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Hidden Thailand: 8 Amazing Day Trips From Chiang Mai


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Helaina Ogle



Welcome to the hidden gems of Thailand, where adventure awaits just a stone’s throw away from the bustling city of Chiang Mai. Known as the cultural hub of the country, Chiang Mai is not only famous for its ancient temples and vibrant night markets, but also for its proximity to some of the most breathtaking and off-the-beaten-path destinations in Thailand. These day trips from Chiang Mai will take you on a journey to discover the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and unique experiences that lie just beyond the city limits.


Escape the crowds and embrace the magic of exploration as you venture into the heart of Thailand. Whether you are seeking tranquility in the mountains, wildlife encounters in the jungles, or spiritual enlightenment in ancient temples, these day trips have something for every type of traveler.


In this article, we will uncover eight amazing day trips from Chiang Mai that will leave you awestruck and yearning for more. From the mystical Doi Suthep Temple and the enchanting Bhubing Palace, to the majestic Doi Inthanon National Park and the captivating White Temple in Chiang Rai, each destination offers a unique blend of natural wonders and cultural treasures.


So pack your sense of adventure, put on your explorer’s hat, and embark on a journey to discover the hidden side of Thailand. Prepare to be amazed and inspired as you delve into the secrets of these remarkable day trips from Chiang Mai.


Chiang Mai: The Gateway to Hidden Thailand

Nestled in the mountainous region of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai serves as the perfect starting point for exploring the hidden treasures that lie beyond its city walls. Known for its rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality, Chiang Mai offers a unique blend of ancient temples, lively markets, and culinary delights.


As you wander through the quaint streets of the Old City, you’ll be enchanted by the historic temples that dot its landscape, such as the iconic Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. Immerse yourself in the local culture by participating in a traditional Thai cooking class or by exploring one of the many vibrant night markets, where you can sample delicious street food and shop for local handicrafts.


However, what truly sets Chiang Mai apart is its proximity to the lesser-known gems of northern Thailand. Just a short drive from the city center, you’ll find yourself immersed in breathtaking natural landscapes, where lush mountains, gushing waterfalls, and serene rivers await your discovery.


With its convenient location, Chiang Mai allows you to easily access a diverse range of day trips that cater to all interests and preferences. Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast looking to trek through dense jungles, a wildlife lover eager to encounter elephants in their natural habitat, or a history buff yearning to explore ancient temples, Chiang Mai has something for everyone.


Moreover, embarking on these day trips will not only introduce you to the hidden wonders of Thailand but also provide you with a deeper understanding of the country’s rich history and cultural heritage. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with local communities, witness traditional craftsmanship, and learn about the spiritual beliefs that shape Thai society.


So, let Chiang Mai be your gateway to hidden Thailand. Explore the untamed beauty, indulge in authentic experiences, and uncover the secrets of a land that is as diverse as it is captivating. These day trips will offer you a unique and unforgettable adventure, revealing the hidden gems that make Thailand a truly remarkable destination.


Day Trip 1: Doi Suthep Temple and Bhubing Palace

Embark on a day trip to Doi Suthep Temple and Bhubing Palace, two enchanting destinations that showcase the spiritual and cultural richness of Thailand. Located on Doi Suthep mountain, just a short drive from Chiang Mai, these landmarks offer a captivating experience that shouldn’t be missed.


The journey starts with a scenic drive up the winding mountain road that leads to Doi Suthep Temple, also known as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. As you ascend the 309 steps to the temple, you’ll be greeted by the serene atmosphere and the mesmerizing view of the city below. Admire the intricately decorated golden pagoda, which is said to house a relic of the Buddha, and marvel at the stunning murals and statues that adorn the temple complex.


Immerse yourself in the spiritual ambiance as you witness devotees paying their respects and monks going about their daily rituals. Take a moment to reflect and soak in the tranquility of this sacred site. Don’t forget to ring the bells for good luck and make a wish at the prayer hall.


After exploring Doi Suthep Temple, continue your journey to Bhubing Palace, the winter retreat of the Thai royal family. This elegant palace is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, filled with vibrant flowers and towering trees. Stroll through the sprawling grounds and feel the cool mountain breeze as you admire the traditional Lanna-style architecture of the palace buildings.


Highlights of Bhubing Palace include the royal residence, exhibition halls showcasing Thai art and culture, and the peaceful rose gardens. Take a leisurely walk around the grounds and immerse yourself in the serene setting. If you visit during the winter months, you might even get a chance to see the vibrant blooming of the cherry blossoms.


As you explore Bhubing Palace, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of Thai royalty and the importance of nature in Thai culture. The palace grounds are also home to a royal project that promotes sustainable agriculture, making this visit an opportunity to support local initiatives and learn about sustainable practices.


At the end of the day, as you make your way back to Chiang Mai, you’ll carry with you the memories and experiences of a truly enchanting journey to Doi Suthep Temple and Bhubing Palace. These landmarks are not only architectural marvels but also embody the spirituality and grace that Thailand is known for.


Day Trip 2: Elephant Nature Park

Get up close and personal with majestic elephants on a day trip to Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary that provides a safe haven for rescued elephants. Located just outside of Chiang Mai, this ethical elephant sanctuary offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to interact with these gentle giants in a responsible and sustainable way.


Upon arrival at Elephant Nature Park, you’ll be introduced to the resident elephants and the dedicated team of local caregivers who have devoted their lives to their well-being. Learn about the complex history and struggles that these elephants have faced, including the effects of logging, tourism, and the illegal wildlife trade.


Unlike traditional elephant parks, Elephant Nature Park focuses on providing educational and ethical experiences for visitors. You’ll have the opportunity to observe elephants in their natural habitat, without any form of riding or unnatural performances. This allows the elephants to roam freely, socialize with one another, and engage in natural behaviors.


Interact with the elephants as you help prepare their meals and participate in feeding sessions. Get to know their unique personalities and hear heartwarming stories of their rescue and rehabilitation. Spend time observing them in the river as they play and bathe, experiencing the joy and freedom these creatures deserve.


At Elephant Nature Park, the emphasis is on responsible tourism and elephant welfare. The sanctuary also serves as a hub for wildlife conservation efforts and local community engagement. As you explore the park, you’ll learn about the organization’s efforts in promoting a sustainable future for elephants and other endangered species.


Visiting Elephant Nature Park is not only a memorable experience, but it also contributes to the positive impact on the lives of these magnificent creatures. By supporting this sanctuary, you are directly contributing to the rescue, rehabilitation, and protection of elephants and the conservation of their natural habitats.


At the end of the day, bid farewell to the elephants and reflect on the profound connection you’ve made with these gentle giants. You’ll leave Elephant Nature Park with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the importance of ethical tourism and the conservation of Thailand’s national treasures.


Day Trip 3: Doi Inthanon National Park

Embark on a journey to the rooftop of Thailand with a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park. Located approximately 60 kilometers southwest of Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon is known as the “The Roof of Thailand” and offers breathtaking landscapes, stunning waterfalls, and a rich biodiversity that will leave you in awe.


As you venture into Doi Inthanon National Park, you’ll be greeted by lush greenery, misty mountains, and a refreshing cool climate. The park encompasses the highest peak in Thailand, standing at 2,565 meters above sea level, offering panoramic views that are definitely worth capturing.


Explore the various trails and nature walks that wind their way through the park, allowing you to immerse yourself in the rich flora and fauna. Marvel at the vibrant rhododendron forests, moss-covered trees, and the diverse bird species that call this park home.


One of the highlights of Doi Inthanon National Park is the twin pagodas, located at the summit of the mountain. These pagodas were built to honor the King and Queen of Thailand and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. Take a moment to soak in the tranquility and enjoy the serene atmosphere of this sacred site.


Another must-see attraction in the park is the stunning Wachirathan Waterfall. Plunging from a height of 80 meters, the cascading waters create a mesmerizing spectacle. Feel the mist on your face as you stand in awe of the sheer power and beauty of nature.


For those interested in the cultural heritage of the region, a visit to the Hmong hill tribe market is a must. Here, you can interact with the local Hmong people, learn about their traditional customs, and browse through a variety of handmade crafts and local produce.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photography lover, or simply seeking a peaceful and serene escape from the city, a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park will not disappoint. Immerse yourself in the natural wonders of this pristine wilderness and create memories that will last a lifetime. It’s truly a destination that showcases the breathtaking beauty of Thailand’s natural landscapes.


Day Trip 4: Chiang Rai and the White Temple

Embark on an enchanting day trip to Chiang Rai, a city located in the northernmost part of Thailand, renowned for its captivating architecture and cultural heritage. Discover the iconic White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun, and immerse yourself in the artistic wonderland of this unique destination.


The journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai takes you through picturesque countryside dotted with rice fields and traditional villages. Upon arrival, you’ll immediately be captivated by the striking beauty of the White Temple, a masterpiece designed by renowned Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.


The White Temple is a contemporary Buddhist temple that stands out with its gleaming white facade and intricate architectural details. Every element of the temple carries symbolic significance, representing the Buddhist concept of earthly suffering and the path to enlightenment.


As you explore the temple grounds, admire the dazzling mosaic artwork that adorns the walls, depicting scenes from Buddhist mythology and contemporary pop culture. Marvel at the stunning craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into creating this masterpiece, both inside and outside the temple.


Don’t miss the bridge of “The Cycle of Rebirth,” which represents the transition from the earthly realm to the spiritual realm. Cross the bridge, passing sculptures of outreaching hands and eerie skulls, as you contemplate the cycle of life and death.


After visiting the White Temple, take the opportunity to explore the vibrant city of Chiang Rai. Visit the bustling Night Bazaar, filled with local handicrafts, delicious street food, and live music. Admire the unique and quirky Clock Tower, designed by the same artist who crafted the White Temple, and watch as it comes to life with a light and sound show in the evenings.


If time allows, make a stop at the beautiful Blue Temple, or Wat Rong Suea Ten, known for its mesmerizing blue color and intricate artwork. This temple offers a contrasting yet equally captivating experience to the White Temple.


Chiang Rai and the White Temple provide a captivating blend of artistry, spirituality, and cultural heritage that will leave you speechless. Explore this charming city and immerse yourself in the extraordinary beauty that awaits you at every turn.


Day Trip 5: Mae Sa Waterfall and the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden

Escape into nature’s embrace on a day trip to Mae Sa Waterfall and the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, a serene and picturesque destination just outside of Chiang Mai. Immerse yourself in the beauty of Thailand’s flora and fauna as you explore the cascading waterfalls and lush botanical gardens.


Start your day by venturing into the enchanting Mae Sa Waterfall, nestled amidst the mountains of the Mae Sa Valley. As you hike through the forested trails, you’ll encounter a series of tiered waterfalls, each more spectacular than the last. The sound of gushing water and the refreshing mist in the air create a tranquil ambiance, perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation.


Take a dip in the crystalline pools, feel the coolness of the water against your skin, and savor the serenity of this natural oasis. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the beauty of the falls and the surrounding lush greenery.


After exploring the waterfalls, make your way to the nearby Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden. This expansive garden is dedicated to the conservation and research of Thailand’s diverse plant species. Meander through the well-manicured gardens, featuring a wide array of flowers, orchids, ferns, and tropical plants.


Marvel at the breathtaking vibrancy of the flora and learn about the importance of biodiversity. The Thai Orchid Nursery within the garden showcases a stunning collection of orchid species, adding a touch of elegance and fragrance to your visit.


Take a leisurely stroll along the flower-filled pathways, inhaling the enchanting scents and absorbing the tranquility of the surroundings. Visit the Glasshouse Complex, where you’ll find a remarkable collection of rare and exotic plants from around the world.


As you explore the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, you’ll not only indulge in the beauty of nature but also gain a deeper understanding of the importance of plant conservation and ecological sustainability. The garden’s efforts in research, education, and conservation contribute to the preservation of Thailand’s rich biodiversity.


Let the Mae Sa Waterfall and Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden take you on a sensory journey, where the soothing sound of water, the vibrant colors of flowers, and the peacefulness of nature create a harmonious experience. This day trip is a perfect balance of tranquility and exploration, allowing you to reconnect with the natural wonders of Thailand.


Day Trip 6: Pai and the Land Split

Escape to the charming town of Pai on a day trip that takes you through the scenic landscapes of northern Thailand. Known for its laid-back atmosphere, picturesque surroundings, and unique attractions, Pai offers a delightful escape from the bustling city life of Chiang Mai.


The journey to Pai is an adventure in itself, as you wind through the mountains on a road that offers breathtaking views at every turn. Enjoy the panoramic vistas of rolling hills, verdant fields, and meandering rivers as you make your way towards this hidden gem.


Once you arrive in Pai, immerse yourself in the town’s relaxed atmosphere and bohemian vibes. Stroll through the quaint streets lined with boutique shops, artisanal cafes, and colorful market stalls. Don’t miss the Pai Walking Street, a vibrant night market where you can sample delicious street food and shop for unique souvenirs.


One of the must-visit attractions in Pai is the Land Split, a phenomenon that occurred in 2008 when the ground split unexpectedly, creating a large fissure. Owned by a local family, the Land Split has now become a unique tourist attraction that showcases the power of nature.


As you explore the Land Split, you’ll be guided by the friendly owner, who will share the intriguing story behind the natural phenomenon. Take a walk along the trails and witness the dramatic fissures in the earth, as well as other interesting features like a homemade wine cellar and an organic farm.


Indulge in the hospitality of the owners as they offer you a taste of their organic fruits and vegetables, homemade snacks, and refreshing roselle juice. This local experience allows you to connect with the community and gain insight into their way of life.


After visiting the Land Split, take the opportunity to explore the natural beauty that surrounds Pai. Rent a motorbike or bicycle and venture out into the countryside to discover hidden waterfalls, hot springs, and stunning viewpoints.


Whether you choose to relax by the Pai Canyon, soak in a natural hot spring, or hike to the beautiful Mo Paeng Waterfall, you’ll be surrounded by the serene beauty and tranquility of the Pai countryside.


Pai and the Land Split offer a unique and memorable day trip experience. From the scenic drive through the mountains to the bohemian charm of Pai town and the natural wonder of the Land Split, this journey will leave you with lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for the hidden treasures of northern Thailand.


Day Trip 7: Chiang Dao Cave and the Sticky Waterfall

Embark on a thrilling day trip to explore the natural wonders of Chiang Dao Cave and the Sticky Waterfall. Located in the Chiang Dao district, just north of Chiang Mai, this adventure-filled excursion offers a unique blend of spelunking and natural spa-like experiences that will leave you awe-inspired.


Begin your day by traversing into the depths of Chiang Dao Cave, a complex of limestone caves that stretches for several kilometers. Equipped with a flashlight, explore the dimly lit passages and marvel at the impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations that dot the cave’s interior.


As you venture deeper into the cave, you’ll encounter hidden chambers and underground streams, creating an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. The cave is believed to be one of the largest in Thailand, with some areas reaching heights of up to 100 meters.


Be sure to listen to the stories and legends shared by your guide as they reveal the fascinating history and significance of the cave to the local community. Keep an eye out for religious shrines and ancient artifacts that have been placed within the cave as offerings.


After exploring the cool depths of Chiang Dao Cave, head to the Sticky Waterfall, officially known as Bua Tong Waterfall. Unlike traditional waterfalls, the Sticky Waterfall features limestone rock formations that have a natural grip, allowing visitors to walk directly up the waterfall without slipping.


Take off your shoes and step onto the “sticky” surface of the rocks, feeling the sensation of climbing up the cascading water. Enjoy the unique experience of walking against the natural current and immersing yourself in the refreshing flow of the waterfall.


Don’t forget to take a moment to relax and soak in the natural pools created by the cascades. The mineral-rich waters are said to have healing properties, providing a rejuvenating and spa-like experience.


Surrounding the waterfall, you’ll find lush greenery and a serene atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for a picnic or simply to unwind and connect with nature.


A day trip to Chiang Dao Cave and the Sticky Waterfall offers a thrilling combination of adventure and relaxation. From exploring the mysteries of the limestone caves to enjoying the unique sensation of walking up a waterfall, this excursion will leave you with unforgettable memories and a renewed appreciation for the wonders of the natural world.


Day Trip 8: Doi Mae Salong and the Tea Plantations

Embark on a scenic day trip to Doi Mae Salong and immerse yourself in the beauty of the tea plantations that dot the hillsides. Located in the mountainous region of northern Thailand, this picturesque destination offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city and a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region.


As you wind your way up the mountain, you’ll be greeted by the breathtaking landscapes of Doi Mae Salong. The hills are blanketed with lush green tea plantations, creating a mesmerizing sight that extends as far as the eye can see.


Explore the tea plantations and learn about the tea production process from the skilled farmers who have been cultivating tea in this region for generations. Take a leisurely stroll through the rows of tea bushes and savor the fresh aroma that fills the air.


Take a break at one of the tea houses nestled within the plantations, where you can enjoy a warm cup of freshly brewed tea while taking in the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The tranquility of the tea plantations offers a moment of serenity and reflection.


Don’t miss the opportunity to sample different varieties of tea, from the delicate flavors of green tea to the robust richness of black tea. Learn about the cultural significance of tea in the local community and gain a deeper appreciation for this ancient beverage.


Aside from tea, Doi Mae Salong is also known for its vibrant cultural heritage. The area is predominantly inhabited by the Yunnanese Chinese community, known as the “Kuomintang” or “KMT” people, who settled here after the Chinese Civil War.


Explore the quaint village of Doi Mae Salong and discover the unique blend of Thai and Chinese influences in its architecture, cuisine, and customs. Enjoy the tantalizing flavors of Yunnanese cuisine, visit local temples, and interact with the friendly locals to gain insight into their way of life.


At the end of the day, as you make your way back from Doi Mae Salong, you’ll carry with you the serene beauty of the tea plantations, the warmth of the local community, and a deeper understanding of the cultural diversity of northern Thailand.


A day trip to Doi Mae Salong and the tea plantations offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, cultural immersion, and tea appreciation. Indulge in the tranquility of this mountainous retreat and create memories that will stay with you long after the trip is over.



Embarking on these day trips from Chiang Mai allows you to unlock the hidden treasures of Thailand, revealing the country’s natural beauty, cultural heritage, and unique experiences. Whether you choose to explore the ancient temples of Doi Suthep and Chiang Rai, interact with majestic elephants at the Elephant Nature Park, immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes of Doi Inthanon and Pai, or indulge in the tranquility of Chiang Dao Cave and the Sticky Waterfall, each day trip offers a distinct adventure that will leave you with lasting memories.


Beyond the vibrant city streets of Chiang Mai lies a world of exploration and discovery. These day trips take you off the beaten path, allowing you to witness the breathtaking beauty of Thailand’s landscapes, engage with local communities, and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s rich history and cultural traditions.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, spiritual enlightenment, or a rejuvenating escape into nature, these day trips cater to all interests and preferences. From hiking through lush mountains and swimming in pristine waterfalls to immersing yourself in the serenity of botanical gardens and tea plantations, each destination offers a unique blend of natural wonders and cultural treasures.


Moreover, these day trips promote sustainable tourism practices, with an emphasis on responsible and ethical experiences. By supporting local sanctuaries and conservation efforts, you contribute to the well-being of wildlife and the preservation of Thailand’s natural habitats.


So, let Chiang Mai be your gateway to the hidden gems of Thailand. Venture beyond the city limits and embark on these remarkable day trips that showcase the country’s diverse landscapes and cultural heritage. Allow yourself to be captivated by nature’s beauty, enchanted by ancient temples, and immersed in the warmth of local communities.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a new adventure, these day trips will satisfy your wanderlust and provide you with a deeper connection to the heart and soul of Thailand. Discover the hidden side of this remarkable country and let the magic of these day trips leave a lasting impression on your travel journey.