Few places in the world can compete with the mountains and hills of Northern Thailand when it comes to natural splendour and trekking opportunities. The Northern capital of Chiang Mai has long been known as the trekking capital of the country, and with 13 national parks in the province itself, and many more in the neighbouring provinces, it’s easy to see why.
Trekking the jungle of Ob Luang National Park.
It’s only natural then that we start in Chiang Mai itself. Furthest south is Ob Luang National Park. Set amidst mountains and bisected by a river, the highlight here is the view of the “Grand Canyon” as the river slices through the mountains to form a spectacular river-valley. Slightly further north is Don Inthanon, home to the country’s tallest mountain, and featuring two stunning pagodas set amidst the mountainous scenery.
Even closer to Chiang Mai itself is Mae Wang National Park. Here you can trek to one of the many waterfalls, explore the four different types of forest or be taken bamboo rafting by the local villagers.
One of the many wonderful waterfalls in Mae Wang National Park.
Doi Suthep National Park lies right outside the city, and as such is probably the easiest to visit. The park is famed for its many authentic Hmong villages and beautiful flowers.
The “Sticky Waterfall” is a highlight of Si Lanna National Park, located a bit north of Chiang Mai. Here the calcium in the water is deposited on the rocks, making them feel “sticky” and easy to navigate, while still appearing slick with water.
While Chiang Mai is the clear winner in terms of range of choice, you can go on treks from virtually any city, town or village in the North.
The “sticky waterfall” is certainly an unusual sight.
In the province of Chiang Rai, to the northeast of Chiang Mai, there are two clear winners among the national parks there. Doi Luang features a stunning number of waterfalls and caves, while Khun Chae is famous for its varied plant life including beautiful fields of flowers and bamboo forest.
Meanwhile, in Lampang far to the south, Chae Son is remarkably peaceful, and as the early morning fog shrouds the green forest, it presents a mysterious vibe sure to fascinate any visitor.
Part of the famous Mae Hong Son Loop.
If you make the journey up to Pai, you will pass through Huai Nam Dang National Park, and once in Pai, a great nature experience is to make the drive to Mae Hong Son, which takes you over winding mountain roads with many viewpoints, caves and waterfalls along the route.
The best time to visit any of these parks is in the spring months of March to early May, as the temperature is pleasant and the torrential rains are yet to arrive. No matter which town you choose as a base or what National Park to spend the most time in, your guests are sure to be impressed with the raw authenticity and scenic views.