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group of tribal women
Group of Palong women

The Hill tribes of North Thailand

The Thai government recognises six groups of ‘hill tribes’ in Thailand: Karen, Hmong, Yao, Lahu, Akha and Lisu. ‘Hill tribes’ is the term we will use throughout this website, although many of these tribal people live on the lowlands nowadays. We also added the Kachin and the Palong (Palaung). These two tribes are more recent arrivals from Myanmar, and they number not more than a couple of thousand people at the moment. We also categorize the Lawa and the Pa’O in this group although people don’t consider them hill tribes.

Culture and language

What sets these groups apart from other minority people such as the Tai people is their language and culture. They speak languages that belong to different language families, such as the Mon-Khmer language family. Some of these hill tribe groups were also nomadic and animists. The majority of the Tai people minority groups are Buddhists and share a common culture with the Thai people.

Our mother company Green Trails specializes in tours to tribal villages. These tours are often trekking tours but the company also has organized tours that focus on the traditional textiles. All these groups have their own specific traditional dress as well as their own customs and traditions.

The culture and language of these groups is under threat. We hope we will be able to help preserve the unique culture of these minority groups. If you have specific interest in the hill tribes, please let us know so we can craft a customized tour for you.