While the first thing you may think about Thailand is beaches, the country is actually blessed with a wealth of outdoor activity opportunities – including some top-class trekking. The northern area of Thailand around Chiang Mai is the most obvious trekking choice as there are many different routes in the region to choose from, but it is by no means the only destination.
Find out more about trekking in Thailand – where to go, how to plan, what to take, and what to expect. With a little forward planning Thailand is the perfect place to go walking and hiking, and checking out the outstanding natural beauty in this varied country.
Where to Go Trekking in Thailand
The most popular place for trekking in Thailand is north of the capital around the city of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai itself is a wonderful base for a trekking holiday. It is a beautiful and very laid-back city with lots of important cultural landmarks, some great cooking schools, and most of all some mountains and valleys to explore by foot. Also, the trekking around Mae Taeng is top-notch. There are some lovely multi-day treks and you can also take part in adventurous activities like bamboo rafting, white water rafting, camping, and homestays.
The route from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son is particularly spectacular, and was once a trade route that linked the highlands. This trek will take you about six to eight hours walking per day and you will stay four seven nights in highland hill towns.
If you don’t want to go to the north, the trails in the national parks on the island of Khao Lak are excellent, and the mountain of Khao Pom on Ko Samui is also great for a shorter four to five hour trek.
Why Choose a Trekking Tour?
You can go trekking anywhere in Thailand on your own but it is highly recommended that you hire a guide or join an organized tour. This is because many of the trails are not marked and you need a great deal of experience in the country in order to navigate the paths and also deal with the weather and landscape. And the best thing about taking part in a guided trekking tour is you can concentrate on the scenery and the walking without having to worry about getting lost. Make sure you book in advance, especially for the most popular tours during peak season.
How to Choose a Trekking Tour
Your ideal tour depends a lot on when you want to go and how far you want to trek. If you have time it is a good idea to go on a trek that takes at least a couple of days, with a night or two spent camping or staying in forest huts. These tours will take you deeper into the most beautiful places in eh country.
You should also consider the reputation of the tour operator since there are a variety of different companies and they offer different things, to different standards. Ask other travellers for recommendations or look online. And remember to look for the accreditations with the local tourist boards. When you have found a company you like the look of, ask lots of questions about how long the tour is, what food and drink is provided, and where you will be staying. The best tour is not necessarily the cheapest or the most expensive. Be discerning and shop around for a trek tour that suits your budget and needs.
What to Take on a Thailand Trek
It is very important to wear the right shoes for the weather and the type of trek you will be taking part in. Ask the operator what they recommend, and make sure you have worn them in and not just bought them two days before the trip. As well as a change of clothes, you will need a swimsuit for the waterfalls and pools, sunglasses, sunscreen, a sun hat, bug repellent, and your own water bottle. It is a good idea to bring some warmer clothes if you are trekking in October through to December as it can get cold in the hilly regions, especially in the evenings.
How to Behave on a Trek
It is very important that you act respectfully to the people you meet on the trails, especially towards the hill tribes whose way of life will be very different to your own. Ask them if you can take photos and show respect when on their land or in their villages. Make sure you never leave anything on the trails and keep your camping places clean. Be careful when smoking and never leave lit matches or cigarettes on the ground.
Safety Rules for Thailand Trekking
Never hike on your own in Thailand. Try to go with an organized group but if you are in a small group then make sure someone knows where they are going and take a GPS if possible (and spare batteries). Take a whistle that you can sound for help if you get lost. Don’t rely on a mobile phone which will not work in remote areas. Take plenty of drinking water and snacks for the length of time you will be trekking. Make sure you are properly equipped with insect repellent. And carry a basic first aid kit (plus get travel insurance before you go.)