Offbeat Places to visit in Chiang Mai
I love Chiang Mai. It is one of my favourite cities in the world. And it’s not just the city, but the whole of northern Thailand with its beautiful tropical mountain ranges and super sweet people.
I go to Chiang Mai every year during the winter months and each time I go, I try to explore a few offbeat places in Chiang Mai.
During my quests of exploring unique places in Chiang Mai, I have also discovered whole villages with no internet connectivity, roller coaster parks in the middle of the jungle and gorgeous gardens (I swear I have never seen such beautiful gardens before, and that too so many).
So without too much banter, I would like to share my list of some of the offbeat places you can visit in and around Chiang Mai.
If you are visiting for the first time, you may also want to see our list of the most popular tourist spots in Chiang Mai.
1. Pongyang Jungle Coaster & Adventure Park
Pyongyang Jungle Coaster & Adventure Park is a small (like really small) amusement park with a few rides and also some adventure sports. It is special because of its location. It is located deep in the jungles and the rides are built around the landscape and it feels very themed.
The rides/activities are not very extreme and I think most kids will enjoy them too. The major attraction is the jungle roller coaster of medium intensity which takes a circuit of the whole area zooming past green tropical trees.
You can also enjoy zipline, jungle bike (riding a bicycle on a thin rope high up from the trees), Quick Jump, Giant Swing, Slider Airbag (sliding down on a giant airbag), Easy Jumper (Jumping on a trampoline using strapped harnesses) and a lot more. You don’t even need to buy the full ticket, you can pay for any selected activities that you want to experience.
If you haven’t tried any of the above, I think it’s a good place to do so. But if you have already, then you can also skip these since I found the prices quite steep, especially for foreign tourists.
Ticket Prices: Each activity (except zipline) will cost THB 300 per person for foreign tourists and THB 150 per person for Thai nationals. Zipline starts from THB 1500 per person for 14 stations. You may get discounted prices for all of these online though.
How to reach: You will need a private vehicle to reach here. You can either rent a taxi for the day or get your own vehicle. The way up is slightly mountainous, so make sure you have some experience with it.
2. Mon Jam
Just a little ahead of Pongyang Jungle Coaster is another fantastic place that you must stop at. Mon Jam is a mountainside area with a lovely view of the surrounding valleys, rows of lovely gardens and a chance to camp out in the countryside.
You can drive up all the way to Mon Jam and park your vehicle in the parking area. At the lower level are a few shops and cafes owned and run by locals of the Hmong tribe, common in this part of Thailand.
You can identify them by their colourful traditional clothes and even wear or buy one. They sell local produce like fruit wines, dried nuts and fruits and local coffee.
You need to walk a little to reach the viewpoint on a slightly higher level. There is some area to explore on both sides. Make sure you spend some time in the gardens bursting with local flowers. Pair it with a coffee from the cafe nearby.
If you can, spend the night here. You will find a lot of tents (basic and luxurious) erected on the mountainside. The view is even better early in the morning.
There is no cost to explore the area, but you may have to pay a nominal charge at the gate to enter the gardens in the area.
3. Chiang Dao
Chiang Dao is an important mountain range in the north of Chiang Mai located around 70 km away. Chiang Dao is also the third highest mountain in Thailand, although not a lot of people summit it frequently.
There are quite a few places to visit around Chiang Dao like Chiang Dao caves, hot springs, villages tucked away far in the countryside, a few waterfalls nearby as well as a couple of important temples. You can also stop at a lot of places on the way.
You can do this trip in a day if you start early in the morning. We decided to stay at one of the hamlets up on Chiang Dao with a view of the mountain and a lovely traditional Thai village. In that case you can cover a lot more during your trip.
Another important reason I would suggest visiting is to experience a rosy cold morning in this hot country and a chance to catch a clear sky with so many stars at night. Its is a fantastic place in Thailand for stargazing.
If you wish to read more about the trip check out this article on Visiting Chiang Dao in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Check out some tours from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao below:
4. Erotic Gardens
Erotic gardens are one of the places we stopped at while making our way to Chiang Dao. Located 24 km north of Chiang Mai, it’s not exactly too convenient to reach. Although I think it was worth the effort. You will definitely need a private vehicle to reach here.
You can guess by the name that there is something erotic about it. But it will astound you by how the sculptor has expressed it. You will find rows of phallus (yes…dicks) statues pouring out water to make a series of fountains as you enter.
Statues, both male and female, in erotic positions are located all over the garden. Some are just there, others force you to think. It’s not just humans, there are also large fruit sculptures that are aphrodisiacs present somewhere in between.
The owner was very sweet and welcoming. She told us why she built it, where she got her inspiration from and how she wanted to break out of a society that is not ready to embrace the sensual side. There is a ticket to the place and you get a tea serving after the experience. We had ours in the lovely canopy in the gardens.
Ticket price to Erotic Gardens: THB 200 per person
Timings for Erotic Gardens: 10 am to 4 pm from Wednesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
5. SriLanna National Park
SriLanna National Park is a large reservoir and forest watershed area a little north of Chiang Mai. You can enter the national park from a lot of places. The main attraction is the water. So, if you wish to spend more time you can also book a water bungalow at the shore.
The bungalows are not exactly in the middle of the water but just a little way ahead on the shoreline. There are several hotels available so feel free to change or explore others if you don’t like the first one. The services are really basic but the views are fantastic.
On the west coast is Mae Ngat Dam and if you walk over it. If you are here, then you can also rent boats for the tour. A boat will charge THB 500 for the full tour. On some days, you can also rent equipment for water activities like kayaking and canoeing.
The restaurant right at the entrance has a large menu and is a great place to sit and eat. The menu has several options of dishes made out of freshwater fish. I didn’t try any but as per the reviews, it tastes great.
6. Bo Sang
Bo Sang is a small village just 12km east of Chiang Mai. It is famously known as Bor Sang umbrella village. Most of the locals produce paper umbrellas, something like the Japanese umbrellas carried by beautiful geisha.
The structure is built of bamboo and the main body was initially made out of paper produced from mulberry bark. All of this is done in the village, even the production of paper. Now cotton cloth is also used for the body.
Over time, the simple umbrella has evolved into a local style with Thai elements. The top is painted with beautiful flowers and nature drawings. Umbrellas are available in numerous bright colours with added trimmings unique to this place. You can head directly to the Umbrella Making Center as soon as you reach.
A large shop at the entrance gives a glimpse of all the products that the factory makes (which are not just umbrellas). The factory is right behind and you can participate in the process. There are other shops in the village too where you can buy the same kind of craft.
I also wanted to mention that the village has a unique festival called the Bor Sang beauty contest. It takes place in the first week of February when local young women dress up in traditional Thai clothes, ride a bicycle and hold an umbrella in one hand to participate in the pageant. If you can catch it, do it.
7. Mae Kampong
Mae Kampong is another small beautiful hamlet east of Chiang Mai about 50 km away. It was established around 200 years ago when a small crowd of locals moved to this place with the prospect of growing tea.
With its ideal weather and altitude, Mae Kampong is perfect for tea cultivation. And like other mountainous villages in northern Thailand, the locals also grow coffee here. But lately, the town has been attracting a lot of local tourists for a weekend trip. So you will find the town full during the weekends and considerably empty during the weekdays.
Some locals have converted their homes into guesthouses to give the opportunity to travellers to stay inside the village and experience the local way of life. There isn’t much to do in the area honestly, so you really have to just relax. But there are still quite a lot of cafes to check out.
The journey to Mae Kampong follows a hilly terrain so if you are driving by yourself, be watchful of the speed. Carry all essentials you need since there aren’t a lot of shops, not even a 7-Eleven.
How to reach Mae Kampong: The best way is to take a private vehicle. But you can also take a van from Warorot Market in Chiang Mai that costs THB 150 and takes around 1.5 hours to reach.
8. Terracotta Gardens in Lamphun
Terracotta gardens is a new tourist attraction opened in Lamphun district, right at the border of Chiang Mai district in 2021. The gardens are a large compound of terra cotta artworks that are not just sculptures but as large as buildings.
The owner of this place is the Maiwan family who started the production of terra cotta and sell it out in other parts of Thailand. Their factory is also located in this compound along with a unique coffee shop. The terracotta products are inspired by Khmer and Chinese art styles. If you have been to Cambodia, Ayutthaya or Sukhothai, it would seem that a lot of these pieces will just fit in perfectly with the temples and ruins.
Since the journey is long, and you still want to experience the place, you can book their hotel in Chiang Mai which is a unique boutique-style hotel called Phor Liang Meun Terracotta Arts Hotel located inside the old city walls. It is also very gorgeous. They also opened a restaurant after that called The FACES Gallery & Gastro Bar right next to the hotel.
9. Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens
This botanical garden was established in 1992 by the Thai government to study and protect the local biodiversity of Thailand. It was the first botanical garden in Thailand of international standards for scientific research, education and conservation.
The gardens are so vast that you will probably need a vehicle to go around inside it too. You can take in your car or two-wheeler for a price or you can use the carts inside the gardens to take you around. You also get a map at the counter.
There are numerous sections in the park. Each section is thematic and is segregated sometimes by the types of plants and environment requirements. Some of them are climber collections, Thai orchard nurseries, rock gardens and more. There is even a small museum inside.
But the most impressive and enjoyable feature is the canopy walkway that is the longest in Thailand till day. On a clear day with a cool wind, it is the perfect Chiang Mai outdoor day.
The garden is located 30 km north of Chiang Mai, just north of the Doi Suthep range. You will zoom past it if you are travelling to Mon Jam. Winters and springs are the best time to visit.
Entrance fee to Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens: THB 50 per person for the visit. Additional THB 30 to take in a motorbike and THB 50 for a car.
10. Dutch Farm
Dutch farm, like many others in Thailand, is a farm as well as a tourist attraction where people can not only see the workings of a farm but also interact with animals, enjoy a day in the outdoors and grab something to eat.
Uncle Boon started this farm. He was disappointed when he took his children to visit the zoo and his children couldn’t interact with the animals. He built this farm so both the animals and people are happy and enjoy each other’s company.
The main attraction of the park is a lovely dutch style windmill as a background to the flower gardens. The farm is huge, has a lot of walking space but you can also rent bicycles. Everyone can interact with animals like goats, sheep, ponies, rabbits, chickens and buffalo.
The farm animals are quite friendly and even kids can touch or ride them without being scared. There is also a playground for all the kids to play together. If you want more, you can even stay at the farm by booking your room here.
Dutch Farm ticket: THB 150 for foreign travellers and THB 100 for Thai Nationals
11. San Kamphaeng Hot Springs
There are quite a lot of hot springs in north Thailand, especially around Chiang Mai. San Kamphaeng is one of the most popular ones, especially with the locals.
Like most tourist hot springs, you can take a bath and enjoy the mineral-rich sauna in open pools bubbling with hot water. The place has two natural hot springs shooting water over 100°C but it cools down a bit once it is out in the atmosphere.
A very popular activity here is boiling eggs in hot water. You can buy eggs at the counter that comes in a bamboo basket. Leave it in the hot springs between 3-15 minutes depending upon how you like your eggs. It would be a unique experience to eat these laying in the warm bath.
If you don’t wish to soak yourself completely, there are also smaller pools where you can just dip your feel and enjoy.
In case you want to stay around in the area and enjoy a private bath in the countryside, you can check out Sippa Hot Spring Resort
Ticket Price for San Kamphaeng Hot Springs: THB 100 per person and THB 50 per person for the mineral baths. Prices vary for different pools and activities.
How to reach San Kamphaeng Hot Springs: If you are looking for public transport, you can take a bus from Chang Phuak Bus Station to San Kamphaeng. From there you can hire the two-seater mini-truck (costs THB 200) or any other local transport.
12. Araksa Tea Garden
Now, this is as offbeat as it gets. To the north of Chiang Mai are tea gardens that produce some of the Thai tea you pick up at the drinks counter. If you have the taste for tea, you can instantly recognize the difference between Thai tea compared to others. The aroma is stronger and even feels slightly bitter.
These tea gardens give you a chance to see them in action. The tea gardens in Thailand are slightly different. They are smaller and also located at a lower altitude than usual. But it is just so unique to this place. The butterfly pea tea here is something that you don’t find in a lot of places.
The Hmong people pick the tea leaves by hand, dressed up in their beautiful colourful clothes decorated with pink beads. You can join them for the picking. Then you see how the tea is dried, roasted and processed.
Of course, you can taste it. The kitchen also offers food, made from fresh farm ingredients and the presentation looks lovely. You can also pick their signature tea and take them back as a gift for friends and family.
How to reach: While you can drive up to this place, you can also join a group tour from Chiang Mai city or book one online.
Ticket Price: THB 650 per adult and THB 325 per child (2-12 years).Tour Details: The tours start from 9 am, 11 am and 2 pm and last around 1.5 hours.
13. Flower Gardens
Chiang Mai province blooms with beautiful gardens during the winter and spring season. And there are so many beautiful versions of it all around the province. Some are more organized and built into beautiful royal parks, some are locally owned and more personal.
You can head to some of these gardens just north of the city. The gardens grow different kinds of flowers and make a great place for some photography. The gardens are usually trimmed immaculately into beautiful topiaries decorated with sculptures in between.
I am sure you will also be able to find some fountains and a glasshouse with rare plants somewhere as well.
The entrance fee is usually nominal. The best time to visit is in the evening when the heat has subsided a bit. Here are some of the gardens you can visit.