Chiang Dao ( เชียงดาว ) is a hidden gem in North Thailand with its unique flavour. And just as its name goes (Chiang Dao means “City of Stars”), It is an impressive mountain town, best suited for nature lovers and solitude seekers. Less frequented by tourists, you will find an authentic flavour of Thai culture in this far north town. You will feel weather getting colder and temperatures dropping as you drive up from Chiang Mai to the summit of Doi Chiang Dao, third highest mountain in Thailand.
Offering everything from hiking to cave exploration, this is a popular destination for birders and trekkers. As we left from Chiang Mai on our Mae Hong Son loop bike trip, Chiang Dao was our first stop. We stayed here only for a day before heading to Pai but it turned out to be a welcoming and pleasant experience. Here are the top things that you can experience in Chiang Dao trip –
- Explore Chiang Dao Caves (ถ้ำเชียงดาว) and Divine Wat Tham Cave Temple
- Visit Wat Tham Pha Plong – 510 Steps Buddhist Mountain Temple
- Soak your soul and body at Chiang Dao Hot Springs : Pristine and Clean
- Experience Local Thai Culture at Chiang Dao Tuesday Market
- Enjoy Farm-Stay at Ban Tham village of Chiang Dao
- Have a sumptuous dinner at Chiang Dao Nest Restaurant
(Go to the Top) Chiang Dao Caves (ถ้ำเชียงดาว) is the best attraction at this beautiful mountain town. Also known locally as Tham Phra Non cave, these 12 kilometers caverns (out of which only a part is open to tourists) offer you the adventure of exploring large hanging stalactite structures and big chambers as you walk through the darkness with a local guide holding a gas lantern.
You may read more about our experience at our blog here – Chiang Dao Caves and Divine Wat Tham Cave Temple
(Go to the Top) During our Thailand Trip, we happened to visit many temples but this certainly scores in the top one and in case, you are headed to Chiang Dao, we certainly recommend a visit to Wat Tham Pha Plong (วัดถ้ำผาปล่อง). After our visit to magnificient Chiang Dao Caves (ถ้ำเชียงดาว), it took us some time to find the path to the temple but it was worth the efforts.
Wat Tham Pha Plong is situated up on the mountain inside the green dense forest and can be reached by this 501 steep naga stairway. A quite and peaceful hike, you will find no one but few monks as you climb up the stairs to reach beautiful cave temple.
You may read more about our experience at our blog here – Wat Tham Pha Plong
(Go to the Top) Chiang Dao Hot Springs are in natural setting and little known to most visitors. In North Thailand , you will find many hot springs but most of the are commercial with paid entry and also have been converted to swimming pool kind of settings. Opposite to that, these hot springs are in natural settings on the side of a water stream just next to Chiang Dao National Park. A favorite with locals, these hot springs are open to all with no entry fee. Caution: Many people confuse these with Pong Arng Hot Spring which are around 35 kilometers from Chiang Dao. These hot springs are just next to Chiang Dao, a few kilometers away in Ban Tham village (Location), same village where Caves are located.
You may read more about our experience at our blog here – Chiang Dao Hot Springs
(Go to the Top) We happened to be in Chiang Dao on the right day -Yes, on Tuesday to experience the famous Tuesday Market. Chiang Dao Tuesday Market has an authentic local flavour and is not at all touristy. With stands on both sides of the main road of the town, you will find shops selling everything – garments, spices, vegetables, fruits, meat, pickles and what not. Crowded with locals walking through the market, you will get a very authentic flavour of Thai culture in this market. This market is also called as the 1001 meter market with shops over a length of almost 500 meters on both sides of the road.
You may read more about our experience at our blog here – Chiang Dao Tuesday Market
(Go to the Top) If you are travelling to Chiang Dao, then do plan your stay at one of the farm stays in Ban Tham, a small village on the west of the town. All major attractions ( Caves, Wat Tham Pha Plong, Hot Springs) too are located on this side of the town. There are multiple farm-stay options and it would certainly be a unique experience as you will stay away from the city hustle bustle in one of the farm-stays, at jungle foot-hills surrounded by mountains and right on the side of a water stream. We had stayed at Do Dao Daoi Farm Stay, just next to hot springs.
You may read more about our experience at our blog here – Farm Stay in Chiang Dao
(Go to the Top) Why are we recommending visit to a particular restaurant in Chiang Dao? So, you are not guaranteed an admission at Nest Restaurant if you do not inform them by evening. Team is small but they go to any limit to make you enjoy you dining experience. Most of the restaurants in Chiang Dao close early, so plan your dinner well. Situated on way to Wat Tham Pha Plong, this place has an awesome ambiance and an equally sumptuous food. Finger-licking Thai delicacies and welcoming staff will make your evening memorable. Certainly the best we got in North Thailand.
Disclaimer: None of the recommended places have sponsored us. We recommend them because we had a unique and pleasant experiences there 🙂
From Chiang Dao, you may further head up north to Chiang Rai or in case, you have an additional day at hand, do visit Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls. Mid-way from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao, around 1.5 hour scooter drive from Chiang Mai, these waterfalls are amazing and unique as you can walk down and climb up the waterfall.
It was an awesome experience for us in this far North town. One day was not enough and we will certainly head back to Chiang Dao some time again. Please write to us in case you need any additional details or comment below if our blog helped you plan your trip better.