When most people think of Thailand, they think of paradise-like islands and white sand beaches. However, this list of the best waterfalls in Chiang Mai will show you why North Thailand should be on your bucket list!
Thailand is a tropical country with incredible, diverse landscapes. From crystal clear sea and limescale cliff islands in Krabi to the lively capital of Bangkok and tropical jungles in the north. It is not hard to see why Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world!
However, if you want to step off the beaten path and escape the crowds of tourists, Chiang Mai provides the refuge you’re looking for. The mountainous region around Chiang Mai is rich with incredible waterfalls, and you won’t even miss the beach as you enjoy swimming in some of these hidden spots.
If you want to discover the best waterfalls near Chiang Mai, let’s jump right in!
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When to Visit Chiang Mai’s Waterfalls
When planning your trip to the waterfalls in the north of Thailand, including Chiang Mai, it is good to know that many waterfalls depend on plenty of rainfall to flow properly. That makes the rainy season from June until December the best time to visit.
Moreover, the dry season coincides with the burning season from February to mid-April. Chiang Mai is in a valley, which means the smoke can linger over the city. While it is still possible to visit, it is best to avoid the burning season for a more pleasant visit.
If it’s your first visit to the “Land of Smiles,” these Thailand travel tips will also come in handy.
The Most Beautiful Waterfalls Around Chiang Mai
Huay Kaew Waterfall
Huay Kaew Waterfall is one of the most popular waterfalls in Chiang Mai and also the closest waterfall to the city. Depending on the season, the waterfall may have dried up, so remember to check the conditions before visiting.
It is a fantastic waterfall for those who can’t commit to a jungle trek, as it is easily accessible from the entrance. However, if you want to hike, you can follow the paved trail upwards to reach an excellent panoramic viewpoint.
This is a popular spot among the locals, with many choosing to picnic and soak in the small pools the waterfall creates along the way. Don’t worry if you didn’t bring a snack, as you can grab a delicious meal from one of the many food stalls close to the entrance.
You can easily reach this waterfall by songthaew (a red pickup truck) from the Chiang Mai city center.
Mae Ya Waterfall
At 260 m tall, Mae Ya Waterfall is one of the tallest in Thailand and the tallest in the Chiang Mai area. In saying that, don’t expect a dramatic waterfall rushing down a cliff, as Mae Ya is a layered waterfall with hundreds of small streams flowing down the cascading cliffs.
This picturesque waterfall is surrounded by lush green rainforest, great for spending a day in nature. The trail leading to the waterfall is about 600m long, but it is a comfortable walk and won’t tire you out – just make sure you bring some water!
Once you reach the waterfall, you can take a dip or just admire it and take photos. The waterfall is usually not crowded, so you can enjoy the tranquillity of nature as you listen to the water flowing.
Mae Ya Waterfall is located 75km from Chiang Mai.
Wachirathan is one of the most beautiful waterfalls near Chiang Mai. It is also known as the rainbow waterfall, as the delicate water mist creates a rainbow next to the waterfall in certain lighting.
This waterfall is impressive at any time of the year. In fact, this is one of the few waterfalls that might be more beautiful when it hasn’t rained recently, as it gets very powerful in the rainy season.
Swimming is impossible at this waterfall, but expect to get a bit wet from the mist as you approach the viewpoint since it is very close to the waterfall.
Wachirathan Waterfall is in Doi Inthanon National Park, which is one of Thailand’s most famous landmarks. It is about 90km outside Chiang Mai.
Mae Sa Waterfall
When you visit Mae Sa waterfall, you are actually visiting ten waterfalls at the same time. This waterfall cascades down ten levels, creating ten separate waterfalls, with 100 to 500 meters between the levels. That said, some are more impressive than others.
The best way to explore Mae Sa waterfalls is via hiking from the 1st to the 10th waterfall. The trek is just over 1.5km long and takes about 45 minutes to complete. The trail is mostly uphill but relatively easy.
You will have to pay a small entrance fee to access this waterfall trail, so make sure to have some baht on hand! This is a popular picnic spot; you can even get a picnic basket and blanket at the entrance.
Mae Sa Waterfall is located about an hour north of Chiang Mai.
Bua Thong Waterfall
Bua Thong waterfall is better known by its nickname, Sticky waterfall. This waterfall is especially popular with families with kids, but adults will also love it, as it makes you feel like you’re a kid again!
What makes this waterfall special is the mineral deposit along the waterfall, which creates a grippy, white layer you can easily walk on despite the water flowing down. Make sure you bring your swimmers as you will be climbing up and down this unique waterfall in no time!
It is free to visit the Sticky waterfall, but you might have to pay a small fee for lockers to keep your things safe while you’re in the water.
Save some time to walk around the area, as there are a few trails and a picnic area.
You will find this unique waterfall about an hour-long drive north of Chiang Mai. The easiest way to visit this stunning Chiang Mai waterfall and a few other sites along the way is with a guided Sticky Waterfall tour.
Mok Fa Waterfall
Mok Fa waterfall is a picturesque waterfall dropping from a steep cliff into a small pool, surrounded by lush green forest. In fact, it looks exactly how you would imagine a tropical waterfall should look.
As this waterfall is part of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, you will have to pay a small entrance fee to visit.
Mok Fa Waterfall is located about 50km north of Chiang Mai, en route to Pai.
Mae Wang Waterfall
Mae Wang is the perfect spot for hiking enthusiasts visiting Chiang Mai’s dreamy waterfalls. It is in the Mae Wang National Park area, and it is part of a popular trekking trail in the area. The waterfall is about 20m high and is active throughout the year.
You can swim in this waterfall, although the stream might be too strong during the wet season. Another popular activity in the area is bamboo rafting on the Mae Wang river, and it can be a fun addition to your itinerary.
Mae Wang waterfall is located approximately 55km from Chiang Mai.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has a whole host of cool accommodation options for all kinds of travelers and budgets.
If it’s your first visit to the city, stay in the Old City. It is the perfect base, as it has lots of shops, eateries, and attractions within walking distance. Momo Hotel is a great mid-range option, while The Inside House is the ideal spot if you’re looking for a super luxe stay. If you’re looking for something more affordable without sacrificing style, check out Ed Hostel.
For a more bougie vibe, with loads of chic cafes and a bustling nightlife scene, trendy Nimmanhaemin is the place for you. ALEXA Nimman Hostel is perfect if you’re on a budget, while NORN Boutique Hotel is a great mid-range option. For something posher, check out the lavish Akyra Manor Chiang Mai.
Need more options? Find the best hotel deals here on Agoda.
Chiang Mai Waterfall Essentials
Before heading out to Chiang Mai’s dreamy waterfalls, here are a few things that may come in handy on your waterfall hike.
- Pack a good mosquito repellant to avoid any bites.
- Protecting your skin from the sun is still a must, even when visiting during the wet season. Here’s a great eco-friendly sunscreen.
- If you’re not comfortable storing your belongings in a public locker, this lightweight waterproof backpack is for you.
- Most of the waterfalls near Chiang Mai are great swimming spots. Remember a quick-drying towel.
- Stay hydrated with this collapsable water bottle that’s super lightweight and leakproof.
- And finally, remember your camera because you will need it!
Looking for more cool tours & activities to do in Chiang Mai? Here are some of the best.
Waterfalls in Chiang Mai Conclusion
The mountainous regions around Chiang Mai are an ideal destination for every nature and waterfall lover. Check the weather conditions before embarking on a waterfall hike, as some can be dangerous after monsoons, while others can be completely dry if visited outside the rainy season.
With so many waterfalls to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice! The best part? You don’t even need to travel far to take a dip in one of these picturesque spots.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy some of these incredible spots!
Well, that wraps up this guide to the most beautiful waterfalls in Chiang Mai. If you have any other suggestions on cool waterfalls around Chiang Mai, let me know in the comments below!
About the Author: A fan of all things outdoors, Louis loves camping and hiking in Australia and around the world. Read more over at his blog, Outdoor Explorer.
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