Chiang Mai is the king of day trips. This northern city that is found along the banks of the Ping River and surrounded by lush forestry is chock full of incredible places that are but a short drive away. With that being said, here are the best day trips you should take from Chiang Mai.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon is the tallest mountain in Thailand. It sits at the southern tip of a continuous chain of mountain ranges that actually originates in the Himalaya, and the national park it is found in covers some 482 square kilometers of land. Trees found in Nepal can also be found here, and it is one of the most stunning of natural finds in the Kingdom. The area is mostly chilly and foggy all year long, giving visitors a much-needed break from Thailand’s oftentimes unbearable heat.
The Roof of Thailand
One of the main reasons why visitors frequent Doi Inthanon National Park is to see the two large chedis (stupas) found on the mountain. These two structures were created to commemorate the king and queen of Thailand’s 60th birthday anniversaries. One chedi is dedicated to the king and the other to the queen. They were gifted these incredible structures by the Royal Thai Air Force. The late king’s stupa was built in 1987 and stands at some 60 meters tall. The queen’s stupa was later constructed in 1992 and stands at about 55 meters tall. The king’s was constructed look more masculine and the queen’s to be more feminine. Both are amazing displays of architecture.
Doi Inthanon National Park is also home to seven waterfalls, trails, and many more natural finds. These are all best explored with the help of a guide. The national park is found in the Ban Khun Klang village of Hmong. You will find that there are a few markets worth exploring nearby. These vendors sell fresh honey, a plethora of different dried fruit, nuts, and much more. Grab an entire bag of these for cheap and snack while you explore this beautiful park.
Angkha Nature Trail
There are a plethora of interesting finds throughout the park, like the Angkha Nature Trail. It is otherwise known as the cloud forest because it is some 2,500 meters above sea level. This area of the park is also home to some of the largest species of moss in the world. Enjoy walking the wooden trail underneath the shade of the large trees here while taking in the incredible views. The trail is about 340 meters in length and takes about 25 minutes to walk in its entirety.
Huay Tung Tao Lake
If you are looking to truly get off the beaten path, Huay Tung Tao Lake is the excursion to frequent. This huge, sprawling body of water is the perfect spot to sit, relax, and cool off for the entirety of a day. The large lake is surrounded by homely bamboo huts equipped with colorful mats that double as seating arrangements. It is here you can grab a beer and take in the mountains of Doi Pui. For those visitors who want to do more than just relax, the lake is also surrounded by a four-kilometer trail that is perfect for cycling or running. You will find both locals and tourists alike taking to the trail on their bicycles or on foot to get in some exercise before cooling off in Huay Tung Tao Lake.
Huay Tung Tao is one of the easiest places to get to out of all the excursions on our list. It is about a 20-minute drive from the city center. You can grab an Uber or hire a driver for the day to get here. There is a ฿20 (about $0.60) fee to see the lake. All of the bungalows are free to relax in as long as you order from the restaurant’s menu. There are several surrounding the lake, and you will find traditional Thai meals for cheap as well as beers, wine coolers, and spirits for purchase.
Found some 1,676 meters at its summit, the mountain of Doi Suthep is certainly a stunning natural spectacle in Chiang Mai. It’s most noteworthy aspect, however, is the temple found here: Wat Doi Suthep. This golden, Buddhist temple contains a sacred Buddha relic and is one of the most visited wats (temples) in the country.
Visitors must first climb some 300 steps to reach it but are greeted with stunning architecture and even better views of the sprawling city below once they do. In addition to the temple, the site is home to a rose and orchid garden, as well. One could spend an entire morning exploring this temple in its entirety.
If you want to make an entire day out of visiting this incredible temple, be sure to check out the small but noteworthy stops along the 16-kilometer route to the temple, like the Monthathon Falls, for example. The Phuphing Royal Palace is about five kilometers down the road from the temple as well as souvenir and food carts at the beginning of Doi Suthep that are worth checking out.
Prepare to be floored (and confused) by the Bua Tong Waterfall. Otherwise known as the Sticky Waterfalls, these cascading tiers are just that: sticky. The area in which the falls cover is quite small but memorable all the same. It is made up of multiple tiers that are made of limestone rock. The limestone creates friction on the falls, allowing visitors to climb up the falls with ease and without slipping. It is a strange yet incredible experience climbing up the falls, and there are a few ropes attached to trees for those visitors who are still skeptical.
There are a total of five different levels to explore and a pool at the bottom of the last tier that you can swim in. We suggest combining these falls and visiting the Chiang Dao Cave on the same day, as the waterfalls themselves are quite small and a morning here gives you certainly enough time to explore it in its entirety.
Chiang Dao Cave
The Chiang Dao Cave remains off the tourist track, which is good for those of you who actually make the trek to Chiang Dao. Otherwise known as Tham Chiang Dao, this dark and shadowy wonder covers some 12 kilometers of underground cave inside Doi Chiang Dao Mountain. It is Thailand’s third largest mountain, and visitors are not allowed to explore on their own because of this, as the chances of getting lost in such a large natural wonder are high. There are a number of local guides at the ready to lead you into the dark and further into this natural wonder, however. The cost of hiring a guide to explore the cave further is ฿150 (about $4.70).
Meander further into the cave and find a number of interesting finds, including thousands of bats in slumber. There are also a number of cave formations that look like elephants and other animals. At the end of your tour, be sure to visit the medicine market in the parking lot towards to the entrance of the cave. There is also an affordable restaurant, some souvenir shops as well as a cafe equipped with coffee, Thai tea, and more. There is a ฿40 (about $1.25) entrance fee into the cave. You must also wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees as the cave is considered to be a temple, though there is clothing you can pay to rent out at the entrance, as well.
Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park is one of Chiang Mai’s most coveted attractions. It was established in the 1990s and has been providing rescued elephants with the care and home they need ever since. The park is about 60 kilometers from the city center. We recommend Elephant Nature Park because after elephants were banned from carrying teak in Thailand, many of them were put to work in shows or to carry tourists. Riding elephants is not ethical, and we highly recommend you do not go to any elephant “sanctuaries” that allow you to do so.
Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle
Chiang Rai is one of the oldest cities in Thailand. It was established by King Mengrai in 1262. Though the king later moved the capital further south to Chiang Mai, this city remains a coveted one and should be visited by those who have time to do so. One thing every visitor to the city must lay their eyes upon is the Golden Triangle, and there are plenty of companies scattered throughout Chiang Mai that offers day trips that do just that.
Found on Thailand’s border, the Golden Triangle is where visitors can stand and see both Laos and Myanmar from either side of the Mekong River. This area has long been the inspiration for books and movies, as it was once a lucrative area for opium and heroin warlords. Though the problem has since been (for the most part) ironed out, it remains an interesting spot to see.
The Golden Triangle actually covers a huge chunk of land and is found in Sop Ruak, a small village where many locals reside. In addition to seeing where the three countries meet, you can also visit the nearby temple of Wat Phra That Doi Tung as well as shop at the nearby Thai vendors. These shops sell everything fake jade to sweet, Thai desserts, so be sure to check these out, as well.
Mae Sa Valley
Those visitors looking to explore Chiang Mai’s more natural side should head to the Mae Sa Valley. It is home to a number of noteworthy excursions. The best way to visit each and every one of these is to hire a driver for the day and stop and go as you please! The Botanic Gardens are about a 30-minute drive from the city center.
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
One of our favorite attractions of them all is the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens. This educational excursion is both filled with information and beauty, as it highlights some of northern Thailand’s most beautiful foliage. The gardens themselves were charmingly designed, with originative enclosures and attractions sprinkled throughout the expansive gardens. As you make your way through the gardens, you will come across a banana plantation, an informative museum on the foliage found throughout Thailand, and much more.
Mae Sa Waterfall
Just down the road from the Botanical Gardens is the Mae Sa Waterfall. After driving around the gardens, this is the perfect spot to stop off and have lunch by the river. You can find plenty of food vendors selling everything from fried chicken to som tum, a popular, spicy Thai salad. Get your food, throw it into one of the baskets vendors have on hand along with a few mats, and you are ready for your riverside feast!
The Mae Sa Waterfall is made up of eight tiers. Get away from the crowds by climbing up to the very top tier, which is arguably the most beautiful of them all, as well. Some of the pools at the end of each fall are not safe enough to swim in, but the last tier is equipped with a large pool and plenty of rocks that are perfect for sitting, sunbathing, and relaxing on.
Visit the (other) Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon, otherwise known as Hang Dong Canyon, is about 48,000 square meters in size. It is a great spot worth visiting on Thailand’s hottest of afternoons. Visitors simply flock to this destination when they need to cool off, as the Grand Canyon is essentially a large lake with plenty of attractions scattered throughout, including a spot for cliff jumping, zip lining, sunbathing, and more. If you get hungry while you are there, grab lunch at the Grand Canyon Gamnanboon restaurant. The Grand Canyon is in the Hang Dong District of Chiang Mai. It takes about 40 minutes to get there from the city center.
Location: Grand Canyon in Chiang Mai — VIEW MAP
Contact: +66 052 001 076
Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.
More information about day trips from Chiang Mai
Did you love this article about which day trips to take from Chiang Mai? Do you want to explore the surrounding area even more? Then be sure to check out these amazing articles about things to see and do in and around Chiang Mai. We only recommend blogs and articles we love ourselves, as well.
- 12 Amazing Things to Do in Chiang Mai by Chris and Angela for Tieland to Thailand
- Things to do in Chiang Mai for Travelfish
- Top things to do in Chiang Mai for Lonely Planet
- The Best Day Trips Out Of Chiang Mai To Organize By Yourself by Carolin for Breathing Travel
- The Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai by Iona Proebst for Culture Trip