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12 Best Things to Do in Mae Hong Son: Must-See Attractions

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12 Best Things to Do in Mae Hong Son: Must-See Attractions

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While most backpackers flock to hotspots like Chiang Mai or Pai in Northern Thailand, there’s a lesser-known gem hidden in the mountains near the Myanmar border: Mae Hong Son. It’s one of those destinations that doesn’t always make it to the typical travel itinerary, but it’s every bit worth the detour. And honestly? That’s their loss. Mae Hong Son offers a unique blend of Thai and Burmese cultures, set against a backdrop of lush mountains and serene lakes. It’s less touristy, more authentic, and every bit as beautiful as its more famous neighbors.

Stretching from its bustling local markets to the serene Pai River, Mae Hong Son is not just about its famous morning mists or the intricate Burmese-style architecture. It’s where traditional music fills the air, and the scent of local dishes wafts through the streets. The winding roads, with their panoramic mountain views, lead to hidden gems like the Tham Pla-Namtok Pha Suea National Park and the vibrant communities of the Kayan Long Neck villages.

For those looking to venture off the beaten path and dive deep into Northern Thailand’s heart, I’ve put together a list of must-do activities and sights in Mae Hong Son. Drawing from my own travels and tips from fellow wanderers, this guide is your ticket to experiencing Mae Hong Son like a local. Ready to explore? To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Mae Hong Son.

This article on the Best Things To Do in Mae Hong Son contains affiliate links where I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Best Places to Visit in Mae Hong Son

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Mae Hong Son? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this serene vacation spot in Thailand. So keep reading to discover all these unique Mae Hong Son places to visit.

Are you looking to go trekking through pristine forests, meet with indigenous hill tribes and immerse yourself in local cultures? Or would you prefer to explore the region’s serene lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs? Whatever you’re planning, this must-visit Southeast Asian gem can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Mae Hong Son that you should know about.

1. Mae Hong Son Loop

Mae Hong Son is a destination that’s rich in natural beauty and cultural diversity. One of the standout experiences here is the Mae Hong Son Loop. This road trip, originating from Chiang Mai, is a favorite among travelers.

The loop is renowned for its winding roads that meander through the mountains, offering breathtaking views at every turn. With a staggering 1864 curves, the route between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son town promises adventure. It also offers scenic beauty in abundance.

For those who love motorbiking, this route is considered one of the best things to do in Mae Hong Son. The thrill of navigating the curves, with the cool mountain air brushing against your face, is unparalleled. However, if you’re not comfortable on a motorbike, there are other options. Hiring a car or taking a bus or minivan are popular choices. For those flying in from Bangkok, the Mae Hong Son airport provides a picturesque approach over the mountains. It gives a glimpse of the stunning beauty that awaits you.

A location rich in diverse cultures and scenic beauty.

2. Tuk-Tuk Adventure

If you’ve been to Thailand, you’ve seen tuk-tuks. But Mae Hong Son offers a different take on this classic Thai experience. Here, The Tuk Tuk Club lets you not just ride, but also drive these iconic three-wheelers. It’s a hands-on way to explore the region, and it’s a lot of fun.

Starting in Mae Hong Son town, you can drive through the countryside, getting a firsthand look at local life. You might pass through traditional Shan villages, where you can see how the locals live and work. The dense forests around the area offer a cool escape from the town’s hustle and bustle.

Interested in local food? Make a pit stop at the Ban Pha Bong market. It’s a great place to try some regional snacks. For those who want a break from driving, there’s the Pha Bong viewpoint. It’s a bit of a climb, but the view is worth it.

If you’re not confident about driving a tuk-tuk, don’t worry. The Tuk Tuk Club also offers chauffeur-driven tours. Either way, it’s a unique way to see Mae Hong Son and its surroundings.

With Tuk Tuk Club, you can operate these recognizable three-wheelers in addition to riding them.

3. Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu

If you’re in Mae Hong Son and looking for a mix of history, culture, and unbeatable views, Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu is where you should head. Sitting high on a hill, this temple isn’t just another religious site; it’s a window into the region’s past. The white stupa and intricate Buddha statues inside tell tales of Buddhism and the local heritage.

The climb up might elevate your heart rate. However, trust me, the panoramic views of Mae Hong Son and the surrounding valleys make it worth every step. It’s a location where you can clearly see the town’s layout and identify other landmarks. Additionally, it’s the ideal spot to capture that perfect photo for your travel album.

One of the coolest things to do in Mae Hong Son is to time your visit for sunset. Watching the town light up as the sun dips behind the mountains? It’s a moment you won’t forget. While the temple is a draw for its history and architecture, the views and atmosphere make it a must-visit. So, grab your camera, lace up your walking shoes, and make your way up.

A blend of culture, history, and unrivaled opinions

4. Tham Pla (Fish Cave)

If you’re around Mae Hong Son and seeking something less touristy, consider Tham Pla. Often referred to as the Fish Cave, it’s a noteworthy destination. Instead of stalactites or underground rivers, this cave is home to a unique species of fish. These aren’t just any fish; locals believe they’re protected by the cave’s spirit, making them somewhat of a sacred attraction.

The journey to the cave is an experience in itself. You’ll walk through a dense forest with a stream that guides your path. It’s a refreshing change from the town’s hustle, and the sounds of nature offer a peaceful backdrop. Once at the cave, you can watch the fish, but remember: fishing is a no-go. These fish are revered, and the locals take their protection seriously.

Outside the cave, there’s a park area perfect for unwinding. Bring a picnic, enjoy the surroundings, and maybe even chat with locals who frequent the area. In a region celebrated for its natural splendors, the Fish Cave is distinct. It’s recognized as one of the most unique and coolest activities in Mae Hong Son.

One notable location is the Fish Cave.

5. Pai River

If you’re in Mae Hong Son and you’ve done the temples, the hikes, and the markets, it’s time to hit the Pai River. Why? Rafting. It’s not just a river trip; it’s an adventure into the heart of Northern Thailand. The Pai River isn’t just scenic views; it’s a glimpse into the lives of the hill tribes that call its banks home.

Starting your journey, you’ll quickly realize this isn’t your average tourist activity. The dense jungles, the remote villages, and the occasional rapid that gets your heart racing – it’s all part of the experience. And while you’re navigating those waters, you’ll see the real Mae Hong Son. Kids waving from the banks, fishermen going about their day, and the untouched nature that makes this region so special.

Booking a rafting tour is straightforward. Most come with local guides who’ve grown up on these waters and have stories that’ll make the journey even more memorable. Some tours even throw in an overnight camp by the river. Imagine that: a night under the stars, surrounded by the sounds of nature.

In Mae Hong Son, there’s no shortage of things to do. But rafting the Pai River? It’s a unique experience you won’t forget.

This is an excursion into the heart of Northern Thailand, not merely a river tour.

6. Pha Bong Hot Springs

A short drive from Mae Hong Son City takes you to Pha Bong Hot Springs. The springs is a lesser-known location, ideal for those wanting to veer off the typical tourist path. It’s not the grandest or the most famous hot spring in Thailand, but that’s exactly what makes it special.

The springs are nestled amidst lush greenery, providing a tranquil setting to relax and rejuvenate. The water here is rich in minerals, and locals swear by its therapeutic properties. After spending a day wandering through Mae Hong Son’s temples and markets, these natural pools are a treat. Soaking your weary feet here is a delightful respite.

Nearby, there’s a small waterfall, which, while not massive, adds to the charm of the place. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the best travel experiences come from the simplest things.

For those who want to make a day of it, there are picnic areas and even a few local stalls selling snacks and drinks. But keep in mind, this place isn’t commercialized. It maintains its raw authenticity, representing a part of Mae Hong Son that many visitors overlook.

So, if you’re the kind of traveler who values authenticity over popularity, Pha Bong Hot Springs should be on your list. It’s one of those places that might not make the headlines but will surely make your trip memorable.

An obscure place, perfect for travelers who wish to deviate from the usual route.

7. Ban Rak Thai

Looking for a touch of China in Northern Thailand? Ban Rak Thai is your destination. Located near the Myanmar border, this village has a history that’s as intriguing as its landscape. The village was first settled by fighters from the Kuo Min Tang political party post the Chinese Civil War. Now, it symbolizes their enduring spirit and adaptability.

Walking through Ban Rak Thai, you’ll notice the distinct Yunnanese influence in everything from the architecture to the food. The village is dotted with tea houses serving traditional Chinese teas and dishes that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in Thailand. The serene lake in the village adds to its charm, making it a perfect spot for some relaxation and reflection.

Among the many Mae Hong Son things to do, a day at Ban Rak Thai stands out. It presents a special mix of history, culture, and scenic allure. It’s not just about the sights; it’s about understanding the stories of the people who’ve made this place their home. Are you a traveler intrigued by local cultures and histories? Then, Ban Rak Thai deserves a spot on your Mae Hong Son travel plan.

It represents their versatility and unwavering spirit.

8. Lod Cave

If you’re in Mae Hong Son and have an itch for some underground adventure, Lod Cave is the place to be. This isn’t just another touristy cave. It’s an expansive underground system blending history, nature, and a dash of adrenaline.

The cave is known for its river that allows visitors to take a bamboo raft ride deep into its chambers. As you glide through, you’ll be surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites, with bats flying overhead and fish swimming below. But what makes this place even more intriguing is its history. Local guides, who hail from nearby villages, will point out ancient coffins and artifacts left behind by prehistoric hunter-gatherers.

While the cave itself is a marvel, the experience is elevated by these local guides. The guides are intimately familiar with every nook of the cave. Plus, they relay stories and legends passed down over generations.

If you’re seeking a change from the usual temple and market visits, Lod Cave is your answer. It promises a unique kind of excitement. Lod Cave a reminder that sometimes, the best parts of a destination are hidden beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered.

You should visit Lod Cave if you’re itching for an underground adventure.

9. Namtok Mae Surin National Park

Mae Hong Son isn’t solely about its delightful town. It also boasts some of Thailand’s most breathtaking natural wonders. One such gem is the Namtok Mae Surin National Park. This park is a nature lover’s paradise, boasting a variety of landscapes from dense jungles to cascading waterfalls.

The highlight of the park is undoubtedly the Mae Surin Waterfall, one of Thailand’s tallest single-tier waterfalls. The sheer power and beauty of the water cascading down is a sight to behold. But that’s not all the park offers. There’s also the mysterious ‘Nam Hu Hai Jai Cave’, where water mysteriously gushes out of the cave walls every 25 minutes. Reaching this cave requires a 3-4 hour trek. However, the unique sights inside justify every bit of the effort.

For those who prefer a more laid-back experience, the Mae Sakud Nature Trail is a great choice. This trail spans 7.5 km and leads you deep into the jungle. Along the way, it offers sweeping views of Mae Hong Son and the landscapes beyond. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast, Namtok Mae Surin National Park has something for everyone. It truly highlights the best of Northern Thailand’s natural splendor.

A haven for nature lovers, with a range of environments from deep jungles to tumbling waterfalls.

10. Su Tong Pae Bridge

Just a short distance from Mae Hong Son town, you’ll find the Su Tong Pae Bridge. This serene bamboo bridge stretches over 800 meters, crossing rice fields and the Mae Sa Nga River. Built by the villagers and monks, this bridge connects the main road to the Kung Mai Sak Monastery.

As you walk across Su Tong Pae, lush greenery surrounds you. Depending on the season, you might also see golden rice fields swaying gently. The bridge’s vantage point offers a unique perspective of the region’s natural beauty. The bridge is a popular spot for catching the sunrise and sunset. The soft light casts a magical glow on the bridge and its surroundings, turning the scene into a photographer’s dream.

Locals often use this bridge for their daily commute, and you’ll see monks collecting alms in the early morning. It’s a peaceful place that offers a glimpse into the daily life of the Mae Hong Son community. Visiting the Su Tong Pae Bridge offers a tranquil escape. It’s a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle, and a must-visit when you’re in the region.

You may discover the Su Tong Pae Bridge not too far from Mae Hong Son town.

11. Mae Hong Son City Highlights

Mae Hong Son City, situated in the northern province of Thailand, offers a blend of traditional Thai experiences and unique attractions. Unlike the bustling streets of Pai or Chiang Mai, this city provides a more authentic Thai way of life. A visit here promises a deeper exploration of the Mae Hong Son province.

Start your day with a serene sunrise at Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu, followed by a leisurely stroll around the Morning Market. Here, you can immerse yourself in the local lifestyle and even enjoy a traditional breakfast at the Congee Restaurant. For those intrigued by architecture, the wooden temple at Wat Hua Wiang is a must-visit. Its design is reminiscent of old wooden churches in northern Europe.

Another highlight is the Su Tong Pae Bamboo Bridge, originally built for monks to reach the town for their morning ceremonies. The bridge offers picturesque views of vast rice fields, especially during the early hours. If you’re in the mood for some shopping and local cuisine, the Night Market around Wat Chong Klang and Wat Chong Kham is the place to be. From delicious street food to unique souvenirs, there’s something for everyone.

Lastly, for a genuine interaction with the Kayan tribe, consider visiting the Huay Pu Keng Kayan Long Neck Village. Unlike other touristy long-neck villages, this one offers a more authentic experience, allowing visitors to truly connect with the local community.

In Mae Hong Son City, every corner holds a story, waiting to be discovered.

Mae Hong Son City provides a fusion of distinctive attractions and traditional Thai adventures.

12. Phu Klon Mud Spa

If you’re looking for a unique way to relax and rejuvenate in Mae Hong Son, the Phu Klon Mud Spa is the place to be. Located amidst the scenic mountains, this spa provides a unique experience. It combines the region’s natural beauty with traditional wellness practices.

Among the unique things to do in Mae Hong Son, indulging in a mud spa treatment here stands out. The mineral-rich mud, sourced from the local area, is known for its therapeutic properties. It’s believed to improve skin health, boost circulation, and even alleviate certain ailments. Visitors can immerse themselves in mud baths, enjoy mud facials, or simply relax in the mineral hot springs.

But it’s not just about the mud. The spa is set in a tranquil environment, surrounded by lush greenery and the soothing sounds of nature. After your treatment, you can stroll around the grounds. You might also enjoy a traditional Thai massage or sample local delicacies at the on-site restaurant.

For those who want to delve deeper into the benefits of the mud, the spa also offers educational tours. Here, you’ll learn about the source of the mud, its properties, and the traditional methods used in the treatments. A visit to Phu Klon Mud Spa is not just a treat for the body, but also for the soul.

The Phu Klon Mud Spa is a special place in Mae Hong Son to unwind and revitalize.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Mae Hong Son

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Mae Hong Son? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Mae Hong Son:

What’s the best time to visit Mae Hong Son?

The ideal time to visit Mae Hong Son is between November and February. During these months, the weather is cooler and there’s less rainfall. It’s perfect for outdoor activities and exploring the region without the scorching heat or heavy monsoons.

How do I get to Mae Hong Son?

You can fly directly into Mae Hong Son from Chiang Mai. There are daily flights available. Alternatively, if you’re up for a road trip, you can rent a car or take a bus from Chiang Mai. The journey offers scenic views but be prepared for winding roads!

Is Mae Hong Son safe for solo travelers?

Absolutely! Mae Hong Son is generally safe for solo travelers, including women. Like anywhere, it’s essential to take standard precautions, especially at night. But the locals are friendly, and the town has a laid-back vibe, making it a comfortable place for solo exploration.

How much is the budget for Mae Hong Son loop?

The budget for the Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand can vary widely depending on your travel style, choice of accommodation, mode of transportation, and personal spending habits. Here’s a rough breakdown to give you an idea:

Transportation:

  1. Motorbike Rental: Approximately 200-300 THB per day.
  2. Fuel: Depends on the distance covered; fuel costs are relatively low in Thailand.
  3. Maintenance/Insurance: Some rental places include this in the rental price.

Accommodation:

  1. Budget Guesthouses/Hostels: 300-600 THB per night.
  2. Mid-range Hotels: 600-1500 THB per night.
  3. Luxury Resorts: 1500+ THB per night.

Food and Drink:

  1. Local Street Food: 30-50 THB per meal.
  2. Restaurant Meals: 100-300 THB per meal.
  3. Western Food: Can be more expensive, 200-500 THB per meal.

Activities and Entrance Fees:

  1. Temple Visits: Many are free, but donations are appreciated.
  2. National Parks: Entrance fees vary, usually around 100-300 THB.
  3. Hot Springs, Caves, etc.: Fees can range from 20-100 THB.

Miscellaneous:

  1. Souvenirs, Snacks, etc.: Variable.
  2. Emergency Fund: Always good to have a little extra.

Estimated Daily Budget:

  • Budget Traveler: 800-1200 THB per day.
  • Mid-range Traveler: 1200-2500 THB per day.
  • Luxury Traveler: 2500+ THB per day.

Total for Loop (5-7 days):

  • Budget Traveler: Approximately 4000-8400 THB.
  • Mid-range Traveler: Approximately 6000-17500 THB.
  • Luxury Traveler: 17500+ THB.
Mae Hong Son is well known for its magnificent scenery.

Are there ATMs in Mae Hong Son?

Yes, Mae Hong Son has several ATMs, especially in the town area. However, if you’re venturing into more remote areas or smaller villages, it’s a good idea to carry enough cash as ATMs might be sparse.

Can I rent a motorbike to explore the region?

Definitely! Renting a motorbike is a popular way to explore Mae Hong Son and its surroundings. Ensure you have the necessary licenses, wear a helmet, and are comfortable driving on mountainous roads.

Is English widely spoken in Mae Hong Son?

While Mae Hong Son isn’t as touristy as places like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you’ll find that many locals, especially in hotels, restaurants, and tourist spots, speak basic English. It’s always a good idea to learn a few Thai phrases, though. It goes a long way in making connections!

Is Mae Sariang worth visiting?

Absolutely! Mae Sariang is a hidden gem in the Mae Hong Son province. It’s less touristy than other spots, offering a more authentic experience of Northern Thailand. The town is surrounded by lush mountains, serene rivers, and ancient temples. It’s a haven for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle, immerse themselves in nature, and experience the rich culture and traditions of the region. Plus, its proximity to various hill tribe villages provides a unique cultural immersion.

What is Mae Hong Son known for?

Mae Hong Son is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, from mist-covered mountains to serene lakes and dense forests. It’s often referred to as the “City of Three Mists” due to the prevalent mists that arise from its forests, cold weather, and warm temperatures. The province is also known for its rich cultural heritage, with a blend of Thai and Burmese influences evident in its architecture, food, and festivals. Additionally, Mae Hong Son is home to various hill tribes, each with its distinct culture and traditions, making it a cultural melting pot and a must-visit for those looking to dive deep into Thailand’s diverse heritage.

What is the highest peak in Mae Hong Son?

The highest peak in the Mae Hong Son Province of Thailand is Doi Pui Co. This mountain is part of the Thanon Thong Chai Range and reaches an elevation of about 1,980 meters (6,496 feet) above sea level. Doi Pui Co is known for its scenic beauty and the lush, mountainous landscapes that characterize this region of Northern Thailand. The area is popular for trekking and outdoor activities, offering visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of the Mae Hong Son Province.

Closing Thoughts on Exploring Mae Hong Son

Mae Hong Son is one of those destinations that truly captures the essence of Northern Thailand. With its mix of natural beauty, cultural richness, and off-the-beaten-path experiences, it’s a place that beckons travelers to explore deeper and stay longer.

From its mist-covered mountains to its vibrant markets and ancient temples, every corner of Mae Hong Son offers a new adventure. Whether you’re trekking through dense jungles, soaking in hot springs, or interacting with local hill tribes, the experiences here are genuine and memorable.

So, if you’re looking for a destination that offers both adventure and authenticity, fly to Thailand, and visiting Mae Hong Son should be on your list. It’s not just another stop on the tourist trail; it’s a journey into the heart of Thailand.

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