The Chiang Dao Trekking Area

Table of Contents

Chiang Dao District

Chiang Dao District is an area east of road no.107, from Chiang Mai to Fang. It is about 70 km from Chiang Mai, a drive of around 1,5 to 2 hours. The Chiang Dao trekking area borders the Sri Lanna National Park and it’s very close to the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary. This Wildlife Sanctuary is not accessible for tourists.

The Sri (or Si) Lanna National Park was declared a protected area in 1989 making it the 60th national park of Thailand. It covers about 1400 square kilometers in the Mae Taeng, Phrao, and Chiang Dao districts of Chiang Mai province. Most people visit the Mae Ngat Dam and reservoir, which are located in the park. Few people visit the forested mountainous area of this park.  

Besides the activities we offer, there are many other great things to do in Chiang Dao.

Corn field with mountain in the background Chiang Dao

Great trekking

We have been organizing trekkings in the Chiang Dao district for more than 20 years. The Chiang Dao trekking area is very suitable for families with children of all ages and first-time trekkers. There are many villages, many trails and the trails are not too steep. Most villages are accessible by car year-round. We can be very flexible here. It is very easy to adjust the trekking to the requirements of trekkers.

We also offer more challenging trekking in this area. Although the villages often receive guests, the local hill tribe people are still very welcoming. Are you interested in Chiang Dao Jungle Trekking? You will need three days to get into the real jungle of Sri Lanna National Park. On this page you can find more information about the homestays we use in this area.

Two men walking the forest
Exploring old trails in Chiang Dao

Multiple activity trips

Chiang Dao can be combined with a visit to Mae Taeng, an area which offers a multitude of activities. You can do bamboo and whitewater rafting on the Taeng River (Mae Taeng), cycling or a zipline adventure.It is also possible to combine trekking in Chiang Dao with kayaking on the Ping River, cycling or a zipline adventure. There are many elephant camps in the Mae Taeng area such as Kantha Elephant Sanctuary, Elephant Nature Park and many others.

You can also combine Chiang Dao with a visit to the Bua Tong Waterfalls, better known as the “Sticky Waterfalls”. In recent years this pretty waterfall has become incredibly popular with young tourists. You can walk up and down the falls because the limestone is not slippery, hence the name Sticky Waterfalls. We offer a number of multiple activity tours that combine trekking with the Sticky Waterfalls and with other activities in the Mae Taeng area.

waterflow on Buatong Waterfall
Buatong Waterfall

Amazing Tribal diversity

Chiang Dao is the area with the greatest variety of tribal villages in North Thailand. It has the largest concentration of Palong (Dara-ang) villages in the country. The Palong migrated to Thailand from Myanmar in the 1980s. We have worked for many years with some of these villages. There are a couple of Karen villages in the area as well as Lisu and Lahu communities.

There is at least one Akha village and also a Hmong community in the area. With some of these villages we have worked for many years. We have organized tours for textile lovers to the Chiang Dao area. Especially the Palong (Dara-ang) women are exceptional weavers, who produce beautiful textiles. We can organize customized workshops at this village. In recent years we have organized school and university tours to villages in the Chiang Dao area. We have done very successful tours for USAC in this area.

Two Palong women Chiang Dao Palong Hill Tribe
Two Palong women in the village Mae Chon

Doi Luang Chiang Dao

Doi Luang Chiang Dao aka Doi Chiang Dao is the third-highest mountain in Thailand. The mountain impressively looms over the Chiang Dao district and is a tourist destination. The walk to the mountain’s summit can be done in two days or even in one. It is only allowed in the dry season. There is a campsite just under the summit of Doi Luang Chiang Dao. I have done the walk up the mountain twice, in 2012 and 2015. I noticed in 2015 that things had changed in only three years. There were many more tents, and the summit was quite crowded during sunset and sunrise. It is not clear what the situation is at the moment. During the cold season of 2019/20, the mountain was closed to tourists. We understood that authorities wanted to give the mountain time to recover from forest fires. We have not offered the climb to the summit of  Doi Luang Chiang Dao for a couple of years.

Update on Doi Luang Chiang Dao, November 8, 2022

The climb to the summit of Doi Luang Chiang Dao is now open until the end of the dry season, but it has been fully booked already for the coming months. The Chiang Dao wildlife sanctuary organizes a program of three days, including one day of “training”. It has become too complicated to book this tour so we will not offer it again, unfortunately.
Lisu hill tribe village Chiang Dao Chiang Mai Tribal Photography Hill Tribes Thailand
Chiang Dao Lisu village

Chiang Dao Cave and Wat Tham Pha Plong

The Chiang Dao Cave Temple in Doi Luang Chiang Dao has been a major attraction for many years. It is a beautiful and interesting limestone cave with Buddha statues and interesting stalactites and stalagmites. Access is not difficult. Just wear a good pair of shoes and you don’t have to worry. Part of the cave is illuminated. To go a bit deeper and darker you can hire a local person who will guide you with a lamp.

Not far from the Chiang Dao Cave temple is the Wat Tham Pha Plong, an atmospheric and interesting cave temple, built into the rock wall of Doi Luang Chiang Dao. You have to walk up quite a few steps to get to the temple but it is very worthwhile. We love Wat Tham Pha Plong. Highly recommended!

Buddha Statue at Chiang Dao Cave North Thailand Adventure
Buddha image in the Chiang Dao Cave Temple

Why you should go trekking in the Chiang Dao area

The Chiang Dao area has a lot to offer. You can combine it with Mae Taeng where you have a lot of great activities. Chiang Dao has the greatest variety of tribal villages and a large network of trails, ranging from very easy to very challenging. You can do agricultural tours, educational tours or textile tours. It is the area we offer the most tours in.

Here are the tours we offer in the Chiang Dao area: