This country absolutely abounds in natural beauty. The best way to soak it up and explore the limits of the landscape? Trekking in Thailand.
We have over one hundred national parks here, made up of mountains, hills, jungles and wetlands. They are the perfect places to catch a glimpse of the amazingly diverse animals and plants that live and grow in this unique country.
Thailand treks are an experience to nourish the mind, body and soul. Hiking is more common in the North — with Chiang Mai trekking being the most popular — but the South too is rich with possibilities for exploring nature on foot, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Here’s our guide to Thailand’s hiking hotspots for trekking junkies…
Chiang Mai and its surrounding areas offer some of the best hiking opportunities in Thailand. When you fancy taking a break from trekking, you can seek thrills by indulging in a spot of white water rafting, caving, rock climbing or elephant riding. Many guided tours are available to help you get the best out of your trek if you don’t fancy going it alone.
The Mae Tang and Chiang Dao districts are full of forests and scenic landscapes and usually the first port of call for Chiang Mai trekking. They are also home to Thailand’s many hill tribe villages. But perhaps the most famous geographic wonder to be found in the region is Doi Inthanon — the highest mountain in Thailand.
Hill Tribe Treks
Many people choose to visit some of the unusual hill tribe villages when they venture up to Chiang Mai, and there are a number of hiking companies that cater for exactly that.
Many tours offer the opportunity to cross paths with the Karen, Akha, Lahu and Padaung peoples. The latter are known for their women who cultivate long necks — with the help of brass rings — for themselves.
While it’s certainly interesting to explore the lives of people so different from what we know, there has been criticism levied against hill tribe treks that they have turned the tribes into a spectacle, nothing short of a human zoo. Think carefully before you go on such tours and do your research.
Chiang Mai Jungle Trek
Many hikers choose to visit Chiang Mai in order to get up close and personal with the jungle.
There are a huge number of operators offering multi-day jungle treks in the province, usually combined with some degree of hiking, rafting, elephant riding, and other such adventure activities.
Mountain Trekking in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is home to a handful of mountains over 1000 metres in elevation: Doi Chang, Doi Ang Khang, Doi Hua Mot Noi, Doi Saket, Doi Pui and Doi Suthep amongst others.
The province is also home to the three tallest mountains in Thailand, all rising above 2,000 metres: Doi Inthanon, Doi Pha Hom Pok and Doi Chiang Dao.
Multi-day treks and hikes are available for a number of the taller peaks, while some of the smaller ones are suitable to be climbed in a day without a guide.
Majestic Doi Inthanon rises to an impressive 2,565m, making it Thailand’s highest point. To get to the Buddhist temple at the top you’ll hike through mystical rain cloud shrouded forest, passing waterfalls along the way.
Best Hotels in Chiang Mai
- 4* hotel within the walls of the old city
- Surrounded by Tamarind Trees
- Spa, outdoor pool, poolside restaurant
- Tour desk for organizing trekking and hiking
- Thai cooking classes and umbrella painting can also be arranged
- 3* hotel just outside of the old city walls
- Outdoor pool, business centre, on site restaurant
- 100m from Chiang Mai Gate
- 24-hour front desk and tour desk
- 600m from Saturday Walking Street
Also in the North of Thailand, near the border with Laos, is Nan province: boasting six different spectacular national parks and a huge number of peaks to climb.
The largest and best known of the parks is the vast Doi Phu Kha National Park, which covers over 1,700 square kilometres. It’s wild out here and there’s everything a hiking addict could want, from jungle covered misty mountains to fast rushing rapids with plunging waterfalls.
It’s home to the province’s highest peak, Doi Phu Kha, which stands at an elevation of 2,079 metres. Hill tribe treks to the villages of the Hmong, Mien and Thai Lü peoples are on offer here, and it is also the only place in Thailand where you can find the extremely rare chomphu phuka – a medium-sized, pink-flowering tree.
With so much beautiful natural scenery, walking is the main activity here, but there are also opportunities for caving and white water rafting on the Nam Pa river.
Best Hotels in Nan
- Highly rated hotel with terrace views over the mountains
- Free WiFi and private parking
- Free use of bicycles and shuttle service
- Rooms are air conditioned with TVs and private bathrooms
- Boutique accommodation in Nan
- Free WiFi and private parking
- 24 hour front desk
- Free use of bicycles and car hire available
On Thailand’s West side, this far-flung valley in Tak province offers some of the most remote, challenging — and breathtaking — treks in Thailand.
Expect some river rafting as part of your adventure, as well as a refreshing swim at Tee Lo Su, a stunning multi-tiered, dramatic waterfall. You will require a fairly good level of fitness as hiking here can at times be tough, especially when the humidity levels are at their peak.
Best Hotel in Umphang
- Basic accommodation in Umphang
- Free Wifi and private parking
- Terrace and garden
- Onsite restaurant
Staying West, Kanchanaburi may be a mere 150 kilometres from Bangkok, but it feels like another world. The town itself is located where the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai rivers meet and join the Mae Klong river.
The town’s most famous landmark is the ‘Death Railway’ which traverses the infamous Bridge Over The River Kwai and Hellfire Pass: a visit to the museum or one of the World War II cemeteries here is an emotional and rewarding experience.
Away from the town there is an abundance of lush jungle for hikers to explore. Bathe in the waters of the 7 tiered Erawan waterfall in the Erawan National Park or take a longtail boat ride into Soi Yok National Park along the River Kwai Noi and be blown away by the dramatic scenery. Alternatively, soothe your tired body in the hot mineral rich waters of the Hindad Natural Hot Springs in Thong Pha Phum.
Aside from the obvious tourist attractions, the seven Kanchanaburi national parks have areas of dense tropical jungle and extensive networks of limestone cliffs and caves which were once home to Neolithic tribes. If you are fortunate enough you may be able to spot wild elephants, gibbons, flying squirrels, eagles and cobras here, amongst many other animals.
Best Hotels in Kanchanaburi
- 4* folk-style resort on the River Kwai
- Surrounded by tropical forests and mountain
- Private air-conditioned floating villas with sundeck and day beds
- Bathrooms decked out with luxury rainshowers
- 2km from Lawa Cave, 5km from Mon Village and 7km from Elephant Camp
- 4* resort on the banks of the River Kwai Yai
- 5 minute walk from the famous bridge
- 2 pools, spa, 7 different dining options
- 24-hour front desk and adventure activities
Khao Sok National Park
Rugged limestone cliffs tower over the man-made Cheow Larn Lake of Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand. The park is situated on the mainland nearby the popular tourist spots of Phuket and Khao Lak.
A trek through the dense jungle here may yield sightings of some of the diverse mammals, reptiles and insects that live here, such as Tapir, Malayan sun bears, clouded leopards, pangolin, vampire bats and gibbons. The range of plants and flowers here is equally impressive, and include the extremely rare Bua Phut – a parasitic plant that takes nine months to grow its only flower to a gigantic 80 centimetres in diameter.
If hiking through this amazing natural wilderness isn’t enough, visitors can meet majestic elephants up close, or look out for kingfishers and monitor lizards whilst canoeing or kayaking through streams and lakes. You can even stay overnight on Cheow Larn Lake where you will be woken by the incredible symphony of the jungle dawn chorus.
Best Hotels near Khao Sok National Park
- 3* resort with 5 bungalows in Khao Sok village
- Surrounded by hills and tropical garden
- Outdoor pool, restaurant and tour desk
- Free WiFi and parking space
- Airport shuttle service
- 500m from Khao Sok
- Free WiFi and private parking
- Hot spring bath and on-site restaurant
- Packed lunches on offer and adventure activities like canoeing and hiking
Khao Pom, Koh Samui
Our last destination in this Thailand treks guide is Khao Pom mountain on the tropical island paradise of Koh Samui. The mountain juts proudly forth from the centre of the island, rising to a peak of 635 metres.
The mountain’s inaccessibility has kept the tourists at bay, so it remains an unspoilt wilderness as the crowds gather around the island’s coastline. Hiking here is demanding — it can be strenuous and sometimes difficult to navigate. It’s a rewarding experience though, as it offers a unique glimpse of this lush and perfectly preserved environment. There are also some dazzling views of Koh Samui and out to sea once you crest the summit.
You could also include a visit to Paradise Park Farm as part of your trek. This 20 acre park is a great place for young and old alike to learn about some of the tropical birds and exotic animals that live on the island. There is also a refreshing pool with spectacular views of the ocean where you can relax and unwind after your trekking experience.
Best Hotels near Khao Pom
- 4* beachfront resort on Santi Beach in Lipa Noi
- Private villas
- Swimming pool, spa, tour desk
- Beachfront restaurant and bar with sunset views
- 3* resort on the beach in Lipa Noi
- 1.4km from Racha Ferry Pier
- Can arrange ticketing, car hire and shuttle services
- Massage, barbecue facilities and room service
- Snorkeling, canoeing and cycling available nearby
- On site restaurant and bar
Trekking in Thailand is a must for nature lovers, adventure seekers and fitness fanatics alike.
Your boots were made for walking, so get out there and get exploring!
What’s your pick for the best Thailand treks?