Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai: Top 6 Havens for Gentle Giants

Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai offer an incredible opportunity to connect with these majestic creatures in a compassionate and respectful environment. You’ll witness the beauty and intelligence of elephants up close, free from the chains of exploitation. And by visiting Chiang Mai’s best sanctuaries, you contribute to a growing movement that prioritizes the well-being and dignity of these gentle giants.

In Thailand, elephants have a rich and complex history intertwined with human culture. From being used for logging and warfare to enduring a long-standing presence in tourism, these magnificent animals have faced immense challenges. However, ethical elephant tourism has emerged as a powerful force for change, fostering awareness and compassion.

Experience the leading edge of ethical elephant experience at the forefront of Chiang Mai’s sanctuary movement as this guide covers havens that provide a safe space for rescued and rehabilitated elephants. You’ll learn about sanctuaries that allow you to immerse yourself in activities that include feeding, bathing, and walking beside that promote their welfare while respecting their natural behavior, and more!

Elephant Tourism: From Exploitation To Conservation

For centuries, elephants have been an iconic symbol of Thailand, yet their treatment in the name of tourism has been deeply troubling. Historically, elephants have been subjected to logging, warfare, entertainment, and transportation, enduring abuse, exploitation, and neglect. With that in mind, some of the major concerns are:

Captured from the wild, separated from their families, and subjected to harsh training methods, these magnificent creatures have been forced to perform unnatural behaviors for human amusement.

However, in recent years, a profound shift has occurred towards ethical elephant tourism, where the welfare and dignity of these gentle giants take precedence over profit.

Fortunately, The Elephant Bill, a collaborative effort led by experts, government representatives, academics, NGOs, and World Animal Protection Thailand, aims to provide comprehensive protection for all elephants, wild and captive. It closes loopholes in existing laws, signifying a significant step towards safeguarding these magnificent creatures.

Whatsmore, ethical elephant tourism embraces the principle of observing and interacting with elephants respectfully and compassionately, without riding, chaining, or inflicting harm upon them. Moreover, it aims to educate visitors about Thailand’s history, culture, and conservation of elephants – Thailand’s national animal.

Fun Fact: You will find that several ethical sanctuaries exist in Chiang Mai, where rescued and rehabilitated elephants find solace in a natural and secure environment, complete with ample food, water, veterinary care, and social companionship.

These sanctuaries abstain from breeding or trading elephants, eschewing the use of bullhooks and other cruel tools for control. Instead, they foster symbiotic relationships with local communities, offering employment, education, and empowerment opportunities.

By supporting an ethical elephant sanctuary, you champion the well-being of these magnificent creatures and actively contribute to their conservation and protection. As endangered species face myriad threats like habitat loss, poaching, and human-elephant conflict, elephants require our unwavering support.

Your visit to an ethical elephant sanctuary catalyzes awareness, fundraising and fostering respect for the culture and traditions of the Thai people, who share a profound connection with these gentle giants.

The True Haven: Choosing Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries

Not all sanctuaries are created equal, and it’s crucial to choose one that genuinely prioritizes the well-being of these magnificent creatures. With that in mind, we’ll guide you through selecting an ethical sanctuary that provides optimal care for elephants and upholds conservation principles.

Additionally, we will recommend some of the best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai for an unforgettable and compassionate encounter with these gentle giants.

Criteria For Selecting An Ethical Sanctuary

When choosing an ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, it’s important to consider the following criteria:

  1. No Performance Tricks: Ethical sanctuaries refrain from engaging elephants in unnatural activities like riding, painting, playing football, or dancing. These acts are stressful and require harsh training methods that inflict pain and fear upon the elephants.
  2. No Use of Bullhooks: Using bullhooks or other sharp objects to control elephants is a red flag. These tools cause injuries and trauma, demonstrating disrespect and domination over the animals.
  3. Freedom from Confinement: Ethical sanctuaries do not chain or confine elephants in small spaces. Instead, they provide expansive areas of natural habitat where elephants can freely roam, forage, and socialize with their fellow companions.
  4. Adequate Care: Ethical sanctuaries ensure elephants can access shade, water, and nutritious food. Proper shelter, clean water, and a balanced diet support the elephants’ physical and mental well-being.
  5. Limited Human Contact: Wild animals require their space and privacy, and elephants are no exception. Ethical sanctuaries limit interactions between elephants and humans, reserving physical contact solely for the mahouts (caretakers) who have built a bond of trust and respect with the elephants.
  6. No Breeding or Trading: Ethical sanctuaries focus on rescuing and rehabilitating elephants rather than breeding or trading them. Breeding and trading contribute to the overpopulation and exploitation of captive elephants and negatively impact wild elephant populations.
  7. Education and Awareness: Ethical sanctuaries prioritize educating visitors about the history, culture, and conservation of elephants in Thailand. By raising awareness and funds, these sanctuaries support initiatives that address critical issues such as habitat loss, poaching, and human-elephant conflict.

You can make a responsible choice by evaluating elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai based on these criteria. Review online resources, including reviews, websites, and social media platforms, to gain insights from other visitors and assess the sanctuaries’ policies and practices regarding elephant care and welfare.

6 Notable And Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai

You have learned how to identify an ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, but you may still wonder which one to choose among the many options available. So, to help you with your decision, we have selected some of the best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai that meet the mentioned criteria.

With options ranging from half-day to overnight programs, these sanctuaries guarantee a memorable encounter with these majestic mammoths:

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: A Place Of Peace & Protection

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary stands as one of the most reputable and beloved ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai. Since its startup in 2014, this sanctuary emerged from a collaboration between the Karen hill tribes and concerned locals in Chiang Mai who recognized the need to safeguard elephants in Thailand. They are spread across six locations within the province, caring for over 30 elephants.

As an eco-tourism project, its mission is to offer a safe and natural home for rescued and rehabilitated elephants and educate visitors about the rich history, culture, and conservation of these glorious goliaths. You can interact with elephants compassionately and respectfully without riding, chaining, or harming.

Feed, bathe, and walk alongside these gentle giants while relishing the stunning backdrop of lush jungles, towering mountains, and meandering rivers. The sanctuary offers a range of programs, including half-day, full-day, and overnight experiences and unique activities like physical examinations and mud baths for the elephants.

Moreover, you can contribute to their cause by purchasing merchandise, specialty coffee beans, or food for the elephants through their online shop. Rest assured, every visit or purchase directly supports their projects and directly contributes to the well-being of the elephants and their caretakers.

Elephant Nature Park: Guardians Of The Giants

Embark on a transformative journey at Elephant Nature Park, one of the oldest and most esteemed ethical elephant sanctuaries in Northern Thailand. Founded in 1996 by the revered elephant conservationist and activist, Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, this sanctuary stands as a beacon of hope for abused and neglected elephants.

Elephant Nature Park serves as a rescue center and sanctuary with over 80 elephants under its compassionate care at the main location in Mae Taeng District and other projects in Thailand and Cambodia. But it doesn’t stop there. The park also provides a natural haven for other rescued animals, including dogs, cats, buffaloes, horses, and birds.

At Elephant Nature Park, you can engage with elephants in a manner that epitomizes respect and compassion. Leave behind the notions of abuse and exploitation and instead embark on experiences that allow you to walk in the footsteps of glorious pachyderms. Choose from half-day, full-day, or overnight programs, each offering a unique opportunity to forge a deeper connection with elephants in a single day.

This sanctuary also presents special programs such as guided walks with elephants or visits to a nearby elephant hospital. Volunteering opportunities are available for those seeking a more immersive experience, allowing you to contribute to the daily care of the elephants and other animals. Whatsmore, every visit and volunteer effort made supports the sanctuary’s projects!

Burm and Emily's Elephant Sanctuary (BEES): A Giant Haven

BEES is a small, family-run Chiang Mai elephant sanctuary. Founded in 2011 by Burm Pornchai Rinkaew and Emily Rose McWilliam, passionate advocates for elephant welfare and conservation, BEES provides a safe haven for abused, exploited, and neglected elephants.

With a location in Mae Chaem District, the sanctuary offers elephants and other rescued animals a natural habitat to roam freely, forage, and socialize. What makes BEES different from other ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai is its small size and family atmosphere. You will get to know each elephant by name and personality and their mahouts who are part of the BEES family.

You will also get to experience the rural life of Mae Chaem District, where you can interact with the local villagers, learn about their culture and traditions, and participate in community projects such as tree planting or school visits. Overall, it’s where you can feel at home while making a positive difference in the lives of elephants and the people.

Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary: Safety & Education

Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary is a non-profit foundation in southwest Chiang Mai dedicated to giving its elephants the best life possible with the help of its visitors and volunteers. It was founded in 2016 by Kerri McCrea and Sombat Ngampichet, an Irish-Thai couple passionate about elephant welfare and conservation. It currently cares for six elephants in Mae Chaem District and other rescued animals.

You can also purchase merchandise or food for the elephants from their online shop. All the proceeds from your visit or purchase will be used to fund their projects and contribute directly to the well-being of the elephants and their mahouts. It also includes their two-day/one-night homestay package consisting of a city pickup.

What differentiates Kindred Spirit from other sanctuaries is its focus on research and education. It works closely with its research partners from universities worldwide to study the behavior, health, and welfare of its elephants and monitor the impact of tourism on them. In fact, they also offer two internship programs: the Elephant Research Programme and the Marketing/Photography internship.

It also educates its visitors and volunteers about the history, culture, and conservation of elephants in Thailand, as well as the challenges they face in captivity and in the wild. Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary is a place where you can learn from these amazing animals while making a positive difference for them and their environment.

Chang Chill Elephant Sanctuary: Where Freedom Is Defined

Chang Chill Elephant Sanctuary, a non-profit foundation founded in 2017 by Supakorn Tananseth, is dedicated to providing elephants with the freedom to live as elephants should. What was once a riding camp transformed into an ethical sanctuary after World Animal Protection’s intervention, Chang Chill is now celebrated as one of the most ethical sanctuaries in Chiang Mai province.

Nestled in Mae Wang District, this happy elephant home provides a loving home for six female elephants, including the beloved Mae Moon, Mae Dok, and Mae Kham Puan.

The sanctuary offers overnight programs where you partake in day tour activities and engage in late afternoon visits to local farmers, collecting vegetables for a shared dinner. Through these experiences, you’ll deepen your understanding of the nearby communities’ rich history and culture while witnessing the caretakers’ boundless love and dedication to the elephants under their protection.

What sets Chang Chill Elephant Sanctuary apart is its focus on observation rather than interaction. As the world’s first truly elephant-friendly commercial venue, visitors spend their time watching the elephants as they spend their days in the forest without disturbing or influencing their natural behaviors.

Collaborating closely with World Animal Protection and leading travel companies, Chang Chill champions high welfare standards for elephants in tourism. By visiting Chang Chill Elephant Sanctuary, you witness these gentle giants’ awe-inspiring beauty and natural behavior and actively contribute to their conservation and protection!

Into The Wild Elephant Camp: Encounter Nature's Giants

Into The Wild Elephant Camp, located in the southern region of Chiang Mai, is a family-run ethical elephant camp. Founded in 2016 by Phai, a local elephant owner driven by a desire to provide a sustainable and secure home for retired and rescued elephants, this Camp offers a haven where these majestic creatures can roam freely and live as naturally as possible.

With a current residence of five elephants, including an adorable and lively calf! Given names like Mae Bua Loy, Mae Boon Ma, and Mae Boon Mee, Into The Wild invites you to feed, bathe, walk alongside, and learn about their remarkable personalities and behaviors.

Plummet in the breathtaking views of surrounding jungles, mountains, and rivers as you embark on an unforgettable journey through the Camp and its surroundings. Choose from half-day or full-day programs, or even seize the opportunity to volunteer for longer periods. What sets this Camp apart is its intimate and personal atmosphere. It may even be the place where you’ll find your favorite Chiang Mai elephant!

Each elephant is known by name and distinct personality, just like their mahouts, who are an integral part of the Camp’s family. During your visit, engage in activities that allow you to observe and learn about the elephants in their natural habitat – even taking part in crafting medicine balls for their well-being.

Your experience at the Camp extends beyond elephant encounters. Delve into the rural life of Mae Wang District, where you can interact with local villagers, delve into their rich culture and traditions, and participate in community projects like tree planting or school visits. Here, you’ll feel a sense of belonging while positively impacting the lives of elephants and the local community.

For more heartwarming images and additional information, you can also check out their TripAdvisor page, where travelers have left excellent reviews praising the Camp’s ethical approach, friendly staff, breathtaking scenery, and extraordinary elephant encounters.

Explore More: Beyond The Gentle Giants

When you visit an ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, you’ll discover that the experience extends beyond interacting with these magnificent creatures. Each sanctuary offers a range of optional activities that add an extra layer of enjoyment to your visit. While the specific activities may vary depending on the sanctuary, here are some examples to give you a taste of what to expect:

  • Jungle Walks and Observation: Immerse yourself in elephants’ natural habitat with a guided jungle walk. Observe these gentle giants as they roam freely, forage, and engage in their natural behaviors. Learn fascinating insights about their behavior and habits while appreciating the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.
  • Conservation Efforts: Some sanctuaries allow visitors to actively contribute to preserving the elephants’ habitat. Participate in tree planting or grass planting activities to help restore the forest and provide a sustainable source of food for the elephants. You’ll leave a lasting impact on the environment by getting involved in these conservation efforts.
  • Cultural Immersion: Take part in the local culture and traditions by participating in cultural activities offered by certain sanctuaries. Engage in Thai cooking classes, learn the art of bamboo weaving, or visit nearby villages. Through these experiences, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the local way of life and the meaningful connections between the community and elephants.

Remember, the available activities may vary at each sanctuary, so it’s best to check with the specific shelter you plan to visit for the most up-to-date information. No matter which activities you choose, you’re sure to have a fulfilling and memorable time at the sanctuary!

Immerse Yourself In More Of Chiang Mai: Nearby Attractions

As you explore Chiang Mai beyond the sanctuaries, you’ll find an array of other attractions to discover. Here are a few recommendations to complement your visit:

  1. Doi Suthep Temple: Located on a hilltop just outside the city, Doi Suthep Temple is one of Chiang Mai’s most iconic landmarks. Marvel at the intricate architecture, stunning views of the city, and immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere of this revered Buddhist temple.
  2. Elephant Parade Land: Delve deeper into the world of elephants at Elephant Parade Land, an interactive museum and gallery that showcases beautifully painted elephant statues. Learn about the difficulty of Asian elephants and the efforts being made to protect them while supporting the cause through art.
  3. Doi Inthanon National Park: Embark on a nature adventure to Doi Inthanon National Park, home to the highest peak in Thailand. Explore lush forests, picturesque waterfalls, and hike scenic trails as you immerse yourself in the park’s natural beauty.
  4. Art in Paradise: Step into a world of illusion at Art in Paradise, a unique 3D art museum where you can become part of the artwork. Pose alongside incredible optical illusions and capture memorable photos that will leave you in awe.

The Taste Of Treasure: Recommended Eateries

After immersing yourself in the enriching experiences of ethical elephant sanctuaries, you may find yourself ready to indulge in the delectable culinary scene of Chiang Mai. While all sanctuaries offer a selection of meal options that can be discussed before booking or touring the area, you may also wish to explore the city’s renowned flavors.

Chiang Mai is a culinary paradise, offering an eclectic range of dining options that cater to different palates. To complete your experience, we recommend these exceptional restaurants and cafes that embrace ethical practices and deliver exceptional culinary delights. From farm-to-table concepts to vegetarian and vegan-friendly eateries, these establishments satisfy your taste buds and align with your commitment to ethical and sustainable dining:

  1. The Barn (Google Map): Experience farm-to-table dining at The Barn, a restaurant that sources ingredients from its own organic farm. Enjoy a wide selection of delectable dishes made from locally grown produce; all served in a charming rustic setting.
  2. Blue Diamond (Google Map): Known for its vegetarian and vegan-friendly options, Blue Diamond offers a diverse menu with international and Thai-inspired cuisine. Delight in fresh and healthy meals made with organic ingredients and a cozy and laid-back atmosphere.
  3. Birds Nest Cafe (Google Map): With the feeling that you are nestled amidst nature, Birds Nest Cafe offers a tranquil ambiance and serves a range of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Savor the flavors while enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and lush greenery.
  4. Reform Kafe (Google Map): A popular spot among health-conscious visitors, Reform Kafe offers a variety of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Enjoy nourishing meals made with locally sourced ingredients, including refreshing smoothies and wholesome bowls.

Our Summary

The ethical elephant sanctuaries scattered throughout Chiang Mai have such a special and magical experience to offer their visitors who truly want to see elephants exist in a realm where they can justly be themselves. In these compassionate and respectful environments, you’ll witness the transformative power of ethical elephant tourism, contributing to the well-being and dignity of these gentle giants.

From the renowned Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to the intimate Into The Wild Elephant Camp, each sanctuary offers unique experiences, from feeding the elephants to bathing and walking alongside them! Don’t miss your chance to be part of that amazing experience!


There are several renowned elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, each with its unique philosophy and approach. For example, Elephant Nature Park is well-known for rescuing and rehabilitating abused elephants, while Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has a focus on providing a natural environment for elephants without promoting riding activities.

Most elephant sanctuaries provide pick-up and drop-off services from and to your accommodation in Chiang Mai, which is often included in your tour package. The journey typically takes about 1-2 hours, depending on the specific location of the sanctuary.

The activities vary, but often include feeding and bathing elephants, walking with them through the forest, and learning about their behavior and conservation. Some sanctuaries, like the Patara Elephant Farm, allow you to ‘adopt’ an elephant for a day, learning the routines and responsibilities of an elephant caretaker.

Yes, visitor guidelines are essential to ensuring the welfare of the elephants. Typically, you’re advised to approach elephants calmly and respectfully, avoid loud noises, and only touch them under the guidance of a mahout or guide. Also, riding elephants is generally discouraged as it can be harmful to their health.

The sanctuaries are actively involved in rescuing abused or retired elephants, providing them with a safe and natural environment where they can thrive. They’re also involved in veterinary care, feeding the elephants balanced diets, and giving them plenty of space to roam and socialize. Furthermore, they educate visitors and locals about elephant conservation.

Yes, guided tours are available at most elephant sanctuaries, and they often include English-speaking guides. Some sanctuaries also offer guides who speak other languages like Chinese, French, or Spanish, but it’s advisable to check in advance.

The cost can vary widely depending on the sanctuary and the type of visit or tour you choose. On average, expect to pay between 1,000 to 3,000 Thai Baht per person. This typically includes transportation, meals, and an English-speaking guide.

Many sanctuaries welcome volunteers who can commit to a certain period, ranging from a week to several months. Tasks may include feeding and bathing elephants, cleaning, and general maintenance. Some places might require you to be of a certain age or have specific skills, so it’s best to inquire directly with the sanctuary.

Yes, some sanctuaries like the Elephant Nature Park have special programs for orphaned or injured elephants, including babies. They provide specialized care to help these elephants recover and integrate into the herd.

Chiang Mai’s elephant sanctuaries are open year-round. However, the cool season from November to February is often considered the best time to visit as the weather is more pleasant.

While many sanctuaries strive to be as inclusive as possible, the rugged, natural terrain can present challenges. It’s best to contact the sanctuary directly to discuss any specific needs or requirements you might have.

Elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai play a critical role in rescuing and rehabilitating elephants, and also in raising awareness about the threats elephants face. They provide valuable education to locals and tourists alike about the importance of ethical treatment and the role of elephants in the ecosystem.

Yes, many of the elephants in these sanctuaries are rescued from logging industries, circuses, or tourism-related businesses where they were mistreated or overworked. Some are also rescued from injury or conflict situations in the wild.

For a visit, it’s advisable to bring a hat, sunscreen, bug spray, comfortable walking shoes, and a change of clothes as you might get muddy or wet. Don’t forget your camera for taking pictures, but remember to respect the elephants’ space.

Yes, part of the experience at these sanctuaries is learning about the elephants. Guides will often share fascinating insights about their behavior, social structure, diet, and physiology. Some sanctuaries even have on-site information centers or offer educational presentations.

Before taking a trip to Chiang Mai, check out our motorbike rental rates and read our tips for safe travel. Then, you can contact us to book your bike. Also, on the main page of our website, you will find more information about our scooter rentals in Chiang Mai.

Cat Motors Team

Was this post useful for you?

You can rate it by clicking on a star

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *