My roundup of favorite day trips from Chiang Mai, Thailand. From stupendous temples to divine Thai cooking classes – dive into my complete tour guide for Chiang Mai trips.
Is there really a more serene city than Chiang Mai in northern Thailand?
Not only is Chiang Mai close to some of Thailand’s best locations to visit, including beautiful temples, but it is surrounded by stunning mountain ranges and tropical jungle terrain. This includes the mighty Doi Suthep Mountain, which stands at a whopping 1,676 meters high in elevation.
I dedicated six weeks to exploring all of the epic hiking trails, cultural tours, waterfalls, and other unique experiences in Chiang Mai. Over the past five years of full-time travel, I’ve been on over 100 different tours around the world, and I have to say, the day trips from Chiang Mai City were some of my favorite in Thailand, and even in all of South East Asia.
This major city is significantly smaller than Bangkok, which I prefer as it provides easier access to nature and outdoor activities. So, in this handy tour travel guide, I have included some of the most exciting day trips from Chiang Mai based on my experience that you can book today!
- In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks for Chiang Mai Tours
- 11 Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai You Can Book Today
- 1. Chiang Mai Street Food Tour
- 2. Chiang Rai Temples Group Tour
- 3. Doi Inthanon National Park Trip
- 4. Whitewater Rafting Adventure
- 5. Doi Inthanon Tour, Elephant Sanctuary & Trekking Trail
- 6. Night Tour to Doi Suthep & Wat Umong
- 7. Chiang Dao Cave Trekking Tour
- 8. Authentic Thai Cooking Class
- 9. Spiritual Temple Sunrise Trip
- 10. Doi Suthep Temple & Sticky Waterfall Tour
- 11. High Mountain Day Trek
- Looking for a Place to Stay in Chiang Mai?
- Things to Know About Booking Tours in Chiang Mai
- FAQs About Chiang Mai Day Trips
- Packing List for Day Trips
- More Chiang Mai Travel & Adventure Guides
I'm Olly, a full-time traveler for the past 5 years. I visit every destination I write about & handpick all recommendations.
In a Hurry? Here's Our Top Picks for Chiang Mai Tours
In this guide, I've included 11 of the best Chiang Mai tours that I would recommend to other travelers. Below are the top 3 picks for tours that explore Thai culture, beautiful nature, and one that will leave your tastebuds tingling.
A day full of exploration of the incredible nearby Chiang Rai and its mindblowing temples. You'll want to have your camera here!
If waterfalls, nature, incredible views, and learning about culture in a local hill tribe village is something you might enjoy then this tour should be on your list!
This small tour ticks all the boxes for deliciousness. Sampling different foods from two different night markets. Your tastebuds won't want to leave.
My Tour Selection Process
- Tour Criteria: I hone in on three specific things: activity diversity, essential landmark inclusions, & bang-for-buck. My selections offer a balanced mix of cultural, adventure, & scenic experiences in Chiang Mai.
- My Experience: I've spent a lot of time traveling in Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai. I've been on many tours from waterfall trips to night market trips and have hand-picked those that offer the best value.
- Top Reviews: All tours on this list have earned a high customer rating of at least 4/5 stars on travel sites like Viator & GetYourGuide. I have included links to book the best price for each tour.
- Local Insights: During my 6 weeks in Chiang Mai I worked alongside local tour operators, learning insider tips like optimal times to avoid crowds at key attractions and some hidden gems. I also received several tour recommendations from other travelers while staying in hostels in Chiang Mai.
Read more about how I review & select tours & experiences.
11 Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai You Can Book Today
Now that you know what Chiang Mai has to offer and what to look for when choosing the best day trip tours– let's jump into the round up!
The first on my list of day trips from Chiang Mai is an evening street food tour. The city of Chiang Mai is packed with food stalls at every turn, and that is especially the case with their bustling night markets.
You will start this food tour with a local guide who will take you to two separate local night markets. Both of these night markets contain mouthwatering and flavorful Thai dishes. You will be given a leaflet with information on the tastiest and most popular cuisine in the area.
In addition to all of the characteristics above, I think the best aspect of this tour is that it is a small group tour. This gives you a great opportunity to ask your guide as many questions as you want.
Overall, this is one of the best food tours in Chiang Mai. The fact it is in a small group makes it a great option for experiencing Thai food culture.
Travel tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its unique Thai cuisine, blending local flavors with foreign influences, as noted by James Williams at Food & Travel Mag. I recommend trying Khao Soi as a must. This is a creamy coconut Northern Thai curry soup. The above food tour includes a visit to one of my personal favorite Khao Soi shops at the Night Markets.
Chiang Rai is Thailand's other major Northern City, and in my opinion, a must-visit if you're exploring the northern regions.
It is home to Wat Rong Khun after all, and this stunning white temple is one of the most impressive in all of Thailand.
You will start the tour in the early morning hours of 7 am. This is honestly a great time for this tour to start, especially considering it is 14 hours long meaning you won't arrive back until around 9 pm at night.
After meeting your local tour guide you will journey for a one-and-a-half-hour road trip until you reach the first stop, which is a local hot spring. Here, you can dip your feet and chill out for a quarter of an hour, before heading back into the van for another one-and-a-half-hour drive to Chiang Rai.
There are plenty of sights you will cover during this tour, and that isn't limited to just the famous temple of Wat Rong Khun. After seeing the white temple, it is time to journey to Wat Rong Suea Ten, also known as the Blue Temple.
This was home to what was once one of Thailand's popular ancient temples. Its colorful design is both mesmerizing and inspiring for those who appreciate architecture.
Another feature of this tour that I appreciate is the ability to customize it and make it private. If you pay a little bit extra, you can not only upgrade your vehicle but also the destinations on the tour itself. I always value customization when it comes to the tour itinerary, which is why I recommended this one.
Instead of seeing the Blue Temple, you are able to see the Golden Triangle which borders Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. This is a pleasant alternative option for those interested, and it is a perfect place for those history lovers out there.
Are you thinking about booking a trip to Chiang Rai?
If so, don't forget about this great day trip as it covers many of the most popular locations in Northern Thailand.
Travel tip: During my time in Northern Thailand, I decided to stay in Chiang Rai. If you have time, I recommend doing this, as there are many waterfalls and epic hiking trails in this region.
A Doi Inthanon National Park tour is always a fun activity to do as a day trip from Chiang Mai, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Did you know that this national park is at the highest point in the entire country of Thailand?
What's more, it is abundant with beautiful waterfalls including Wachirathan Waterfall. Here, you can cleanse your soul by taking a dip in Thailand's natural elements. All while marveling at the waterfall's 80-meter tall stream.
After exploring the park and all it has to offer, we made our way with the group to the small local village of Sobhad Village. This is home to one of Chiang Mai's hill tribe villages, and learning about the local way of life is one of the reasons why I think that this particular Doi Inthanon day trip from Chiang Mai is one of the best.
Finally, the tour ends with a 2-hour van journey back to Chiang Mai, leaving you with enough time to enjoy the rest of your night.
When it comes to day trips from Chiang Mai, the jungles of northern Thailand simply cannot be ignored. They contain some epic river rapids, and this of course means that rafting tours are on offer.
This whitewater rafting tour not only includes full safety equipment, a free lunch, and hotel pickup, but it is action-packed to the tee. During this rafting adventure, you will be moving through the natural beauty of the jungle at a fast pace.
If you have any problems, your professional safety instructor will comfort you through the rafting process.
Once finished, you will enjoy a healthy meal with refreshments before making your way back to your hotel via dropoff.
Diverse tours are a lot of fun, and I always find those tours where you can do a range of experiences to be more fulfilling.
This Chiang Mai day trip is exactly that kind of tour, featuring a visit to an ethical elephant sanctuary, a trip to Doi Inthanon, and the Pha Dok Siew Trail.
I have to say that the highlight of this tour is the visit to the elephant sanctuary and nature park. Remember, it is always important to be critical and thoughtful when choosing any wildlife tourism activities. I've thoroughly researched and out of all the many sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, this elephant sanctuary is noted as one of the most ethical.
Elephants are an important part of the northern Thailand experience, and you get to be up close and personal with them while on this tour.
After seeing the elephants, the next part of the trip is to Doi Inthanon. What is most surprising about this Chiang Mai National Park is the fact that it is over 2500 meters above sea level!
Here, you will explore all of the natural wonders the park has to offer, before journeying to the final few stops left on the tour. These stops include some historical pagodas, Pha Dok Seaw Waterfall, and the hill tribes at Ban Mae Klang Luang.
Buddhist Temples are an extremely important part of Chiang Mai's culture. For this reason, I would advise taking a temple tour when you arrive in this harmonious city. I'm usually more into natural activities like hikes and waterfalls, but in Thailand, I always try to immerse myself in the temple culture because it really is one of the most beautiful in the world.
As Doi Suthep and Wat Umong are the two most popular temples in the Chiang Mai area, it makes sense that this tour is a great option.
In addition to this, the tour is actually a night-time tour. What better way to see both of these stunning temples lit up in all of their glory?!
The first temple you will go to with your group will be Wat Umong. What is most surprising about coming here is the fact the temple is over 700 years old.
After witnessing all of its impressive Buddha statues, your next stop will be the famed Doi Suthep. Here you will tour the awestriking golden pagoda and climb its impressive staircase containing over 300 steps.
This tour is short, sweet, and straight to the point. Perfect for those who want to make every hour count.
Travel tip: If you're looking for a unique temple experience that you can do without booking a tour, I recommend renting a car or motorbike and checking out the Chiang Mai Monk's Trail. This is one of my favorite hikes in Chaing Mai and offers a unique Buddhist cultural experience in the jungle at your own pace.
Are you searching for an unusual experience while in Chiang Mai?
If so, this Chiang Dao Cave trekking tour is certain to tick all of those boxes. Chiang Dao is known to be a cave destination, so if you are a fan of caves, you can bet that you will get everything you wish for.
After the one-hour van trip from Chiang Mai, you will explore all of the caves in full detail for over 2 hours before eating lunch and continuing with the tour.
It is important to mention that this tour doesn't provide a free lunch with the trip. However, the places visited more than make up for the few baht that you will spend on lunch.
The final stop of this tour is at the sticky waterfall.
This waterfall got its name because of its sticky characteristics. This is due to the sticky mineral deposits which are inside of it.
You can actually climb up the walls of this waterfall without falling off! I visited this waterfall independently but I recommend this tour if you don't want to make the long motorbike drive to the falls.
After visiting both of these special places, it is time to head back to your hotel in Chiang Mai via van.
Taking an authentic Thai cooking class is the best way of learning the recipes that locals use.
What I like about this day trip from Chiang Mai in particular, is the fact it includes a visit to a local farm creating local produce. This provides an intimate and hands-on experience for everyone taking the tour, and you know that every ingredient you touch has been grown on the farm itself.
Another noteworthy aspect of this tour is that it is only limited to 10 people. Such a small number like this allows you to meet everyone and is a great opportunity to make new friends while on your travels.
There are plenty of awesome Thai dishes you will make while on this tour. One thing is for sure though, it is going to be memorable!
I think we can all agree that sunrises are great. However, have you ever experienced a sunrise at a Buddhist temple before?
This temple sunrise trip features both a sunrise and an epic view from Doi Suthep Temple at exactly the same time.
What is also fantastic about coming early is that you can watch the monks do all of their daily duties at this very temple. Additionally, you can have any of your questions about these duties answered by a former monk who is present on the tour.
The tour also includes a free morning breakfast, so you don't have to worry about finding something to eat before heading out.
Similar to the cave tour mentioned earlier, this trip also includes a visit to the sticky waterfall. However, the added benefit of this tour is that a free lunch is provided along with snacks.
What I like about this day trip from Chiang Mai is that you get a chance to walk or take a funicular ride to the top of the mighty Doi Suthep Temple which sits at 1,100 meters for panoramic views over Chiang Mai.
This tour is a lot of fun and includes pickup from your hotel.
As a big fan of trekking myself, this tour is certainly an intriguing option and one which is difficult to ignore when choosing a roundup of tour recommendations in Chiang Mai.
This is essentially a northern Thailand mountain hike and you are going to see some spectacular sights. I would advise making sure you are physically fit and ready for this trip if you are taking it. It does include over 4 hours of hiking, after all. So, you wouldn't want to be constantly stopping and taking breaks along the way.
The trek includes a free lunch so you don't have to bring one with you before you leave. You will also make it back to Chiang Mai by the evening.
This is a great way to see Chiang Mai's mountain scenery, which is one of my favorite parts about visiting Chiang Mai.
Looking for a Place to Stay in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is the capital of the Northern Thailand tourist trail, and also a huge Digital Nomad hub. This is the reason why I'm always drawn back to this city. As you might expect, there are some excellent accommodation picks in and around the city. Below are three of the top places to stay for various budgets.
1. POR Thapae Gate Luxury
With over 700 reviews this is the ultimate luxury hotel located 200m from Tha Pae Gate. The hotel provides an outdoor swimming pool, free bike rental, and an exceptional breakfast.
2. Rimping Village Mid-Range
Just a 10-minute walk from the Night Bazaar this hotel offers a large outdoor swimming pool, an on-site restaurant, and spectacular outdoor seating areas. Away from the crowds, this is a perfect place to unwind and relax.
3. Green Sleep Hostel Budget
Situated in the heart of Chang Mai this hostel boasts a fully equipped kitchen, co-working space, communal area, and comfortable beds. A top pick for backpackers wanting a cheap and comfortable stay.
Things to Know About Booking Tours in Chiang Mai
One great thing that I love about Chiang Mai tours is that there is a vast variety to choose from. So, there is usually a tour suitable for everyone.
If you are someone who likes to see the famous sights like the Doi Suthep Temple or the Night Marks of the Old City quickly, many tours offer private options without the tourist crowds.
On the other hand, if you are a fan of tasting delicious foods and exploring city life, this is also possible with their urban tours around the city center and its surrounding areas. I prefer these types of tours in a group, because it makes exploring more fun and offers an opportunity to meet like-minded travelers.
Whatever you are searching for in this major Thai city, you are going to find those destinations with ease by booking a tour. While I do a lot of independent travel and hiking, I often find myself booking tours, especially in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand, because they offer a cost-effective way to see all the best sites and some hidden gems easily.
I would go as far as to say that Chiang Mai day tours are some of the best things about visiting the city because of the convenience, the opportunity to meet other travelers, and experiencing great destinations with a local guide.
FAQs About Chiang Mai Day Trips
It is worth noting that the weather in northern Thailand is slightly different from the south. For this reason, I would advise traveling to Chiang Mai from November - February. There is the least chance of rain during these months, giving you more opportunities for doing outdoor activities.
Yes, there is no doubt about it in my opinion. Chiang Mai is one of Thailand's best major cities, and it is the second biggest city in the whole country. Chiang Mai is seen as a centerpiece for religion, culture, and nature so it is a place that shouldn't be missed if you're visiting Thailand.
Based on trips to Northern Thailand, the Doi Inthanon National Park and Chiang Rai stand out for me. Doi Inthanon offers Thailand's highest peak and stunning waterfalls, while Chiang Rai is home to the unique White Temple.
Technically yes, but I wouldn't recommend it. The drive to Pai takes around 3-4 hours one way and the winding roads can be exhausting. Pai is best enjoyed over at least a couple of days. If you're visiting, make sure to read my guide about the top things to do in Pai.
Pack light but don't forget essentials like water, sunscreen, and a camera if you want good shots, especially if you pick my recommended sunrise tour. For Doi Inthanon, bring a light jacket though; the temperatures can be cooler due to the high altitude. Remember, this is the highest point in Thailand. For a comprehensive packing list, read on.
Packing List for Day Trips
Wondering what to pack on a day trip in Northern Thailand? Below is a small image that you can save on your phone before you go!
More Chiang Mai Travel & Adventure Guides
Did you enjoy this post on day trips from Chiang Mai?
If so, feel free to check out more of my Thailand guides below. I've visited Thailand over six times and spent several months exploring the different regions. These include Island hopping in the south and visiting awesome waterfalls in the north like Mork Fa or viewpoints like Phu Chi Fa.