1. Observe Green Rice Terraces - Ban Pa Pong Piang
Ban Pa Pong Piang is located within Chiang Mai’s Mae Chaem sub-district, and sits 1,000 meters above sea level in the crisp mountain air. After a 90-minute drive from Chiang Mai and another 2-kilometer walk through a muddy trail, beautiful emerald rice paddies emerge and span as far as the eye can see.
The local hill tribes farm and harvest rice, corn and other vegetables that thrive in the cooler elevated temperatures. Combine the infinite amount of layered terraces with the rolling hills and mountain backdrop and you’ve got a photographer’s dream.
Tip: If you want to check out a truly spectacular view, visit in September or October (harvest season) during sunset. However, this is also rainy season in the north, so don’t forget your raincoat.
2. Spectacular Trekking and Camping - Doi Luang Chiang Dao Wildlife Reserve
Chiang Dao is a charming, sleepy little village found at the foot of Doi Chiang Dao mountain. The area is known for its limestone hills, which are over 200 million years old. The wildlife reserve is also home to the 3rd tallest peak in Thailand, and is a popular destination for hikers and day-trippers! There are several trails that lead to the summit, which average around 7km one-way. It’s recommended that you hire a guide if you plan to make the trek. This feat is usually accomplished in two days (one day up, one day back down).
Spend the night at the top and you’ll be treated to some seriously stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys below. Not to mention, a magnificent sunrise! It is possible to summit in just one day, if you are relatively fit. The surrounding valleys are an attraction of their own, hosting a plethora of nature’s finest. Rare flowers, birds and butterflies are just some of the wildlife you can encounter in the area.
3. Race around the Rollercoaster Tracks - Pongyang Zipline & Jungle Coaster
This Chiang Mai adventure park has something for everyone. Pongyang sets itself apart from the other zipline parks with its freefall bungee jump and Jungle Coaster. Whip around the treetops in a rider controlled rollercoaster at speeds reaching 40km/hour! If you’d prefer to take it easy, not to worry; you have a brake system inside each cart which allows you to control the speed of the ride.
Jumps, twists and turns will keep adrenaline junkies happy, while the lush green scenery appeases the rest of the riders. For zipliner enthusiasts, there are 36 different platforms to choose from. Fly through the jungle and over the trees on a variety of zip lines, ranging anywhere from 400-800 meters long. There are also various sky bridges included in the zip line packages.
For those looking for something other than ziplining, check out the 14-meter QUICKjump. A winding staircase takes you up 14 meters to a platform built around the strength of a sky-scraping tree. From here you will be harnessed in, permitted to jump, and experience an exhilarating freefall.
4. Bird-watching, Trekkking - Doi Inthanon National Park
Spanning 482 square kilometers, Doi Inthanon National Park is part of the Himalayan Mountain range, nicknamed “The Roof of Thailand”. It has the highest peak in Thailand, reaching 2,565 meters! Doi Inthanon’s summit provides incredible views especially at sunrise, and there are multiple treks around the park – some of which lead to beautiful cascading waterfalls – like Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail that starts from the main road and winds 2.5 kilometers into the thick of nature!
If you visit in January or February, you’ll even be lucky enough to see the Siamese Sakura flowers covering the trees in a blanket of pink!
5. Thailand’s Version of The Grand Canyon
The name, perhaps borrowed from the original Grand Canyon, U.S.A, perfectly defines the Thai version of the natural wonder. Looming orange cliffs flow into still emerald waters, painting a picture of peaceful perfection. The canyon water is actually the remnants of an old quarry where fresh water has since been trapped, creating tranquil pools thought to be 40 meters deep.
It’s a beautiful place to spend the day swimming, sunbathing and (for those who dare) cliff jumping! There are three different levels of cliff jumping options, the highest being almost 20 meters. Start small and work your way up. If you don’t fancy a jump, the cliff tops are a nice place to camp out for the day to take in the views of the valley, and watch the daredevils take the plunge.
For those who prefer chilling to adrenaline-pumping cliff leaping, inner tubes and lifejackets are available to rent from the restaurant (50 Baht and 25 Baht, respectively). Food can be purchased from the café or the outdoor grill, as well as water, juice, smoothies, and beer.
6. Observe Blooming Flowers – Mon Cham Chiang Mai
Located about an hour north of Chiang Mai city are the beautiful, sprawling flower fields of Mon Cham. The local hillside tribes (supported by the Nong Hoi Royal Project) use sustainable farming methods to produce a variety of vibrant flowers, as well as cooler-weather fruits and veggies such as strawberries and lettuce.
The flower and produce gardens in the hills are very well tended, and create cheery and colorful scenery. The panoramic views that stretch beyond the fields are just as pretty; gaze over the farms to the villages, valleys, and hills in the distance. Wander through the flower fields or visit the mountain-side café for a drink or meal, and unwind in the soothing atmosphere of uninterrupted nature. Sounds just like a dream, doesn’t it?
7. Watch Thousands of Lanterns in the Sky – Yi Peng Festival
Yi Peng is a festival that corresponds with another Thai holiday, known as Loi Krathong, which is celebrated throughout the country. Yi Peng Festival is more of a tradition in Northern Thailand, and takes place the night before the Loi Krathong celebration.
Yi Peng Festival is characterised by releasing Lanna-style paper lanterns into the sky. The purpose of the display is to show respect to Buddha, as well as to attach good luck wishes and prayers to the lantern. Lanterns are released all over Chiang Mai on the days leading up to and on the day of the festival – and thousands of lanterns all aglow in the sky at once is a sight not to be missed!