Best Kept Secrets of Chiang Mai, Thailand

Visit Doi Inthanon National Park at sunset for memorable vistas
Visit Doi Inthanon National Park at sunset for memorable vistas | © Noppasin Wongchum / Alamy Stock Photo
Lena Blos

Chiang Mai boasts plenty of activities, from elephant riding to scenic markets and dazzling restaurants. Sometimes though, you want to venture off the tourist trail and explore the city in all its authenticity.

You can now travel to Chiang Mai with Culture Trip as part of our 10-day trip to Northern Thailand – carefully planned by our team of travel experts and led by trusted local insiders to bring you a hassle-free, 100% authentic experience.

1. Doi Inthanon National Park


Situated within Chiang Mai province, Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand. The adjoining national park covers an area of 482sqkm (186sqmi). The mountain was named after King Inthawichayanon, one of Chiang Mai’s last kings who sought to preserve the tropical, northern forests. The park’s main attraction is its dazzling views, particularly during the early morning hours. Currently, the park is home to 65 different mammals such as gibbons, deer, boar and bats and over 362 bird species. Doi Inthanon is well worth the visit to experience Thailand’s dazzling nature and marvel at its beauty.

2. Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Institute

Health Spa, Building

The Vocational Training Center has given its inhabitants a chance at participating in a job training rehabilitation program and offers fantastic massages courtesy of the female inmates. The facilities include the massage center itself, a handicraft shop and a café. The women have served sentences for minor crimes and are due for release within six months. Their wages are saved for their release date and the women are eager to develop new skills in order to support themselves once they reenter Thai society. Why not enjoy one of the café’s freshly pressed juices while enjoying a traditional Thai massage and contributing to the fair rehabilitation of the mostly poor inmates.

4. Volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park

Natural Feature, Park

Chiang Mai, THAILAND - June 16, 2012: Group of elephants playing, eating sugar cane with their herd.
© Wacharachat Vaiyaboon / Alamy Stock Photo
Rather than visiting one of the many touristic elephant camps through Chiang Mai, why not work as a volunteer for the Elephant Nature Park, a rescue and rehabilitation center that aims to provide a peaceful space for the gentle giants. Most of them have been saved from illegal tourist industries and have now been returned to their natural habitat. The park is also home to numerous dogs, cats, buffaloes and other animals which are being taken care of. Daily tasks include the preparation of food, banana tree cutting and – the highlight of the day – bathing the elephants. Volunteers can spend their free time tubing down the river or relaxing on the scenic viewing platform. Whether you stay for a day or a week, the camp and its animals are grateful for any support and in return will give you the experience of a lifetime.

5. Bo Sang Handicraft Centre

Museum, Building

Handmade paper umbrellas drying in the sun at an umbrella factory in Bo Sang, Chiang Mai province, Thailand
© NICK FIELDING / Alamy Stock Photo

Bo Sang is located just outside the city center and offers a fantastic insight into Thai handicrafts. The center has specialized in the making of magnificent paper umbrellas. Not only are the umbrellas beautifully crafted but also decorated with signature floral designs which have earned Bo Sang a reputation throughout the country. All products are made from sa paper, which stems from the bark of the mulberry tree and more recently from cotton. Visitors can watch the skilled women during their work and acquire one of the charming umbrellas or other handmade products and souvenirs.

6. Pun Pun Farm

Natural Feature

Pun Pun currently operates three vegan restaurants in the city but also features a farm just outside Chiang Mai which focuses on organic farming, seed-saving and sustainable living. Additionally, it functions as a teaching center and visitors are able to participate in workshops or join as volunteer in order to learn more about self reliant living, community building, organic gardening and natural health. Visiting the environmentally friendly farm will make for an intriguing time for nature enthusiasts as well as laymen and the friendly staff will do their utmost to help you enjoy your stay. Previous volunteers have been involved in house building projects and farming activities and many have described it as one of the most rewarding experiences of their travel.

7. Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls

Natural Feature

Chiang Mai is one of the best places to rent a scooter and embark on a bike trip through the atmospheric countryside. And after a hot day on the road, why not stop by Buatong sticky waterfall, which despite its dazzling scenery, remains one of the city’s lesser frequented attractions. The waterfall consists of numerous levels and flows over porous limestones which due to their make-up lack the dangers of slippery stones. Instead, you can climb the waterfalls slopes without any fear of falling and enjoy a splash in the cool and crystal clear water. Buatong is free to enter but there is a small donation box and visitors should make sure not to litter in order to preserve the waterfalls stunning beauty for others.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

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