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Northern Hill Tribes of Thailand

Over the centuries, driven from their native countries by civil war, the northern hill tribes have migrated to Thailand from Laos, Burma, Vietnam and also China. Approximately 500 000 hill tribe people are located in the upper northern regions of Thailand namely Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and also Mae Hong Son, where they make a living from agriculture. The tribes in the lower valleys farm corn and rice while the ones living in the higher altitudes make a living from poppy cultivation. Book a hotel in Chiang Mai and journey to visit these interesting people.

Thailand Northen Hill Tribes
Hill Tribe Home in Chiang Mia Thaialand

Though they only account for 2% of the population, the northern hill tribes of Thailand is certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest, tourist attraction of northern Thailand. Thousands of visitors flock to visit Chiang Mai and the mountains each year to meet them, learn about their way of life and culture and to stay in their villages. They are a friendly people, conservative and welcoming.

Hill Tribe Home in Chiang Mia Thaialand
Thailand Northen Hill Tribes

The Thai government is making an effort to integrate the hill tribes into the Thai way of life, among other reasons, to stop the exhausting of agricultural land by means of their slash and burn approach to farming which sees them making huge fires to burn the undergrowth. Though the ashes may temporarily enrich the soil, the hill tribes simply move on to other pieces of land to farm once the soil is exhausted which happens fairly quickly.

Thailand Northen Hill Tribes
Thailand Northen Hill Tribes

The hill tribes are renowned for their jewelery making, basket making and an array of other handicraft. By supporting the hill tribe people of Thailand by buying their goods, we can help sustain these people in different ways, helping the Thai government at the same time by creating a market for the goods of the hill tribes. The hill tribes can typically be divided into six tribes namely the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Lisu and Akha. Each of these tribes has their own language, culture, religion, heritage and clothing.

The Karen Tribe
Thailand Northen Hill Tribes
The Karen hill tribe is by far the biggest of the six tribes of Thailand, approximately 270 000, and seems to originate primarily from Burma. They started arriving in Thailand during the 18th century and are still today entering Thailand. Their religion is predominantly Buddhist though many have over the years converted to Christianity.
Hmong Tribe
Thailand Northen Hill Tribes

The Hmong Hill tribe of Thailand, accounts for approximately 80 000 of the hill tribe people. They are also known as the Meo, and is the 2nd largest of the hill tribes and originate from Laos.

The Hmong hill tribe of Thailand is a nomadic tribe with strong cultural similarities with the Chinese. The Hmong is one of the hill tribes cultivating poppy, but is also known for their ability to breed live stock.

Mien Tribe
Thailand Northen Hill Tribes
The Mien, also referred to as Yao, account for approximately 30 000 of the hill tribe people. Many of them are also found in various other South East Asian countries like Vietnam and Laos. In Thailand, the Mien hill tribe is mainly found in Chiang Rai, Lampheng Provinces and Phayao.
Lahu Tribe
Thailand Northen Hill Tribes
The Lahu tribe account for approximately 50 000 of the hill tribe people and live mainly in the highlands around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. They are known for their hunting skills and are also talented musicians.
Lisu Tribe
Thailand Northen Hill Tribes
The Lisu tribe account for approximately 25 000 of the hill tribe people and can be identified for their love of bright coloured clothing. They originate from Burma and live mainly in Chiang Rai. They are famed for their ability to produce jewelery.
Akha Tribe
Thailand Northen Hill Tribes

The Akha, also known as the Kaw, has been migrating to Thailand for the past hundred years and account for approximately 35 000 of the hill tribe people of Thailand. They originate from Burma (Myanmar) and seem to be the biggest attraction of all the tribes. Go there and find out why.

Chiang Mai must be one of the most interesting Thailand destinations. Chiang Mai Hotels will cater for every taste, budget and mood . When you visit this part of Thailand, do not miss the opportunity to meet these interesting people.

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