Chiang Dao is the perfect short break from Chiang Mai. It can also be the starting point of a road trip over the mountains to Chiang Rai. Nothing much happens here. However, it is a scenic spot to relax for a night or two with stunning views of the 2186 meter high Doi Luang Chiang Dao. The mountain itself is located 40 km south of the Myanmar border. The area is famous for overnight treks and bird watching. Chiang Dao translates as the city of stars. Maybe people used to think that the mountain top touched the stars.
The impressive karst stone mountain range holds many caves, of course, of which Wat Tham Chiang Dao cave is the main attraction. With over 12 kilometres of underpasses and caverns, there are plenty of stalactites and stalagmites. To explore the deeper interior of this cave, you will need a guide.
Eating Crab in Chiang Dao
The town itself is also the unlikely destination for some of the best crab in northern Thailand – The Alaska King Crab restaurant. This feels kind of weird considering the location, but I have to admit that it was a food highlight with oversized portions, and the place is extremely popular with the local crowd.
More places to stay than just The Nest
You can find some excellent resorts and B&B’s here. There used to be only The Chiang Dao Nest for a decent overnight stay, always a popular choice for biker caravans and cravers of western food. The Thai owner used to work as a chef in England to have her staff cook up a storm with western food. (Pictures from the Nest below from June 2010)
I have driven through Chiang Dao many times but only stayed overnight on three occasions. Twice at The Nest in the old days. Then, last June, we got a fantastic reopening price after the covid lockdown at Chiang Dao Azalea Village. Azalea has nice small bungalows, a pool with scenic views of the mountain, and close to the evening market in town. Perfect place to do nothing!
If you need a coffee with a view, try the Pronto cafe.
Chiang Dao is beautiful in the rainy season or green season that we prefer to call it here. The cold season from November to February is also favourable. But when the burning season starts, it is best to avoid the area in late February, March and April. Tend to be a lot of fires forest fires at the time.