chiang mai day trips

Top 10 Chiang Mai Day Trips & Experiences Of A Lifetime

Situated in the North, Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand after Bangkok. Offering visitors leafy boulevards and a more relaxed vibe, the city can be a welcome contrast to the chaos and traffic-congested streets of Bangkok.

Whether you’ve already experienced many Chiang Mai day trips, or this is your first time, chances are you’ll be seeking out the most memorable things to do while in town.

Chiang Mai is an excellent base from which to explore the Northern region of Thailand. This culturally rich city and its surrounding countryside can offer you spectacular mountain views, stunning temples, majestic elephants, bustling markets, scenic bamboo river rafting and more.

Read on to learn about the best attractions in and around Chiang Mai, and how to experience the incredible places that many consider to be "must do" in Northern Thailand.

Explore Chiang Mai with us and experience the best Northern Thailand has to offer. Book online today.

Top activities to include in your day trips from Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai itself is a lively, centralized hub where you can experience the buzzing city one day and explore the nearby countryside and neighboring towns the next. While it has become more modernized in recent years, this region still retains a natural beauty and unique culture that undoubtedly continues to captivate people from all over the world.

You will never be short of options to entertain you when planning your day trips from Chiang Mai, but there are undoubtedly certain activities and places of interest that you simply must experience for a true taste of Northern Thailand.

Take an elephant tour

If there is one thing you must do in Chiang Mai, it’s an elephant tour. Most visitors agree that riding an elephant through the local jungle or nearby rice fields is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the highlight of their trip to Chiang Mai.

You can also watch an unforgettable performance of these animals playing musical instruments, dancing and painting pictures in Chiang Mai’s nearby mountains.

Swim in a waterfall

Northern Thailand has an abundance of waterfalls. Nature lovers can look forward to standing before magnificent falls, swimming, taking photographs or enjoying a picnic in the idyllic surroundings.

One of most unusual of all the waterfalls in the area is the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall. These falls are so named because of their sticky surface, which allows you to climb easily up and down through the cascading water. A high level of calcium in the water is responsible for creating this rare phenomenon.

Another worth visiting is Mae Sa Waterfall. This is the largest and one of the most impressive waterfalls in the area, which consists of 10 tiers. The more adventurous may want to climb the tiers, otherwise, you can take a steep, narrow trail to the top.

Mae Wang Waterfall is another perfect for swimming. Part of the Mae Wang National Park, this single storey waterfall is approximately 20 meters high and surrounded by beautiful forest.

Enjoy the rivers

Experience a peaceful, picturesque afternoon, slowly floating down a local river on a traditional Thai bamboo raft. Rafts are safe and are taken down a tranquil stretch of river. If you are looking for something more adrenaline-filled, try your hand at whitewater rafting. The Mae Tang River is a great spot for white water rafting and the Mae Wang River is perfect for bamboo rafting.

Go temple hopping

Chiang Mai Province is rich in cultural experiences. It is home to several hundred temples, all of which are stunning works of architecture. Some are even quite famous and attract thousands of visitors each year! The most popular are located within the Old City walls. The three oldest temples in the city are Wat Chedi Luang, Was Phra Singh and Was Chiang Man, and they are all worth a visit.

Explore the markets

Thai markets are fascinating. Not only is it possible to purchase skillfully made handicrafts directly from the local hill tribe people, other markets, such as Warorot market and Sankampang Home Industry in Chiang Mai, offer a fun chance to sample fresh produce and shop for handmade items like jewelry, wood carvings, paintings, silk clothing and other memorable souvenirs. Many of the Chiang Mai day trips organised by Bon Voyage Thailand include a chance to visit a local market.

Visit a hill tribe village

This northern region offers the exclusive opportunity to see firsthand local Thai hill tribe communities and witness their way of life and unique dress. Learn about their culture and individual languages, which only exist in the spoken form.

Go trekking

Jungle trekking is extremely popular, and options starting in Chiang Mai are plentiful. You can take a short trek along a nature trail on the mountainside, plan a day trip or join a tour that lasts for several days and includes elephant sanctuaries, hill tribe encounters and river activities.

Take a dip in a hot spring

For a rejuvenating treat, try dipping your feet in one of the natural hot sulfur springs in the area. It is said that the high sulfur content found in the springs can cure many diseases and improves circulation.

Join a monk chat

A monk chat is an opportunity to have an informal chat with a young Buddhist monk about their lifestyle and culture. For the young monks, it is a welcome chance to practice their English. Monk chats take place all around the city in different locations and at various times of the day.

Take a Thai cookery class

Chiang Mai is an excellent place to take a Thai cookery class with a variety on offer throughout the city. Many will start by taking you to the market where you will learn about the food you are going to cook, before taking you back to the kitchen and showing you how to cook tasty, healthy Thai meals.

Attend a festival

Depending on which month you will be in Chiang Mai, you may be lucky enough to attend one of the spectacular festivals held each year. April sees Songkran, The Water Festival, one of Thailand’s wildest, wettest and most fun festivals. Thousands of people of all ages take to the streets of Chiang Mai armed with water pistols, cannons and buckets filled with ice cold water for what can only be described as a massive water fight!

In November, the Lantern Festival Yee Peng (Yi Peng) is held to coincide with the full moon of the twelfth lunar month. You may have seen the incredible photos of hundreds of floating lanterns being released into the night sky, symbolising the letting go of the misfortunes of the previous year. Check ahead for the exact dates of the festivals to make sure you don’t miss out.

Everything you need to know for planning your Chiang Mai day tours

When planning your Chiang Mai day tours, a little preparation goes a long way. Use the information below to get the best out of your trip.

Getting around

Getting around in Chiang Mai is surprisingly easy. The old town is beautiful and compact enough to walk around, although if you prefer not to walk, tuk tuks are in abundant supply and are cheap. The most popular method of getting around Chiang Mai is to use the red songthaew-covered pick-up trucks. These are shared taxis and are a great way of getting around with the locals.

There are also a small number of air-conditioned private taxis, but these are not easy to hail. You will mostly find them waiting at the airport, bus and railway stations, hotels and malls. Alternatively, you may want to rent a motorcycle or bicycle. If you are sightseeing, taking a tour is the best option, as transport will usually be included.

Weather

Chiang Mai is known for its hot and humid climate much of the year, but its coolest months are in December and January. This is also the most popular time of year for visitors to the city. It is also generally cooler in the mountains and lush jungles, thanks to the higher altitude and shady trees.

Chiang Mai’s wet season is between the months of June and October. During this time, there are daily rain showers that typically last between one and two hours.

What to wear

Because of its tropical climate, it is recommended that visitors wear breathable and slightly loose fitting clothing to stay cool and comfortable. Cotton short-sleeved shirts and shorts are perfect for day tours.

Wear a pair of shoes that won’t cause blisters and are safe to walk in on uneven surfaces. If you partake in more adventurous activities, such as elephant camps or bamboo rafting, be sure to wear shoes that are able to get wet and are easily cleaned. Flip flops or thongs are acceptable to wear.

Chiang Mai day trips that include a visit to a temple require a little extra thought. Be sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Women are asked to wear shirts with a neckline that comes up close to the collarbone. An easy way to be properly covered is to pack a light sarong or scarf and cover areas of your body as needed. Also be mindful to take off your shoes before entering a temple, as it is Thai custom to do so.

Our top 5 Chiang Mai day trips

With so many great things to experience, you may be wondering how you’re going to do it all. To help you, we have hand-picked the best attractions in the area and incorporated them into our Chiang Mai day trips. Each of our trips includes:

  • An English-speaking guide
  • Driver and transportation
  • Local Thai meal
  • All entrance ticket fees
  • Hotel transfer (within 3 km of the Chiang Mai City Moat)
  • Accident insurance

Guests will receive a meal on full-day tours that will feature local Thai cuisine. Visitors who have signed up for a half-day tour will receive light snacks and refreshments only. Bottled water will be provided.

Please inform us prior to your trip if you have any special dietary requirements, such as eating vegetarian or halal meals or have food restrictions or allergies.

During the wet season, the weather can be a factor. Although tours may briefly pause during the rain, the schedule will go on as planned.

1. Chiang Rai Golden Triangle and Long Neck Karen Tribe

Chiang Mai White Temple

Highlights of the trip to Chiang Rai include:

  • Popping into the Hot Springs
  • Visiting the White Temple
  • Overlooking the Golden Triangle landmark
  • Wandering through the Mae Sai border market
  • Touring a Akha Hill Tribe Village and Long Neck Karen Hill Tribe Village

Chiang Rai is a neighboring province north of Chiang Mai. This extended full-day tour begins with a scenic drive through the countryside and a brief stop at a natural sulfur hot spring. There, visitors can relax and soak their feet in the mineral-rich pools or watch as geysers shoot water into the air. There are also vendors selling eggs to boil in the hot spring with the help of tiny hand-woven baskets.

The tour continues with a trip to the famous White Temple. This entirely white temple is one of the most recognized structures throughout all of Thailand and is adorned with glittering mirrors and symbolic structures.

Next, you will embark on a ride to the Golden Triangle. This area was once the center of Thailand’s opium trade, but traders have since been forced out or have converted to growing legal crops. The highlight of the area is the overlook at Sop Ruak. This viewpoint is renowned for the coming together of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers and overlooks the border tripoint of Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Continue on to the Mae Sai Border Market situated at the Thailand-Myanmar border and very near to the most northern point of Thailand. This bustling market is a shopper’s heaven.

Lastly, visitors can look forward to a trip to two different northern Thai hill tribe villages: the Akha and the Long Neck Karen. The Akha hill tribe people are best recognized by their dark attire decorated with bright embroidery and elaborate headdresses. The Long Neck Karen hill tribe people are famously known for the brass rings that adorn the women’s necks, giving the illusion of an elongated neck. Both tribes are known for their intricate weaving and cloth work, which can be purchased directly from the tribes.

You’ll experience a little bit of everything on the Chiang Rai Golden Triangle and Long Neck Karen Tribe Tour. Learn more or book a spot now by clicking the link.

2. Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon

Highlights of the tour of Doi Inthanon include:

  • Exploring two waterfalls
  • Visiting a hill tribe village
  • Touring the King’s Royal Projects
  • Exploring the King and Queen Pagodas
  • Walking a short nature trail to the highest point in Thailand

Doi Inthanon National Park is one of Thailand’s most beautiful parks and is home to Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. Within this mountain’s unique jungle you can find an incredible variety of trees, flowers and bird species, along with stunning manmade structures. Roughly 60 km southwest from Chiang Mai City, the drive will take you through the country and up the mountainside.

This full-day tour begins with a visit to two of the many waterfalls within the Doi Inthanon National Park. Next, you will meet a hill tribe villages and learn about how they once produced opium on the mountainside. Thanks to the opportunity provided by the King’s Royal Projects, nowadays these local hill tribe people make a living growing rice, fruits and vegetables, flowers and coffee.

Walk among climate controlled plant and flower gardens and explore the endless stretches of coffee plantations, strawberry patches and rice terraces along the mountainside. Sample some of the freshly picked organic fruits and vegetables while you’re there and a cup of special Thai-brewed coffee.

Next, you will see the Twin Chedis, two incredible symmetrical structures built in honor of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand. After reaching either base of the King and Queen Pagodas, you can wander around their perfectly manicured gardens and gaze down at the stunning view of the valley below.

During a trip to Thailand’s tallest mountain, it would be a shame not to visit its absolute highest point, which is situated 2,565 meters above sea level. The perfect way to get there is to take a peaceful walk along a short nature trail that pops out at a sign announcing you’ve reached the highest spot in Thailand. Don’t forget to take a picture!

Sign up now for the Doi Inthanon National Park Tour for stunning views of mountains and temples.

3. Doi Suthep Temple and Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village

Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Touring Wat Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple atop a mountain
  • Visiting a Hmong Village, a local hill tribe

This half-day tour offers both morning (8am to 8:30am) and afternoon departures (1pm to 1:30pm) and is perfect for travelers who have limited time or would prefer a short but culturally memorable experience.

A typical day begins with a trip to one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chiang Mai: the magnificent Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. What makes this temple sacred is the Lord Buddha relic housed within, which attracts countless devout Buddhists on a pilgrimage to the temple throughout the year.

This temple sits near the top of Chiang Mai City’s closest neighboring mountain, Doi Suthep. On clear days, visitors can stand on the temple’s wrap-around balcony and gaze down on the old city center below. Try to spot the city’s iconic square moat if you can!

Although many visitors enjoy the challenge of climbing over 300 steps to enter the temple, there is an enclosed cable car for those who cannot or prefer not to walk up the Naga (serpent) flanked stairs. It is worth browsing through the plentiful shops at the base of the stairs selling iced drinks and snacks, as well as silk scarves, temple bells, hill tribe attire and wooden elephant carvings.

The outside area of the temple, which is on the lower terrace level, features gardens and rows of large hanging prayer bells. Once inside the temple on the upper terrace, there are beautiful gold-leafed Buddha statues and the dazzling Golden Chedi.

The tour continues to the local Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village not far from Doi Suthep. Hmong people are recognized for their elaborately embroidered outfits with headdresses adorned with beads. Here you can grab a fresh brew made from locally grown coffee beans or shop at rows of handicraft stalls. It is also worth taking a quick tour at the village’s museum and walk through a small poppy flower garden.

Book the Suthep Temple and Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village Tour if you’re looking for something short and sweet.

4. Elephant Safari and Long Neck Hill Tribe Village

Elephant Camp Chiang Mai

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Watching an elephant show and riding elephants
  • Visiting Lisu Hill Tribe Village Handicraft Center
  • Riding an oxen drawn cart
  • River rafting on bamboo rafts
  • Visiting an orchid and butterfly farm
  • Choosing additional optional tours

This full-day tour will give you the ultimate cultural experience during your trip to Thailand by featuring several classic Thai pastimes. The order of the day’s activities will depend on your group’s size and arrival time, so your guide will adjust the schedule as necessary to allow you to participate in all activities.

During the elephant show, these amazing animals show off their strength and intelligence by performing a series of tricks and games. From hauling logs and dancing, to playing football and painting a picture, they will put on an unforgettable performance for you and your family. Following the show, you will get to feed them their favorite treats and then take a peaceful ride on an elephant through the jungle.

After getting close with the elephants, your group will visit a local Lisu hill tribe community handicraft center. This tribe is notable for their bright, multicolored outfits. The handicraft center has beautiful handmade arts and crafts such as intricate beaded jewelry, elaborate clothing featuring traditional hill tribe patterns, hand-woven baskets and more. Afterward your group will take a ride on the back of an old-fashioned oxen cart.

For a different perspective of the jungle, slowly drift down the river on a Thai bamboo raft. It’s very strong and flexible and is made almost entirely from long stalks of bamboo fitted together. Relax as you hear the gentle lapping of the water and rustle of the grasses and trees along the shoreline.

The tour finishes with a trip to an orchid and butterfly farm. Here you can explore rows and rows of rare, indigenous species of orchids that thrive in Thailand’s tropical climate. There is also a butterfly enclosure that you can sit inside and enjoy a close-up view of these delicate insects as they flutter around you.

Find out more or book this amazing Elephant Safari and Long Neck Hill Tribe Village Tour now.

5. White Temple and Black House

White Temple and Black House Chiang Rai

This tour includes visits to:

  • Hot Springs
  • The White Temple
  • Touring the Black House

On this extended day tour to Chiang Rai, your group will visit two exquisite yet utterly contrasting pieces of architecture.

After departing from Chiang Mai, enjoy a scenic drive through Thailand’s countryside and then take a short stop at a natural hot water spring. Here you can dip your feet in the mineral-rich pools, watch as water shoots high into the air from the springs, and even boil eggs in the hot water.  

The first building along the tour is locally known as Wat Rong Khun, but to many visitors it is famously known as the White Temple. This is quite fitting because the buildings are entirely white and decorated with pieces of mirrored glass, which make them sparkle and glint as the sun’s rays shine down on them. Even the shallow pools that adorn the manicured lawn are filled with albino Koi fish to stay true to the all-white theme.

The second equally interesting yet strikingly foreboding attraction is a set of buildings known as Baan Dam or Black House. They are constructed out of dark metal and wood and decorated inside with animal bones and skins and chilling devices and furniture. It cannot be more different to the ethereal White Temple.

Are you ready to visit the out-of-this-world White Temple and Black House? Book now!

What Are Your Favorite Things You Must Do in Chiang Mai?

Given the incredible variety, it’s hard to choose just one thing to do while visiting Chiang Mai on Chiang Mai day trips. Let us make it easy for you — sit back and relax while we take you to the best sites in the area and make your trip unforgettable.  

Pick out your perfect day trip and book online today.