Chiang Dao, Thailand, is seventy kilometers north of Chiang Mai and easily reached by public transport. Set in beautiful forest and karst limestone cliff surroundings, it is home to the well-known cave temple Wat Tham Chiang Dao and the Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary. The small town also hosts a very colorful and lively hill tribes market every first and third Tuesday of every month.
Doi Chiang Dao rises steeply from the surrounding plains and is heavily forested and home to a number of rare bird species. There have been more than three hundred different species recorded here. It is a very steep climb to the top with great views of the countryside below, and can be done on a long day, although camping one night on the slopes is better. There is a wildlife sanctuary headquarters from where you can organize your visit.
Wat Tham Chiang Dao is a labyrinth of ten kilometers of interlinked, underground passageways that extend beneath Doi Chiang Dao. It is a Buddhist meditation retreat with an attached monastery. It's worth taking a guide with a torch or lantern to see the stalactite and stalagmite formations in the tunnels. The first few chambers are lit but, as you go deeper in to the narrower chambers, it's pitch dark. Wat Tham Pha Plong is another beautiful forest temple, just north of Chiang Dao, with a steep staircase leading up to a rocky crevice.
Also north of Chiang Dao is Pha Daem National Park, which flanks the Myanmar border. It offers lush forest and myriad bird life. Its deep cave system is worth exploring and there are many hiking opportunities here offering stunning viewpoints, waterfalls and beautiful nature.
Chiang Dao has a couple of backpacker accommodation options. Transport usually stops east of the highway by Chiang Dao, so it's necessary to take a motorbike taxi to your accommodation near the wat. It might be worth contacting your chosen hostel in Chiang Dao, Thailand, in advance to arrange this. Chiang Dao, Thailand hostels can organize any hiking visitors would like to undertake, and can arrange onward travel. The hostels in Chiang Dao, Thailand, also know the best guides, whether it's bird watching or hiking the summit of Doi Chiang Dao.
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