One of the main reasons people travel to northern Thailand and Chiang Mai is to get up into the mountains.
Visible to the west, north and east of Chiang Mai, the nearby mountain ranges sport green expanses of jungle holding endless adventures, beautiful views and a unique experience compared to anything else you’ll find in Southeast Asia.
From Chiang Mai, one of the easiest day trips up into the hills is the Samoeng Loop – a 90 km loop that takes you around the edges of Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park.There are innumerable stops along the road – from waterfalls and botanic gardens to coffee shops and strawberry farms.
Everyone will find a different set of these interesting, so we’ve put together a selection of the best places on the Samoeng Loop, and you can pick for yourself. Think of it as a bit like a “choose your own adventure” day!
You do need your own transportation to see the Samoeng Loop. While you could hire a song thaew red truck to drive you to a specific spot on the loop, half of the fun is the drive itself and getting to stop wherever looks fun!
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- The Samoeng Loop
- Ban Muang Goong Pottery Village
- Tat Krok Waterfall
- Patara Elephant Farm
- Huay Pak Phai Royal Project
- Samoeng Village
- Samoeng Strawberry Festival (Samoeng Village and elsewhere on the loop)
- Wongwan Farm (Samoeng Village)
- Samoeng Forest Viewpoint
- Flying Squirrels Zip Line Chiang Mai
- Queen Sirikit Botanical gardens
- Mae Sa Elephant Camp
- Mae Sa Waterfalls
- Bai Orchid Butterfly Farm
- The Veranda
- Praw & Plean Green House Cafe
- Max Coffee
- Supanee’s Restaurant (Samoeng Village)
- Cafe de Mountain (Samoeng Village)
- Di Bosco Coffee Specialist
- Mon Cham
It’s a great motorbike trip and a common one for many new riders – just be careful and go slow (really, please!).
Doing it by car will be easier, and it won’t be as stressful if you’re finishing the drive in the dark – could also be helpful if you end up bringing back kilos of strawberries, local coffee beans or big bags of the fresh fruits you come across at roadside stands along the way.
The Samoeng Loop
The loop takes a little less than 2.5 hours without stopping, so it’s best to get an early start so you have plenty of time to stop anywhere and everywhere that piques your interest.
You can drive the loop in either direction: counterclockwise, starting with Mae Rim, or clockwise, starting with Hang Dong. The more difficult stretch of road (tight turns, steep) is the southern portion, to the west of Hang Dong – put this at the start or end of the day, as you see fit.
If it’s going to rain, consider that the southern portion above Hang Dong is the more treacherous part when it’s wet.
A word about gas stations: there are plenty on the Mae Rim Road or on Canal Road, but once you’re on the Samoeng Loop they aren’t as common – a couple in the northern portion before the Mae Sa Valley and one in the town of Samoeng.
Other than that, there are a few small family-run petrol shops by the side of the road – just look for shops with big barrels, pumps and pressure gauges.
The gas on the loop will cost a bit more than in Mae Rim, Hang Dong or Chiang Mai.
Can you do the Samoeng Loop without your own motorbike or car?
The short answer is yes! You can definitely hire a driver to do the whole loop – either a red truck song taew or a silver minivan. Not a tuk-tuk – they probably can’t do the hills and this would be miserable for everyone involved.
For a red truck or minivan, this is a special request and it would be a little unusual to just approach a driver on the street about it. It’s best to arrange in advance (even just the day before). Ask at your hotel or guesthouse and see if they know a reliable driver.
It might cost around 2000 baht for the whole day, but costs will vary depending on the agreement – be clear about the hours, what you’d like them to do for you, about how many stops.
Also, be clear about where you’ll stop – they’d be right to charge a little extra for Samoeng village or the big hill at Mon Cham – and who’s paying for petrol.
If you’re interested in someone who can act as a guide, your hotel or guesthouse can probably also arrange it, or you can ask around in the Old City.
Considering how much you can do in a day on the loop, this could be a great option.
The stops below are numbered in clockwise order, beginning near Hang Dong. Each one has a category or two listed after it to give you an idea of what you’re looking at.
Ban Muang Goong Pottery Village
South of Chiang Mai, before the turn up onto the Samoeng highway, the Ban Muang Goong Pottery Village offers a unique chance to see beautiful earthenware pottery and ceramics.
This is where many of the ceramic crafts sold around Chiang Mai are made.
On most days, you can see the potters at work. There isn’t a formal tour here, but if you ask they will show you around briefly – though don’t expect much English.
It’s a unique stop on either end of a drive up the Samoeng Loop.
Address: 259 Moo 7, Bann Muang Goong, Tambon Nong kwai, Amphoe Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, 50230 Tel. 053 430875
Tat Krok Waterfall
The Tat Krok Waterfall is an easy stop for a swim along the way from Hang Dong to Samoeng.
The waterfall isn’t the biggest in Thailand or anything, but it’s less touristy than most and you’ll likely only see a few Thai families enjoying a picnic by the water.
Park and walk up the short distance to the waterfall – bring a coffee or some fruit from one of the stands along the side of the road if you like, and relax for a while.
Address: Ban Pong, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230
Patara Elephant Farm
Want to see some elephants up close but not interested in a big tour package?
Patara Elephant Farm is a family-run operation that gives you just that.
They’re tiny compared to the big elephant camps around Chiang Mai and they’re happy to teach you about the animals, what’s involved in their care and how to walk, feed and wash them.
It’s best to contact them in advance if possible.
Address: Ban Pong, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230 Tel 098 549 3644
Huay Pak Phai Royal Project
Huay Pak Phai Royal Project If you’re interested in local agriculture, farming and delicious lunch, stop off at Huay Pak Phai Royal Project.
Part of the royal family’s long-standing initiative to support sustainable and local agriculture, Huay Pak Pha works with three nearby villages to farm flowers and produce.
Walk around the greenhouses and gardens and learn about how the Royal Project works with ethnic minority groups in the area to improve their lives. There’s even a rose garden.
Huay Pak Phai also one of the best places to eat on the Samoeng Loop.
They’ve got some of the freshest versions of go-to Thai dishes like yam salads, kale in oyster sauce, fried pork and other northern Thai appetizers.
There are also some less common dishes like a salad with smoked duck breast or gang liang vegetable curry.
Address : Ban Pong, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230 Tel 099 135 1118
As Highway 1269, from Hang Dong, runs into Highway 1096, from Mae Rim, the road to Samoeng tow shoots out to the west.
Though technically off the “loop” of the Samoeng Loop, the town of Samoeng offers a nice stop off the highway a few kilometers.
The next few options are in the town, rather than on the Samoeng Loop.
Samoeng Strawberry Festival (Samoeng Village and elsewhere on the loop)
If you don’t mind crowds and want to see a local community truly out in force to celebrate their specialty, head to Samoeng in middle of February.
The dates aren’t fixed, but for a week or more, Samoeng puts its pride and joy – the strawberry harvest – on display for tourists and locals.
Drive through town and looks for signs for strawberry farms (there were too many to count when we went).
Follow them to taste fresh berries, harvest some of your own and see all the products that the farmers make from their strawberries. There are jams, dried berries, wines, soaps and more.
Wongwan Farm (Samoeng Village)
Wongwan Farm is a farm specializing in strawberries and a favorite spot to visit in Samoeng town.
See how strawberries are farmed, try some of the local strawberry products and enjoy a nice lunch (strawberry crepes are on the menu).
Just look for the giant strawberry statue with a face and hands on the side of the road in town!
Address : 253 Moo 9, Bann Lhao Santong, Samoeng Tai, Samoeng District, Chaingmai Tel 096 354 0602
Samoeng Forest Viewpoint
At the top of the Mae Sa Valley (the north portion of the Samoeng Loop), the Samoeng Forest Viewpoint offers a great spot to take in the surrounding jungle-covered hills.
Stop for a few photos, take a break from the driving and sit a little while in the covered gazebo (usually called a sala by Thais).
Address: Samoeng Tai, Samoeng District, Chiang Mai 50250
Flying Squirrels Zip Line Chiang Mai
The Flying Squirrels Zip Line is one of the more worthwhile adventure tourism spots near Chiang Mai. Located 15 minutes up from the loop highway, they offer a three-hour zip line tour through the jungle canopy.
It’s really much more than just a zip line – they’ve got rappelling, bridges, and even a highwire bicycle ride! It’s all very well managed and safe, but you do have to be at least 4 years old and 100cm tall. For anyone under 18, they have to be accompanied by an adult.
They offer plenty of information on their website, where you can reserve your tour.
The tours start around 2500 baht for an adult and a little less for children.
They offer free transport from the city, so you can also do this easily as a separate half-day trip from Chiang Mai easily.
Address : 8/2 Soi 4 Thapae Rd., Chang Klan, Muang, Chiang Mai 50100 Tel. 053 278 989
Queen Sirikit Botanical gardens
With over a dozen different exhibits and lush greenhouses, the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens are a stop that deserves at least an hour.
If you’re at all interested in ecology or flower gardens, this will be a worthwhile visit.
The greenhouses are designed to replicate different climates, displaying the unique flora of each. The tropical jungle house is a couple stories tall, with an indoor waterfall.
This may seem a little odd, since the Gardens are actually located amid a real jungle, but while the natural jungle changes with the season, the indoor portions of the Gardens stay the same.
Walk through desert sands dotted with cactuses and out into a fern garden.
One of the highlights is the canopy walkway, a metal walkway built over a hundred feet in the air that lets you stroll through the treetops. This area is best visited in rainy season or soon after, when the foliage is best.
When you’re done, walk just to the left of the entrance, as you’re leaving, and get your feet wet at Mae Sa Noi waterfall (the name means “little Mae Sa,” and it is indeed quite small).
Many people make the trip out onto the Samoeng Loop just to see this.
The 100 baht entrance fee is small, considering everything you’ll see – 20 baht extra per motorbike, 100 baht per car.
Address : Mae Raem, Amphoe Mae Rim, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50180 Tel. 053 841 234
Mae Sa Elephant Camp
One option to see elephants on your own schedule and for just as long as you please is the Mae Sa Elephant Camp.
It’s a bit of an institution, with over 75 elephants and crowds of people on weekends and holidays.
But this is one of the tourist attractions where you’d do well to consider whether you want to support it or not.
Many people consider what they do to be unethical and wrong. Mae Sa Elephant Camp has elephant shows, elephant rides and elephants painting pictures for visitors.
Many visitors and animal rights advocates claim that Mae Sa (and many other places) put young elephants through an abusive process called “breaking.”
It’s worth reading up on before you decide if you want to go.
Address : Tapae Road, 119/9 1096 Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai 50100 Tel. 053-206 247 and 053-206 248
Mae Sa Waterfalls
The water cascades down through the jungle, trees stretching over the river and birds calling overhead.
Mae Sa Waterfall might be the best waterfall to visit and the best place to swim on the Samoeng Loop.
With ten levels or tiers, this is really ten smaller waterfalls in one. Not all of them are good to swim at (use your own judgement) but a path leads up the right side of each of them.
Follow it up into the forest and, if you prefer a little solitude, keep going to the top to get away from the crowds, if there are any. Level 10 is our favorite, if only because it feels most secluded and offers easy, safe swimming (though be very careful with little kids).
It’s tough to say when is best to visit Mae Sa Watefall to avoid the crowds – sometimes mornings are deserted, other times there will be a couple tour buses in the parking lot.
There are a few stands at the bottom that offer drinks and picnic food – papaya salad, grilled meats and similar – as well as matts to sit on (rent them for a few baht). Grab whatever suits your fancy and head up to find a spot by the water.
Entrance costs 100 baht per foreigner, plus 20 baht per motorcycle or more for a car.
Address : Highway 1096, Tambon Mae Raem, Amphoe Mae Rim, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50180
Bai Orchid Butterfly Farm
Just up from the intersection between Highway 1069 and the Mae Rim Road, the Bai Orchid Butterfly Farm is a beautifully built up wonderland of orchid gardens and butterflies in a specialized habitat.
Even if you’re only a casual appreciator of either, this makes for an interesting stop with some neat surprises.
Enjoy a walk through and learn about the huge number of varieties of orchids and butterflies – both inside greenhouses and outside.
There is also an option for lunch at the farm.
Address : Mae Raem, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai 50180 Tel. 081 992 7440
Swimming, views, food.
The Veranda is a beautifully laid out resort with striking architecture and carefully designed gardens.
\The main attraction, however, is the infinity pool on the top floor. overlooking rolling hills and forests, it has a view straight across the valley of a white temple near the top of the opposing mountain. If you can manage to be there for sunset, the view is stunning – the setting sun lines up with the temple on the mountain, and things don’t get much better than this.
This might just be the nicest pool in Chiang Mai.Just behind the pool is the hotel restaurant – perfect for a coffee or a fancy snack.
The Veranda quotes a cost of 400 THB per person for day use of the pool.
Address: 192 Moo2 Banpong Hangdong, Chiang Mai 50230 Tel. 053 365 007
Praw & Plean Green House Cafe
Praw & Plean Green House Cafe is one of those spots that just seems “so Chiang Mai.”
The quaint garden and vintage-style interior make this a great spot for coffee or a meal.
They serve salads, pastas and Thai classics, all from a small house that looks a bit like a traditional Lanna-style building painted blue-green.
Address: Ratcha Phruek Road, Tambon Mae Hia, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, 50100 Tel. 081 992 7439
For fresh smoothies, fresh Thai food, delicious waffles and a quick coffee on the south portion of the Samoeng Loop, head to Max Coffee.
The view over the valley is great and the people who run the place are warm and inviting – they seem to just enjoy working with a nice view and serving quality food.
The waffles with fruit and ice cream are wonderfully decadent.
Address: Ban Pong, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230 Tel 081 951 8888
Supanee’s Restaurant (Samoeng Village)
Food! Supanee’s is the best place to eat in Samoeng town.
This small-town institution has been a landmark for years, well-known for solid Thai dishes in a no-frill setting.
They cook up stir fries and noodle soups, including khao soi coconut curry noodle soup.
Try the local mushrooms, bok choy with garlic or pat pak boong fai daeng morning glory with garlic and chilies.
Address : 144/1 Moo 10, Samoeng Tai, Samoeng District, Chaingmai Tel 053 487 077
Cafe de Mountain (Samoeng Village)
For a great coffee in Samoeng, head to Cafe de Mountain.
If this place weren’t 90 minutes from Chiang Mai, we would have gone here every day.
They serve great, freshly-roasted coffee from the districts around Samoeng.
The place looks like it’s straight out of a design magazine, with clean, interesting architecture.
Walk inside and you’ll see that someone (the mastermind behind this place) has transported a top-notch espresso machine to Samoeng. Grab a latte or a Thai tea and enjoy a pause in Samoeng.
They also sometimes sell produce from the local community – don’t be surprised to see a small pile of squash sitting inside among the cute cacti and hardwood furniture.
Address: 48/2 Moo 1, Samoeng Tai, Samoeng District, Chiang Mai 50250 Tel. 098-506-5306
As you drive through the Mae Sa valley, Kruabanchan is a great place to stop for a bite to eat.
Serving top-notch northern Thai food with a nice view, they’ve earned a good reputation but never seem too crowded.
They do hunglay curry with ginger and pork, sai ua spicy sausage with herbs and some great nam prik chili dips.
The fried chicken with lemongrass might be the best on the menu.
Address : Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai 50180 Tel. 088 571 0944
Di Bosco Coffee Specialist
Food, coffee! A great stop just up from the final turn to Mon Cham, Di Bosco Coffee Specialist offers some of the best coffee on the Samoeng Loop.
Roasted on site, their beans have a subtle, delicious flavor and their brunch is something special.
Choose from classic eggs-and-toast breakfast sets, rich eggs benedicts, or a more unusual option like Thai green tea waffles with ice cream.
The owner is warm and a pleasure to chat with – his friend (maybe it was his brother?) is an artist and has his studio in the shipping container above the cafe.
Address : Pong Yaeng, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai 50180 Tel. 080 567 0567
Mon Cham is a breathtaking viewpoint with a Royal Project and an outstanding restaurant.
This may be the most popular destination on the Samoeng Loop (it’s actually about 15 minutes uphill, off the loop).
We’ve written a whole guide to doing Mon Cham the right way – spending the night, enjoying the sunset/sunrise – but if you don’t have time for all that, it’s worth driving up to check out.
Address : Mae Raem, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai 50180 Tel. 081 806 3993
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I am a Thai mum and love cooking for my children. Over the years, I have taken my family recipes as well as ones borrowed from friends and adapted them to make them even tastier. I publish my authentic Thai Food Recipes here for all to enjoy around the world. When I get a chance to travel I publish information to help others visiting Thailand.