Chiang Mai vs Chiang Rai
Chiang Mai vs Chiang Rai
February 9, 2018
Northern Thailand Travel – A Beginners Guide
March 26, 2018

Top Places to visit in a day

Here are some ideas for day trips from Chiang Mai. The great thing about Chiang Mai is that it has something to offer all ages and all tastes. It has nature, animals, adventure, culture, great local food and the list goes on….

1. Visit the Elephants

One of the most popular activity for tourists in Chiang Mai – a visit to an elephant camp is the quintessential thing to do in Chiang Mai.  Spend the day admiring these majestic mammals in the tropical countryside. There are many different types of camps, ranging from commercialised ones where elephants are made to perform shows, to more elephant-friendly ones such as Elephant nature Park, where you can observe elephants roaming free in their natural habitat. To find an elephant experience you will feel comfortable with, be sure to do your research on the different camps beforehand.

2. Hill Tribe villages

Experience the fascinating culture of northern Thailand, and visit hill tribe villages in Chiang Mai. There are around ten different hill tribe (ethnic minority group) in northern Thailand, each with their own distinct language, culture and costumes. Lots of different type of hill tribe treks and tours are available in Chiang Mai, and some villages have become used to big tour groups passing through. If you want to visit the hill tribes in a more authentic and sustainable way that maintains their respect, then opt for a hill tribe tour with an ethical tour operator. For a full cultural experience you could also opt to stay overnight in the village with a hill tribe family at a homestay. This provides a unique opportunity to watch and learn about the daily life of the hill tribes, in an authentic way.

Karen Hill tribe villager

Karen Hill tribe villager

3. Bua Thong Waterfall (Sticky Waterfall)

Located around one hours drive north of Chiang Mai city, Bua Thong waterfall is the perfect spot for a day trip from Chiang Mai. This is a natural formation of a limestone staircase and cascading water.  It’s nicknamed ‘Sticky Waterfall’ because the combination of limestone and mineral deposits, which makes the surface feel surprisingly sticky not slippery. This makes climbing the waterfall a suitable and fun activity, especially for children. A trip to Bua Tong Waterfall, is a popular day trip amongst local and expat families, and a great way to cool off in the heat of Chiang Mai.

Bua Thong waterfall

Bua Thong waterfall

4. Doi Inthanon

Another popular day trip from Chiang Mai is a trip to Doi Inthanon mountain. Around one hour’s drive south of Chiang Mai City, the area of Doi Inthanon is also a protected national park. The road leading up to the summit, has several beautiful waterfalls and two impressive chedis erected in honour of the royal family in Thailand. The summit, is the highest point in Thailand (2565m above sea level) where there’s a short flat walking trail you can do. Doi Inthanon is a popular point for birdwatchers, especially during winter when it attracts a variety of bird species that migrate from Siberia.

5. Sameong Loop

This is day trip off the tourist trail, through the beautiful green valleys and mountains of Chiang Mai.  The Sameong Loop is a popular motorbike route, or you could hire a car and driver to take you. The route takes you through some of the best scenery in Chiang Mai, passing forested hills and rustic hill tribe villages. It’s a great day trip for anybody wanting to get out of the city, to experience nature and a quieter more authentic part of Chiang Mai. Sameong town itself is a good pit stop for lunch, it’s a small municipality with a very local feel, so you won’t see many tourists here

Sameong Loop

Sameong Loop

6. Lampang & Thai Elephant Conservation Centre

Only one hour’s drive from Chiang Mai, the laid back town of Lampang is a glance into traditional northern Thailand. Not many tourists make their way here, so it feels very authentic. It boasts a number of intricate and ancient Lanna (northern Thai) style temples. A must-see here, is the National Elephant Institute (formerly the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre), where they take care of injured elephants. For the typical Lampang experience, take a horse-drawn cart to enjoy the sights of this sleepy historic town.

7. Temples of Chiang Mai

There are so many historic temples in Chiang Mai you could spend a day just temple hopping. The most famous temple is Doi Suthep, located on a hill on the outskirts of the city. Upon arrival at the entrance you can choose to walk the 309 steps up the serpent lined staircase to the temple grounds, or there’s a cable car.

As the main religious landmark of Chiang Mai, it gets pretty busy with locals and tourists, so for a quieter temple experience, head 30 minutes south of the city to Wat Doi Kham. Also perched on forested hill top with a wonderful 360 degree view overlooking Chiang Mai. You could combine your day trip to the temples with a ‘Monk chat’. These are sessions held at specific temples across the city, where you can chat one-on-one with a Buddhist monk and ask questions about Buddhism and life as a monk.

Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai

Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai



  1. Sparky says:

    I’m curious how crowded it is in Chiang Mai. I’ve been seeing it pop up more and more lately as a great destination, but I’m wondering if it’s just bringing in tons of tourists. I love checking out new locations, but not when they are overcrowded.

    • Eric says:

      There’s so much to Chiang Mai, not only Chiang Mai city but in the countryside surrounding it. So you can always find a quiet non-tourist place here, you just need to know where to look 😉

  2. Michelle says:

    What a variety of choices! I would start with the waterfalls and then the Sameong Loop. We have not been to Thailand, so its great to have ideas outside the main tourist areas as we plan a trip.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks Michelle. Yes, you won’t regret the waterfalls and the Sameong Loop – simply beautiful ! Thanks, there’s so much of Thailand to discover that’s off the tourist circuit – if you know where to look:)

  3. Eva says:

    I love Chang Mai, Stayed there a couple of weeks. Elephants and waterfalls were great. But (imho) the pinnacle of the region are long-necked women. Enjoy your travels. Eva

    • Eric says:

      Great that you visited here. Oh yes, the Long neck women are such a cultural eye-opener. Its a shame a lot of people are put off visiting them believing its a ‘human zoo’ experience. That’s a whole other story…. for which there’s another post on this blog about.

  4. Neha says:

    I swore off Thailand because I found Bangkok and Pattaya too crowded and commercialised, but this is making me rethink! Maybe I need to explore further North?

    • Eric says:

      Yes, its a shame places like Pattaya and Phuket put a bad image on Thailand, because that is such a small part of the country. So many beautiful, authentic places to visit here especially in the north. Yes, do reconsider visiting and venturing up north ! It’s a place where you can discover true Thai culture and the wonderful Thai people.

  5. Candy says:

    I have never heard of the ‘Sticky Waterfall’ and now I want to see it! How fascinating that it’s sticky and not slippery. When climbing it, do your clothes and shoes get dirty?

    • Eric says:

      Haha, yes its an amazing natural phenomenon ! You don’t get too dirty – but it’s all part of the fun 😉

  6. Lance says:

    Our family would absolutely love going to Lampang & Thai Elephant Conservation Centre and seeing the work that they are doing to rehabilitate the elephant. I think the kids and I would love to walk around the sticky waterfalls. What a unique and totally fun experience. We also would enjoy a trip to Doi Inthanon to roam around the national park.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Lance, thanks for your comment. These are just a snippet of the amazing things to do with kids in Chiang Mai – it’s a really kid friendly place ! We hope your family gets to experience this one day 🙂

  7. Renata says:

    I was so amazed by Chiang Mai itself that I didn’t even bother to look for day trips. When I get back to Thailand, I’ll make sure to visit some of the places further. Made it at least to Doi Suteph, though 😉

  8. Interesting suggestions. Would have loved to see more photos, though, as Thailand is a wonderful country.

  9. Cynthia says:

    The Sticky Waterfall sounds like it would be a lot of fun – it’s always so slippery around them, so being able to climb around one would be a very different experience! I’ve heard the temples are amazing so I would probably make a point to see as many of them as I could, too.

  10. Thailand is such a diverse country with so many varied experiences. It seems to have everything ranging from nature to culture to modern shopping centres and great food. We enjoyed our stay in the country a couple of years ago but owing to time constraints never made it to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai itself has so much to offer and these day trips are indeed the icing on the cake. We hope to head back and catch up with the elephants and the sticky waterfalls some day.

  11. YUKTI says:

    Day trips from Chiang Mai looks worth doing. I would love to go for a trip to view elephants and Hill tribes. Bua Thong waterfall also looks amazing. Thanks for sharin!

  12. A few years ago i went to Thailand, and Chiang Mai. I loved it. The green that i found in the north of the country was amazing. I didn´t know that there are so many things to do ;(