Chiang Dao (เชียงดาว) is a town in Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand. It is in a valley north of Chiang Mai between green mountains. Its main attractions are the Chiang Dao Cave, Doi Chiang Dao and the Pha Daeng National Park.
By carFrom Chiang Mai, Hwy 107 runs 72 km north to Chiang Dao and then on to Fang and Thaton. The nearest major airport and railway station are in Chiang Mai. A metered, air conditioned taxi will cost about 1,000-1,200 baht one-way.
By busEvery half hour from 06:00-18:00, buses and songthaews run south to Chiang Mai (40 baht) and north to Fang (40 baht). They can be flagged down anywhere alongside the highway.
Six buses per day also run from Chiang Mai to Thaton via Chiang Dao. 90 minutes, 40 baht.
You can ask the driver to stop anywhere along the side of the road, which is often better than getting off at the Chiang Dao bus stop, where songthaew drivers charge 100 baht or more to take you to a resort.
Taxis usually loiter near the 7-Eleven. Negotiate with the drivers directly: while guesthouses can arrange cabs, they will add a substantial mark up.
Some places, such as Mon and Kurt's Restaurant and Guesthouse, rent reliable bicycles and mountain bikes (~100 baht per day).
Chiang Dao CaveThe cave is a part of Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary. The best-known attraction here, offering 12 km of stalactite-laden caves — although only five of the caverns are accessible to the public. Chambers are large and there are sinter formations, however, no spectacular colours - rather everything looks like covered by a sheath of dirt. You can tour the lighted part of the cave (350 m) alone (40 baht). Somewhere along the lighted path, guides with lanterns hang around to offer an excursion to unlit parts of the cave. A tour costs 200 baht per group of up to 5 persons. It involves crawling through narrows, some steep steps and brings you to real bats and sinter formations such as an elephant and an upside-down lotus flower. Bringing your own torch is recommended.
Doi Luang Chiang Daophone: +66 2 5612947This 2,225 m conical limestone mountain in the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary is Thailand's third-highest peak (after Doi Inthanon and Doi Pha Hom Pok). Narrow plains on top of the mountain provide spectacular views that include a sea of fog on the Chiang Dao side, Doi Sam Phi Nong, the Chiang Dao mountain range, and the far end of Doi Inthanon. The peak is cool and windy. It is full of rare highland flowers, birds, and butterflies. Visiting Doi Chiang Dao needs an approval letter from the Director of Wildlife Reserve Division, Royal Forest Department. It must arranged at least 2 weeks before travelling.
- Getting there: The peak is accessible on foot. At Chiang Dao cave, guides, porters, and chartered transfers to the starting point of the trail are available. Rented local trucks cost around 900 baht and a porter is 300 baht per person. There are no tourist facilities on Chiang Dao Mountain. Visitors must bring their own sleeping bags, food, and water. If you are a very fit trekker you might be able to climb up and down in one day if you start very early. There is a small village with the lodging near the start of the northern trail, easily accessible on a motorbike via paved road.
- Descending the mountain is possible on the trail near Ban Tham, which is located near Chiang Dao cave. The trail is rather steep; nevertheless, it could shorten the walking distance upon descending. It is quite difficult to climb up.
Pha Daeng National ParkOver 1,000 sq km of stunning craggy mountain park begins adjacent to the town. The altitude makes it cooler and drier than the plains and it can get downright cold in the winter. The semitropical local flora includes extensive bamboo forests. The many mountain streams and waterfalls make the park good for trekking. In addition to the mountain views there are many Lisu and Karen hilltribe villages scattered throughout the park.
BirdwatchingThe region is one of Thailand's top spots for ornithologists. Malee's Nature Lovers Bungalows caters to bird watchers and are very helpful with bird watching information.
Chiangdao Hot SpringsBathe in two very nice Japanese gardens, with a restaurant, bamboo gazebos, changing rooms, showers and toilets. The original bathing area, a little up the road, is just several small concrete basins fed from a pipe.
phone: +66 53 046 370First take a cold shower, then bathe in one of two hot pools surrounded by pleasant landscaping.
San PhakiaA mountain spot for overnight camping with a fantastic view over Doi Luang Chiang Dao and the valley below. In January, it's good place to see cherry blossoms. Tents, mattresses, and blankets are available to hire (300 baht/tent). A few bungalows are also available. Accessible on a small bike, but not on the heavier bikes with street tyres.
Bamboo forestA very large bamboo forest dominated by clumped bamboo groves. Dark and a little foreboding even in the day time. Muddy river crossing may be necessary. No signs. Very large, takes about half an hour to cross by motorbike.
- Every Tuesday morning the town has a big market with many hill tribe people coming down to trade.
Chiang Dao Nest Tours and TrekkingOffers a wide variety of 2-3 day treks in the national park. Small, private groups led by local hill tribe guides, priced at roughly 1,000 baht/person/day all-inclusive.
Chiang Dao Nest (Western food) and Chiang Dao Nest 2 (Thai food)Delicious, fresh, local ingredients, high quality. Worth a stop even if you're not staying at the nest. Beautiful setting in the mountains to boot.
Haniba CoffeeNice coffee shop. Cheesecake!
phone: +66 81 9618387Reasonably priced Thai and Western food. A great breakfast with fresh homemade bread and jams. Cosy garden with pool and great views. Also offers sturdy, well-maintained bungalows with private bathrooms. Cheapest rooms (250 baht) have shared bathroom and a fan. Family and honeymoon suites are also available. Free Wi-Fi. Detailed maps of the area on display and there is a bird sightings log.
phone: +66 84 1739975Delicious Western, Thai, and vegetarian food, including cheesecake, nightly BBQs and great coffee. A popular place, reservations recommended on weekends. Fast, free Wi-Fi throughout. Restaurant air conditioned during the hot season. Khanom jeen (20 baht per bowl) available from 16:00 daily and also during the Tuesday morning market. Guesthouse is clean, spacious and comfortable. Beautiful mountain views from rooms and nice garden. The well-stocked bar serves imported beers, wines, spirits and cocktails. Happy hour (12:00-14:00 and 17:00-19:00) sees big bottles of Thai beer go for 50 baht.
Rim NamBefore the cave, just over a stream, is a riverside Thai restaurant which has thatched roof areas for lunch and dinner. Very pleasant and good Thai food with an extensive menu. Very large servings.
Take CafeJapanese restaurant, run by a Japanese gentleman and his wife on the road between Chiang Dao village and the cave. Very reasonable prices, jovial host, and enjoyable, inexpensive Japanese food.
North-side Vegetarian RestaurantVegetarian buffet restaurant in the standard Thai style. Select from six or so dishes with rice, take away or eat in.
phone: +66 87 2081269A small, cosy guest house run by a young friendly Thai couple who have had many years of hotel experience in Chiang Mai and speak reasonable English. There are 2 fairly large, simple but clean wooden bungalows (one double, one twin) each with fan, attached bathroom and hot shower. They have a small cafe at the front which is a great place to relax with a latte, fruit shake, or some Western or Thai food like pizza, spaghetti, pad Thai.
address: 233 Moo 12 Ban Rong VuaA nice, quiet place, offering rooms with private bath. The owners are a local couple who speak no English but are very friendly. If you are lucky, you might get some kind of free breakfast in the morning.
address: Chiang Dao Cave Village (Bahn Tham) Mu 5 Tambon Chiang DaoThree individual roundhouses for rent. Two of them are domes, and one has a traditional Thai thatched room. Each roundhouse is suitable for 2 adults, and one child. A Roundhouse has its own bathroom with a hot open-air shower, its own terrace with a view of Mt Chiang Dao. Breakfast and WiFi are included in the price.
- VIP (32 seat sleeper), First class, air conditioned bus, leaves at 18:30 (664 baht), in front of Mon and Kurt's Restaurant. Arrives about 05:00 in Bangkok.
- Leaves Chiang Dao 08:30, arrives Bangkok 20:00. 569 baht.
- Leaves Chiang Dao 19:30, arrives Bangkok 07:00. 569 baht.
Note that on Sunday afternoon the buses from Fang toward Chiang Mai are usually full and hard to catch from Chiang Dao. It is therefore preferable to leave on a day that is not Sunday if heading in that direction. Presumably the same goes for Friday night / Saturday morning towards Fang.
For reference, in 2018 it was viable to hire an entire sawngthaew from Chiang Dao to Chiang Mai for 2000THB, which can seat about 11 people (3 or 4 inside excluding the driver, about 8 at rear).