Northern Thailand used to be the revered to as the Holy Grail for Trekking in Thailand before it became insanely popular amongst tourists and travelers. The once isolated hill tribe villages and lush unspoilt rainforests are now overrun with various trekking tours offered by nearly every guesthouse in Chaing Mai.
Understandably, a lot of people flock to Thailand to enjoy it’s pristine white beaches and warm tropical waters. Whether you’re hopping from one island to the next with other backpackers or going on inclusive pampering getaways which companies like TUI offer, find the will power to tear yourself away from the sun, sand, and cocktails for a few days of rugged trekking in the mountains. Despite the popularity of trekking in Thailand, there are still off-the-beaten path trails and treks which you can do. Spoken from experience, here are some useful tips when trekking in Thailand to make sure you have the most authentic experience possible.
Do Your Research and Decide on a Trail
Although I would love to be able to walk through a rice fields into a seemingly unknown forest ready for an adventure, the reality is, because most of Thailand is now built up for tourism, finding obscure trails is getting harder and harder. Our tip? Do your research. Apart from the trails in Chiang Mai (which are all pretty stunning in their own way), you can also opt to check out lesser known places like Umphang, Mae Sariang, and Sangkhlaburi. Although they are less popular, these places have many National Parks, waterfalls, caves, and hill tribe villages to explore. Depending on the kind of trail you want to explore, research on various places and decide then. No matter where you opt to go trekking, you typically have multiple day treks which include some camping and rafting along the way.
Please note that a lot of these trekking companies offer elephant riding as part of their tours. Similar to deciding on which trails to go on, we urge you to do your research on how elephants are treated in Thailand before you agree to take part in elephant riding during treks.
Looking for Unknown Places to Trek in Thailand? Check out these following places for unusual off the beaten path explorations:
Phu Lang Ka
Please note that these places, along with the ones mentioned above are a lot more obscure so don’t expect to find large tour groups which you can easily join. It is best to go to these places with your own group in order to cut down on costs. Most of these villages have either one or two guesthouses or home stays where you can hunker down for a night before setting off into the jungle.
Trek with a Good Company
Due to the quick growth of tourism in Thailand over the last few years, virtually everyone runs trekking tours in the mountains. While there are many legit companies, there are also a lot of phony ones. These are the type of agencies who won’t deliver on their tours, will bring you to the nearest forest and will try to give you the “cheapest” possible experience. I’ve personally experienced a trek where they fed us nothing but rice and noodles for three days while the agency advertised buffet style native meals. The lesson? Go with a reputable agency, ask around, and read reviews of people who have previously done the the trek. Just because your guesthouse says that they do trekking tours, it doesn’t mean you should go with that particular one. Cut the middle man by going directly with the company. Whether family owned or an established company, at least you know exactly what you are getting.
Trek to Your Fitness Level
While none of the hikes in Thailand are too physically demanding, it is always a good rule of thumb to hike within your fitness level. Inquire about the terrain, find out if it is within your capabilities. Hikes are supposed to be fun and enjoyable and not physically challenging to a point that you can no longer walk the next day. Check the distance- it may look short but if it consists of a series of uphill climbs then you might have to rethink your decision of opting to climb it after a big night of partying. Although I love hiking, since an eventful climb up what turned out to be the 3rd highest peak in the Philippines, I am now a lot more wary of the trails and mountains I hike.
Bring the Right Gear
Whether you’re going on a 2-day trek or an epic 5 day one, ask for a packing list and make sure you bring everything that you might need. Depending on the weather, pack accordingly. We’ve spent way too many nights in the jungle drenched just because we forgot to bring a few raincoats. Some treks in Thailand like in Khao Sok National Park are renowned for having leeches so wearing plastic boots or regular hiking boots is definitely something you would want to keep in mind. If all else fails, always remember to bring snacks, sunscreen, and insect repellant. You will be amazed at how a chocolate bar can help power you through the last stretch of a hike and well, the others are pretty standard and self-explanatory.
In Thailand, you are most likely going to encounter a few hill tribe villages along the way, depending on where you are going. Instead of treating them like tourist attractions, take the time to get to know them. A lot of them have picked up English over the years so instead of gawking and taking photos continuously, always ask, smile, and be respectful to them and their surroundings. Ask your guide to translate. Instead of just looking at them, interact with them and you will find yourself pleasantly surprised. If you see any remnants that other tourists left, take the time to pick it up and store it with you until you can properly dispose of it.
Bring the Right Attitude
NNaturally, one of the biggest tips that we can give you while trekking in Thailand is to be ready with your sense of adventure. Things will go wrong. Your guide may dismiss a particular trail, treating it like a piece of cake when deep inside, you’re mustering just enough energy to take the next step in hopes that you won’t faint. It might rain profusely and you might end up soaking wet for most of the time. Yes, all that might happen but part of the beauty of trekking is enjoying the unexpected. Manage your expectations- in fact, we recommend not having any! Instead, go with your sense of adventure and your willingness to expect and experience the unfamiliar. If you do all of the above, you’re bound to have a blast!
Want to read more about trekking? Check out these articles below
- 10 Epic Treks in Asia, That You Have to Do in Your Lifetime
- Beginner’s Guide to Trekking: Everything You Need to Know
- Trekking in Chaing Mai, Thailand