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Thailand has other magnificent destinations aside from the popular ones like Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, and other islands, but Chiang Mai rarely makes it to casual conversations about the country. The truth is, it’s a hidden gem everyone should visit.
There’s something unique about this city that makes it feel really special. Undeniably, it’s the best place to visit if you’re looking to take a break from the busy metropolis.
At first glance, Chiang Mai may seem like a quiet and laid-back part of Thailand. With hundreds of temples and several bustling markets, it’s easy to think that the most you can do in this ancient capital of the country’s north are sightseeing and shopping. But move out of the urban areas and you will see that there are mountains, rivers, and waterfalls that leave plenty of room for some amazing outdoor adventures.
What adventure activities can you enjoy in Chiang Mai?
#1 – Trekking jungles and mountains
When it comes to trekking areas, Chiang Mai offers trails with varying difficulties. You can hike independently in a few short trails or join guided tours and trek in unmarked trails.
A popular short trail is the Pilgrim Trail that goes up Doi Suthep Mountain and connects one temple to another. You can pretty much go sightseeing and trekking at the same time when you follow this route.
If you’re up for it, climb the third tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Liang Chiang Dao. Then, explore the Chiang Dao and Mae Tang districts on foot.
Some trekking tours will take you to hill tribe villages, some of which were designed to draw tourists and are often inauthentic. So, it is best not to sign up for such tours and choose trails where there are villages along the way. Or, ensure you’re visiting a traditional hill tribe village than a made-up one.
#2 – Exploring forests from up high
(Image from Pixabay)
Ziplining through lush jungles and forests is a popular outdoor adventure in Chiang Mai. It’s one way to see what Mother Nature offers from a height.
What is great about ziplining is that there are numerous obstacles that you need to go through before you can zip from one end to another. If you have to climb nets, cross suspended sky bridges, and abseil after ziplining, your adrenaline is guaranteed to pump out of your ears.
There are many platforms built for ziplining that vary in length. Start with 20 meters to get your blood pumping and then end your adventure with a bang with the 400-meter zipline. Platforms can be 10 or 20m above the ground.
#3 – Conquer the force of the Mae Taeng River
An adventure tour in Chiang Mai is incomplete without river rafting through the Mae Taeng River. This is one of the most popular places for white river rafting because of its variety of rapids that both first-timers and experienced rafters can enjoy. What is even better is that there are remote hill tribe villages, terraced rice fields, and forested mountains that you’ll pass along the way.
Book adventure tours and you can combine a white-water experience with an ATV safari, zipline, trekking, or a mix of zipline and ATV. This is the best way to do and see more of the hidden natural wonders of Chiang Mai in a day or two.
Take your outdoor adventure up a notch by signing up for an epic two-day adventure that involves an ATV up the mountains, an overnight stay at a local village, trekking to the Mae Taeng River, and then white water rafting.
#4 – Kayaking through great waterways
There are more ways than one to explore Chiang Mai, and it doesn’t have to be limited on land or through jungles and mountains. In fact, with rivers and waterways combined, you can explore the capital aboard a kayak.
Your kayaking adventures can start peaceful, laid-back, and slow at the Mae Ngat Dam reservoir, and then more heart-pumping as you race down and through the rapids of the great Mae Taeng River. Because kayaking has different skill levels, you can choose to practice with a pro instructor first and kayak deep into the jungles or take on the challenge of Class III and IV rapids of the river in a 10km inflatable kayak with guides. Either way, you get to feed the adrenaline junkie within you.
#5 – Check out the off the beaten track
Now that you’ve experienced exploring the jungles and mountains of Chiang Mai on foot, you should do it all over again but on an all-terrain-vehicle or ATV. Look for adventure tour operators that offer 4×4 off-road safaris.
Enjoy a three-hour or four-hour drive on an ATV as you go through a mix of on- and off-road jungle terrain. This is another way to explore the local countryside without the physical exertion that you’d normally experience when trekking.
Then what happens after you reach the end of the trail? You can choose to go river rafting or ziplining before you hop back on your ATV and drive back to the real world.
There are plenty of other outdoor adventures that you can do in Chiang Mai.
Whatever you choose to do during your stay, it is strongly recommended that you exercise caution and err on the side of safety. The best way to do this is to buy tours from adventure operators as they know what’s the safest way to explore the outdoors.
The best tour operators…
- Will provide you with safety gear and equipment
- Have a local guide or professional instructor when needed
- Ensure you follow their instructions to the letter and wear protective equipment provided
- Cater to your desire for an adrenaline rush, including providing you with custom tour packages
You will never experience a destination unless you explore everything it has to offer. In Chiang Mai, you get a choice between safe and extreme adventures, both of which are enjoyable.
The next time you want to go on vacation, head out to lovely Chiang Mai, where the weather is cool, especially in the mornings, and the outdoor adventures are varied.
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