quick escape route from Chiang Mai. After breaking free of the Chiang Mai loop, take Route 1317 toward Sankamphaeng. The road heads into the hills with an optional turnoff to visit hot springs.

  • Samoeng: (Chiang Mai) - The ride to Samoeng is probably the easiest daytrip in the north. From Chiang Mai, the route connects to Samoeng before continuing to the Mae Sa Valley. At a laid-back pace with plenty of sightseeing, the ride takes less than four hours.

  • Doi Mae Salong: (Chiang Rai) - Mae Salong Mountain is an excellent diversion from Chiang Rai, easily completed in a few hours. The route begins on the main highway but quickly veers off into a narrow road that snakes through the mountains and ultimately lands in this unique village. Tea and coffee are grown here at high elevation.

  • Krabi: Without a doubt one of the most scenic landscapes in Thailand, the Krabi coastline is punctuated by unique outcroppings of limestone. Rides along Pha Nang Beach are a highlight here. Riders can easily connect to and from Bangkok with possible side trips to Phuket, where the nightlife is intense.

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