Things to do in Nan – Thailand

The town of Nan is situated 688 km north of Bangkok in northern Thailand. It is the administrative capital and the main town of the province that bears its name. The area is 7.60 sq. km. It is divided into thirty chumchon. The city is surrounded by natural beauty. You can also find a lot of historical attractions in the area. If you visit the town, you will be able to enjoy the local cuisine, which is known as khao nam.

Nan is a province in northern Thailand. It is located along the country’s border with Laos, and its capital is the city of Nan. It is known for its natural beauty and cultural attractions, including temples and other historical sites. The province is home to a number of ethnic minority groups, and its culture and traditions are influenced by its location along the Mekong River.

Nan was fully autonomous for many centuries and was a part of the Lang Xang empire, also conquered by Burma in 1558. Nan only became a part of Thailand fully in 1931 and was a part of Laos for some of the 19th century.

The main things to do in Nan include:

  • see the distinctively different local Wats and the remains of the town’s old walls
  • go to the Nan National Museum – the palace of the last 2 feudal lords of Nan
  • visit the local night market (Kad Nan) for local food and crafts
  • see the King of Nan’s teak house built in 1866 – reconstructed 1941
  • visit Wat Phumin built in 1596
  • rent a motorbike and visit the local National Parks

Must Do

You can explore the lush forests and mountains of the city of Nan. You can see the beautiful greenery and tropical forests of the surrounding area. Wat Phumin is the city’s most well-known wat. It is located near the Nan National Museum. Wat Phumin is the site of the Pu Man Ya Man painting, which is known as the world whispering image. For an art experience, you can also check out the Nan Riverside Art Gallery, a large private gallery on the banks of the River Nan. It is the cultural hub of the province. It was founded by Winai Prabripoo in 2003 and has been the home of over 80 and 100 artworks.

The town is not known for its nightlife, but the abundance of woods makes it a perfect place for those who enjoy nature. If you are an avid hiker, you can visit the nearby mountains to climb Phu Khae, which is the province’s tallest mountain. Once you’ve conquered Phu Khae, you can spend a relaxing evening by the river. You can also visit the Weerachon pub and try out some of the local cuisine. Besides the pubs, there are also a couple of nightclubs in the area.

  • See the sunrise from a misty mountain top.
  • Watch dragon boats race their way down the Nan river
  • Brave the currents and white water raft the Wa river.
  • Shop at the morning market and see the strange looking vegetables
  • Chill out at the riverside art gallery.
  • Bike around the rice fields and foothills that surround the town.
  • Learn about the towns history at the local museum
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What do you like best about Nan

The old wooden buildings, the stunning murals in Wat Pumin temple, the colourful ‘dragon’ boats on the river, and, most of all the peaceful atmosphere in both the town and the beautiful countryside that surrounds it.

It’s a quiet place but there’s a lot to see and do, both in and around the town.

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Best Restaurants in Nan

Here are a few restaurants to try in Nan City

  1. Crossroads Nan – Visitors can eat tasty burgers, steaks and beef at this restaurant. You will be offered delicious beer. It’s always a pleasure to rest and have a meal here because of the prompt service. 
  2. Ban J Vegetarian Restaurant – People can eat good soup at this restaurant. The competent staff works hard, stays positive and makes this place wonderful. The pretty atmosphere makes a positive impression on guests.
  3. Poom 3 Nan can be recommended for perfectly cooked chicken curry, roti and massaman curry.
  4. Rai Tiam Than Noodle
  5. Huen Chao Nang


For dessert lovers, the most amazing ice cream in town comes from Bar Min Ice cream restaurant.  Sweet red sticky rice, covered with traditional thai style coconut ice cream, and topped with hot chocolate sauce is just one of their specialities.

Thai teenagers love to visit milkshake bars. They’re usually stylishly designed and sell cheap shakes and snacks. There are a couple in town but the nicest by miles is ‘The Milk Club.’ Order a milkshake and toast topped with anything from chocolate and coconut, to chinese style pork. Once you’ve finished eating take a look at the coke memorobilia, the photos and paintings on the wall and the upstairs gallery.

Bakeries and Coffee Shops

The Best’ bakery sells the best western style cakes around. Their new York cheesecake and banoffee pie can’t be beat, it really lives up to its name as the best bakery in town.

In the last few years theres been an explosion of new coffee shops in town. Phu Payak and Phu Far (both selling locally grown Nan coffee) are the best. Muan Jai comes a close second.

Local Markets in Nan

If you’re on a budget or just out to try something different there are food stalls in the morning market. They sell everything and anything from pre-packed cartons of curry and rice to fresh fruit. Try ‘joke’ – a thai style congee and ‘cafee boran’ hot Laos style coffee for breakfast.

Later in the day there’s ‘to rung’ night market, a street where almost every stall sells food. Deep fried insects, curries, pat thai noodles, BBQ chicken, rice soups, japanese sushi and fresh fruit are all on sale here. Several stalls will cook food to order. Just tell the cook what you would like, or point at a dish you like the look of and, a couple of minutes later a nice steaming hot plate of it will appear in front of you.

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Best Places to Stay in Nan

Nan is a small town of about 21,000 people. Most of the places to stay in Nan are smaller guesthouses and small hotels. I have a small list of places that ypu can click on the links and that will take you to TripAdvisor for a better description and customer reviews.

Nan Noble House Garden Resort is a resort with charming thatched cottages set in a seven acre landscaped garden. Situated close to Nan city. There is a large swimming pool, separate pool area for kids, one km jogging track and hundreds of trees.

Nan Noble House Garden Resort

Nan Guest House is a long time favorite in Nan. It has clean rooms, good value and a friendly service. It’s located close to the bus station and the center of Town, in a quiet residential area.

Nan Seasons Boutique Resort is a comfortable 4 star Boutique Resort with a Pool and has a spectacular view over the Countryside, Temples and Mountains. The Superior Bungalows and Villas are all from local Teak wood and are decorated with comfortable and modern contemporary Lanna-Thai design. They all have Air-conditioning, Minibars, Tea and Coffee, HD TV, Mineral rain showers and spacious Balconies.

Sasidara Resort Nan is nestled in the verdant valley of northern nature and culture, Nan is a fascinating destination offering you a great experience of Thailand northern outstanding way of life. 

Best Music/Festivals

Nan’s not known for its music scene. Traditional northern Thai music and northern dances can usally be seen and heard at the monthly street market. Some pubs and restraunts also have live music, the singers and bands usually play covers version of Thai rock songs.

From July onwards, the town starts to go boat crazy. Each evening, if you go down to the river you can hear teams of rowers counting from 1-8 as they practise their strokes. By the end of September the area by the river is turned into a giant market and the 1st of the province’s famous ‘Boat Racing Festival’s’ begins. Bus loads of locals from the surrounding villages arrive, along with amplifiers, bands, cheerleaders and iceboxes full of beer. After the boats have been blessed and put onto the water, the races begin. The villages take their boat very seriously. The river becomes a sea of colour and raucous cheering accompanies every race.

Nan also celebrates most of the other major Thai festivals and events. Songkran, Thai New Year, a 7 day water war is definitely worth seeing, as is Loi Kratong (the first full moon in November) when, just after sunset people float tiny candle-lit rafts on the river.

Wat in Nan – Source: Flickr

Art Galleries in Nan

The Nan Riverside Art Gallery is a large private art gallery. It is situated on the bank of the Nan River about 20km from Nan City. It functions as a centre of Nan province’s art and culture. The gallery was founded by Winai Prabripoo, a famous Thai artist and native of Nan, who loves art. A large hall on the first floor hosts large exhibition. It can support more than 80-100 artworks.

The Sudrit Arts Gallery is in Nan City and is primarily a small hotel but look as though they sell art on the side.


Best Nightlife in Nan

Nan’s not exactly the nightlife capital of Thailand. Dining by the river (recommended restaurants are the 2 opposite Phu Far coffee shop, gourmet or ‘the glass house’) is a nice way to spend a warm summer evening.

For live music (classic Thai rocks songs and a couple English cover versions) head to Weerachon pub, or one of the few nightclubs in town, the fifth or channel X.

2 or 3 days a month there’s a ‘walking’ street, an outdoor market selling clothes, souveniers and food. There’s usually a cultural show, where people dress in traditional costume and demonstate traditional dancing too.

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Best Day Trip out of Nan

The surrounding mountains – any of them. Doi Sameur Dao or Doi Phu Kha for stunning views, Doi Phu Wae for a strenous hike or Doi Tiew for the chance to see how the Hmong people live.

In the rainy season, several tour companies organise 2-3 day white water rafting trips on the Wa river.

Something not many tourists would know about Nan

Take a trip to Haad Pa Kon village, order food, hire a rafthouse and spend a few hours drifting down the Nan river, swimming, fishing and staring at the scenery.

Interesting facts about Nan

  • Nan is approximately 688km north of Bangkok.
  • Nan (City) is the administrative capital of the province of Nan
  • In 1588 the Burmese took control of Nan and deported most of the inhabitants to Burma as slaves.
  • The city was deserted until 1786 when Thailand regained control of the area.
  • Bangkok did not ever have full control of the province until 1931.

David Cronk - Editor

David Cronk is the editor of online travel magazine Travelodium Travel Magazine. David has travelled to over 30 countries of the world and his writing has been published by enRoute magazine - Air Canada's inflight magazine and by Hotel & Accommodation Management Magazine. David has worked as a Sales Executive for Sheraton and Hilton Hotels and for Hotelbookers in London. He has worked also as a Hotel Night Manager and in bars throughout Europe. David eventually settled into a position working as a croupier for several years before changing careers to become a Data, Sales and Statistical Analyst.

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