Chiang Mai is located in a valley surrounded by hills and mountains. The surrounding of the city have a lot to offer and many exciting and unforgettable sightseeing day-trips can be made. Here we describe some of the more popular destinations. Most can be done within one day. Organized trips are available, but it's also easy to rent a car and drive around at your own pace.
The Thai word "doi" means "mountain", and the mountain nearest to Chiang Mai is the Doi Suthep. From almost any spot within the city you will see Doi Suthep and if you look carefully you will see near the top the famous temple: Wat Phra Thad Doi Suthep. Especially on clear nights the temple's golden chedi is easy to see in its spotlights against the dark mountain. When people say they went to Doi Suthep, they usually mean that they visited this temple, and that’s exactly what every visitor should do. Doi Suthep is a MUST SEE for every visitor.
You can visit Doi Suthep by public transport, or you rent a car or motorbike to drive to the top. Near the Zoo you can get a songtaew for 40 Baht to get to the temple. The route is quite interesting and at several points you can stop to enjoy the view over the city and its surroundings. Make sure to make this visit on a clear day otherwise you will miss the view.
Click here for a map and more information about Doi Suthep.
Another famous mountain to visit from Chiang Mai is the Doi Inthanon, which is the highest mountain of Thailand with its summit at 2565 meter above sea level. Doi Inthanon is located at about 90 kilometers from Chiang Mai and the best way to go their is with an organized tour or with a rented car.
Plan an entire day for a trip to Doi Inthanon as there are several interesting stops to make. There are several waterfalls near the road, which are worth a visit. Also, on the main road to the summit you will find the two Napamaytanidol Chedi. These are temples that were built to honor the 60th birthday of the King and Queen.
But the highlight of the visit will be a walk in the forest at the summit of the mountain. This is a wet forest with old trees covered in ferns and mosses. Wooden bridges help you get around without getting wet feet. The place is famous for the many bird species that live here. The best moment to visit Doi Inthanon is probably at the end or just after the rainy season (i.e. October-November). But it is good any time of the year.
Click here for a map and more information about Doi Inthanon.
Mae Sa Valley
About 20 kilometers north west of Chiang Mai is the Mae Sa valley. It's a pretty road to travel and there are a couple of interesting spots to visit along this road, including waterfalls, elephant camps, Hmong villages, and a botanical garden. Other attractions along this road include a snake farm, an orchid and butterfly farm, Bungy jumping, and riding ATVs.
As it is not far from Chiang Mai, a day trip to Mae Sa valley can combine several activities. For example start with a visit to the Maesa waterfall, then continue to the Maesa Elephant camp, and finally enjoy a walk in the Queen Sirikit Botanic garden.
Click here for a map and more information about Mae Sa Valley.
Mae Sa Elephant camp
Maesa elephant camp is a popular place for tourists, especially for children. Visit the elephant nursery or enjoy the show where elephants and their mahouts show how they can work together, for example when moving tree logs. Some elephants make paintings and others play a game of soccer. Feed the elephants and take pictures with them. But the real reason to visit the camp is of course to enjoy an elephant ride through the forest.
Click here for a map to find the elephant camp in Maesa Valley.
Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden is just a few kilometers from the Maesa Elephant camp. It’s a beautiful place to explore, with a total area of about 1,000 hectares. The garden has a wide collection of plant species including some very rare ones. Walk through the garden, follow the nature trails, and visit the many greenhouses. The garden is also boasting an insect collection of over 15,000 species.
Click here for a map to the Queen Sirikit Botanical garden in Mae Sa Valley.
Royal Flora Ratchaphruek
The Royal Flora Ratchaphruek was a flower festival held from November 2006 to January 2007 during which period it received over 3 million visitors. The garden still exists and is open to visitors. It is located on 80 hectares of land, about 10 km south of Chiang Mai, near the Night Safari. Attractions within the garden include the Ho Kham Royal Pavilion, which is a beautiful Lanna style building.
Click here for a map to the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek.
Chiang Mai Zoo
Chiang Mai Zoo is located on Huay Kaew Road near Chiang Mai University. It has a large variety of animals, the most famous being three giant Pandas. A bay Panda was born in the zoo in 2009. It's a unique opportunity to see these rare animals.
Other animals in the zoo include lions, elephants, penguins, hippopotamus, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, several species of deers, and koalas (koala bears).
Click here for a map to the Chiang Mai Zoo.
The Chiang Mai Night Safari is a zoo with a difference as it offers the opportunity to observe wildlife at night. The Night Safari opened in 2006 and has quickly become a popular tourist attraction. Inside the zoo are a number of trails. The Jaguar Trail, which is open day and night, is a 1200 meters walking trail. On two other trails (Savanna Safari and Predator Prowl) visitors are moved around with rail cars. Chiang Mai's Night Safari is located about eight kilometers south of Chiang Mai, near the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek.
Click here for a map to the Chiang Mai Night Safari.