best elephant camps in chiang mai

How to choose the best Chiang Mai elephant tour

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 elephant tours are some of the most anticipated activities for travelers visiting Southeast Asia. With over 70 elephant camps in Thailand and the majority of these located in the North, you may feel like you are spoilt for choice.

You will soon realize, however, that not all camps 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 tour, 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.

1. No Riding at Hug Elephant Sanctuary

Elephant No Riding

Highlights of this no riding tour include:

  • Learning 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 spa with the elephants
  • Visiting a Karen hill tribe village

Hug Elephant Sanctuary was founded by a small group of local people to improve the quality of life for the elephants they have rescued from all over Thailand, and the people of the local community.

This truly memorable tour focuses on the safe and sustainable practice of interacting with elephants without riding them. You and your family can look forward to a personal experience as you spend the day learning about each elephant’s unique story followed by feeding and playing with them in the beautiful jungle.

After a scenic drive through Chiang Mai’s countryside, you’ll take a short walk through the local forest to a Karen hill tribe village and meet with a local English-speaking guide. He will briefly talk about the general history of Thailand’s elephants and then provide you with traditional Karen clothing to wear over your outfit.

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

After dining on 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 because the elephants love to cool off with a midday bath. With the help of water pails and big scrub brushes, you can help wash the elephants before assisting them with an elephant mud spa.

Before the tour comes to a close, rinse off upstream and change back into dry clothes. Don’t forget to get those last few pictures of the elephants before heading back to your hotel in Chiang Mai. 

What are you waiting for? Check out more details or Book the No Riding Tour Now!

-> Book a Full Day at Hug Elephant Sanctuary : 2500 THB per person

-> Book a Half Day Morning at Hug Elephant Sanctuary : 1700 THB per person

-> Book a Half Afternoon at Hug Elephant Sanctuary : 1700 THB per person

2. Bareback Riding at Thai Elephant Home

Thai Elephant Home Chiang Mai

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 THB per person

-> Half Day at Thai Elephant Home: 2500 THB 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.

3. Elephant Caretaker at Baan Chang Elephant Park

Baan Chang Elephant Camp

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Learning about the history of Thai elephants
  • Training an elephant to walk with you and learning its riding commands
  • Giving the elephants a mud spa and swimming with them in a local river

The Baan Chang Elephant Park combines the one-of-a-kind experience of becoming a mahout (elephant trainer) for the day with the thrill of bareback elephant riding. This tour is a family-friendly activity but it’s also the perfect thing to do by yourself or with a friend!

After arriving at the Baan Chang Elephant Park, you’ll meet a professional mahout who will teach you what it’s like to be an elephant caretaker. During the first half of the day, you’ll work closely with the trainer and his elephant while learning essential riding commands and how to guide an elephant through the jungle.

After you’ve been taught the basics of being an elephant trainer, now it’s time to take care of your elephant! The afternoon program includes lunch at the elephant camp and then a gentle ride through the jungle to a nearby river. The elephants love their bath time, so don’t be afraid to get wet and go swimming with them! Your guide will happily take pictures of you and your elephant while you’re in the cool water. The tour wraps up by returning to the main area of the park where you can relax with drinks and light refreshments.

Do you prefer to be an elephant trainer by yourself or would you rather share the fun with a friend? Click either link and book today!

-> Baan Chang Elephant Park Caretaker Course 1 Person / 1 Elephant : 4900 THB

-> Baan Chang Elephant Park Caretaker Course 2 Person / 1 Elephant : 5800 THB

4. No Riding at Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary & Trekking

 Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Learning about the history of Thai elephants
  • Giving the elephants a mud spa
  • Swimming with 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 hill tribe guide, who will teach you about the history of Thai elephants 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 things you’ll do with them is give 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. Whichever tour you choose, you’ll have an incredible experience!

Book Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary with Trekking: 2,000 THB per person
Book Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary with no Trekking: 2,000 THB per person

5. Kanta Elephant Sanctuary

Kanta 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.

-> Book the Full Day Kanta Elephant Sanctuary Tour : 2,500 THB per person

-> Book the Half Day Kanta Elephant Sanctuary Tour : 1,500 THB per person

6. Elephant Rescue Park

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 the 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 Thailand’s elephants, 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.

-> Book the Amazing Full Day Program at Elephant Rescue Park Tour : 3,000 THB per person

7. Bareback Riding at 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 THB per person

8. 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 pickup 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!

-> Book a Single Day Visit to the Elephant Nature Park  : 2500 THB per person

-> Book a Short Park Visit to the Elephant Nature Park : 2500 THB per person

Which Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai Will You be Going To?

Although there are many contenders for the best elephant camps 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 Chaing 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 wellbeing 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 camps. 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 camps 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

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 do an elephant ride in Thailand.