The Mae Hong Son Loop is a really cool motorbike route in the North of Thailand. The 600 kilometers route takes you across the best spots in the area. Expect to discover extraordinary temples, play with elephants, explore a vast amount of rice fields, and have a cave adventure with a bat covered ceiling batman would be proud of. The Mae Hong Son province offers a wide variety of landscapes, with about 90% of this mountain province being covered with forest and nature reserves. In other words, the Mae Hong Son Loop is worth it. Read all about this 8-Day Mae Hong Son Loop itinerary + map right here!
Table Of Contents
- How To Prepare For The Mae Hong Son Loop
- Mae Hong Son Loop Itinerary
- The First Day: Mae Ya Waterfall & Doi Inthanon
- Day 2: Drive to Mae Hong Son
- The 3rd Day: Ban Rak Thai, Wat Chong Klang temple & Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu temple
- Mae Hong Son Loop Day 4: Many Viewpoints & Lod Cave
- Day 5: Hot Spring, Historical Bridge & Bamboo Bridge
- Mae Hong Son Loop, the 6th Day: Pai Canyon & Night Market
- Mae Hong Son Loop, the 7th Day: Drive To Chiang Mai & Night Market
- Elephant Sanctuary & Chiang Mai Temples (Last Day Of The Mae Hong Son Loop): Day 8
- Summary Of The Mae Hong Son Loop Itinerary
- Map Mae Hong Son Loop
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How To Prepare For The Mae Hong Son Loop
1. Drive The Mae Hong Son Loop In The Right Season
In Thailand, there are 2 very distinctive seasons: the wet season and the dry season. It’s important to drive this route during the most appropriate time, the dry season! Because you won’t like it when you have to drive 600 km through the pouring rain.
The dry season starts in April and ends in November. The other half of the year is the wet season.
When you are packing for this trip, do not forget:
- Long pair of pants
- Mouth cover
They should protect you from the sun, wind and dust in the air.
2. Drivers License
One thing is very important (and is often forgotten): an international driver’s license! Many drivers’ licenses are only valid in a few countries. Therefore, an international driver’s license is needed to drive legally in Thailand.
It is easy to obtain an international driving license in your home country. You can apply for one at a travel agency or a travel store.
In the Netherlands, I ordered one at the ANWB. It took only 30 minutes, a passport photo and 20 euros to arrange everything and it’s valid for 1 year.
3. Drug Checks When Driving The Mae Hong Son Loop
In Thailand drugs are illegal and possession can result in a prison sentence. Therefore, in Thailand, you will come across drug checks along the sides of the road.
The police set out perimeters where you are asked to stop. Here the police check your motorbike and belongings. The Thai police are friendly, and as long as you do not have drugs with you, these checks are nothing to worry about.
4. Prevent Blisters
When you are going to be driving the Mae Hong Son Loop, be prepared to spend many hours on your motorbike. To prevent blisters on your butt, I would advise you to drive a maximum of 150 km per day (about 4 hours) and a maximum of driving 1,5 hours in a row.
This was not a joke, and the blisters are real! You will come across many sharp curves and steep roads. In total, there are 1864 curves in the Mae Hong Son Loop! The first day of our trip, I literally had blisters on my butt because I was constantly shifting on my seat.
Tip ➳ When we drove the Mae Hong Son Loop, we planned our route on Google Maps. But we found that the time indications on Google maps were not always accurate. For example, google maps said a specific part of the trip would take 2 hours, but it took 4 hours in reality. So, do not underestimate the distances and take your time.
Also Read ➳ Complete 3-Week Thailand Itinerary
5. Prevent Sandy Roads
Most of the main roads in Thailand are well-paved and maintained. This makes driving the loop really easy!
However, in some places, the roads are not ideal, and you can end up on a sand road. Sand roads are tricky to drive as you can easily lose grip, so be careful! When you arrive at a sand road, drive slowly, and only use your rear brake. This way, you will have the most control over your motorbike. If you have the opportunity to avoid a sand road, please do so.
6. Where To Rent A Motorbike
To drive the Mae Hong Son Loop, a good motorbike is very important. You will be driving a lot.
I recommend you to start the Mae Hong Son Loop in Chiang Mai, as there are many nice motorbike rentals. Be aware of the fact that in Thailand, some people want to scam tourists who rent motorbikes. Read all about how NOT to get scammed right here.
We rented a motorbike at Cat Motors in Chiang Mai, and their service was great! They had top-notch quality motorbikes, friendly people working there and everything was well arranged. Highly recommend going there.
Tip ➳ Bring a copy of your passport and a cash deposit to leave at the motorbike rental. When you hand in the motorbike after the route, you will get both of these back. NEVER LEAVE YOUR REAL PASSPORT.
Mae Hong Son Loop Itinerary
The First Day: Mae Ya Waterfall & Doi Inthanon
Exciting, the first day of the Mae Hong Son Loop! Grab your bag, some food, and at least 1,5-liter water per person, and off you go. On an adventure to discover the best of the North of Thailand!
On the first day, you’ll be driving a total of 115 km and see a spectacular waterfall and watch over the dreamy landscape from the highest mountain in Thailand. Sounds good, right?!
Tip ➳ Leave early in the morning, so you have enough time to drive from one location to the next, but also time to enjoy the sights along the way.
The first part of the Mae Hong Son loop mainly consists of the highway from Chiang Mai towards the Chom Thong district in the South. Because this is not hard to drive, it allows you to practice your driving skills. Stick to the left side of the road, and you can drive as fast or slow as you feel fit and comfortable with. The moment you enter the Chom Thong district, it becomes fun, as the road starts to wind and go up and downhills. A little further, you will find the Mae Ya waterfall. Here you come across a checkpoint where you need to buy an entrance ticket to Doi Inthanon National Park.
Tip ➳ Always have cash on hand when driving the Mae Hong Son Loop and your international drivers’ license. More Thailand prep? Click here
Mae Ya Waterfall
When you arrive at the Mae Ya Waterfall, there is a parking lot for your bike. Walk down the hill, along a few little shops selling fruit and cold drinks, and you will find yourself on a path through a jungle and towards the fall. You can already hear the water crashing on the stones.
Tip ➳ The waterfall is a great spot to go for a refreshing swim and play in the water. So don’t forget to put your swimsuit somewhere in your bag where you can easily grab it. And save a plastic bag for the wet towels and swimwear afterward. There are changing rooms close to the parking area.
What makes the Mae Ya Waterfall special is how huge it is! For us, it was the jewel of waterfalls in Thailand. The waterfall is at least 40m wide and 100 m in height (an educated guess). It looked like there were little stairs in the waterfall from which the water jumped down. And what made this an even better place to relax was the lush green surroundings! The birds and saccades sang a happy song, and you could spot animals too. Under a rock, we even found a little snake hiding.
After a great morning playing under the waterfall, drive back to village Wat Phra That Sri Chomthong (where the winding road started) And enjoy a nice lunch.
Doi Inthanon, The Most Beautiful Temple Of The Mae Hong Son Loop Map
Now driving further into the Doi Inthanon National Park, towards the pagodas on top of the mountain. The National Park is a beautiful piece of nature. It is a great experience to drive through this landscape. Besides a beautiful national park, Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand, with 2,565m. Making the views definitely worth driving to the top. Here you’ll find two pagodas and colorful gardens. Snif the flowers, walk along the gardens enjoying the mountain landscape, with layers and layers of hills as far as the eye can see, and don’t forget to check out the insides of the pagodas.
Tip ➳ Bring a thick sweater because it can get cold on the mountain, and bring long pants or dress to enter the temples. It is respectful towards the Thai culture to hide your knees when entering a temple. Want to know more about Thailand Prep Tips? Click here
By the time you’ve seen it all, it’ll be time for dinner. Within the national park itself, there are plenty of places to eat. Drive to one of the small villages and ask a local what’s the best place to have dinner.
Stay The Night Close To Doi Inthanon
After this first day of this Mae Hong Son Loop itinerary, you will be tired. Because you still need to have dinner after visiting the Doi Inthanon viewpoint, and because it will be dark at around 6 p.m., I recommend you to stay somewhere as close to Doi Inthanon as possible. Like Glamping at The Canvas Inthanon.
This might be a bit more basic than you are used to, but you have everything you need. And it’s a fun experience to go glamping in the Thai Mountains!