The Mae Hong Son Loop is a circular route of approximately 612 kilometers or 380 miles that starts from Chiang Mai and passes through the towns of Pai, Mae Hong Son, and Mae Sariang before ending in Chiang Mai.
The itinerary is divided into 4 sections:
1. Chiang Mai – Pai (147km/91mi);
2. Pai – Mae Hong Son (107km/66mi);
3. Mae Hong Son – Mae Sariang (162km/100mi);
4. Mae Sariang – Chiang Mai (196km/121mi).
If you want to explore not only the attractions along the road, but also attractions located at a distance from the main route, the length of your route will increase by about 170 kilometers or 105 miles.
A trip to Ban Rak Thai adds +77 kilometers to your journey. A visit to Mae Surin Falls will add +80 kilometers to your itinerary. A visit to Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Intanon, will add +20 kilometers to your trip.
Thus, with visits to all the main points of interest on the route, the total length of the Mae Hong Son loop would be approximately 789 kilometers or 490 miles.
Since the roads on this route are very winding and in some places your speed will not exceed 30-40 kilometers per hour, the journey will take about 3-5 days, depending on your experience. The optimal length of a comfortable ride for experienced riders is 4 days.
Accommodation is best booked in advance; the period from October to March this destination is very popular with foreign and local tourists. You can choose to stay in a hotel or rent a guest house for a more authentic vacation.
We recommend Hotels Combined (aff) because in this hotel booking system you can search and compare prices between many service providers such as Booking, Agoda, Trip, Priceline, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Orbitz and many others and find the best deal for you.
For example, in this screenshot, you can see that the hotel price on Booking is $35. But if you look at other offers, you will find that the same hotel can be booked on Agoda for $5 cheaper under the same conditions, thereby saving 15% of the cost of the stay.
The Mae Hong Son Loop is a few hundred kilometers long and usually takes three to five days. The loop as a whole gives the traveler the opportunity to experience the authentic culture of the northern Thais and Shan people, which will undoubtedly delight anyone who travels this route.
If you plan to start and end your journey in Chiang Mai, it doesn’t matter whether you go clockwise or counterclockwise. But if you plan to visit Chiang Rai after completing the loop, in which case it is better to start the journey clockwise. It will save you several hours of travel time.
This trek is possible to travel by car, as it gives you the flexibility to stop and stay wherever you want for however long you want. You can either rent a car and drive yourself or hire a taxi for the entire trip. The cost of a taxi on this route is about 4000-5000 baht per day, excluding the cost of housing.
If you want to rent a car to travel on the Mae Hong Son loop, then we recommend Economy Bookings. It is a global website for finding cheap car rental companies around the world. At the time of this guide’s update (June 2021), you can rent a comfortable air-conditioned car for just THB 3,000 for 7 days.
Using the form below, you can check the car rates for your trip on your dates.
Since the Mae Hong Son Loop is a common tourist attraction, many public transport companies are ready to take you to this destination. However, bus tours do not offer the passengers much independence to explore. The plan is very firm. Also, many passengers will suffer motion sickness due to the twists and turns of the road. We suggest that you bring a few sanitary bags with you, just in case.
We highly recommend that you consider using a minibus service if you do not have experience driving on the left or have not spent significant time on a motorcycle. The roads can be dangerous
This mountain adventure travel is exhilarating. Even so, we encourage all motorcycle riders to always wear a helmets, as these mountain roads can be as treacherous as they are dazzling.
Another very common option that tourists in Thailand use are scooters. We love them! Scooter and motorcycle rentals are cheap, available everywhere, and the bikes are easy to drive on the roads of Thailand as well. Make sure you know how to drive one and that you can keep yourself safe while doing so. You can rent motorcycles or scooters from the following places:
1) Cat Motors – you are now on our website; the cost of renting motorcycles is here – https://catmotors.net/our-motorbikes/
2) POP Rider – the largest fleet of motorcycles in Northern Thailand. You can find this motorcycle rental point near Tha Phae Gate, the main gate of the Old City.
In terms of crime, this route is no different from any other place in Thailand. Traveling along Mae Hong Son Loop, you will constantly meet friendly people who will try to help you even if there is a language barrier. However, this journey can be dangerous in terms of road safety, as Thailand is the absolute leader among other countries in the world in the number of deaths on the roads involving motorcyclists.
Be sure to check out our tips for riders to travel safely on the roads of Northern Thailand. A link to the Safe Travel Tips page can be found at the end of this guide.
The road from Chiang Mai to Pai leads the traveler through the scenic hills of the two provinces of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. The Chiang Mai to Pai route is approximately 147 kilometers or 91 miles long.
A separate itinerary has been published for those who only want to visit Pai.
R – Recommended
MS – Must See
Off the beaten track of the touristy parts of Chiang Mai is a little place called the Chiang Mai Erotic Garden. Full of manicured pathways, it is a very well-maintained garden with artwork displayed throughout. The hostess, Mrs. Kratai, walks visitors through the garden and explains the artwork with respect to how and what each piece signifies.
Typically, this stop takes about two hours. But for travelers with a specific interest for horticulture, the flora and fauna are a treat! The Chiang Mai Erotic Garden is home to a variety of rare flowers and plants, each labeled with their botanical and common Thai names.
The garden is off the usual tourist paths of Chiang Mai. But, for anyone in the area, it is a place that should not be missed.
If there is one thing Thailand’s mountainous regions are known for, it is for its waterfalls. Mok Fa is one of many waterfalls in the Chiang Mai region and on this tour. It is unique because of its segmented characteristic. Its overall height is about 60 meters and it is surrounded by shrubbery and small trees. The actual height of the waterfall is deceptive because of the trees, but it is breathtaking. There is water flowing throughout the year.
If you combine this trip to Mae Hong Son with a trip to Chiang Rai, then if you drive clockwise, this is the place after which you need to travel to the northeast Thailand to get to Chiang Rai.
From the car-park, there is a well-marked forest trail that takes you to the foot of the waterfall. The usual time that tourists spend at this stop is around 30-45 minutes. During the summer, there are a lot of people swimming and cooling off in the pools at the base of the falls.
The Pai Memorial Bridge offers a foot path across the Pai river. The bridge was built during the Second World War as a route to attack Burma. It can be crossed prior to entering Pai It is made of solid steel and affords visitors picturesque and spectacular views. The spot is a popular place among tourists for photographs and selfies.
Pai is a three-hour drive from Chiang Mai. The drive to Pai is set in the valley with hundreds of twists and turns, and at every turn, there is a picturesque view. The most scenic view, however, is the Pai Canyon. In Thai, the Pai Canyon is called the Kong Lan. The canyon has 30-meter dips and highs that look quite daunting. The best way to get to the Pai Canyon is to drive up. But for the more adventurous amongst us, there are treks and climbs that take you up the Canyon and all its features.
Like most things and places in the hills, the Pai Canyons are also enjoyed best either at sunrise or sunset.
One hundred and forty-four kilometers from Chiang Mai is a coffee shop called Coffee In Love. The coffee shop is a small, roadside shop with beautiful views of the hills surrounding it. This is a coffee shop with the best view of the Pai Valley on the Mae Hong Son loop. The coffee shop is famous because it is the set of two major films in Thailand and China. Apart from this, the coffee shop is merely one of those stops-on-the-way places.
Pai is also home to the longest bamboo bridge in Thailand. It crosses over rice paddies, and right before harvest is the best time to visit. The rice fields and bamboo bridge are set with mountains in the background. The views are exhilarating and make the one km walk totally worth it.
The Wat Nam Hoo Temple is two km from the town of Pai. Of all the Buddhist temples in the country, Wat Nam Hoo is one of the less spectacular ones in terms of architecture and views. Nevertheless, this temple is famous and is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists because of the story of the Buddha. The temple houses a bronze Buddha statue that once had holy water flowing through its head.
The Chinese village of Santichon was founded by the Yunnan people when they fled from mainland China during the Mao Tse Tung revolution. Over the years, it has become a place tourists flock to. The little town is also known for its authentic Chinese cuisine, little shops, and mule rides. We strongly recommend eating in the restaurant located nearby. Here you can find delicious Thai food and perhaps the best Chinese cuisine on the Mae Hong Son Loop.
The Yun Lai Viewpoint offers a 360-degree, panoramic view of the Pai valley. The viewpoint is also very crowded during the peak season. There is a small teahouse that is very popular among tourists. The Yun Lai Viewpoint is one of those stop-on-the-way kinds of places.
During the rainy season, this place is always empty, but nevertheless, it still offers stunning views, especially against the backdrop of dark storm clouds.
The Pai Hot Springs Spa is a resort that is built around natural springs. The resort is ideal for staying for a couple of days to kick back and relax. This is a very popular place for swimming and mineral bath facilities. If you are traveling in peak season, it may be wise to book in advance as it tends to book quickly. The entrance fee is 100 THB for once visit but is less the more visits you make. It is about 500 THB for 10 times.
One of the most imposing views from the Pai town is the Big White Buddha statue on a hill. It is a few minute’s walks up and the area surrounding the statue is tiled for people to sit and enjoy the view. One of the most touristy things to do at the Big White Buddha after climbing up is to sit and watch the sunset. The hill’s summit can also be reached by motorized transport, but by walk is the ideal way to get there.
Thailand is known as a shoppers’ paradise and for all the right reasons. Pai Walking Street is a night market that tourists flock to from all over the world. The Walking Street is set up with roadside stalls and food trucks that are aptly designed. The shops there sell souvenirs, unique handicrafts, lacquerware, and hand-made clothes.
The Pai Walking Street begins at 17:00 every evening.
The distance between Pai and Mae Hong Son is approximately 107 kilometers or 66 miles. You can travel by motorcycle, car or minibus. The road is winding and scenic, with breathtaking views at every turn.
When you reach Mae Hong Son, don’t forget to get a commemorative certificate from the local Chamber of Commerce that you have taken the 1,864 turns on this legendary route. Where and how to do this is written in this chapter.
If you want to visit the village of Ban Rak Thai, add about 77 kilometers or 48 miles to your route.
Direct route – 107 km (66 mi)
Scenic route – 202 km (125 mi)
The Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint is a typical viewpoint on the way to Mae Hong Son and is a stop-on-the-way kind of place. The viewpoint has a few coffee and tea stalls and is the good breakpoint on the road from Pai to MHS. The viewpoint offers the vast, mountainous greenery that Thailand has to offer and is breathtaking.
Tham Lod Cave is one of Thailand’s most impressive caves. It is wildly popular among tourists because of its limestone stalactite formations, which are impressive. The Tham Lod Cave is also one of the more easily accessible caves in the region. The main cave has a smaller cave, or a coffin cave, within it which is reachable by bamboo raft. While visiting the cave it is advisable to take plenty of time and to stay with your tour guide because it is not very hard to get lost in these places.
Gem of the Mae Hong Son Loop. This is another stop-on-the-way kind of viewpoints because it has a couple of good coffee and tea stalls. The viewpoint is almost halfway between Pai and Mae Hong Son.
If you want to explore the surrounding area, you can visit Mae Lana Cave on the way to this viewpoint.
Tham Pla or the Fish Cave is a very popular tourist location in the region. It is about 17km from the town. The Fish Cave is a part of the Tham Pla – Namtok Pha Suea National Park. Tourists find this place very calming because of its small bridges above flowing streams filled with fish. The Fish Cave is home to many rare fish species and because it is confined in a small space, you just may be lucky enough to see some of them.
The Pha Suea Waterfall is, by far, Thailand’s most beautiful. It flows from the Burmese river of Mae Sa-nga. The fall has six levels and flows year-round. It is about 26 km from Mae Hong Son and is one of Thailand’s most visited falls.
Ban Rak Thai is a small Chinese mountain village near the town of Mae Hong Son. Another name of this village is Mae Aw. The village was built by the Kuomingtang for people of China during the Mao revolution and the name translates to “the Thai-loving village.” Ban Rak Thai is also the last Army checkpoint before the Burma border; it is strategically positioned so that the officials can keep an eye on the Jade trade.
Ban Rak Thai is famous for its lake, authentic Chinese foods, souvenirs, and its conservative Yunnan culture. The mountain village surrounds a lake which is a pleasure to walk around. The Ban Rak Thai itself is very easy to get around.
Pang Tong Under Royal Forest Park (Pang Ung) is a large park with tall trees. The trees are planted in parallel lines which makes it very appealing to the eye. The plantation park is also adjacent to a pristine lake. If you are really lucky, you will see the occasional swan among the ducks on the water. The Pang Ung is a very popular camping spot at the Mae Hong Son loop during the winters and is a very well endorsed place for other adventure activities.
Nai Soi is a karen village that is about 20km from Mae Hong Son. The village is famous because it is close to a Thailand refugee camp. The village is predominantly occupied by the Long Neck Hill Tribe and the occasionally accepted refugee. Nai Soi, over the years, has become a very popular tourist destination because it is a safe environment in which tourists can interact with tribal people to get a deeper understanding of the life they live.
The Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu is a Burmese temple built atop the Doi Kong Mu hill in the 1860s. The pagoda of the temple was built in traditional Burmese architecture and the temple is home to a lot of monks. The Wat Phra That Doi Kong Moo is famous among tourists because it is an ideal place from which to watch the sunset. The hill provides a vantage-point over the town and the airport.
You can find the times of sunsets and sunrises in this place at this link – https://email@example.com,97.9601902. Remember: Sunrise is the time when the sun has already risen above the horizon, and sunset is when the sun has already sunk below the horizon.
Wat Chong Klang and Wat Chong Kham are two of the most famous temples in the Mae Hong Son province. The lake that surrounds the two temples adds to the beauty of the place. These two temples see a lot of tourists coming in because of the imposing image of they make at the edge of the lake with mountains in the background.
The best time to visit Wat Chong Klang and Wat Chong Kham is at night because both of the temples are lit up and the water below reflects them. The picture of the lights reflecting from the lake is probably one of the most photographed sights in town.
Ok, buddy. You did it! You made 1864 turns! Don’t forget to get a certificate to prove it. The cost of the certificate is 60 baht.
The working hours of the Chamber of Commerce, where you can receive your certificate, are from 8:00 to 18:00. The Mae Hong Son Chamber of Commerce is located opposite the only post office in the city, which is located a stone’s throw from the Chong Kham lake.
The exact point on the map and coordinates can be found in the description of the route in the .pdf file, which is located at the end of this guide for motorcycle travelers.
The Mae Hong Son to Mae Sariang route is approximately 162 kilometers or 100 miles long. A comfortable journey along this route takes approximately 3 hours.
Direct route – 162 km (100 mi)
Scenic route – 190 km (118 mi)
Pha Bong Hot Springs is another place to relax in the Mae Hong Son province. It has one large hot spring with several smaller pools around it. The mountains rise in the background creating a place of tranquility. There also has a number of mineral spa baths in the area that are accessible for 50 baht for a single room or 400 baht for a big room.
This is another stop-on-the-way kind of viewpoint because it has a couple of good coffee and tea stalls and a number of places to pick up snacks. The viewpoint falls in the middle of the road from Mae Hong Son to Mae Sariang.
The Mae Surin Waterfall is one of the main reasons tourists flock to Namtok Mae Surin National Park. It is Thailand’s one of the most picturesque waterfall, with multiple levels of rock and beautifully cascading, clear water. The serenity and sheer size of the Mae Surin are unmatched and bring in tourists from across the globe.
The Thai-Japan Friendship Museum is in the little sleepy town of Khun Yuam. The museum is home to many World War II memoirs. During the second world war, Khun Yuam was one of Japan’s most important Army bases. Since the museum contains exhibits that have nothing to do with the war, it is generally addressed as Thai-Japan Friendship Museum or the Khun Yuam Museum. The museum opened in 1995.
After visiting the museum, you can choose where to go. Mae Sariang – for those who want to ride longer. Mae Chaem – for those who want to return home quickly. The routes differ only in the length of the road. The points of interest on both routes are the same.
While in Mae Sariang, you can use the extra day to visit the natural sites located in the Salawin National Park.
The Mae Sariang to Chiang Mai route is about 196 kilometers or 121 miles long. The road leads through picturesque hills and mind-blowing natural vistas, and by the end of the route gradually turns into a bustling suburb and then into the city of Chiang Mai.
Direct route – 196 km (121 mi)
Scenic route – 287 km (178 mi)
The Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong temple is a very important temple in Northern Thailand. The temple is located atop a hill and has an aerial view of the little villages below. The temple is a Buddhist relic because it is believed that Buddha himself visited the hill once where the temple now is. The temple also has a meditation center.
Before you reach this waterfall, you will drive past Ob Luang National Park. If you decide to visit this place, add a couple of hours en route to your trip.
Mae Ya Waterfall is one of Thailand’s most beautiful. On the road between Mae Sariang and Chiang Mai, the fall is about 260m high and has many pools around it that locals swim and cool off in during the summer months.
Mae Ya and Wachirathan Waterfalls + Great Holy Relics Pagodas + Highest Spot in Thailand are in the same national park, but they have different entrances. One ticket can be used to enter different entrances.
The Wachirathan Waterfall is also in the foothills of the Doi Inthanon mountain in the Doi Inthanon National Park and is the second on the way up to the summit. This fall is by far much stronger than the Mae Klang, likely because it is higher. It is a lovely place to rest and relax before continuing on to the next point of interest.
The English translation of Wachirathan is “Diamond Creek” as the water flows down over granite as it reaches the ground, and millions of falling splashes become like airy fragments of bright and iridescent diamonds. The waterfall itself is quite segmented, but the cumulative height of the is approximately 80 meters.
On most days in the non-rainy seasons, there is one very forceful stream plummeting to the ground on the leftmost part of the fall and it gets stringier as you move to the right. But even without rain, there is enough water falling down the slope to create a powerful mist spray and make rainbows by reflecting the sun.
The Wachirathan is one of the more crowded ones on the way up to the summit. This waterfall is truly the best in Northern Thailand. The waterfall is accessible by road and has ample parking at the entrance.
The Great Holy Relics Pagodas is a temple that is built on the slopes of Doi Inthanon National Park. Because of its height and its location on the hills, the Great Holy Relics Pagodas is a nice stop to watch both the sunrise and the sunset from.
The Doi Inthanon Peak is the highest mountain peak in Thailand and is a very popular destination for both domestic and international tourists. The top of the mountain is about 2,565 meters or 8,415 feet. Doi Luang and Doi Ang Ka are two other names that the locals sometimes call this peak which essentially translates to the same meaning, “the Big Mountain”.
Doi Inthanon was renamed in honor of the last king of the Chiang Mai Province who was deeply concerned and involved in the conservation of forest lands and the mountains. In fact, he wanted his ashes to be interred on the summit. Apart from being a symbol of historical importance, this mountain is also home to the Thai Air Force’s weather radar and the Thai National Observatory.
The summit can be reached by road and, for the more adventurous amongst us, by hiking. If you are planning to hike the mountain path, plan to stop often, keep hydrated, and wear appropriate footwear.
The Ganesha Museum in Chiang Mai is probably the most peculiar museum in Thailand. Ganesha is the Hindu god of success and luck, and the entire museum is a collection of statues to this god. It was started by a Bangkokian named Mr. Pundhorn Teerakanon. Mr. Pundhorn received his first Ganesha statue from his father when he was 19 years old and since embarked on creating a collection. This is one of the last points of interest on the Mae Hong Son Loop.
Please be careful traveling the Mae Hong Son loop. There are many turns. Keep left and avoid the crazy drivers on the road.
Download this mini-guide with geo-coordinates in .pdf format. If your mobile network suddenly goes down in the mountains, you can use the information in this file to find POIs without the internet. You can also download a google map of this route to use offline if there is no internet along the way.
UPD: If you are a travel blogger (you have a YouTube channel or a stand-alone travel blog, and you regularly create content for your readers and subscribers), you can borrow a motorcycle for your trip for free. The only condition you have to meet in this case is that you must create a detailed overview of your trip for your readers and subscribers, and post a link to this guide.
UPD2: If you have any questions about your upcoming Mae Hong Son Loop journey, feel free to ask in the comments below.