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Things to do in Northern Thailand

Our most recommended things to do in Northern Thailand

Chiang Mai: Waterfall, Elephant Sanctuary and Bamboo Rafting

1. Chiang Mai: Waterfall, Elephant Sanctuary and Bamboo Rafting

Embark on a one-of-a-kind experience and visit an ethical rescued elephant sanctuary in the jungle outside Chiang Mai. Cool off in a waterfall, savor a traditional Thai lunch, and become a caretaker for the day as you interact, feed, and observe the gentle giants in their natural environment.  Begin with a pickup from your hotel or accommodation in downtown Chiang Mai. Take a scenic drive southwest of Chiang Mai and see local farms, hill tribe villages, and rice fields along the way.  Journey to the Mae Wang Waterfalls, where you'll relax and take a dip in the water. Arrive at the Secret Elephant Sanctuary located deep in the jungle. You'll be welcomed to the sanctuary by a guide who will lead you through the experience. Get dressed into Karen hill tribe clothing like the ones elephant caretakers wear. Next, get a briefing on Asian elephants and the background of the sanctuary. Come and meet the friendly rescued elephants and feed them bananas. Walk up the hill with elephants through the forest and watch the elephants forage for food in the wilderness. Observe elephants interacting between families in their natural environment. Head down to the river and enjoy bathing with the elephants. Walk with the elephants back to the sanatorium and embrace the memories and have time to say goodbye to these marvelous creatures. Finish off with a scenic bamboo rafting trip along the Mae Wang River before you get dropped off at your hotel in Chiang Mai.

From Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park Full-Day Tour

2. From Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park Full-Day Tour

Get picked up from your hotel in Chiang Mai city center for a day to explore one of Thailand’s original national parks and highest mountain, Doi Inthanon. This tour will feature picturesque landscapes, remote villages, and incredible viewpoints. After getting picked up from your hotel in Chiang Mai, head to your first stop, one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in the country, Wachirathan Waterfall. Over 80 meters high, the power of this waterfall creates a refreshing mist that feeds the surrounding vegetation.  Next, stop at the stunning 50-meter cascade, Sirithan Waterfall, which is fed by the Mae Klong River.  Then, stop at the famous twin pagodas: the Napamatanee Don and Napaphon Bhumisiri. Built for the Royal King and Queen, they are located at the highest point in Thailand.  Round out the tour with a visit to the Karen Tribe locale. Learn a bit about the hill tribes people’s culture and way of life in their village of Sobhad.

From Chiang Mai: Chiang Rai Temples Group/Private Tour

3. From Chiang Mai: Chiang Rai Temples Group/Private Tour

Experience Chiang Rai on a full-day trip from Chiang Mai to White Temple, Wat Rong Seua Teb, and Baan Dam Museum. Travel in a comfortable car and choose from a group or private tour. Enjoy the convenience of being picked up from your accommodation in Chiang Mai. Sit back and relax on the air conditioned drive. Stop at the Mae Khachan Hot Springs to relax, dip your feet into steaming mineral water, have a snack, or walk around the gardens. Continue to the modern architectural masterpiece known as the White Temple. Explore this fantastical space that was designed and built by a local artist, Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. Head to the Wat Rong Seua Ten (temple of the dancing tiger) to uncover the secrets of this religious site that was built where tigers were said to have leapt over the river. Admire the stunning blue and gold colors of this temple. Make your way to the Baan Dam Museum (Black House Museum). Explore a cluster of nearly 40 shadowy structures exhibiting art dating back to the Ayutthaya period. See preserved animals and a collection of bones. Travel by car back to your accommodation in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai: Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park

4. Chiang Mai: Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park

Meet and feed elephants on this elephant sanctuary tour from Chiang Mai. Watch these majestic creatures up close and learn about them from specialists. Sit down to an authentic Thai lunch and stay hydrated with complimentary water. Start your journey in the morning with a hotel pickup from Chiang Mai city center. Take the 1-hour ride to the countryside of Mae Tang district. Get changed into the local clothes and be ready for the fun activities. The experienced guide will provide information about the elephants' behavior and how to provide proper care for them. Then, prepare food and healthy treats for the elephants and feed them afterward. After that, you and the elephants will walk to play in the mud and sand spa. During this time, you will have a chance to observe their behavior, in beautiful natural surroundings. After your time with the elephants, change your clothes, shower, and then enjoy a delicious traditional Thai buffet lunch, which is suitable for vegetarians. After lunch, relax on the 1-hour journey back to your hotel in Chiang Mai city center.

Chiang Mai: Elephant Sanctuary & Waterfall Small Group Tour

5. Chiang Mai: Elephant Sanctuary & Waterfall Small Group Tour

Take a visit to the Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai. Start with a convenient pick-up from your hotel in the city center of Chiang Mai and take a drive to the elephant sanctuary. Learn how to make healthy snacks for elephants and see the rescued animals. Go for a swim at Mae Wang Waterfall. Relax as you are picked up from your city center accommodation in Chiang Mai. Sit back as you are driven southwest of the city on a scenic 1.5-hour drive. Encounter local farms, hill tribe villages, and rice fields. Receive a warm welcome when you arrive at the Pupha Elephant Sanctuary. Put on your traditional Karen Hill tribe clothes to look like an elephant caretaker. Listen to a briefing on Asian elephants and the background of the sanctuary. Gain new knowledge as you are taught how to make healthy snacks for the elephants. Feed the rescued elephants as you walk up a hill in the deep jungle. Watch the elephants foraging for food and see elephant families interacting with one another. Bathe in the river with the elephants and walk them back to the sanctuary, where you will be taught how to make elephant medicine balls. Take a shower and pack up your belongings. Eat a traditional Thai lunch and fresh fruits. Leave the elephant sanctuary and stop at Mae Wang waterfall for a quick swim before transferring back to your hotel in Chiang Mai city center. Finally, return to your starting point after the tour.

Chiang Mai: Small Group Ethical Elephant Sanctuary Tour

6. Chiang Mai: Small Group Ethical Elephant Sanctuary Tour

Meet elephants on this guided day trip from Chiang Mai to the Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary, located in the middle of a lush national park. Here the elephants are able to roam freely in a large green space. Keep your clothes clean by wearing local clothes and boots. Feed and interact with rescued elephants before sitting down to a freshly cooked lunch.  Depart Chiang Mai aboard an air-conditioned van and journey into the mountains of northern Thailand to visit the ethical Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary (approximately 1-hour drive from the city center). Upon arrival, learn about the elephant conservation program and benefit from an introductory talk, and the chance to interact with the rescued animals. Get the chance to give them a hug and discover how to prepare a healthy meal to feed them. Go for a walk around the sanctuary with the elephants and stop to give them a mud bath to keep their body temperature down and protect them from parasites. Feed them before enjoying a homemade lunch at a restaurant inside the sanctuary.

Sukhothai: Historical Park & Countryside Cycling Tour

7. Sukhothai: Historical Park & Countryside Cycling Tour

Witness many aspects of rural life in Thailand and explore the famous ruins of Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on this full-day guided bike tour. Benefit from included pickup and drop-off within 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) of Sukhothai, and savor an included lunch at a local restaurant. Your experienced English-speaking guide will pick you up from your hotel at around 8:15 AM. The cycling tour itself starts from a small village on Sukhothai's outskirts known as Ban Khuai. From there, pedal through a quiet village to enjoy the scenery of the beautiful area, then take a dirt road passing through endless rice paddies with beautiful views of the Kao Laung Mountain. As you go, interact with local people, where possible. You may even have the chance to participate in planting next season's crops. Make a stop at the wood furniture factory to see how the local carpenter produces great works before continuing your journey along small irrigation canals (Klong Mae Lampan) that pass through rural villages. Arriving at Sukhothai's Eastern Gate, marvel at the beautiful Buddhist and Hindu architecture, and be exposed to some of the country's most stunning craftsmanship from a period known as Thailand's Golden Era. With your guide, learn about Sukhothai's history and complex architecture, as well as the story of Buddhism in Thailand. Stop for lunch at a local Thai restaurant, then continue your cycling tour to visit the south area before heading back to your hotel.

Doi Suthep, Wat Umong & Wat Pha Lat Sunrise Small-Group Tour

8. Doi Suthep, Wat Umong & Wat Pha Lat Sunrise Small-Group Tour

Begin your morning tour by climbing the 306 steps up to Doi Suthep Temple with your local guide. Bask in the golden rays of sunrise after conquering the staircase and take photos of the unrivaled view of the city of Chiang Mai.  Then, stand in the shadow of the golden Kruba Srivichai Monument, named after the Thai Buddhist monk and engineer of many temples and roads. Gain an insight into how the monks live and choose to make a merit (offering) with them.  Head to Wat Pha Lat, a hidden temple in the lush jungle. Admire the serene statues, shrines, and surrounding nature.  Wrap up your half-day tour with a stop at Wat Umong, a 700-year old temple built back in 1297. Explore the forest and underground tunnels. Marvel at the architecture of the chedi.

From Chiang Mai: White Temple & Golden Triangle Day Trip

9. From Chiang Mai: White Temple & Golden Triangle Day Trip

Uncover the secrets of Thailand's famed Golden Triangle on this day trip from Chiang Mai. Travel aboard an air conditioned van from a centrally-located meeting point. Visit the Mae Kachan hot springs and the White Temple.  Explore the Mekong river on a longtail boat and enjoy a tasty lunch. Enjoy a pickup in central Chiang Mai, depart for Chiang Rai, stopping for a short break at Mae Kachan hot springs. Visit Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple, before continuing to the Golden Triangle area. Go to Wat Phra That Chedi Luang (limited access). See the Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar borders from the Golden Triangle viewpoint. Stop for lunch before spending time at House of Opium. Enjoy a long-tail boat trip on the mighty Mekong River. On the way back to Chiang Mai, take a break to stretch your legs in Mae Suay or Wiang Pa Pao district and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. The estimated arrival time in Chiang Mai city is 8:30 PM. 

Chiang Mai: Ethical Elephant Observation Nature Park Visit

10. Chiang Mai: Ethical Elephant Observation Nature Park Visit

Visit Elephant Nature Park, a natural rescue center for elephants, dogs, cats, buffaloes and many other animals that need care. Volunteers and visitors contribute to the animals' healing while learning about their lives. Choose from a half-day or full-day tour. After pickup from your hotel in central Chiang Mai, admire the views as you drive through picturesque countryside to the nature park. Learn the stories of the rescued orphaned elephants and spend time with the different herds. Enjoy a vegetarian buffet lunch at the park, and get dropped off back in Chiang Mai at the end of your tour. With the full-day experience, have the chance to see and learn the elephants' eating behavior from a viewing platform. After lunch, walk down to a river that skirts the park and watch these gentle giants as they splash around while you stay dry on the riverbank.

Frequently asked questions about Northern Thailand

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What people are saying about Northern Thailand

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 6,442 reviews

We got to spend a lot of time with the elephants, bathing them, feeding them, and playing with the big baby Lanna. Lunch was phad Thai and it was really good, but missing lime. We got to chop down banana trees to feed to them and make them banana snacks.

I loved! The place was beautiful, with a small garden where the ingredients we used in the dishes were. The class was surprisingly easy, everything is explained very clearly and in the end everything is delicious. I would repeat it without a doubt!

Thank you for such a wonderful day today with Meow! She was the perfect tour guide for the temples and was great to see the village as well. It was also a very fun day! Thanks again! I will recommend you to friends and people I meet on my travels!

Our guide did a wonderful job. He showed us what we were interested in, made suggestions what else to explore. Very friendly, good language skills. It was a personal experience and I can absolutely recommend him as a guide!

This was one of the best experience ever! Such a cool guide, we went to two markets and had literally over 12 dishes to taste! Learnt so much and could then go back two days ago and order what we liked best!