The Mae Hong Son Loop is a really cool motorbike route in the North of Thailand. The 600 kilometres 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. Read all about the Mae Hong Son Loop right here!
In a hurry? This might help you quickly find what you are looking for:
- Renting a Motorbike
- Day 1: Mae Ya Waterfall & Doi Inthanon
- Day 2: Drive to Mae Hong Son
- Day 3: Ban Rak Thai, Wat Chong Klang temple & Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu temple
- Day 4: Many Viewpoints & Lod Cave
- Day 5: Hot Spring, Historical Bridge & Bamboo Bridge
- Day 6: Pai Canyon & Night Market
- Day 7: Drive To Chiang Mai & Night Market
- Day 8: Elephant Sanctuary & Chiang Mai Temples
- Bullet Point Summary/Planning & Map
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Renting A Motorbike
To drive the Mae Hong Son Loop a good motorbike is very important. You will be driving a lot, so let’s avoid blisters or engine troubles by renting a good quality motorbike.
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 services 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 Day 1: 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 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 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 highway from Chiang Mai towards the Chom Thong district in the South. Because this is not hard to drive, it gives you the opportunity to practice your driving skills. Stick to the left side of the road and you can drive as fast of 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 down hills. 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 money on hand when driving the Mae Hong Son Loop and your international drivers licence. 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 the jungle and towards the fall. You can already hear the water clashing 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 afterwards. 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.
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 an altitude of 2,565m. Making the views definitely worth driving to the top. Here you’ll find two pagodas and colourful 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 a long pants or dress to enter the temples. It is respectful towards the Thai culture hide your knees when entering a temple. Want to know more 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 eat.
Stay The Night Close To Doi Inthanon
After this first day of the Mae Hong Son Loop you will be tired, I promise you that. 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!
Mae Hong Son Loop Day 2: Drive to Mae Hong Son
On the second day it’s time to drive to the village the loop is called after, Mae Hong Son. In total this drive is 193 km, and the longest drive of the entire Mae Hong Son Loop. The route to Mae Hong Son is filled with breathtaking views. Already by driving around there you see so much. From farmers working in the rice fields and children playing with each other and waving at you to waterfalls and monkeys hanging from the trees.
Leave early in the day. About halfway along this route you will find the Mae Surin waterfall. This is also a good spot to have lunch if you haven’t already. After chilling at the waterfall we jumped back onto our motorbikes to continue the drive to Mae hong Son. This day is not the busiest, but the views of the area are amazing. Keep your eyes open en enjoy what this landscape has to offer. There are several viewpoints along the route which make perfect break locations.
Tip ➳ Take a lot of breaks in between driving to prevent blisters on your butt… (yup I had them..😅 Imagine me laying on a bed cooling my butt with a frozen water bottle😂 Do yourself a favour and take breaks haha)
When you arrive in Mae Hong Son drop your bags at your hotel and look for the restaurant Crossroads. This restaurant has a fun vibe as a lot of backpackers go here and leave their mark on the walls. Plus they have pretty good food.
Where To Stay In Mae Hong Son
In Mae Hong Son you will have a ton of choice for accommodations. But to make your life a little easier we listed the best budget stay and the best luxury stay below🤗.
Best Budget Stay In Mae Hong Son ➳ Sarm Mork Guest House. Here you have your own green cozy little cabin for 14 euros per night for 2 people.
Best Luxury stay In Mae Hong Son ➳ Rimtarn Resort. Nice clean luxurious rooms, great to relax after a long drive. For about 28 euros a night for 2 people.
Day 3: Ban Rak Thai, Wat Chong Klang temple & Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu temple
Ban Rak Thai
Close to the border of Myanmar there is a small Chinese village. It is a cozy little town which has a completely different feel compared to the usual Thai villages and cities that you will visit. There is a lake next to the village and some tea fields, making this perfect spot to enjoy a cup of Chinese tea. Another bonus is the beautiful scenic route that you have to take to get there. It is about a 40km drive from Mae Hong Son, so make sure that you leave early enough to be able to visit the other temples and locations as well.
On the same route towards Ban Rak Thai (or back to Mae Hong Son) you can make a stop at the Su Tong Pae bridge. This is small bamboo bridge that runs over a rice field. This bamboo bridge is small compared to the bamboo bridge in Pai, but it makes a nice break location. It is advisable to visit during the rainy season. In case of drought, you will not be able to see much of the rice paddy.
Wat Chong Kham and Klang Temple
Once back in Mae Hong Son, visit the Wat Chong Klang temple, which is located in the center of town on the banks of the small lake. In the evening the temples are beautifully lit. The lake reflecting the shimmering lights of the temples. This temples itself are relatively small but a nice place to wander around. Across from the temples and the lake is a lovely seating area, making the perfect spot to enjoy the view of the temples.
Phrathat Doi Kongmu Temple
Last but not least there is the Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu temple, which makes for the perfect location to watch the sunset. The temple is located on top of a hill just outside the center of Mae Hong Son. You can walk up there but if you are already exhausted from the day trip you can also go up by scooter (Which I would do). From the temple you have an incredible view of the town and all of the surrounding mountain ranges. It almost looks like they are glued behind one another.
Watching the sunset Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu temple as the perfect ending of a lovely day of exploring around Mae Hong Son.
Tip ➳ It is also possible to start your day with this temple the next morning to see the sunrise instead of the sunset.
Mae Hong Son Loop Day 4: Many Viewpoints & Lod Cave
After seeing all the beautiful temples and sights of Mae Hong Son it’s time to move on to Pai, or backpackers paradise. During the 103 km drive from Mae Hong Son to Pai you will pass a number of beautiful viewpoints, of which Pang Ma Pha viewpoint and Doi Kiew Lom viewpoint are 100% worth saving to your google maps. Both viewpoints provide a smashing lookout over the landscape of the North of Thailand.
In addition to these viewpoints, there is also a cool cave to discover, the Lod Cave. What makes the Lod Cave special are the huge stalagmite and stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave and the many different levels in the cave itself. But best of all is the stream in the cave! With your guide (you need one to enter) you will sail on a bamboo raft from one side of the cave to the other. It feels like the entire stream is filled with fish and they come to the boat to get some snacks. While exploring the different levels of the cave you can see the true rulers there: the bats. They are dangling from the ceiling and trying to catch mosquitoes from the air. Batman would be crazy jealous on how many bats have gathered in the Lod Cave.
Lunch Time & Pai Time
After visiting the Lod Cave you will be hungry, so it’s time to get some lunch. There are several nice restaurants next to the road where it is possible to eat a lovely Thai meal. I recommend you to just drive towards Pai and stop at any restaurant along the way.
If you brought your own lunch, it is of course a good idea to eat your lunch at one of the beautiful viewpoints.
In our opinion Pai at the most pleasant and atmospheric location of the entire Mae Hong Son Loop. The town is a lot busier than it used to be back in the day, many tourists can be found there. However, the atmosphere in Pai remains very fun and cozy because of the many backpackers. When you have arrived in Pai I recommend you to drop your bags at your hotel or hostel and wander about the streets of this cozy village to get a feel of the place.
Where To Stay In Pai
I’ve always dreamed of staying in a little triangle house, and Farmstay at Pai is the perfect place for it! The Farmstay at Pai has these cutest little huts (pretty luxurious also) for 14 euros per night for 2 people😍. I love finding these kind of hidden gem stays!
This place is excellent value for money. It really is a little peaceful oasis, just a 10 minute walk from all the action areas of Pai. The cabins are lovely, and the staff are so friendly. I wouldn’t hesitate to come back here or recommend it to others.Nick (ES), Booking.com review
Day 5: Hot Spring, Historical Bridge & Bamboo Bridge
In addition to the cozy town of Pai, there is also a lot to see in the area itself. If you want to relax after the long drives you have made, there is a hot spring about fifteen minutes outside of Pai. In addition. There is a beautiful historical bridge nearby to take in some of the culture. This bridge has become famous because of its role in the second world war.
But my favourite place around Pai is the Kho Kuu So bridge or bamboo bridge. This is 1 km long a bamboo walkway across a gigantic rice field surrounded by mountains😍. it is an extremely beautiful place to be with the impressive view over the rice fields. If you are there in the dry season, the rice field is a bit dried out, this does not make the location less beautiful and it is still a must see.
The Pam Bok Waterfall & Land Split
On the way back to Pai from the bamboo bridge you drive past two other sights: The Pam Bok waterfall, which is a small waterfall to relax at, and the Pai land split. At the land split it looks like someone chopped the ground into two slices and left it like that.
I recommend you to sleep in, go for a nice breakfast and then go out exploring. Make this a fun and relaxing day where you let yourself be surprised by what you find.
Alert ➳ There are regular drug checks on the roads in and around Pai. Don’t be alarmed if the police asks to check your stuff. But keep in mind to always take an international driving license with you if you are going for a drive.
Mae Hong Son Loop Day 6: Pai Canyon & Night Market
After 4 days on your motorbike it is important to relax and revive a bit from all your endeavours. That’s the reason why we recommend a second day of exploring Pai. There is plenty to do in Pai that doesn’t take too much energy. All over you can find nice restaurants and bars where you can drink and enjoy the atmosphere. Hang out at a pool or go out and explore the surroundings. Take it easy and enjoy the lovely and hippy vibe in the village.
Pro Tip ➳ Also check out the Full 3-Week Guide to Thailand
However, on your day of chilling there is one sight you cannot miss in Pai, Pai canyon. It is an impressive canyon located just outside the village of Pai. This canyon stands out against the other characteristics of the landscape, making these views truly unique and a “must see”. Save this beautiful spot to watch the sunset and see how the pink glow traces the outlines of the canyon. It will be a bit busy, but there is room enough for everyone to enjoy the sunset view. Although, be careful when you walk there, the ridges of the canyon are very steep and the sand can be slippery.
Night Market On Walking Street
After a great day of chilling around Pai, walk through the main street and enjoy the night market. Especially in the evening the village of Pai turns into a fun place to have a drink, try out street food and meet new friends. The entire main street is filled with food stands that sell all kinds of delicious dishes at a very cheap price. Many residents cook their own specialties. Plus, there are many bars where you can see live music and play games! Because Pai is very popular and loved by backpackers you can easily make friends and talk to other travellers.
Check out this mini vlog from our trip to Pai ↡
Mae Hong Son Loop Day 7: Drive To Chiang Mai & Night Market
From Pai we’ll drive back to Chiang Mai, the place where we started the Mae Hong Son loop. The last stretch of driving your motorbike is here, so enjoy it while you still can 😉. One thing is for sure, the infamous 762 turns between Pai and Chiang mai make for an absolutely beautiful trip. The drive totals about 130 km, but it is advisable to plan the entire day in order to drive to Chiang Mai. Some people might say this road is dangerous, but as long as you drive mindfully you will be fine. Moreover, there are some activities you might find interesting on the road to Chiang Mai.
Firstly you can stop at the Pong Duet geyser which is part of the Huai Nam Dang National Park. The geyser is the main attraction here, however, you can also visit a nature trail and a hot spring. Secondly, you can explore the Mork Fa waterfall. This waterfall is quite spectacular and can provide you with a really nice swim to cool off (keep in mind that this may not be the case in dry season).
Pro Tip ➳ In this guide we have detailed a ton of cool places to visit, but of course you need to do what feels good to you. Add locations, skip some, or even do the route visa versa, as long as you do you🤗. See this guide as a source of inspiration❤️.
Drop your motorbike at the rental
When you arrive in Chiang Mai, drop you bags at your hotel and drive to the motorbike rental to hand in your bike. Make sure you take everything out of the seat pocket (especially your international drivers licence) before handing the bike in. At the motorbike rental they will check the motorbike for damages and when everything is alright you will get your deposit back and the copy of your passport. Afterwards, go to your hotel to relax and dip in the pool, or walk around town.
Go For A Street Food Meal
In the evening I recommend you to go for a delicious street food meal. All over old town Chiang Mai you will come across street food stands in the evening, all serving their own specialty. Next to Tha Phae Gate there is a little market area filled with table and food stands. Everyone was trying out food and the most delicious smells were flying around you. So fun to eat there!! And crazy cheap😍 Which makes the food taste even better, right?!
Explore The Night Market
When your bellies are filled with Thai food, explore the night market and do a little shopping. The night market is a huge flea market where tons of people sell their souvenirs and little trinkets. You come across the famous elephant-print pants, fans and wooden elephants statues. Just like the food markets, the night market has a very relaxed vibe and it is fun to see what items they sell. However, because Chiang Mai is a popular destination in Thailand expect the night market to be crowded.
Also Read ➳ Full 3-Week Guide to Thailand
Where to stay in Chiang Mai
Because you will be tired after the many drives of the Mae Hong Son Loop I highly recommend you to book a hotel that’s a little bite more luxurious, like El Barrio Lanna. This is a beautiful hotel in the old town of Chiang Mai and has everything your heart desires. From huge cozy rooms with a modern touch, to free standing bathtubs and room service. And it’s not even that expensive! You pay 42 euros per night for 2 people, or 21 euros p.p.p.n.. Spending this little extra is so worth it in our opinion because you will be in need of a good night’s rest!
Day 8: Elephant Sanctuary & Chiang Mai Temples (Last Day Of The Mae Hong Son Loop)
On the 8th and final day of the Mae Hong Son Loop we’ll explore some of the treasures of Chiang Mai: The golden decorated temples and an elephant sanctuary🐘. The order of these two doesn’t matter, you can switch them up how you like and what spots for the elephants sanctuaries are still available.
Chiang Mai is known for its elephant sanctuaries. All over Thailand you will find elephants, but in Chiang Mai many elephants are rescued from bad situations and well cared for after their traumatic experiences. Visiting an elephant sanctuary is one of the memories which will always stay with me and make me smile every time I think about it. You get to feed the elephants little bananas, watch them play with each other and even bath them and scrub them with mud😍. It is wonderful to see how much the elephants enjoy themselves and really have fun!
When visiting an elephant sanctuary make sure to find an ethical one which truly has the best intentions for the animals. Check out this website on ethical elephant sanctuaries.
Temples In The Center Of Chiang Mai
In addition to the elephants, Chiang Mai also known for its bling bling temples. In the old town on Chiang Mai (a square on maps) you will find one after the other whilst wandering the streets. Each of the temples has its own style and purpose, so every time you’ll be surprised with something new.
When you are in Chiang Mai I recommend that you walk into the old centre and visit temples Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phantao. For the temples that are located outside of the old centre, like Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, I’d recommend renting a motorbike or taking a Grab taxi.
Bullet Summary Of The Mae Hong Son Loop + Map
- Mae Ya Waterfall
- Doi Inthanon
- Drive to Mae Hong Son
- Mae Surin waterfall
- Ban Rak Thai
- Wat Chong Klang temple
- Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu temple
- Pang Ma Pha Viewpoint
- Lod Cave
- Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint and rest stop
- Hot Springs
- Historical Bridge
- Bamboo Bridge
- Pai Canyon
- Night Market
- Drive to Chiang Mai
- Night Market
- Elephant Sanctuary
- Chiang Mai Temples
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