Chiang Mai is known as the laid-back, ancient capital of Northern Thailand and with hundreds of temples, vibrant markets, day spas, chic cafes/restaurants to choose from, this city has everything needed to offer an excellent spot for some R&R. But for those of us who are bit more inclined towards active adventure during our travels, Chiang Mai also ticks all the boxes! With the surrounding jungle-covered mountains, flowing rivers and cascading waterfalls just a stones throw from the city centre, you will find an adventure-lovers playground almost on your doorstep.
For those adventurers looking for some fun in Chiang Mai, check out the Top 5 outdoor activities below!
With mountainous landscape and lush jungles, Chiang Mai province has a number of great trekking areas. You may find a few short trails you can hike independently (e.g. ‘Pilgrims trail’ up Doi Suthep mountain) but for those who are not so familiar with the area and want something a bit more challenging, hiring a local guide or joining a tour is necessary as trails are often unmarked. Mae Tang and Chiang Dao district are great places to explore on foot with nice forest reserves, scenic landscapes and a wide array of hill tribe villages; at certain times of year you can even climb Thailand’s third tallest mountain – Doi Luang Chiang Dao.
TIP: Beware of trekking tours focused on visiting hill tribes. These hill tribe villages are often inauthentic, set up purely for tourists and are often detrimental to the local people. As an alternative you can instead choose trekking tours which offer a variety of highlights where you can encounter villages along the way.
If you want to cover a bit more distance than getting lost pedaling through the soi’s (alleys) of the old city, there are multiple rustic villages not far from the city scattered with breath-taking rice fields. You can ride the quiet countryside roads for hours and encounter locals going about their daily activities (whether that be harvesting their crops or taking a nap in a hammock). For keen road cyclists looking for a challenge, perhaps the greatest of them all is to the West of the city centre climbing Doi Suthep road. This 11km climb is only suitable for fit, experienced cyclists and best attempted in the early morning before the heat and tourist numbers rise. For those looking for a variety of both off-road trails through the jungle and peaceful farmland roads, you will find Mae Sa valley, Sri Lanna and Chiang Dao region to be great places to explore.
If you prefer to explore the jungle from a height, ziplining is an excellent activity which will surely get the adrenaline pumping! Now you can not only fly through the forest but also overcome a number of obstacles such as suspending sky bridges, climbing nets and abseils.
TIP: Over recent years, Chiang Mai has seen a significant increase in zipline operators – some with higher safety standards than others. We recommend Eagle Track who offer a great variety less than 1 hour from the city or Flight of the Gibbon, one of the most established operators who also puts a lot of effort into conservation.
4. River rafting
Chiang Mai is blessed with the wonderful Mae Taeng River flowing past forested mountains, terraced rice fields, and remote hill tribe villages. This is one of the most popular places in Northern Thailand for white water rafting with a variety rapids suitable for both first timers and more experienced rafters. If you choose to a take thrilling ride along the Mae Taeng, you’re sure to have some unforgettable views…and get very, very wet!
TIP: Bear in mind, this type of adventure relies heavily on water levels so during drier months isn’t usually available. The white water rafting season typically runs from mid-June until the end of January.
Another way to explore Chiang Mai’s great waterways is by kayak. From kayaking on the peaceful Mae Ngat Dam reservoir to racing down the rapids of Mae Taeng River, you can now find a variety of options available for this increasingly popular way to experience Northern Thailand.
If you are interested to find out more about these awesome activities in Chiang Mai, then be sure to get in contact with us!
What other adventure activities do you enjoy? Share with us in the comments below.