Chiang Dao is a small town north of Chiang Mai, also called the ‘City of Stars’. With limestones reaching 2,186 metres, local people believed the highest point was at the same height as the stars. Chiang Dao is the third highest peak in Chiang Mai after Doi Inthanon and Doi Pha Hom Pok.
Experience a lush tropical rainforest, impressive limestone caverns and multiple waterfalls in the jungle. The wildlife offers plenty of options for bird watching and trekking. Aside from the stunning nature, you can discover the unique Thai culture in Chiang Dao. Interact with local hill-tribes, explore the traditional market or learn how to cook authentic Northern Thai food at the village.
Trekking in Chiang Dao National Park
Chiang Dao National Park is 1,100 km square and located close to Myanmar border. Here deep in the Thai jungle, you can still find a large variety of tropical flora and fauna.
Chiang Mai is a very popular destination for trekking, with many national parks in a preserved environment. Chiang Dao being the most popular, as it offers a one-stop natural adventure from trekking, bird watching, caving, dipping in the hot springs and camping. A good fitness condition is advised to go trekking in Chiang Dao.
Overnight trekking is a very popular activity. This multi day activity can be for one, two or three days depending on your destinations and preferences. However, if you want to reach the top of the mountain, your best option is an overnight trip.
You can stay overnight at a hill-tribe village or a valley located halfway on your journey. Also, having the chance to enjoy the star horizons at night followed by watching a sunrise in the morning will perfectly complement your trekking experience. Throughout your journey exploring the Northern jungle, your guide will give you extensive information about the culture and wildlife of the area.
Chiang Dao Caves
A must-visit site in Chiang Dao. Over 100 caves, which run up to 12 kilometres inside the mountain! Currently only 5 caves are open to public exploration.
To get here, drive north from Chiang Mai for an hour (or book a guided tour from our website). The entrance fee is 40 Baht per person.
The Five Caves
The locals, believed that these caves held mystical powers. Over the years they have placed there multiple statues and Buddha images. Many natural formations of limestone and crystal are visible inside the caves. As well as stalactites and stalagmites. The deeper you go, the more challenging it gets. And at some point, you may need to get on your knees and crawl through small holes or climb to make your way to large caverns. However you won’t need any caving experience as the routes have been opened for visitors.
The Five Caves you can visit:
- Tham Seua Dao
- Tham Phra Nawn
- Tham Maa
- Tham Naam
- Tham Kaew
Both Tham Seua Dao and Tham Phra Nawn have electric lights set-up inside. Making them easier to explore. The remaining caves don’t have any lighting. You need to rent a gas lantern to be able to see inside. Costs is 100 Baht per lantern.
The best way to explore these caves is by hiring a guide for direction and information about the history of the location. There is no fixed price for cave guides. Usually, it is a tip depending on how much you liked the tour. It is considered rude to give less than 100 Baht as the tip.
In the rainy season some areas of the caves may get flooded. If the level of water is extremely high the caves might be closed by the National Park authorities.
The Chiang Dao caves are not just natural landmarks. In North Thailand, caves are places of worship. Therefore, you need to wear an appropriate outfit. Ladies wearing short clothes will be asked to rent a sarong (20 Baht) before entering the caves.
Karen Long Neck hill-tribe
Further up from the caves, you will reach the Padung Village. Home of the Long Neck Karen hill-tribe.
Long Neck Karen is a tribal group originating from Myanmar, who crossed the border long time ago to Northern Thailand. The tribe women are famous for their elongated necks. And for the brass rings they wear around their necks, wrists and ankles. Long Neck Karen people used these rings to protect them from tigers attacks to the neck. Today, this tradition has become a unique identity of the Long Neck Karen Tribe and on of their symbols of beauty. The longer her neck, the more beautiful the woman is deemed to be. .
In the Long Neck Karen community, men are usually farmers, whereas women master handcrafting skills such as wood carving and weaving.
Doi Luang Mountain Peak
Doi Chiang Doi is the third highest mountain peak in Thailand. Located in Chiang Dao Wildlife Reserve area in Chiang Dao district, the mountain lies at 2,195 metres beyond sea level. A welcome change from the heat of the tropical weather, you will find it cool at the summit. Many rare highland flowers, birds and butterflies fly around, making the view from the peak an unforgettable experience.
Chiang Dao Temples
There are two temples you must visit when going to Chiang Dao.
Wat Tham Pha Plong
With over 500 steps to the top, the temple is inside a small cave surrounded by the jungle halfway to the mountain top. Once you arrive you will be welcomed by a steep naga stairways. Follow hundreds of steps to the top.
After climbing, you reach the cave, where you will see multiple pictures of Luang Poo, an influential Thai buddhist. As well as several images of Buddha. The temple was built to honor Luang Poo a few months before his death.
This place is very peaceful, perfect to do meditation. You can even arrange an overnight stay at this temple and experience the life a monk. The monks speak good English, and you will get to know their unique life.
Wat Mae Kaet Noi
Mae Kaet Noi is a strange temple near the caves. With very unusual surroundings and view.
Here many sculptures represent the story of Buddhists failing to follow the rules, being punished in the afterlife. These sculptures goal is to scare young Buddhist. Showing that bad behaviour lead to the terrible consequences. The park is full of creepy statues portraying the bad habits, sins and other negative things buddhists should refrain from.
Mae Taeng River
Mae Taeng River flows through several districts in Northern Thailand. The river streams through valleys and canyons, which then go to the Chao Praya, and end up in the Gulf of Thailand.
Depending on which part of the river you are at, you can either get an adrenaline rush with white water rafting through the strong stream, or explore the jungle on a bamboo raft or kayak.
Pha Daeng National Park
Pha Daeng National Park is another national park in Chiang Dao district. The location is quite remote compared to other parks. Pha Daeng is therefore less commercial than other parks. The entrance fee is 100 baht, and you can enjoy the national park, waterfall and hot springs.
Sri Sangwan Waterfall
The waterfall is the main attraction of this national park. The great point here is that only a few people usually visit this park. Peaceful setting and turquoise pools create a picturesque scene where water falls from 50 meters above.
Pong Arng Hot Springs
The Pong Arng hot springs are peaceful, even during holidays and weekends. There are two crystal clear hot pools (with a temperature similar to the one of a steam bath).
Best time to visit Chiang Dao
Thailand, with its year-round tropical weather has sun all year. But sometimes there is more rain, sometimes less.
Compared to Bangkok, the weather in Chiang Dao is way cooler. The region has three seasons: cool, hot and rainy. Hot season is what the name says it is… HOT. To avoid this best is to go in the cool season instead.
Cool season is from December to February when the weather is cool during the day and a bit chilled in the evening. This is the perfect time to explore the nature and enjoy the experience Northern Thailand has to offer.
Unless you love tropical heat, try to avoid visiting around April to June. At daytime, the temperature can reach 40 degrees Celsius.
Another season you should avoid is the rainy season, which usually comes from May to November. Unless you come for kayaking or rafting. Because then are the wildest waters.