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  • Writer's pictureLena Claeys

Mae Hong Son Loop, Thailand: How To Drive The Most Beautiful Route In Northern Thailand

Located in the Mae Hong Son province, the Mae Hong Son Loop is likely the most beautiful routes in northern Thailand. With vast mountain landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and authentic Thai villages, this is one of our favorite regions in the country. Starting and finishing in the fascinating city of Chiang Mai, this 600 kilometers or 372 mile loop takes at least 4 days to complete. In this article, we share our complete itinerary for the Mae Hong Son loop along with all the information you need to do the trip yourself, the must-visit stops along the way, and some travel tips.


mae hong son loop thaiand things to do
Su Tong Pae Bridge

 

Check out our video on the Mae Hong Son Loop to see the complete route and stops through our camera!




Table Of Contents


Important Things To Know


Best time to do the Mae Hong Son Loop


You can do the Mae Hong Son Loop all year round but the best time to do it is between November and February. In this period the weather is cooler and it will not rain too much. If you go between March and June, it will still be dry but a lot warmer. The raining season starts around June and ends in November, so that's the least favorable time to travel there.


What type of vehicle to rent


First, the Mae Hong Son Loop is best undertaken on a 150cc scooter, a larger motorcycle, or a car rented from Chiang Mai. This is because the road is extremely windy and steep, counting 1,864 curves. Especially if you are an inexperienced driver, the roads can be tricky. You can find a scooter rental in many places around Chiang Mai, so it’s best to ask around. If you’re interested in renting a car, we recommend picking it up from the Chiang Mai airport (that's what we did!).


Best direction to drive the loop


If you’re an inexperienced driver, we recommend driving the loop in a clockwise direction, heading through Mae Sariang first. This part has less steep curves, so it’s a great way to get used to your scooter and build confidence. In this article, we follow our route, which was counter-clockwise, but you can just reverse it!



Where to stay along the Mae Hong Son Loop


There are many hotels in the various towns along the loop and you can find links to the places we stayed in this article. But for an authentic mountain experience, bring your camping gear and camp at one of the beautiful viewpoints. In this way, you can catch the sunrise and morning clouds!


Mae Hong Son Loop Overview


If you're traveling to the Mae Hong Son Loop and want to save time searching for directions to all of the places we mention in this article, then look no further than our custom map. Simply click on a point in the map below to get directions for yourself!



Let's now jump into an overview of the Mae Hong Son Loop!


Part 1: Chiang Mai to Pai


Distance: 130 km / 80 mi (3 hours)

Ideal length to stay: 1-3 days

Highlights: Mok Fa waterfalls, Huai Nam Dang National Park, Tha Pai Hot Springs, Memorial Bridge, Pai Canyon, Pam Bok waterfall, Kho Ku So Bamboo Bridge, Big Buddha Pai, Yun Lai Viewpoint, Mo Pang waterfall, Pai Night Market

Where we stayed: RimPai Cottage

After exploring Chiang Mai for a few days, it’s time to start the loop. Heading to the northwest, this is the steepest part of the entire journey with 762 bends in the road to get to Pai. You can find the stunning Mok Fa waterfall during this part of the route as well as Huai Nam Dang National Park with elevated views. But the real star here is the town of Pai itself, which is a popular and laid-back tourist destination. You can easily spend a few days exploring the cute town as well as its surrounding attractions, such as the Tha Pai Hot Springs, where you can find locals boiling eggs.


Mok Fa waterfall Mae Hong Son loop thailand
Mok Fa Waterfall

Other highlights in Pai that you can’t miss include the night market in town, the Memorial Bridge, Pam Bok waterfalls, Big Buddha, and Pai Canyon.


Pai town Mae Hong Son loop Thailand
The food at the night market in Pai town


Part 2: Pai to Mae Hong Son City


Distance: 110 km / 68 mi (2.5 hours)

Ideal length to stay: 2-4 days

Highlights: Doi Kio Lom viewpoint, Nam Lod cave, Pang Mapha Viewpoint, Wat Chong Klang, Chong Kam Night Market, Su Tong Pae Bridge, Wat Phra That Doi Kongmu, Mae Sakut Nature Trail, Huay Pu Keng, Ban Rak Thai village, Lee Wine Rak Thai Resort

Where we stayed: Popeye House


Our favorite part of the entire loop is from Pai to Mae Hong Son City. This section takes about 2.5 hours if you drive without stopping, but there are some places along the way you can’t miss, which adds to the distance and time. One of these highlights is the Nam Lod Cave, the most impressive cave system in all of Thailand in our opinion. Here, a guide will take you for about 2 hours with a lantern through different chambers.


Nam Lod Cave Mae Hong Son loop thailand
Nam Lod Cave

After the cave, you’ll pass a few more beautiful viewpoints, such as the Pang Mapha Viewpoint before reaching Mae Hong Son City.


Pang Mapha Sunset Viewpoint Mae Hong Son Loop thailand
Pang Mapha Sunset Viewpoint

Mae Hong Son City is the capital of the Mae Hong Son Province, but it feels more like an authentic small Thai town. That said, there are some sights you should not miss. In the city itself, you can find a great sunset viewpoint on the lakefront of Chong Kham looking towards the Chong Klang Temple. Watching the sky change colors here is amazing and the lights on the temple are the icing on the cake. And after sunset, you can take in the atmosphere at the cute local night market.


Chong Kham Mae Hong Son City Thailand
Chong Kham looking towards to Chong Klang Temple

Other highlights in this area include the Burmese temple Wat Phra That Doi Kongmu and the Su Tong Pae Bridge set amidst scenic rice fields. And if you give yourself enough time in the area, it’s also worth visiting Ban Rak Thai, an old Chinese settlement located right at the border with Myanmar. You can find bright colored Chinese-style accommodations, cozy cafes, and shops selling locally-produced teas here. Lee Wine Rak Thai Resort is a great place to see a tea plantation up close


Ban Rak Thai Mae Hong Son loop thailand
Ban Rak Thai

Part 3: Mae Hong Son City to Mae Sariang


Distance: 160 km / 100 mi (3 hours)

Ideal length to stay: 1-2 days

Highlights: Huay Pu Keng, Pha Bong Viewpoint, Thung Bua Tong Fields at Doi Mae U Kho (only visit in November-December), Thai-Japan Friendship Memorial Hall Khumyuam, Wat Chom Thong, Wat Chom Kitti, Wat Phrathat Chom Mon

Where we stayed: Dream Riverside


On your way out of Mae Hong Son City, make sure to stop by the long-neck tribe village of Huay Pu Keng. Within the village, you will find five different ethnic groups, who fled from Myanmar and now live together harmoniously in Thailand. They found this village in 1985, and among them is the Long-Neck Karen, who traditionally wear brass rings around the neck, knees, and ankles. When you visit the town, you can walk around the streets and interact with the locals. By paying the entrance fee and buying some products from the women, you support the people of the tribe.


Huay Pu Keng Mae Hong son Loop Thailand
One of the people from the long-neck tribe in Huay Pu Keng

The drive to Mae Sariang is probably the most relaxed and quiet one along the loop because there is barely any traffic. You’ll pass by some gorgeous green farmlands and more beautiful mountain viewpoints, such as the Pha Bong Viewpoint, before reaching the sleepy town of Mae Sariang. Due to its remoteness, you won’t find many tourists and there isn’t a whole lot to do here. Embrace the slowness of life and visit one of the temples on the surrounding hills to get a panoramic view of the area. We visited Wat Chom Thong, which offers amazing views over the town and farms. For dinner, you can try some local food at the restaurant we went to (Baan Pla Jum) and enjoy another beautiful sunset.


Pha Bong Viewpoint Mae Hong Son Loop Thailand
Enjoying amazing ice cream at the Pha Bong Viewpoint

Part 4: Mae Sariang to Chiang Mai


Distance: 200 km / 124 mi (3.5 hours)

Ideal length to stay: 1-2 days

Highlights: Pha Chor Canyon, Mae Ya Waterfall, Wachirathan Waterfall, Pra Mahatat Noppamethanedon and Pra Mahatat Nopphonphusiri, sunrise from Kew Mae Pan parking lot, Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, Doi Inthanon Summit


The drive from Mae Sariang to Chiang Mai is about 200 kilometers or 124 miles. But since there isn’t anything interesting to do on the direct route, we highly recommend making the 1 hour detour to Doi Inthanon National Park. Home to Thailand’s highest mountain, this park is filled with beautiful hiking trails and viewpoints. There are also twin pagodas (named Napamatanee Don & Napaphon Bhumisiri) near the summit of Doi Inthanon surrounded by a gorgeous flower garden. Make sure to stop at some of the impressive waterfalls in the park as well, Wachirathan, Sirithan & Mae Ya waterfall are worth a visit!


Napamatanee Don & Napaphon Bhumisiri Mae Hong Son Loop Thailand
Napamatanee Don & Napaphon Bhumisiri

If you have some time to spare, you can also head to Pha Chor Canyon, a stunning orange rock formation in Mae Wa National Park.


As you approach Chiang Mai, you’ll notice that the road becomes flatter, straighter, and busier!


Pha Chor Canyon Mae Hong Son Loop Thailand
Pha Chor Canyon

Congratulations… you have completed the loop!


 

Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To The Mae Hong Son Loop

 

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Need more travel inspiration? Check out our other destinations or other articles about Thailand:


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