An Insightful Guide to the Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai, Thailand

sunrise at Phu Langka in Northern Thailand, Phu Langka national park covers the area of approximately 31,250 Rai in Pai Loam Sub-district, Ban Phaeng District of Nakhon Phanom Province

Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand. It’s known for its stunning mountain backdrop, picturesque villages, and exquisite temples. Besides being an amazing city that has a lot to do and see, it’s also a great destination to take day trips from.

Here’s a list of great day trips from Chiang Mai:

  • Chiang Rai 
  • Karen Long Neck Tribe 
  • Pai
  • Phupha Elephant Sanctuary, Mae Wang waterfall, and bamboo rafting 

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is a city known for its temples and The Golden Triangle. There’s so much to explore in Chiang Rai on a day trip.


White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

The White Temple is one of the most popular temples in Chiang Rai. It’s known for its huge structure, design, and color. The white base of the temple represents the purity of the Buddha and the mirrors represent the shining of Buddha’s wisdom. The White Temple almost looks like a beautiful porcelain building covered in mirrors.

To enter the White Temple you have to purchase a ticket. The ticket fee is 50 baht. When you purchase a ticket for the White Temple, you will also have access to the other beautiful structures near the temple, and the gold toilet. The gold toilet is hard to miss since it’s the only gold building in the area. You have to walk over the bridge to get to the White Temple’s entrance. On both sides of the bridge are hands sticking out; some of them are holding skulls and bowls. Photos are allowed on the bridge but aren’t allowed inside.

I would recommend spending an hour at the temple. It takes about 5 minutes to walk through the temple and about 40 minutes to walk around and take photos of all of the structures near the temple. There’s also a shopping area that sells food, clothes, and other products. It’s a great spot to check out after the temple.

Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)

The Blue Temple has no entry fee. There are two ways to enter and exit the temple. Before entering you have to remove your shoes, sunglasses, and hat. When in the temple, just like any other temple, be respectful of others because there may be people praying and meditating.

When you’re finished exploring the temple, there are a variety of restaurants and shops nearby to check out. One place I recommend is “Coconut Ice cream- Un Chan.” They serve the popular blue coconut ice cream. Not only is the display beautiful but it tastes refreshing. The blue coconut ice cream is served in a coconut shell, along with a cup of blue coconut water.

Baan Dam Museum (Black House)

The Baan Dam Museum is known as the Black House. It’s an art installation with a collection of 40 structures of different shapes and sizes. The entrance fee to the museum is 80 baht and gives you access to all 40 structures. All of the structures are black and scattered around a large peaceful garden. Some of the structures can only be viewed through the doors and windows.

The Baan Dam Museum is the complete opposite of the White Temple. While the White Temple is known as being heavenly, the Baan Dam Museum is commonly known as the vision of hell. There are animal bones and skin displayed throughout the museum. Just a little note for families, some structures portray male genitals.

There are a few cafes close to the museum. Similar to buying blue coconut ice cream near the blue temple, you can buy black ice cream near the Baan Dam Museum.

A few tips for your temples day trip:

  • Bring socks, there are no shoes allowed in the temples (you can go in barefoot)
  • Dress appropriately (no tank tops, crop tops, low cut shirts, cover shoulder, cleavage, and knees, no sunglasses and hats in the Blue Temple)
  • Temples that have an entry fee can be paid at the temple

For more information about visiting temples, check out what not to do when visiting a temple in Thailand.

Singha Park

Singha Park is a family-friendly park. Entry into the park is free, you only have to pay for the activities you want to do. At the entrance of the park you will see a large gold Singha logo, and pretty close to that is the information counter. When you get to the information counter, you can book a mode of transportation to take you through the park. You can book the tram, which takes visitors to various parts of the park, or you can reserve a golf cart or bicycle. You’ll also receive a map of the park, which will make it easier to get around.

I recommend giving yourself at least 90 minutes to explore Singha Park because it’s huge and there’s so much to do and see. Singha Park has a tea plantation that grows Oolong tea, flower gardens, ziplining, lakes with white swans, a petting zoo, rock climbing, hot air balloon rides, and camping.

Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is a unique place to visit. It’s the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet. Talk about being in three countries at the same time. While at the Golden Triangle, you can also rent a boat on the Mekong River, and visit the various temples and Opium Museums.

Karen Long Neck Tribe


The Karen Long Neck Tribe are a tribal group of women refugees from Burma, who now live in Northern Thailand. They are known for the brass rings they wear on their necks. Girls start wearing the rings around the age of five and then add additional rings when they get older. They take the rings off once a year for only 3-4 hours.


There are tours available where you can meet women from the Tribe and learn about their culture. Before booking a tour keep in mind what the tour offers. There are some tours where the guide will only take you to a market where the women from the tribe are selling accessories. For those tours, the women usually look like their just put on display to get tourists to purchase products.

I recommend booking a tour where you can meet women from the tribe, learn about their culture, history, language, how they live and what they eat, possibly cook and eat with them, and spend a day indulging and immersing in their culture. That tour will have you leaving the village with knowledge, amazing stories to tell, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

A few tips for your Karen Long Neck Tribe day trip:

  • Be open-minded and, above all, respect the women and their culture.
  • Dress appropriately


Pai is a town located in the Pai District, surrounded by mountains, hiking trails, and waterfalls. It’s known for its canyon, hot springs, and relaxing vibe. There’s also a variety of restaurants to eat at, including some vegan ones. Pai is a popular destination among backpackers. There’s just something about being in Pai and the slow pace that makes it feel like time stops.

There are multiple ways to get to Pai from Chiang Mai. You can rent a motorbike, take a taxi or a bus (minivan). The bus leaves Chiang Mai and Pai multiple times a day.

Hiking Pai Canyon

Pai Canyon is a popular tourist attraction and great for adventure seekers. It has narrow hiking trails that provide beautiful views of the valley. The best way to get to Pai Canyon is by motorbike. There are plenty of motorbike shops in Pai, where you can rent a motorbike for the day or weekend.

Hiking Pai Canyon can take around two hours. There are benches on the canyon, which is great for anyone that may need to take a break.

Pai Walking Street

If you’re looking for a place with a lot of restaurants, bars, and nightlife, Pai Walking Street is the place to be. This street is blocked off from cars, giving people more space to walk and feel safer. While walking down Pai Walking Street, you will smell food from different restaurants, hear music, and hear people chatting and laughing. Every night from 6- 10 pm it turns into Pai Night Market.

Read also: 5 Night markets that should be on your list

Rent motorbikes

Motorbikes are a popular mode of transportation in Thailand. Almost everywhere you go in Thailand you will see locals as well as some tourist riding on motorbikes. If you go to a gas station, you will see the gas price for cars and then the gas price for motorbikes. There are a variety of shops in Pai that have motorbikes for rent. To rent a motorbike you need to show a valid driver’s license. The shop will hold your license until you return the motorbike.

If you’ve never driven a motorbike or moped before, I do warn you that it may be a little tricky in the beginning. I suggest driving slowly at first because the streets in Pai are usually occupied by motorbikes and pedestrians strolling. If you happen to panic or lose control, it can easily cause an accident. Once you’re away from the town, the roads are less congested and it’s easier and safer to drive faster.

I highly recommend renting a motorbike if there are multiple things you want to do in Pai and outside of Pai during your day trip. The motorbike will make it convenient to get from place to place and quickly.

Sai Ngam hot spring

Sai Ngam hot spring is located in a relaxing environment surrounded by forest. This is a great stop after a long day of hiking, walking, driving, and exploring Pai.

Take pictures with the “I am Pai” sign

The “I am Pai” sign is located next to the “Coffee in love” cafe. It’s a great rest stop when driving from Pai Walking Street to Pai Canyon. After taking pictures with the sign, you can also grab something to eat from the cafe and use the restroom. Then continue on your journey exploring Pai.

Tha Pai Memorial Bridge

Tha Pai Memorial Bridge is a bridge made from wood and steel. The bridge is accessible to the public and only carries pedestrians. Walking from one end of the bridge to the other is a nice little walk. There are also vendors on each side of the bridge.

A few tips for your Pai day trip:

  • Bring your driver’s license, just in case you want to rent a motorbike.
  • Bring hiking sneakers if you’re planning to hike Pai Canyon.
  • Create an itinerary based on what you want to do while in Pai. There are a lot of things to do in Pai and having an itinerary can help with time management.
  • If you plan on taking a bus from Chiang Mai to Pai, you can either buy your ticket online or buy it at the bus terminal.

Phupha Elephant Sanctuary, Mae Wang waterfall, and bamboo rafting

Phupha Elephant Sanctuary is about a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai. One of the best ways to visit this Sanctuary is to book a tour online. When visiting the sanctuary you get the opportunity to spend time with the elephants, by feeding them, going on a trek through the forest with them, and then bathing with them. Before interacting with the elephants, you’ll receive Karen Hill Tribe clothing, like the ones elephant caretakers wear.

To be so close to these majestic animals is such an amazing experience and you’ll learn so much about them. I recommend this Chiang Mai waterfall elephant sanctuary and bamboo rafting tour.

After spending time with the elephants, you will then be taken to Mae Wang waterfall. Once at the waterfall, you can relax and take a dip in the water. Being close to the waterfall you will feel the pressure from the water and how strong it is. You can also climb up the large boulders to get closer to another part of the waterfall. When climbing up the boulders be careful because they are very slippery.

After enjoying the Mae Wang waterfall, you will then float on the river on a bamboo raft. Bamboo rafting is a popular activity that’s also pretty relaxing. After a busy day of activities, bamboo rafting is a great way to end it.

I suggest a combo tour like this one because you can experience three different activities and get the most out of your day trip. If you only want to book the Phupha Elephant Sanctuary tour, it will still be an amazing day trip. It all depends on your preference.

A few tips for your Phupha Elephant Sanctuary, Mae Wang waterfall, and bamboo rafting day trip:

  • Bring sneakers to trek in the forest with the elephants.
  • Bring sandals, a swimsuit, sunscreen, and a waterproof phone pouch to bathe with the elephants, and enjoy the waterfall and bamboo rafting.

There is something for everyone on these day trips from Chiang Mai. Also, there are many other Thailand articles you should not miss if this country is on your list.

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Sparkle Bennett is a traveler from NYC. In the hopes of encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones, she shares her experiences in her travel blog SoTravelish.

Pha Chor canyon in Maewang National Park, Chiang Mai

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