An easy trip north of Chiang Mai by road, the district of Chiang Dao is a well-preserved rural location featuring majestic limestone peaks, dense forest and emerald green rice-paddies. The natural environment of Chiang Dao is a firm favourite with Chiang Mai adventure tour operators. The range of activities available includes trekking, bamboo and white water rafting, ATV riding and elephant riding. Guesthouses and resorts in Chiang Dao will happily arrange for their guests to join activity tours or set up private ones.
Elephant camps, access to three national parks, a unique cave complex, hilltribe villages, temples and wandering around traditional markets ensure trips to Chiang Dao do not disappoint when out sightseeing. Tour operators in Chiang Mai offer single and multi-day tours to Chiang Dao with itineraries tailored to the participants’ wish lists. Chiang Dao’s continually expanding portfolio of accommodation choices means those who wish to spend more time in one of Thailand’s last frontiers can do so in comfort and with all the conveniences of home.
Last Updated: December 2018
WHAT TO DO
Chiang Dao is not lacking in opportunities for trekking. Chiang Mai tour agencies such as Northern Trails and Green Trails offer Chiang Dao trekking tours. Guesthouses and hotels in Chiang Dao itself will usually arrange treks if asked and some even have dedicated tour desks on site. Treks can also be combined with white water rafting and elephant riding if required. The flagship of the treks is the route to the top of the 2,175-metre Doi Luang Chiang Dao. This trek is only on itineraries during the cool season and comes with the opportunity of camping near the summit to catch sunrise. The Department of National Parks limits the number of visitors on Doi Luang and advanced recommendations are recommended.
Riding a bamboo raft along rivers fringed by lush greenery and jungle is one of the activities most people associate with Northern Thailand. Chiang Dao is in the lower levels of the Daen Lao Mountains. The sources of both the Ping and the Mae Taeng rivers are in these mountains. The flow of the rivers generates ideal currents for floating along and bumping across the occasional low rapids. Bamboo rafting is available at the Elephant Training Centre Chiang Dao. Chiang Mai Local Tours and Next Step Thailand are two tour agencies which offer rafting in alternate locales. Next Step has a two-day package which combines elephant riding and hilltribe villages.
Chiang Dao Elephant Training Centre is about 20kms before Chiang Dao on the main highway up from Chiang Mai. Tourists here have the choice of just visiting the park, bathing with the elephants, a one-hour elephant ride through the forest, bamboo rafting or combo packages of rafting and riding.
WHAT TO SEE
Chiang Dao Cave is the most famous tourist attraction in the district. This maze-like complex is said to contain 100 chambers and caverns and stretches for almost 13kms inside Doi Chiang Dao. Only the first few caves are open to visitors. [Read more about Caves in Chiang Mai]
Chiang Dao Cave: A. Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai 50170 | Open: 08:00-17:00 (Daily) | Admission Fee: 30 B | Website
As it is not on the main tourism trail, Pha Daeng National Park sees less tourists than some of the other parks in Northern Thailand. Pha Daeng’s main draws are its peace and solitude, Sri Sangwan Waterfall and the chance of a dip in the curative waters of Pong Arng Hot Springs. [Read more about National Parks in Chiang Mai]
Pha Daeng National Park: Moo 3, Ban Nawai, T. Muang-na, A. Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai 50170 | Open: 08:30-16:30 (Daily) | Admission Fees: Adult 100 B; Child 50 B | Tel: +66 53 046 370, +66 93 248 6161 | Website | Email
Long Neck Karen Village
Established in the mid-2000s, the Paduang Long Neck Karen Village has added an extra attraction for a visit to Chiang Dao. The village is close to the entrance to Chiang Dao Cave. A wander around the village gives insights into the traditions and dress styles of what has to be one of planet’s most unique ethnic groups. Villagers give demonstrations on how their traditional materials and utensils are made. Some houses double as souvenir outlets at which visitors can buy the finished handicrafts.
Tuesday is market day in Chiang Dao. Vendors arrive early in the morning and set up stalls and shade parasols. The stalls are laden with the full collection of Thai products. Colourful hill tribe clothing, dried fish and spices, cheap sunglasses, freshly-cut orchids, snacks, drinks, colourful sandals and household items vie for attention and it is rare for people to come away empty-handed. Vendors pack up well before lunchtime, so an early start is a good idea.
Chiang Dao Weekly Market: #1359, T. Chiang Dao, A. Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai 50170
In most parts of Thailand, people are never far from an ornate Buddhist temple and Chiang Dao is no exception. The highlight of Chiang Dao’s collection is Tham Pha Plong Temple. This temple is a combined cave and temple reached by climbing a flight of 500 steps. The steps and the former abode of renowned monk Luang Phor Sim are shaded by tall trees and shrubs. The views from the top make the climb worthwhile.
Tham Pha Plong Temple: T. Ban Tham, A. Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai 50170 | Open: 08:30-17:00 (Daily) | Entrance Fee: Free | Tel: +66 53 456 604
WHERE TO STAY
Azalea Village is a popular accommodation choice and boasts a portfolio of 21 twin-occupancy bungalows and suite cottages. These have been fashioned from natural products but equipped with modern conveniences which include televisions and wireless internet. A swimming pool, a sundeck, spa and massage services, and a restaurant are among Azalea bonuses designed to create a superior guest experience…more info & booking
The Aurora Resort Chiang Dao
The Aurora is an excellent choice for discerning visitors on the lookout for something special. Bungalows are set amid nicely kept gardens and have been furnished in a style true to the region’s roots. Dark timber, rich fabrics and hand-crafted furniture set the Aurora apart from establishments of a similar genre. Private patios, televisions and air-conditioners are key guest enhancements. The Aurora’s in-house restaurant has an outside pavilion and serves an assortment of Thai favourites…more info & booking
Mon Kiang-Dao Resort & Home Stay
Situated in the shade of rain trees and surrounded by well-kept gardens, Mon Kiang-Dao is a premier accommodation choice boasting a collection of nicely furnished rooms, bungalows and villas. Depending on the particular units, they offer added extras like air-conditioning and fireplaces. A seminar-function room, tour bookings services, the Rabiang-Doi Restaurant and the Rabiang-Kafae round off the facilities here…more info & booking
Chiang Dao Hut Resort
On the south side of town, the Chiang Dao Hut Resort is a collection of bungalows and rooms set in a leafy environment. Guests staying in the cheaper rooms use communal bathrooms while other units have en suites. All units have external balconies with seats or deckchairs. The resort’s restaurant is the place to enjoy wholesome food and a range of beverages…more info & booking
Baan Din Chiang Dao
Baan Din Chiang Dao features a collection of bungalows built in artistic styles with full amenities. These are equipped with televisions and air-conditioners and have private bathrooms too. This establishment has its own restaurant and barbecue area. Wireless internet is available in communal areas while panoramic views have won the Baan Din Chiang Dao numerous positive reviews…more info & booking
HOW TO GET TO CHIANG DAO
As Chiang Dao has no airport or railway station this leaves road as the only option. Chiang Dao is 70kms north of Chiang Mai. Highway 107 for Fang and Thaton passes Chiang Dao. Chiang Mai’s northern Chang Phuak Bus Station is the departure point for buses and passenger vans to Chiang Dao and Fang. Both options run at regular intervals during daylight hours. Buses are fan-cooled. Passenger vans are air-conditioned and slightly quicker too, but fares are more expensive than for buses. [Read more about Getting Around Chiang Mai]
Other travel choices are to charter a taxi in Chiang Mai or to hire a car for the trip. The advantage of hiring is that you have your own transport when you get to Chiang Dao. The drive takes around 90 minutes. What’s Up and Rentalcars.com are preferred partners. Rentalcars.com offers the best rates for car hire in more than 50,000 destinations worldwide.
Chang Phuak Bus Station 1: #108/27, T. Sri Phum, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50200 | Open: 04:00-21:00 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 211 586, +66 53 223 900 |