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6 Best Places for Trekking Adventures in Northern Thailand

Thailand has always been a top destination for adventure seekers looking to delve into its diverse landscapes through exhilarating trekking expeditions. Northern Thailand is home to many mountains and dense jungles where adventurers can find hidden waterfalls, temples, impressive viewpoints, and cultural landmarks.

The Land of Smiles offers a vast network of trails waiting to be explored. Trekking is one of the most fun and sustainable activities here, so it should be included in all adventure-oriented Thailand tours.

In this article, we will list the six best places in Northern Thailand for trekking adventures and provide information and facts about each. 

Trekking in Chiang Mai

1. Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon National Park (photo: Bharath Mohan)
Sunset in Doi Inthanon National Park (photo: Bharath Mohan)

Doi Inthanon National Park is the highest peak in Thailand, situated at 8,415 feet (2,565 meters) above sea level. The National Park offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and has a diversity of flora and fauna.

The trekking trails within the park lead through diverse ecosystems, including mossy forests, providing opportunities to encounter various plant and animal species.

In addition to the beautiful natural spots you can explore on your trekking adventure at Doi Inthanon National Park, you will also have the opportunity to visit the Royal Pagodas. 

At the summit, trekkers can explore the stunning King and Queen Pagodas, which are dedicated to the beloved Thai monarchs and are surrounded by lovely gardens.

The park also boasts numerous waterfalls and lakes, such as Siriphum Waterfall, Mae Klang Luang, and Vachiratharn Waterfall.

Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is one of the most popular trekking routes at Doi Inthanon National Park. This trail is renowned for its stunning vistas and the chance to spot unique bird species, making it popular with birdwatchers.

In addition to the above, you can explore other notable attractions, such as Karen Hill Tribe Villages and the different climatic zones in the various elevations in the national park.

Trekking at these various elevation points allows visitors to experience different climatic zones. 

2. Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao landscape (photo: creartiva)
Landscape in Chiang Dao (photo: creartiva)

Chiang Dao is home to the third-highest peak in Thailand, Doi Chiang Dao. It stands at approximately 7,300 feet (2,225 meters) above sea level, offering one of the most challenging trekking experiences in Northern Thailand.

The trekking routes include visits to Chiang Dao Cave, a complex cave system featuring impressive formations and providing a subterranean adventure. In addition to the cave, you will also have the opportunity to enjoy stunning views of the scenic rice fields.

While embarking on a trek in Chiang Dao, you can also explore Wat Tham Pha Plong temple, a mountaintop Buddhist temple nestled in the jungle, accessible by a steep ascent of approximately 500 steps and providing breathtaking views.

Some trekking trails lead to traditional hill tribe villages, allowing trekkers to interact with the Karen and Lisu communities. This experience will give visitors insights into their daily lives and customs. 

One of the most attractive spots in this region, often visited on a multi-day trek or a single-day trip from Chiang Rai, is the “Sticky Waterfall.”

Bua Thong (the waterfall's original name) offers a unique trekking experience as visitors can climb the limestone formations due to their mineral-rich and grippy surface.

There is a lot to explore in Chiang Dao, so one day is hardly enough. Multi-day trekking options allow adventurous travelers to explore the region's diverse landscapes and attractions fully.

Trekking in Chiang Rai

3. Mae Salong

Northern Thailand tea plantation (photo: 1965937, Pixabay)
Tea plantation

Chiang Rai is one of the most beautiful provinces to explore in Northern Thailand, and Mae Salong is one of the most popular trekking destinations in Chiang Rai.

This region has many tea plantations. On a trek through these picturesque tea plantations, you will enjoy stunning views of rolling hills covered in neatly manicured tea bushes.

In addition to the beauty of the tea plantations, visitors also have the opportunity to explore the Akha Hill Tribe. 

The trek to Doi Mae Salong provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, rewarding trekkers with spectacular scenery.

During the winter months, Mae Salong hosts a Cherry Blossom Festival. Trekkers visiting at that time can witness the bloom of cherry blossoms along their routes to the top of the hill, adding value and interest to the experience.

In addition to the natural beauty and tea plantations, trekkers will also encounter Buddhist temples on the hillsides and caves during treks to Doi Mae Salong. One of the prettiest caves is Tham Luang Cave

The region exhibits a strong Chinese cultural influence, evident in its architecture, traditions, and cuisine, providing a unique cultural trekking experience, blending Thai and Chinese customs. 

4. Golden Triangle Region

Mekong River at the Golden Triangle (photo: Josch13)
Mekong River at the Golden Triangle (photo: Josch13)

The Golden Triangle region is at the very northern end of Thailand. It's located along the Mekong and Ruak rivers, forming a natural border between Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

Many things can be explored in this region. The trekking trails often lead to hill tribe villages, allowing visitors to experience the unique cultures of ethnic groups such as the Akha, Yao, and Karen.

Treks may also include visits to Chiang Saen, an ancient city with historical ruins and temples dating back to the Lanna Kingdom, one of the oldest districts in Thailand.

Some trekking routes may involve boat trips along the Mekong River, offering scenic views of the surrounding landscapes, with Thailand on one side and Myanmar or Laos on the other. You can also join a boat ride with fishermen to explore the region further.

Another great place in the Golden Triangle region for trekking is Doi Tung. Treks to Doi Tung provide opportunities to explore royal projects for sustainable development and environmental conservation.

Trekking in Mae Hong Son

5. Pai Canyon

Pai Canyon is a popular trekking destination in Northern Thailand (photo: Polina Kocheva)
Hikers in Pai Canyon (photo: Polina Kocheva)

Pai Canyon, also known as Kong Lan, is one of the best spots for trekking in Northern Thailand. It features narrow ridges, deep gorges, and natural sandstone formations, creating a dramatic and challenging trekking landscape for all adventurers. 

Trekkers are drawn to Pai Canyon for its stunning sunset views. The changing colors of the sky over the unique terrain offer a spectacular and tranquil experience.

Some trekking routes in Pai Canyon include crossing wooden bridges that span gaps between the sandstone formations, adding an element of excitement.

During the rainy season, natural pools may form in certain sections of Pai Canyon, providing a refreshing break for trekkers.

Trekkers who can reach higher elevations within the canyon will be rewarded with 360-degree panoramic views of the Pai Valley and distant mountains, making the effort worthwhile.

Pai Canyon is easily accessible from the town of Pai, making it a popular day trip destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts seeking a challenging trekking experience. 

6. Tham Lod Cave

Tham Lod Cave, a popular trekking destination in Northern Thailand
View from inside Tham Lod Cave

Tham Lod Cave is a vast limestone cave complex in the Pang Mapha district, offering a unique and enchanting trekking experience.

The trek through Tham Lod Cave often includes bamboo rafting along the underground river that runs through the cave, adding an adventurous element to the journey.

The cave is home to various creatures, including bats and swifts, providing trekkers with a glimpse of the diverse ecosystem thriving in the dark recesses of the cave.

It also contains ancient coffins and artifacts, offering a historical and cultural dimension to the trek as visitors explore the remnants of past civilizations.

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This story is brought to you in partnership with Royal Vacation.

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