Written by Veyroniqa, Dawn Pillay
Edited by Dawn Pillay
Thailand is gaining popularity as a destination to escape the tropical heat. We kid you not!
If you’ve never considered checking out the mountains in Thailand, here’s why you should start thinking about it.
Up high in Thailand’s mountains (which Thailand has no lack of), there are many pleasant surprises awaiting. From jokester witches to erupting geysers, it’s all part of their charming parcel.
You will also be able to witness the rolling sea of clouds, not above you, but below! It’s quite an eye-opening experience so come along on the journey with us~
PS: If you’re keen to explore and experience the beauty and magic of Thailand’s mountains, transport is key. We went on a roadtrip to explore several of them ourselves and rented a car for it!
How to get there?
One of the most reliable and affordable car rentals we found was Europcar Thailand. We picked up our car upon arriving at the airport in Bangkok, and started our road trip immediately! (Their rental prices start from USD $35 / approx. 1091 Baht per day)
Our tip: If you plan to drive up mountainous roads like we did to reach Khao Kho, we recommend renting an SUV with higher power to go up the mountain. We got a 1.6L Sylvia and almost stalled the car, and 2 of us ended up having to get out and walk up while our friend drove up!
1. Mae Rim, Mon Cham
Stay among strawberry fields or a waterfall resort, dine with a view and more
First things first so you aren’t confused, Mae Rim is a district, and Mon Cham is an area near this district. Generally, this will be the area you cover when exploring Mae Rim/Mon Cham.
There’s much to do here. Whether it’s staying at a true waterfall resort with albino peacocks, or staying among the strawberry fields – there’s also interesting places to visit around the area!
a) Stay in luxury tented villas by cascading waterfalls – Sukantara Cascade Resort & Spa
One of Chiang Mai’s unique hotels, this waterfall resort surrounded by lush mountains and greenery is slowly enchanting many with a blissful retreat.
Set on flourishing hillside, this divine abode offers Lanna-Balinese style cottages set in jungle greenery and cascading waterfalls. Its pool villas are famously frequented by celebrities both local and international. But we propose taking the off-beaten path and staying at tented villas by the waterfall.
As the trickling water falls on the boulders, the sprinkled water creates luscious mist and it’s basically an experience that begs to be had once in a lifetime! Enjoy crossing the resort’s sling bridge to reach your tented villa. If you reserve both tented villas (there are only 2), then you have this whole other side of the resort all to yourself!
b) Witness a beautiful sunset at this mountaintop cafe – Baan Mon Muan
Looking for a restaurant with incredible views in Chiang Mai?
High above the city is Baan Mon Muan, a mountaintop resort with a rustic restaurant set in the rolling hills of Chiang Mai. If you visit in the late afternoon, you’ll witness a beautiful sunset over the mountains.
Bushy shrubs, ferns and flowers fill the garden, and tall trees cast shade on those dining below. The outdoor deck with wraparound couches has been built over the jungle and offers beautiful, uninterrupted views of the hillside and farmland.
Seafood, fried fish, traditional Thai side dishes, and cute little Thai dessert cakes and coffee is what you can expect to find on the menu.
c) Dine like a local and drink in the glorious views – Moncham Chiang Mai
A holiday hotspot and unique activity in Chiang Mai for holidaying locals, we were pleasantly surprised by how lovely it was to dine here.
Get seated in one of the little huts that feels like it’s right on the edge of the mountain, there are no chairs here. What you’ll get are comfortable seats on the bamboo platform, with a raised table in the middle, overlooking the mountain valleys.
Food is simple but fresh and oh-so-good. I would kill for another serving of that cabbage dish stir-fried with Thai fish sauce. (Another example of sweet mountain produce. :P)
PS: Don’t forget to visit the beautiful, sprawling flower fields of Mon Cham here. The local hillside tribes (supported by the Nong Hoi Royal Project) use sustainable farming methods to produce a variety of vibrant flowers, as well as cooler-weather fruits and veggies such as strawberries and lettuce!
d) Live on top of the misty mountains of Thailand ― Mong Nuea Homestay
Imagine you are among a cluster of wooden huts scattered in a lush green landscape, with breathtaking views from the top, fresh air and chilly weather.
Here’s where you can experience the folk life of Thailand’s most mountainous region – Mong Nuea homestay, a perfect welcoming place only a few hours’ drive from Chiang Mai. As this place is not well known, you won’t find many tourists, so you can immerse in the local culture and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Meanwhile, tear yourself away from your gadgets, technology and social media. Mong Neua is about purely experiencing the simple lives that the people lead. Give your mind that much-needed rejuvenation!
e) It’s a glamping paradise in the mountains! – Paradise Camp Monjam
A row of white glamp tents on the mountain top, with views for days. For those looking to experience something new and live a little, consider a night’s stay here!
We stumbled on this as we were driving through the mountain, and found that they were newly opened at the end of December 2017. It looked like an utter dream and for an instant, we almost decided to spontaneously book a night’s stay there just for the experience!
f) Excellent food in an incredible location with a view of Mae Rim Valley – Sala Mae Rim, Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
Let yourself be pampered at this resort with an incredible view of the Mae Rim Valley. Nestled among the lush vegetation, the restaurant is perfect for a romantic dinner or a relaxing high tea overlooking the mountains and rice fields.
Here you can indulge in exquisite dishes from Thai and international cuisine, fine wines and cocktails. The staff is attentive and helpful and will make sure you have an unforgettable experience!
2. Khao Kho
Popular for their sea of clouds but pleasant surprises await at every corner
Just 5 hours from Bangkok and to the north of Phetchabun, lies a magical land that will steal your breath away. It has been gaining more attention and is it conveniently accessible from Bangkok!
Also read: Thailand’s Cameron Highlands a few hrs’ drive from BKK: 19 Magical things to do in Khao Kho
a) For the European romantic at heart, with hot air balloon rides! – The Blue Sky Resort
Fields and fields of blooming flowers will lift your spirits at this resort, filled with delicate Euro architecture. The rooms are also to die for – paneled wooden walls in light shades and floral coverlets.
They even have ceilinged lavender at their dining area. The grounds are rich with color, and you can also go on a hot air balloon ride!
b) Stay in one of a kind baroques standing on the edge of the mountain – The Sense
Panoramic views await you at these romantic villas overlooking the sea of clouds every morning. When the mist clears, the revealed view is no less beautiful.
With numerous photo-op spots around the resort, you’ll be spamming your instagram feed for days. (There’s a restaurant on-site too!)
c) Ready yourself for great finds and a good food time – Lom Sak Street
You’ll have a pleasant time discovering great food and their floating market, with boats lined up on the river bank – where you’ll find handicrafts by the mountain tribes.
Make sure you’re hungry before you hit the place because you will totally wish you were. There are favourite Thai snacks and other arts and crafts.
The entire marketplace is decorated with flags and fairylights, and it’ll be so nice to stroll through it with the cool weather – rather than feeling hot and sticky in Bangkok markets.
d) Freshwater jellyfishes and hoards of butterflies – Bang Rachan Islet แก่งบางระจัน เขาค้อ
If you like nature, this is a great activity for you. With rare freshwater jellyfishes floating in the river, you might want to prepare a waterproof camera to capture the unique sight.
It’s a place for you to relax and enjoy, so just bring your peace of mind and just let your mind wander while witnessing the greatness of nature.
e) Hold on to your hats because you’ll be blown away – Wind Farm Khao Kho
A large farm harnessing the powers of the wind for energy. But that’s what not travellers are here for – it’s the giant swing.
Ok, but the windmills are pretty impressive too. Just look at all the turbines and the people having a blast taking selfies. Doesn’t it just look like a postcard?
PS: There’s a small local market at the entrance of the Wind Farm, and a few local shops selling fresh and super sweet strawberries (tastes as good as Korean strawberries, if not better!) in the Wind Farm too.
f) This Temple is probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen before – Wat Prathat Phasornkaew วัดพระธาตุผาซ่อนแก้ว
With all the things you could do in Khao Kho, this is one you really shouldn’t miss. They use coloured tiles in their designs, and when the sea of clouds roll in, you won’t be able to believe your eyes. It looks like something right out of a myth.
Other than that, others come to view the five sitting Buddha statue.
g) A farm and an eatery all rolled into one so the produce is fresh as can be – Tanrak Talaymok
Did you know that fruits and vegetables grown on mountains tastes the best? Sweet and fresh – and fresh food with a view at Tanrak Talaymok? Ain’t that the life!
Plus, it’s incredibly affordable. When you’re done eating, pack up because you can’t leave without exploring the place and taking a picture with the lavender and other flowers!
They also have accommodation, so if you’re reluctant to leave, you can always spend the night.
h) A world of great coffee and a local favorite – Pino Latte
Touted as the best coffee by foreigners and locals alike. They also serve colourful cakes and western cuisine.
It’s one of the best places to chill and watch the clouds rolling by. With great value for money, no wonder it’s such a popular spot.
3. Mae Hong Son
Stay in a tea plantation, eat a $1 noodle with a million dollar view
How would you like to be transported to a lovely Chinese village complete with a signature tea experience during your Chiang Mai trip? That’s what you’ll get at Baan Rai Thai. Not just that, Mae Hong Son has spectacular views awaiting you too.
a) Indulge in tea, scenery and more in this quaint little Chinese Village – Baan Rai Thai, Mae Hong Son
Baan Rai Thai is a small village with a population of just around 1,000 who are mainly Chinese-born or Thai-Chinese.
With a heavy Chinese influence on its signboards, buildings, and even the local language, Baan Rai is now stealing travellers’ attention with its unique charm, cool weather, Chinese food and locally grown Oolong Tea.
Originated from China, the famous Oolong Tea is grown right in these plantations. You can learn all about its production and harvest, and enjoy a hot cuppa tea yourself, while taking in the tranquil and green surroundings.
Tip: The best time to visit Baan Rai is from October to February, especially in February when an annual Tea Tasting Festival takes place.
In addition to a tea-licious holiday, you can also trek, cycle or do horse-riding around the scenic village, while staying at the most popular accommodation, Lee Wine Ruk Thai Resort, for that authentic Baan Rai Thai experience you won’t get elsewhere in Thailand.
b) Eat a bowl of noodles in the sea of mist – Ban Ja Bo Village
Your legs are dangling in the air, with a bowl of hot noodle soup that costs one dollar on the table. In front of you, there’s a panoramic view of a sea of mist filling up the mountain valley down below.
That’s what we call ‘a dollar dish with a million dollar view” – especially if you’re looking for the best places to see the sea of clouds in Thailand.
Ban Ja Bo Village is situated on Phu Pha Mok Mountain close to Myanmar border in Mae Hong Son province. In this small hill tribe village, the villagers live quietly with their traditions, but willingly welcome you to their homes.
At the entrance of the village, this roadside wooden shack sells only noodles and coffee, and the good view is complimentary. It opens early in the morning for the mist hunters but if you come in later in the day, you still can get a good view of the mountain.
If you’re not hungry, there’s also another viewpoint along the road in the village. The village is easily reachable by car, but the road is notorious for its countless curves. You can stay at a few homestays at the village too, if you’d like to immerse yourself in the culture of this unspoiled village.
Mae Hong Son
4. Phu Tub Berk (ภูทับเบิก จังหวัดเพชรบูรณ์)
See Thai Sakura blossoms and the peak of Phetchabun
Near Khao Kho and similarly just shy of six hours’ drive from Bangkok, it is the perfect place to travel to, to escape the Bangkok heat. If one sets out early in the morning, one might catch the incredible rolling clouds. If not, no matter, there’s still that low temperature to look forward to and the few attractions we’ve scrounged up.
a) A warm and inviting spot in the cooler climate – Mountain Tiger Kitchen ครัวเสือภูเขาภูทับเบิก
Grab a cold one and cosy up, aside from the low temperatures to look forward to, the pork leg also looks pretty impressive.
Another thing to try is their chicken wings with fried cabbage, because they have their own cabbage patch there – so you’ll be able to taste the sweet mountain fresh produce.
And, If you’re wondering whether you can get reception up here, I’ll do you one better – they have free wifi!
b) Take off your jacket and get a selfie with the huge thermometer – Phu Tub Berk Lookout อาคารหอดูดาวและที่วัดอุณหภูมิ
And prove to the world/your friends that you are made of steel. Plus, it’ll make a pretty cool post. If you’re a guy (or a very sporting girl) you can even take that one step further and take off your shirt 😉
You will see locals setting up camp at the campside on the lookout point, and if you’re really adventurous you, too, can give it a try.
c) Get bundled up for a cosy walk in the cold, and check out the local market – Phu Tub Berk Market
Located a walking distance from Phu Tub Berk Lookout, you will find the local market. That’s where you’ll be able to buy steaming roasted sweet potatoes, Hello Kitty Pancakes, cute winter wear and more! It was actually quite a fun experience strolling up and down the mountain alleys peeping at the local stores.
Phu Tub Berk, Petchaboon (ภูทับเบิก จังหวัดเพชรบูรณ์)
5. Doi Inthanon
Find the highest peak in Thailand and visit a Royal Project
Doi Inthanon is home to the highest peak (Kew Mae Pan) in all of Thailand! It’s also where you’ll be able to explore a Royal Project, and find great views of course.
a) Try duck with coffee sauce and trout steak with salsa! – โครงการหลวงอินทนนท์ Royal Project Inthanon
It might sound like weird combinations, but they are two of the most highly rated dishes here.
The airy open space goes well with the cool temperature, imagine sipping your hot coffee while breathing in fresh mountain air and a soft breeze happens to float by. Ah! Bliss.
If you’re not up for anything too crazy, they do serve your standard Thai cuisine too.
b) Finding Cingjing (Taiwan) in Thailand – The Sheep Farm
There’s another gorgeous area here that resembles Taiwan’s famous Cingjing Green Green Grasslands, that’s called The Sheep Farm (duh)! This is where you’ll get to interact with free roaming sheep and take photos with them.
c) A holy grail for athletic nature enthusiasts and photographers – Kew Mae Pan
The less athletically inclined might be more comfortable snapping pictures at the lookout point – but those who are not afraid of a challenge, should put on their hiking shoes because the nature trail is said to be amazing.
FYI, there is a secret opening between the 14th and 15th checkpoint that shows you a great view of twin pagodas.
d) Huts thatched from rattan or built from rocks – Inthanon Eco Hut
Honestly, we’re not sure if it’s actually thatched out of rattan, but it sure looks like it! And that’s pretty interesting: kinda like spending the night in a super oversized wicker basket.
They also have a caveman alternative, a villa made from what looks like bedrock. Really brings back memories of the Flintstones…
It can get pretty cold at night though, so think two pairs of jammies and socks plus an additional heater (300 baht) and an extra blanket (50 baht).
e) Claimed to be the highest spot in Thailand – Phra Mahathat Naphapholphumisiri
It is a great place for night sky photography, perhaps because it is so close to the heavens? Or perhaps it just that there is no light pollution going on in that area? Let us know in the comments if you do, but for now, let’s drool over these amazing wallpaper shots:
Aside from those killer views, the place has its charms too. Large gardens and cheap eats, it’s definitely a place to explore with your more outgoing and adventurous friends. Just make sure you check the weather forecast before visiting, you don’t want to get rained on!
f) A place with so many photo ops, it’ll make your head spin – Royal Garden Siribhume สวนหลวงสิริภูมิ
Cherry blossoms, rustic trails and waterfalls. This place has it all. Oh, and did I mention? It’s also a great watchpoint for the sea of clouds.
Plus, it’s not too far from Phra Mahathat Naphapholphumisiri, so you could potentially attraction-hop.
The clear waters would have you itching for a swim, but you’re not allowed to, so keep your clothes on! Although, you might see some naughty local kids splashing away..
6. Doi Ang Khang
Immerse yourself in truly stunning views and local tribe experiences
3 hours away by car from Chiang Mai is a pretty little quaint settlement, perfect for those who like unique experiences. It is a quiet life up by the border, where you can ride mules and go for long nature walks.
Home to four hill tribes – Musur, Palong, Thai Yai and Jean Hor – do not be surprised when you come across individuals who look distinctly Tibetan or Burmese (as some of them actually immigrated from there). They are very much into agriculture, so you will find plenty of farms, but more than that, you’ll be able to glimpse what it means to live simply.
a) A Bonsai heaven at a research institute – Royal Angkhang Station Project
They do have other plants, but the Bonsais are exquisite. Maybe due to the colder climate.
The lovely flowers that grow there are quite unusual due to being cold climate florals – perfect for snapping that selfie. Or, if you’re a photographer, you’ll surely enjoy having the locals/tribesmen as your subjects as they tend the fields.
b) Sweet strawberries, glorious views and steaming sweet corn – Strawberry Farm (ไร่สตรอเบอรี่บ้านนอแล)
As you drive along as we did, you’ll chance upon an extremely picturesque Strawberry Farm hidden in the mountain valleys. Make sure to have a small pitstop to stop and get some photos, buy strawberries, or even pick the strawberries if you’re up for it.
Apart from the Strawberry Farm, there are some small local stalls selling nibbles like steaming roasted sweet potatoes and corn, as well as roasted eggs. (That corn was the sweetest corn I’d ever eaten!!)
c) Gaze down on Burmese valleys at the Thai-Myanmar border – Ban Nor-Lae
There’s a little village on the border and there you can take a picture with the sign that says you’re at the border. The view that awaits you is rather dramatic as it fuses the two countries together.
When you’re done marvelling at the fact that the scene below you is all Burmese, head back to the main road and you’ll find wares of indigenous crafts. If you do a bit of exploring, you’ll also come across a Thai army post.
Doi Ang Khang
7. Doi Tung
Brighten up your life with a festival where you least expect it
Home to Doi Tung Royal Villa and a botanical garden Mae Fah Luang Gardens, it also hosts the annual Colours of Doi Tung Festival. (This year’s wrapped up on the 28th of Jan, to get dates for the next event, you can contact TAT directly via the details listed below.)
Even if you’re there when the festival isn’t on, it’s still great for visiting. This Royal Project is a tribute to the late Princess Mother, who wanted improvement for her people’s lives – and at the same time, the Royal Project contributes to the late Princess Mother’s goal.
There are different stops to visit at Doi Tung, and there’s not only great views and culture to immerse yourself in, plenty of locals bring their families here to get inspired to live their best lives.
Visit the Doi Tung Royal Villa, and Hall of Inspiration to see how the late Princess Mother and the Royal Family lived, there are some quotes and inspirational food for thought to be found there. (We were inspired too!)
Special Mention: Make it a full day’s trip! – Choui Fong Tea Plantation
If you’re inspired to travel to Doi Tung Development Project, then you should consider a trip to Choui Fong Tea Plantation in the morning before heading up to Doi Tung!
Wander through the tea plantation, smell the fresh mountain air tinged with the scent of tea – and head into the cafe for delicious drinks and nibbles.
All we can say is, we fully enjoyed the drinks and cake we ordered – and our editor has been enjoying a steaming pot of Osmanthus Oolong Tea from them as she writes – purchased from Choui Fong Tea Plantation!
(Generally, the quality of tea here truly isn’t shabby! Tested, and proven.)
8. Huai Nam Dang National Park
You’ll be surprised to find witches and a hotspring geyser!
So big, you’ll find two provinces in this national park. Spanning 180 square KM, it’s probably Bear Grylls’ dream home. After you pay the park fee, you’re pretty much welcomed to stay as long as you want – provided you bring your own camping equipment.
Psst… You can even rent a longboat and row your way through bat infested caves that are two parts mesmerising and one part creepy.
PS: See if you can find this traditional swing/ferris wheel!
a) It’s a coven of coffee! – Coffee we กาแฟบ้านแม่มด
Smack in the middle of seemingly nowhere, is this unexpected cafe. The witchy theme, coupled with their proud brew makes for a great stop.
It’s a place that is definitely making a name for itself. Surely, it makes a good story: you won’t believe what we saw…
And the coffee was wonderful. (But honestly, I’m more of a herbal girl)
b) Now it’s time to get ALL WARMED UP by a geyser – Pong Dueat Hot Spring
Surprised to find a geyser? Not as surprised than we are. Promise.
You can buy some eggs to boil in the hotspring geyser, or you can camp out for the night. But you must definitely take a dip in the hot water, there’s something about chilling (so punny) in hot water while atop a freezing mountain.
There are some weird flowers around, so if you’re an enthusiast, maybe you can tell us what it is? But watch out for the elephants, there seems to be a few around and remember: if there’s a seat on it, it’s not ethical. So, walk away.
c) Explore a 2000+ year old spooky and impressive cave – Tham Nam Lod Cave
Described as “next level mesmerising” by a traveller, you’ll want to check out Tham Lod Cave for yourself. It’s one of the biggest caves found in Northern Thailand, and is equal parts spooky and impressive – with fish in the river and bats hanging above you.
You’ll get there to the cave via a bamboo raft, and then you’ll walk. Sounds like quite the adventure, yes?
Huai Nam Dang