Things to do in Chiang Dao Thailand

Chiang Dao is the perfect rural getaway in Northern Thailand. Being only a 90-minute bus ride from the bustling city of Chiang Mai, it’s a great place to relax and unwind. There’s still plenty of things to do in Chiang Dao and it didn’t take us long to hop on a moped to get down to explore this hidden gem of a village. If you’re not one to ride a moped, many people choose to explore by bicycle here, although there are some places on our list that would be too far to reach without a moped.

We’ve been lucky enough to visit Chiang Dao twice now and for good reason. We just can’t stay away from this beautiful Thai town surrounded by jungle, lush green fields and rolling hills.  NOW is the perfect time to visit Chiang Dao as it’s still relatively untouched by the masses of tourists like other places in the North. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and catch up with nature, Chiang Dao is the place for you.

How to get there from Chiang Mai:

Chiang Dao is only a short 90-minute bus ride from the city of Chiang Mai.  The orange bus departs every 30 minutes from Chang Phueak Bus Terminal (Terminal 1). To get to the terminal, hail a songthaew from the centre for around 20 baht or catch a grab (taxi) from your accommodation. Once you’ve arrived, head to the ticket counter and get your ticket for 40 baht pp. The bus can get pretty busy and humid so if you’re looking for a comfy ride, there’s often a minibus option with air con for around 180 baht pp.

The other option is to rent a moped and drive the journey to Chiang Dao. Although the roads seem relatively safe to drive on, we recommend taking the bus if you’re not an experienced rider. For us, we are very comfortable riding a moped but decided to take the bus for someone where to put our luggage and to stay out of the sun.

Once you arrive in Chiang Dao, the bus will drop you off next to a Tesco Lotus. Some accommodations may offer to pick you up from this location but if not, it’s a 150 baht fixed priced songthaew to your lodgings.

10 Things to do in Chiang Dao

1. Hike up Doi Chiang Dao (Mountain)

Travel couple on a motorbike at Chiang Dao Mountain

One of the main reasons visitors come to Chiang Dao is to climb the third biggest peak in Thailand, Chiang Dao Mountain. To climb the mountain we recommend contacting your accommodation before head. They can more than likely offer a guide or put you in contact with a guide to take you on the organized hike. Prices for a guide vary depending on if you choose to go in a group or have a private guide. You can also choose to hike the mountain in one day (around 6 hours) or camp overnight to see the sunset and sunrise.

Guides are required by law to climb Doi Chiang Dao

Opening season is November – late February

2. Take in the view from the top of Wat Tham Pha Plong

The view from Wat Tham Pha Plong

You may be ‘templed’ out after Chiang Mai but we assure you visiting Wat Tham Pha Plong is worth it. The 510 steps may look daunting, but it’s an easy walk through the lush, green jungle to the beautiful hillside Buddhist temple. Along the way, you’ll find various inspirational messages dotted around in the trees and places to rest and take in the views. Monks reside at the temple and you’ll see them going about their daily activities. Once at the top, take your time to enjoy the views.

Top tip: This is a place of worship so appropriate dress is required. 

Price: Free

3. Relax and unwind at the Pong Arng Hot Springs

Relaxing at Pong Arng Hot Springs

One of our top things to do in Chaing Dao is the Pong Arng Hot Springs. Drive north from Chiang Dao and in around 30 minutes you’ll arrive at Pha Daeng National Park. Within the park, you’ll find the Pong Arng Hot Springs. We’ve been here twice now and each time was as relaxing as the last. Sit back, relax and soak in the 50-60 degree Celsius pools. The water is crystal clear, you can choose to dip your feet into the water or fully unwind surrounded by the lush nature.

Price: 100 baht per person for a day pass to The Pha Daeng National Park. This fee includes both the Pong Arng Hot Springs and the Sri Sungwan waterfall.

Top tip: Don’t panic if you pass a police control on the way to the park, it’s only for Thai residents and they let us straight through. Just be sure you’re wearing a helmet.

4.  Climb the Sri Sungwan Waterfalls

Sri Sungwan Waterfalls

Once you’ve been to the hot springs, head back onto the main road and continue for around 5 minutes until you see the sign for the Sri Sungwan Waterfall. Only a short walk from the entrance and you’ll see the three-tiered waterfall surrounded by beautiful green jungle.

The floor of the waterfall is ‘sticky’ meaning it’s easy to climb and walk upon, which we thought was a great experience. We visited the waterfall in November and February and although it was not rainy season there was still plenty of water to enjoy.

Price: 100 baht per person for a day pass to The Pha Daeng National Park. This fee includes both the Pong Arng Hot Springs and the Sri Sungwan waterfall.

5. Makhampom Art Space

Our time in Chiang Dao would not have been complete without a walk through the endless green rice fields. Makhampom Art Space is a place for the community to come together to create art and be inspired. We had a quick stop off here to look at the unique art around the grounds and then spent the remainder of our time wandering around the surrounding peaceful fields.

Price: Free

Top Tip: This is a great place to take photos with a view of the mountain.

6. Explore Chiang Dao Cave

a picture of the entrance to Chiang Dao Cave

For those visiting Chiang Dao not just to climb the mountain, the most popular thing to do is it visit the Chiang Dao Cave. The entrance to the cave is surrounded by little temples and traditional Thai food stalls.

The cave itself has 2 different routes you can take. The first route is the easiest, only a short walk through the wide walls of the cave until you reach the reclining Buddha at the end.

The second route involves going further into the deep caverns of the cave. This route requires a guide and an old-fashioned kerosene lantern to help you navigate the small, dark tunnels.  This route takes up to 1 hour and involves crawling and tight spaces.

We decided to take route 1 as we are afraid of spiders! Although if you’re braver than us, you should give route 2 a try and really explore the caves darkest corners.

Price: 40 baht per person to enter the main area of the cave. 100 baht for a guide – you will be asked if you want to choose this option once inside the cave

Top tip: The cave is actually a place of worship so appropriate dress for women is required. You can pay 20 baht to hire a sarong if necessary

7.  Watch the Sunset at Jiang Dara

View of Chiang Dao Mountain

We were recommended this quiet rooftop cafe by our host. The cafe sells delicious drinks and cakes throughout the day and traditional Thai food in the evening. We had this place to ourselves and had a perfect view of the sun setting behind the mountain. This is definitely one of our top things to do in Chiang Dao.

Location: This is a tricky place to find! Follow the map to Makhampon Art Space and turn right instead of left to find this cafe.

8. Grab a drink at The Cave Bar

Chiang Dao is certainly not party central. It’s a place where people sleep early and rise early. Although, if you’re after a drink or a game of pool, Cave bar is a great place to go. The small bar is close to Chiang Dao Nest and is one of the only ‘late’ bars in town. The owner is a very kind lady who makes her own homemade honey whisky and often hands out free shots to try!

Opening times: 5-11pm

9. Stop off at Arunothai village

A picture of Jack on a motorbike at the Thai Myanmar boarder

This one is for those with extra time in Chiang Dao. Arunothai is a small border village only 3km shy of  Myanmar. Part of the fun is the wonderful drive there along a quiet road surrounded by beautiful scenery, you can drive here after your visit to Pha Daeng National Park. This Chinese village is a great place to stop and try the famous noodle soup and gyozas before heading to see the Myanmar border.

We only recommend going here if you enjoy scenic moped rides and have some time to spare.

10. Chill out!

Chiang Dao is one of the best places to chill out in a hammock, listening to music or reading a book. No matter where you stay you’ll be surrounded by beautiful nature and the sounds of wildlife.

Where to stay in Chiang Dao

Dreamhome Chiang Dao

A picture of a cabin at Dream Home Chiang Dao

We’ve had two fantastic stays here in Chiang Dao. The lady and her son who own this guesthouse are the nicest people we have met on our travels! Stay here if you want authentic, home-cooked Thai food, clean rooms, views of the mountain and nights by the campfire exchanging stories. Take a look.

Chiang Dao Nest 1 & 2

Probably the most popular place to stay in Chiang Dao and for good reason. Stay in a beautiful bamboo cabin immersed in nature and enjoy the unbelievable food they have on offer. The accommodation boasts award-winning restaurants. Take a look.

White Bear Camping

Fancy something a little different? White Bear camping is a luxury camping resort with sensational views of the Chiang Dao mountain. You can even take an outdoor bath! Take a look.

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