Are you in Chiang Mai and looking for things to do but you don't know where to start? So many options to choose from! I’m happy to share my top 5 to do’s with you…
I'm Pim, a Dutch guy living in Chiang Mai for over 4 years. During this time I have seen a lot of the province and made a short list of my favourite places to visit.
If you would like to go on any of these trips, just follow one of the links to the website of PM Tours. You'll get a 5% discount if you book and write down the following code in the message box of the online booking form: 'thank you Pim'. Feel free to use the code as many times as you like. :)
See you in Chiang Mai!
This is my favorite town in Chiang Mai province. Chiang Dao means city of stars and is located 60 km north of Chiang Mai city. It's hardly a city though; a pleasant sleepy town is a more accurate description. The town is out of the way enough to not have mass tourism, and most resorts, hotels and guesthouses are situated outside the town, near the Chiang Dao cave. A nice temple to visit is Wat Tham Pha Plong, but for an amazing view you should go to the Golden Temple.
Located on the foot of the Doi Luang Chiang Dao mountain and surrounded by jungle, the town is the jump-off point of some of the best trekking in Thailand. You can climb the mountain, but there are also some excellent nature trails that wind around the hills and valleys. You can rent a motorbike and drive up the mountain yourself, enjoying the view and cold air (bring a warm jacket if you go in the winter!) but you can also opt for an organized trek.
We organize one day and two-day treks in Chiang Dao with our experienced guides, and these are available every day. The trekking tours depart from Chiang Mai or Chiang Dao and will see you trek through the lush green jungle around Chiang Dao’s Doi Luang, the 3th highest mountain in Thailand. You will be able to learn about local plants, coffee plantations and wildlife and visit the hill-tribes in the area. The two-day trek includes an overnight stay with one of the tribes in a tiny mountainside village.
If you want to make the most out of your visit to Chiang Dao then you will need a guide. Our guide Mr. Deecha grew up in Chiang Dao and knows all the secret spots and trails. Go on a hike with Mr. Deecha and stay the night with his family in a local village. Interested? Check out the Chiang Dao Trekking tours.
Doi Inthanon National Park
When you want to escape from the heat in Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon is where you want to go. On the summit the temperature will be as low as between 5 and 15 degrees Celsius, depending on the season and weather. Doi Inthanon is Thailand's highest mountain and a very popular destination for locals for exactly this reason. It is also a beautiful nature park with some of the best elephant sanctuaries and nature trails of Northern Thailand.
Doi Inthanon National Park is located about a 1,5-hour drive south of Chiang Mai. The best time to visit Doi Inthanon is during winter (between November and February) because of the clear skies and therefore amazing views. Popular spots in Doi Inthanon national park are of course the summit, the beautiful King and Queen Pagoda’s, and some of the many waterfalls, such as the impressive Wachirathan waterfall.
To get the full experience of Doi Inthanon National Park, I recommend a day tour that includes trekking on the mountain-side. Trekking for example the Pha Dok Siew Trail (about a 3 hour hike) will take you through forest and rice fields, next to waterfalls and includes spectacular views of the mountainside and a visit to the White Karen hill-tribe, where you drink coffee fresh from their plantation.
You'll find more information about the Doi Inthanon tour including the Pha Dok Siew Trail here.
Mae Ngat dam lake
You can find this giant fresh water reservoir about 55 kilometers north-east from Chiang Mai in Sri Lanna National park. The lake was created by the damming of the Mae Ngat River and is a really nice place to relax. It’s a great place for swimming, fishing and kayaking and relax at one of the house boats in the middle of the lake.
You can even spend the night here, but we have to warn that the accommodation is very basic. Mass tourism hasn't touched this place yet. That's also why it is one of our personal favourite spots to come with friends for a day of swimming and relaxing while eating and having drinks. Go here during the week and you will have the whole lake for yourself. During the weekends though, it can get quite busy with Thai families.
PM Tours offers organised kayaking tours on the Mae Ngat dam lake leaving daily from Chiang Mai city.
The most popular thing to do in Chiang Mai is to visit one of the elephant sanctuaries, and rightly so. Elephants are amazing and impressive animals, not because of their size but because of their intelligence and characters. Elephants and humans have been living and working together for centuries in Chiang Mai province and wider Thailand, but the animals have often drawn the short end of the stick. However, there is and has been a growing awareness that elephants deserve and need to be treated better.
Elephant sanctuaries make that possible. Many elephants now live better lives with enough food, social lives and space to do what they want. Elephant sanctuaries allow tourists to visit and learn about the elephants and in this way support the sanctuaries. You are able to visit them in parks like Elephant Nature Park, Happy Elephant Home, Into the Wild Elephant Camp and Maeklang Elephant Conservation Community.
Chiang Mai is surrounded by national parks, mountains and jungles. The province offers some of the
best trekking and hiking in Thailand. For beginners, intermediate and advanced hikers, there is
something to do for everybody. Go explore on your own and do the pilgrims trail to Doi Suthep temple, this is a 2 hour trail starting behind the Chiang Mai zoo or sign up for one of the guided multiple day treks. Our favourite areas to go trekking are Doi Inthanon and Chiang Dao. In these jungle areas with hill tribes, rolling hills, waterfalls and rice fields you can do multiple days trekking with overnight stays in local hill tribe villages. Want to combine this with rafting or a visit to an elephant sanctuary?
There are plenty of options available and being organised in Chiang Mai but the quality differs quite a lot. You will find an overview of quality trekking which I did myself here.