Markets teeming with tropical fruits, streets lined with food stalls and quirky cafes are laced all around Chiang Mai. The city is known for its food, health promotion and laid-back, bohemian vibes. Just as you were thinking that you may never want to leave the city center, I’m here to say that some pretty interesting day trips lay beyond its borders. If you’re spending any time in Chiang Mai, don’t forget to pull yourself out of the city and into some of these fantastic destinations.
Most Interesting Day Trips To Take From Chiang Mai, Thailand by Shannon Ullman
It’s a winding, hair pin turn kind of road trip but this hippy town is certainly worth it. The best way to visit this mountain town is to rent a bamboo bungalow, sit back and relax with your Kindle. The town itself is full of quirky boutiques where you can pick up sarongs and hand crafted jewelry while the outskirts are laden with waterfalls and hikes into the mountains. See some live music at Art of Chai, eat loaded baked potatoes when the nighttime street carts come out and watch the sunset from the top of the Pai canyon.
Elephant Nature Park, Best day trip from Chiang Mai
You can see elephants all around Chiang Mai, but this sanctuary and nature park is the area’s best. A home for previously abused elephants, you won’t find tourists riding on their backs or painting tricks here. After organizing a tour in advance, a staff member will pick you up from your hotel and bring you to the park where you will spend the day walking amongst the elephants as they go about their new and peaceful lives. Feed them, bathe them and pet them while you learn about their back stories and the way they spend their days. You will also be treated to one of the most delicious vegetarian buffets you may have ever experienced!
It’s Thailand’s largest peak and it can be reached within around 3 hours from Chiang Mai. The road to the national park is filled with scenic vistas, waterfalls and road side stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables. Wander around the manicured gardens at the top or take some of the short walks around the forests there.
Hang Dong Quarry
Right outside of the city, this one won’t take you long to reach. Previously a quarry, it is now filled with water and is usually full of people swimming and jumping off the cliffs. There is a small entrance fee and very modest facilities where you can grab a drink or snack or just some shade from the sun. Make sure you can swim because there are no life guards and make sure to avoid it mid-day as the sun gets quite hot!
Sticky Waterfalls-Bua Tong Waterfall
About an hour from Chiang Mai is one of the most interesting waterfalls I have ever encountered. Due to the its porous limestone, the rocks have a grip making them “sticky” enough to be climbed up. Spend an afternoon climbing straight up and literally washing your hair in the waterfall like a Goddess ( or God)!
Chang Dao Caves
Aside from locals working the rice fields and the hard to ignore mountain ranges, the ride to Chang Dao ends with the chance for a pretty interesting cave experience. While a part of it is wide, open and has lit hand rails, another aspect of it is for a more fearless traveler. A local woman will approach you with a candle-lit lantern and take you into the depths of cave crickets, spiders the size of your head and tiny tunnels meant for crawling.
The Giant Café
It’s quite a lengthy road trip just to have some coffee at a café but the motorway landscape is one of the best out of all of the trips. With even more rice fields and elephants roaming the fields in the distance, the time may pass without you even noticing. When you reach the Giant, a café in a tree, it’s easy to see that it’s much more than just a quick coffee and more of a quirky experience. You will have to walk the rope bridge over the valley to reach it, duck under a branch to get to your seat and share your time there with way more locals than tourists.
Shannon is an American travel blogger who writes about educational opportunities, workshops, classes and volunteering abroad. She also throws in a good dose of destination guides, personal stories and helpful travel tips. At the moment, she is currently living out of a van while traveling through New Zealand.
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6 thoughts on “Most Interesting Day Trips From Chiang Mai, Thailand”
Very helpful post!! There are so many places to go!
I would love to take care of the elephants! 😀
Thank you for joining #MondayEscapes!
Hi Shannon, I was in Chiang Mai at the end of January for just a couple of days. I really love the city – laidback and yeah, like you said, it has bohemian vibes to it 🙂 I did a day trip outside of CM – the Golden Triangle tour – which on hindsight, it would have been better if I had done that from Chiang Rai because the journey from CM was too long 🙁 Also, I found it too touristy. Thanks for sharing your tips because if I do return to CM, I will definitely consider these excursions! #MondayEscapes
Nice article! I plan to be in Chiang Mai next March for my 50th birthday!
Great post! We were in Chiang Mai last April and experienced a few of your top picks, but we definitely missed some. looks like we need to go back.
I have been to Chang Mai and loved it. Thank you for the ideas for day trips. Nice post.
Looks wonderful! Your posts always inspire me to travel more.