Bangkok’s laidback sister city to the north has all the trimmings of cosmopolitan city life, channeled through a seriously nature-based ethos inspired by the beauty of the surrounding region. As the unofficial national capital of wellness, healthy cuisine, and conservation stewardship, it’s no small wonder Chiang Mai rules the roost for eco-minded accommodation.
Jump into the earthy Chiang Mai vibe with a stay at one of these eco-friendly hotel and accommodation options in Thailand’s rugged north.
This city-side paradise was founded decades ago by a local farmer and his wife, built upon traditional teak design and sustainable farming and gardening practice. Today, the property has evolved into a gorgeous resort operating 67 air-conditioned units appealing to any need and style, from low budget shared spaces to more private, en suite deluxe rooms. The rooms frame a 50-meter swimming pool set within a lush garden, while the on-site restaurant peaks into the property’s treasured past, set within the sturdy, generations-old barn house.
A family-owned farm operating for more than 20 years, BMP Farmhouse offers modest rooms for guests eager to help the owners rehabilitate rescued elephants through its Elephant Care Project. The project provides food, nurturing, medical treatment, and lots of love to elephants rescued from exploitative conditions, and guests learn how to interact with Thailand’s sacred animal, helping them to adapt to their new environment. Options are available for arranging longer-term volunteer opportunities.
It doesn’t get much more back-to-nature than taking refuge in a teak forest treehouse. Property-wide, the only sounds echoing throughout are the faint buzzing of crickets hiding in the dense thicket, the morning calls of birds of paradise, and the trickling stream that opens up to a small waterfall. At 70 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai, the treehouse cottages offer instant access to incredible nature, and the very architecture of the property encourages a different kind of relationship to the natural environment, built on a vibe of sustainability and conscious behaviour.
Situated in the lush Chiang Mai hillside, this resort was designed to preserve the natural resources within and around the property, and to offer an accommodation option that ensures minimal negative impact on the environment. The resort boasts 35 modest, Thai-style rooms, and organizes a huge variety of eco-focused experiences to enjoy the surrounding environment in a wholly sustainable way, while learning about the history behind the beauty. Try out their bamboo rafting tour along the Mae Win river, visit local Karen villages along a trekking route, learn about the traditional rice production processes of the region, and play with elephants at the nearby rescue sanctuary.
Nine hand-built private adobe houses and a larger dormitory are available for dreamy nights on this sustainably-driven property in the sleepy village of Baan Maejo. Today, Earth Home is one of the main learning centers in the country promoting sustainable living, and guests can take advantage of all the on-site workshops like natural building, permaculture gardening, and wellness courses. The on-site cafe and restaurant is supplied with organic delights from the property’s permaculture gardens, cooked to perfection by the Earth Home chefs.
This bright property right in the center of Chiang Mai offers the best convenience for sustainably-discerning travelers. Just 500m from Siri Wattana Market, nearly all of Chiang Mai’s top attractions are just a bicycle ride away, and guests enjoy mountain views over the cityscape from private balconies. Sustainability is woven into every aspect of the hotel’s operation, from including reusable bags on your room key so you’ve always got one handy, free water refills throughout the property (and reusable bottles available for use if you don’t have your own), and a well-managed recycling program explained to guests on arrival.
Why stay near the water when you can snooze directly on it? These floating homes are accessible by taxi boat only, and the open-air sleeping spaces are arranged across several levels – the “lakefront berths” and suite, a second floor dorm, and two private upper platforms with panoramic views. Guests share a kitchen and bathroom facilities, and the facility offers free access to kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, inner tubes, and an activities deck with yoga mats, cushions, and hammocks. Almost everything is run by solar power and wi-fi is limited, encouraging a full digital detox.
Get truly back to nature – without the hassles of conventional camping – and cosy up in one of these spacious, private tents stocked with your full amenities. Built on raised platforms to keep out the elements and critters, these minimalistic gazebos are nestled among rice fields and a quiet river, offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The surrounding “campgrounds” also have spaces for outdoor barbecuing and on-site breakfast is truly farm-to-table, channeling the owners’ overall sustainability mindset. Guests can gather fresh salad from the organic farm, choose eggs from the chicken coop, and pick mushrooms from the mushroom house.
Sitting atop a five-acre expanse of tropical water gardens and winding streams, in spite of its modest name, Howie’s Homestay is an exercise in luxury and stunning design. The property is dotted with a collection of pavillions constructed with gold teak, a naturally insect-repelling wood, which has been entirely reclaimed and recycled from old buildings. Green energy concepts are visible throughout the property, itself incredibly rich with tropical plant life, ensuring a truly sustainable – if not also opulent – experience.
Set within lush green rice fields, the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai delivers fully on its brand name, evoking ultimate luxury and design. From morning monk offerings to expansive nature trails, buffalos bathing in the property ponds, and free Thai language lessons, culture and sustainability is highlighted across guest offerings. Channeling this ethos into operations, the resort’s three restaurants source a large portion of their produce from the Royal Project, an initiative designed by the late King Bhumibol, which promotes organic and sustainable farming while supporting rural communities.