Day Trips From Chiang Mai, Thailand

Bua Tong Waterfalls | Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai

Day Trips from Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai was our first major stop on our Southeast Asia trip. After an amazing trip to the Elephant Nature Park, our little gang had 3 more glorious weeks in northern Thailand.

During these 3 weeks, we were able to see a more mellow and tranquil side of Thailand, different from the tourist-invaded white beaches down south. Street markets, waterfalls, temples, motorbike rides, and even a ladyboy cabaret show consumed our time in this cultural hub. While drinking a Chang at our usual local spot was probably my favorite pastime, here are my (other) favorite places to go outside the Old City:

Bua Tong Waterfalls AKA Sticky Waterfalls

Bua Tong Waterfalls | Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai

We each rented a motorbike (my first time riding one ever. Terrifying.) and made the hour-ish trip to these amazing waterfalls! They’re nicknamed “Sticky Waterfalls” because mineral deposits make the rocks super grippy, allowing people to climb up and down them. These spherical limestones look like melting ice cream scoops as water cascades down to cool you off in the heat.

There are a few different levels – we walked down the stairs to the very bottom and climbed our way to the top (but beware of the very top where the kiddie pools are – it’s crazy slippery and I nearly broke my neck on my way up (PSA: don’t attempt to climb up a waterfall one-handed in order to hold a GoPro).

Some Important Info:

How to get there: Go out the North Gate (Chang Puek Gate), which is the 107, for about 1.5km, then east on the 11 for another 1.5km, then North (left) on the 1001 for about 50km. There are signs to guide you and Google Maps is also a huge help :)

Doi Suthep National Park

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep | Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai

The main attraction here is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. It’s a fairly short motorbike ride here (about 15km) and then a 309-step walk to the top where the temple is. Almost everything inside the temple is gold – golden shrines, golden Buddhas, gold dragons, gold candles, gold pagodas, gold everything.

Some Important Info:

Price: 30 baht*

Tips: Make sure to cover your shoulders and knees (if you’re female). If you don’t have appropriate clothing, there’s cheap rental garb.

Mae Ya Waterfall at Doi Inthanon National Park

Mae Ya Waterfall | Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai

We were only able to make it to these waterfalls, but there’s plenty more to see at this national park. The Mae Ya Waterfalls were about a 2-hour motorbike ride away. We were nervous that it would be completely dried up since most of the rivers and streams we passed on the way were dry, but we weren’t disappointed when we arrived. This place was absolutely stunning and definitely worth the somewhat unpleasant trek there!

Mae Ya Waterfall Doi Inthanon | Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai

Some Important Info:

Price: 310 baht* – this is pretty steep for Thailand, but also gives you access to the entire national park. 310 includes the cost of bringing [half] a motorbike in as well (for 2 people on one bike, it was 620 baht).

Huay Thung Tao Lake

Huay Thung Tao Lake | Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai

This man-made lake is about 20 minutes outside of Chiang Mai and is a perfect way to cool off from the heat. Little floating raft-houses line the shore where you can order fresh seafood and ice-cold Chang. It isn’t widely known about so it’s a perfectly pleasant get-away without any other tourists around.

Huay Thung Tao Lake | Best Day Trips from Chiang Mai

Some Important Info:

Price: 20 baht* to enter the lake area.  Lunch for 3 (fresh fish) was about 90 baht* (+ 20 baht* for the raft-table) per person.

Renting Motorbikes

We rented motorbikes to go to each of these places. Rentals cost us between 180-250 baht* per bike, depending on the cc (size of the engine) and how new/nice the bikes were. You can ask your hostel/hotel to organize motos for you or there are bike shops all over town. Try to go to a place that offers insurance (prices above include it), locks if possible for peace of mind, and definitely try to grab a good helmet (the full-face ones not only protect you better but also prevent you from eating bugs).

Oh, and most importantly: make sure you wear proper “riding” attire – AKA don’t wear flip flops, unless you want some sweet scars on your feet to remind you of your time in thailand 😉

These day trips from Chiang Mai are a great way to get out of the Old City and see some of the beauty Thailand has to offer! Plus – they’re fairly cheap and an adventure in itself to get there :)

*Note that prices are as of April 2015. $1USD≈35 baht.

👣Day 12(again): Perfect day motorbiking and chasing waterfalls in Thailand🙌

A post shared by Kirsten | First For Everything (@kirstenjoelle) on

Perfect day at the Mae Ya Waterfall😍 @nate_bc @gerringer82

A post shared by Kirsten | First For Everything (@kirstenjoelle) on

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2 Comment

  1. Hanii says: Reply

    Hi there!
    Stumbled across your lovely blog after reading your Busan post.
    I’m planning a trip to Chiang Mai this November and was glad I read this post :)
    One ques tho, are motorbike license needed in Thailand to rent one? Or do they still let you borrow a motorbike for day trips even with a normal driver’s license?

    Thanks a bunch,

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      They didn’t require a Thai license when I was there! Most places are pretty casual about that type of thing! I would advise getting an International Driver’s License though, just in case!

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