Northern Thailand is really a beautiful area. I think I've said before - it definitely differs from the southern areas of Thailand. The main hub in the north is Chiang Mai. While there are ton of things to see and do in the Chiang Mai (see my post about what to do) area, there are also a bunch of awesome places just short distances from there that you could plan a day trip to visit. I've compiled 5 of the best day trips below!
1. CHIANG RAI
One of the most iconic images that comes out of Thailand is that of the White Temple, located in Chiang Rai. Called Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple got its name from the stunning white color with inlaid mirrored glass. This was one of the sites I was most excited to see during my trip, but be warned if you arrive during prime visiting hours, you will be there with a very large crowd. I did feel slightly like an animal in a zoo the way they were shuffling us through. I would suggest visiting first thing before the crowds arrive because the White Temple really is beautiful and worth visiting but it would definitely have been more enjoyable with less tourists around.
Chiang Rai is located about 3 hours north of Chiang Mai. I would suggest taking a tour to be able to visit this site. We did this tour operated by Travel Hub. However, it was a long exhausting day.
2. ELEPHANT NATURE PARK
I’m putting this as a day trip from Chiang Mai instead of a stop on my can’t miss list because I think it’s necessary to spend the entire day here, if you can! But, this is definitely a can’t miss!
It’s really important to be aware of the type of place you visit when considering an animal visit. There are a ton of places that mistreat the animals they house. Elephant Nature Park is one of the only reputable sanctuaries in Thailand when it comes to their treatment of their elephants. I know there are a few other sanctuary’s but this one is one of the most well-known.
I go into much more detail about my visit to the Elephant Nature Park, here. I was able to book the full day visit, versus the short day, allowing me to spend the entire day amongst the elephants. We got to feed, walk and bathe with them!
3. KAREN LONG NECK VILLAGE
I think we’ve all seen the iconic and beautiful images of the Karen Long Neck women who wear stacks of gold, brass necklaces around their necks. A visit to their village is amazing to see their vibrant culture in person. While many have asked if visiting these villages is too touristy, I say it’s only as touristy as you make it. If you shoot pictures of these women from a distance and not have the chance to interact with them, it could feel like an exhibit.
I would say the majority of women here were happy to be meeting us and selling us their beautiful goods. I’m happy I was able to visit and meet so many of these women. I go into more detail about my trip, here.
Every time I talk to friends about northern Thailand, the town of Pai comes up as a "must visit" town. It's known for how gorgeous the land is and the calm and relaxing vibe there. One of the best things I was told to do was to rent a scooter to not only get around easier but to also really experience the beautiful landscape. Pai Canyon is a great spot to catch the sunrise or sunset. I will definitely be making a day trip, if not staying longer, to Pai the next time that I am in northern Thailand.
5. GOLDEN TRIANGLE
The Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and Laos meet. It is one of the furthest places that you can travel north in Thailand. It is a bit of a drive, almost 5 hours away, going all the way north of Chiang Mai. In the past, this area was actually one of the largest opium-producing areas. Aside from that, though, its rare that you can view 3 countries in one sight. The 3 countries are divided by the Ruak and Mekong rivers. You can take a boat ride around the river, and even spend some time in Laos.
Fun fact: Did you know Laos is pronounced with a silent 's'? It's like you're about to say loud without the 'd' sound.
Mini trips are always the best! I'm so glad I was able to see these places while I was in Thailand. Just hoping to get to Pai one day!
Yours Truly // Shannon