Elephant Sanctuary

The Best Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai

If there’s one animal that comes to mind when you first hear or read the word “Thailand,” it’s the elephant. So it’s no surprise that ethical elephant sanctuaries are some of the most anticipated activities for travelers visiting Southeast Asia. With over 70 elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, most of which are located in the north of the country, you may be spoilt for choice when choosing an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai.

Our clients 3 Most Populars Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai

  Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary and Trekking Hug Elephant Sanctuary Kanta Elephant Sanctuary
Feed the Elephant
Bathe with Elephant
Mud Spa Elephant
Waterfall
Other Activities Bamboo Rafting Making herbal medicine/ Vitamin for the elphants
Walking Walk in the jungle Walk in the jungle Simple walk around the sanctuary
Transportation Pickup Truck Pickup Truck Van
Price ฿2,000 / person ฿2,500 / person ฿2,500 / person
  Book Now Book Now Book Now

You will soon realize, however, that not all elephant sanctuaries are equal, and a little bit of research is needed to ensure a pleasant experience for you, as well as the elephants. Fortunately, we have done the hard work for you, so if you are eager for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with these gentle, majestic creatures then take the next few moments to learn more about what exciting adventures await you on your Chiang Mai elephant experience, and read our tips on how to select the right tour for you.

Browse our elephant tours and join us in an experience of a lifetime.

Hug Elephant Sanctuary

chiang mai elephant sanctuary

Highlights of this no riding tour include:

  • Learn about the history of elephants and their behavior
  • Feeding, touching, and playing with elephants with NO RIDING
  • Bathing in a local river and taking a mud bath with the elephants

Hug Elephant Sanctuary was founded by a small group of locals to improve the quality of life for the elephants they rescued from all over Thailand and the people in the surrounding area.

This unforgettable tour focuses on how to safely and sustainably interact with elephants without riding them. You and your family can look forward to a personalized experience as you spend the day learning about each elephant’s unique history and then feeding and playing with them in the beautiful jungle.

After a scenic drive through the Chiang Mai countryside, you’ll take a short walk through the local forest and meet with a local English-speaking guide and a mahout of the Karen hill tribes. He’ll briefly talk about the general history of elephants in Thailand and then give you traditional Karen clothing to put on.

Next, you’ll be introduced to each elephant in small, private groups. While you feed them their afternoon snack of bananas and sugar cane, the guide tells you stories about each elephant. As you get to know them better, you’ll notice their different personalities. Some are relaxed and shy, while others are playful and curious!

After a traditional Thai lunch and taking a short rest while overlooking the nearby hillside, the afternoon continues by reuniting with your elephant friends near the local river. Don’t be afraid to get wet as the elephants love to cool off with a midday bath. Using water buckets and large scrub brushes, you can help the elephants wash before assisting them with an elephant mud bath.

Before the tour ends, rinse off upstream and change back into dry clothes. Don’t forget to take a few last photos of the elephants before returning to your hotel in Chiang Mai.

What are you waiting for? Check out more details or book the No Riding tour now!

Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary & Trekking

young man bonding with elephant

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Learn about the history of the Thai elephants
  • Giving the elephants a mud bath
  • Swimming with the elephants in the local river
  • Trekking along a scenic jungle trail
  • Floating down the river on a bamboo raft

If you’re looking for a trip full of elephant activities and jungle wonders, this tour has two memorable tours: one that includes trekking and one that does not.

A typical day begins with a picturesque drive through Thailand’s countryside toward Mae Wang, a district about an hour and a half southwest of Chiang Mai City. Depending on the arrival time of your group and its size, the order of the day’s activities will be adjusted accordingly.

Once you’ve arrived at the Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary, you’ll meet your local Karen hill tribe guide, who will teach you about the history of elephants in Thailand and how these gentle giants came to be at the sanctuary. Afterward, put on your mahout (elephant trainer) clothing because it’s time to meet the elephants!

Elephants love getting dirty, so the first thing you’ll do with them is giving them a mud spa. Slather cool, smooth mud on their massive bodies because it helps protect their skin from the sun and insects. Next, accompany these amazing animals to a field by the forest where they’ll graze on grass and bamboo leaves. Once the elephants have had their lunch, it’s time to take them to a local river where you will give them a bath and take a refreshing swim.

Afterward, say goodbye to the elephants and sit down for a satisfying Thai lunch in the jungle. Once you’ve rested, go on a short trek through the cool jungle. End the day with a relaxing trip down the Mae Wang River on a handmade bamboo raft before changing into clean, dry clothes and riding back to Chiang Mai.

If you prefer a less strenuous day, you don’t have to go on the trek or the bamboo raft ride. Instead, spend more time with the elephants feeding them their favorite snacks and learning how to make a special Karen hill tribe herbal medicine for the elephants. Overnight stay is available. Whichever tour you choose, you’ll have an incredible experience!

Kanta Elephant Sanctuary

young woman bonding with elephant at knata elephant sanctuary

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Learning about elephants’ behavior and their importance to Thailand’s culture
  • Preparing medicine rice balls (full-day tour only) and tropical fruit to feed the elephants
  • Playing with them in their natural home in the jungle
  • Pampering the elephants with a mud spa
  • Bathing, brushing, and swimming with the elephants in a local river
  • No elephant riding

One of the top things to do in Chiang Mai is to spend a day with a herd of elephants. The Kanta Elephant Sanctuary is a magical place where you can spend the day with these happy, healthy creatures in their natural jungle habitat doing what they love doing most.

After a scenic drive through the hillsides of Chiang Mai, you’ll arrive at the sanctuary deep in the mountainous jungle. You’ll be greeted by your English-speaking guide and have a short lesson about Thailand’s most revered animal and why they are so important to Thai culture.

Afterward, prepare some tasty snacks for the elephants. This will include cutting tropical fruit, gathering sugar cane, and making medicine balls of rice and special herbs (full-day tour only). Then, meet each elephant one by one and win them over with their favorite treats.  

Now comes the fun but wet and muddy part! Help give the elephants a mud spa by slathering smooth mud all over their skin. They love to lay in the mud pit and wiggle around but they will need some help covering their entire bodies. Be sure to take some photos! Afterward, lead them to a cool river where you can rinse off and swim and splash around in the water with them. 

This tour is available as a full-day tour as well as a morning (hotel pick up at 6:30 AM) or afternoon (hotel pick up at 1:00 PM) half-day tour. The half-day tour in the morning is best suited for families with young children or for people who do not like or do not well in the hot afternoon heat.

Learn more details or book a Kanta Elephant Sanctuary tour by clicking the links below.

Elephant Rescue Park

young man and woman playing with elephant at elephant rescue park

Highlights of this tour include:

  • An introductory lesson about Thailand’s elephants
  • Making special snacks for the elephants
  • Feeding the elephants in a natural jungle home
  • Walking the elephants to a scenic viewpoint with no riding
  • Giving the elephants a mud spa
  • Bathing and brushing the elephants in a natural swimming pool
  • Visiting the Elephant POOPOOPAPER Park (full-day program only)

The Elephant Rescue Park is a newly established sanctuary that provides a safe home for elephants that have been rescued from circus shows, logging, and elephant riding. In the hills of Chiang Mai, you’ll have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with, bathe, and feed these rescued elephants at this park. There is a full-day program that showcases adult elephants as well as a shorter tour that is dedicated to spending time with rescued baby elephants.

A typical full-day program begins the day with a visit to the interesting yet educational Elephant POOPOOPAPER Park. This eco-friendly company teaches how paper is made from elephant poop fibers in a sustainable, chemical-free way.

Once you’ve arrived at the Elephant Rescue Park, you’ll get a short lesson about elephants in Thailand, their importance to Thai culture, and their traditional involvement in the tourism and logging industries. This is included in both programs. After changing into an elephant training uniform, you’ll be shown how to prepare the elephant’s favorite snacks such as tropical fruit, sugar cane, and special herbal medicine.

Next comes the part you’ve been eagerly waiting for! Your guide will take you to the elephants where you will meet them one by one. As you feed and pet them, notice their different personalities. Some are shy while others are playful and curious.

After getting to know them, you’ll walk with the elephants through a field to a scenic viewpoint and then treat them to a mud spa. Help spread the cool mud all over their bodies as they lay in it for a little rest. Afterward, accompany the elephants to a natural freshwater swimming pool where they will splash around and eagerly wait for a bath. Scrub them off, and when everyone is clean, say goodbye to your new elephant friends.

To find out more about the Elephant Rescue Park or to book a tour, click on the links below.

Maerim Elephant Sanctuary

young man giving elephant a bath in river

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Learning about the elephants’ behaviors and their history
  • Feeding them their favorite banana snacks
  • Walking with them through the scenic jungle
  • Giving them a mud bath and bathing them in a local stream

The Maerim Elephant Sanctuary combines the one-of-a-kind experience of getting up close with elephants with the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting an ethical non-riding elephant sanctuary. This tour is a family-friendly activity but it’s also the perfect thing to do with a friend or even by yourself!

After a scenic drive into the countryside north of Chiang Mai, arrive at the Maerim Elephant Sanctuary, meet your tour guide, and change into traditional mahout (elephant trainer) clothing. Then it’s time to meet the elephant family! Your English-speaking guide will teach you the elephant’s names and tell you how they came to be at the sanctuary. Then, you will be given a basket of bananas so that you can become friends with the elephants by feeding them their favorite snacks.

The tour continues with a scenic walk through the jungle along a nature path, past a local farm, and down to a cool stream. Enjoy a refreshing dip in the water and then give the elephants a bath! Splash and play with the elephants to your heart’s content. Whether you choose to partake in a full-day or half-day tour at the Maerim Elephant Sanctuary, everyone will have the chance to make a bowl of traditional Thai noodle soup. The day wraps up with some time to relax and swim in a pool before heading back to your hotel or guesthouse in Chiang Mai.

Which tour best suits your travel plans: the half-day morning or afternoon tours or the full day tour for the ultimate elephant experience?

Happy Elephant Home

Happy Elephant Home

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Watching elephants freely roam
  • Feeding the elephants their favorite banana snacks
  • Making a mud bath for them (full-day visit)
  • Enjoy watching them bathe and play in the water
  • Prepare your own Thai food lunch

Happy Elephant Home is a pretty little elephant sanctuary in the northern Thai region of Mae Taeng District – the same district where many elephant sanctuaries are located, just an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai City.

Two Asian elephants, 42 and 48 years old, rescued from elephant riding tourism, live at Happy Elephant Home. The owner has built a sanctuary where she feeds and cares for the animals. It’s amazing to see how much love they’ve.

A visit to this ethical sanctuary is a great way to feed the elephants daily or watch these amazing animals bathe in the river.

You’ll prepare food for the elephants, feed them and take them to the river to bathe. You’ll have time to relax and enjoy the scenery.

For lunch, you can prepare your own Thai food or enjoy the delicious local cuisine prepared especially for you.

Patara Elephant Farm

Patara Elephant Farm

Highlights of this elephant camp include:

  • Learning about the history of the Thai elephant
  • Understanding the importance of the elephant in Thai culture and Buddhism
  • Learning about training techniques, healthcare overview, and daily life routine
  • Creating a respectful relationship with elephants
  • Feeding, washing, and riding elephants

This tour is well-known for offering an unforgettable opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with an elephant for an entire day. In fact, it’s one of the most popular tours in Chiang Mai because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to deeply connect with one of Thailand’s gentle giants.

The Patara Elephant Farm tour begins with a short talk about the history of wild and domesticated elephants, their anatomy, and their life cycle. This introduction also provides educational information about the long-lived tradition of domesticated elephants in Thailand’s culture, the country’s repopulation program, and the mission of Patara Elephant Farm.

Next, you will get an up-close and personal look at how elephants are cared for and the intricacies of training and giving commands. Since building a trusting relationship is key during this tour, you will learn how to interpret an elephant’s body language to better understand its mood, learn about the safe way to interact with elephants, and how to keep them healthy and happy.

Once you’ve been paired with your very own elephant and have become acquainted with him or her, the excitement continues by going on a scenic trail ride through the local jungle to visit waterfalls or temples. Along the way, use the commands you’ve learned back at the farm and have a friendly competition by encouraging your elephant to spray water on fellow group members along the trail.

Take a midday break with a picnic lunch of traditional Thai food and enjoy short rest.  Afterward wash your elephant in a local river, brush it, and go swimming together.

-> Full Day: 5800 Baht per person

Ethical Visit to the Elephant Nature Park

elephant nature park

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Learning about the history of Thai elephants
  • Meeting the elephants and feeding them tropical fruit
  • Walking with the elephants through a picturesque forest
  • Watching the elephants play and bathe in a local river

One of the most anticipated things to do in Thailand is to spend a day with elephants! The Elephant Nature Park was the first establishment in Chiang Mai to rescue elephants and to create a peaceful sanctuary where people could visit them and see them in their natural jungle habitat.

This tour begins with a pick-up at your guesthouse at 8 AM (full-day visit) or at 8:30 AM (short park visit). After you’ve driven through the softly rolling mountains and arrived at the park about one hour outside of the city, you’ll be greeted by the park’s staff. Your English-speaking guide will tell you about the rescued elephants and what their lives are like at the Elephant Nature Park.

Next, you’ll meet the herd of elephants and enjoy some quality time with them from a safe viewing platform. You’ll also earn their trust by feeding them their favorite fruit. Afterward, enjoy a short rest and a vegetarian buffet lunch before joining the elephants for a scenic walk through the jungle. The walk ends at a refreshing river where the elephants will play together while you watch from the river banks. This is a great time to take photos while the elephants are splashing around in the water!

The tour ends with the opportunity to clean up and change into fresh clothes before riding back to your hotel or guesthouse and smiling at the thought of your elephant adventure. You will arrive back in Chiang Mai around at 5 PM (full-day visit) or at 3:30 PM (short park visit).

Check out more details or book a trip to the Elephant Nature Park now!

Thai Elephant Home

lady in sunglasses bareback elephant riding through forest

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Feeding elephants fresh tropical fruit
  • Learning how to give commands and riding elephants through jungle trails
  • Swimming with elephants in a local river

The half-day bareback elephant riding tour is the ideal choice if you aren’t available for a full day trip or prefer a short but memorable experience with elephants while you’re visiting Thailand. This tour is available either in the morning (6:30 am hotel pickup) or in the afternoon (1:30 pm hotel pickup) and is roughly five hours long. Keep in mind that these pickup times are approximate and depend on the number of people who require pickup services in your tour group.

A typical half-day tour begins with a scenic drive into the mountains directly north of Chiang Mai City. Along the way, your group will stop at a local market to grab snacks for the elephants and then you will receive a light Thai breakfast upon arriving at the Thai Elephant Home.

To prepare for your ride, first, you’ll be provided with a traditional elephant trainer (mahout) uniform to wear over your clothing and then you will be given a brief but informative talk about the history of Asian elephants. A local English-speaking mahout will teach you the proper way to safely approach an elephant, give you the commands that will be used during the ride, and show you the proper way to sit on an elephant so that you and the elephant are both comfortable.

Next comes the most exciting part! You’ll be given fresh fruit to feed the elephants and win them over before taking them for a ride through several scenic fields. Take a break from riding and allow the elephants to refuel on bamboo and grass (they eat A LOT) before continuing to the river to give them a bath. Don’t forget to bring a waterproof camera!

So which half-day tour best suits your travel plans – the early morning half-day elephant ride or the let-me-sleep-in afternoon half-day elephant ride?

-> Full Day at Thai Elephant Home: 4900 Baht per person
-> Half Day at Thai Elephant Home: 2500 Baht per Person

NOTE: Morning tours will be provided with a light breakfast after arriving at the Thai Elephant Tour but before the elephant activities begin; afternoon tour groups will be provided with an afternoon snack after the activities have finished but before heading back to the hotel.

Which Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai Will You Be Going To?

Although there are many contenders for the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, which one sparked your interest the most? Whatever you decide, the experience will be something you will never forget! View all the Elephant Tours in Chiang Mai.

Provided on the tour

  • English-speaking guide
  • Driver and transportation
  • Local Thai meal
  • Mahout clothing
  • Hotel transfer (within 3 km of the Chiang Mai City Moat)
  • Accident insurance

A meal will be provided on full-day elephant tours and will feature local Thai cuisine. Visitors participating in half-day tours will receive light snacks and refreshments only. If visitors have any special dietary requirements such as eating vegetarian or halal meals or have food restrictions or allergies, please let us know prior to your trip. Bottled water will also be provided.

Responsible Tourism

Many people who visit Thailand agree that riding an elephant is the ultimate bucket list activity. However, some travelers are concerned about an elephant’s well-being and are hesitant to participate in activities where an elephant is outside its natural jungle habitat.

Tourists’ increasing concern about the health and happiness of Thailand’s elephants has created a demand for more ethically responsible elephant sanctuaries and elephant conservation centers. Today, visitors can participate in gentler, less stressful activities with elephants such as swimming in the river with them, feeding them their favorite treats, and giving them mud baths.

If it’s a dream of yours to ride an elephant, the best method is to ride bareback. This involves a single rider sitting on the elephant’s neck (behind its ears) without the assistance of a chair or saddle. Contrary to popular belief, an elephant’s spine is not strong enough to safely support the weight of several people on its back.

Additionally, responsible elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai make sure that their gentle giants have shorter, less strenuous days trekking through fields and jungles and get plenty of water, food, and rest throughout the day. This helps to keep the elephants mentally and physically healthy so that people can continue visiting them.

What to Wear and Pack

Thailand Packing List

Because the climate in Chiang Mai is generally hot and humid, we recommend that all guests who sign up for an elephant tour should wear breathable, comfortable clothing such as cotton short-sleeved shirts and shorts.

Wear a pair of shoes that are comfortable, safe to walk in on uneven surfaces, and easily cleaned. Additionally, since some areas along the tour are muddy, bring shoes that can get dirty. Although flip-flops or thongs are not the best choices in shoes to wear, you will still be able to complete all activities if you choose to wear them.

During the tour you will have the opportunity to swim and bathe with the elephants in a local river, so we suggest wearing a bathing suit under your normal clothes to stay comfortable if you get wet. Thai culture is modest, so it’s best to keep your t-shirt on over your bathing suit.

Don’t forget to pack an extra pair of dry clothes to change into before riding back to your hotel. Alternatively, pack a light towel to dry off after your adventures. It’s a good idea to do this especially if you visit during the rainy season, which generally takes place between July and October. Rain showers typically last between one to two hours, but you can prevent getting wet by packing a lightweight rain jacket or a thin plastic poncho. Rain or shine, the tour will go on as scheduled.

Additionally, pack a small ziplock bag with small bottles of sunscreen and mosquito repellent as well as wet wipes or soap. If you have any necessary prescription medications such as asthma inhalers or epi-pens specific to your medical needs, don’t forget to pack them either.

Chiang Mai is the best place to visit an ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand.