Mae Hong Son is a province in northwest Thailand that is relatively untouched by tourism. Many tourists bypass this province for more popular destinations like Chiang Mai. However, Mae Hong Son has a lot to offer visitors, including natural beauty, hill tribe villages, and Buddhist temples.
In fact, this is the perfect destination for those who want to experience authentic Thailand away from the crowds. To help you plan your trip, here is my list of the 20 best and most fun things to do in Mae Hong Son. Read on!
Things To Do In Mae Hong Son
1. Take In The Views At Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu
Let’s start with one of the most popular Mae Hong Son attractions, Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu. This temple is located on a hilltop overlooking the town, and it’s well worth the climb for the incredible views.
The climb is quite steep in places, but there are plenty of resting spots along the way. It will take you around 45-60 minutes to reach the top, depending on your fitness level. However, you can also rent a motorbike if you don’t feel like walking.
This temple dates back to the 19th century, and it’s one of the most important temples in Mae Hong Son. It features two chedis topped with gold-plated spires, which are said to contain the ashes of the governor who ordered its construction and a chief disciple of Buddha. They are “guarded” by a white lion-like creature (Chinthe) and a mythological snake.
The views from the top are incredible, especially at sunset. You can see for miles in every direction, and it’s a great spot to take some photos.
Read More: Best Temples In Thailand
2. Get a Thai Massage
It doesn’t matter where you are in Thailand, and massages are always a good idea. And Mae Hong Son is no exception. There are several places in town where you can enjoy a traditional Thai massage. If you’re not familiar with the style, it involves a lot of stretching and pressure point work, and it can be quite intense. But it’s also incredibly relaxing and a great way to relieve any muscle tension you may have from all the activities you’ve been doing.
A Thai massage typically costs around 400 baht ($11) for an hour, and you can find places all over town. But if you want to go somewhere a little more upscale, try Sapaiya Spa. It’s located in a beautiful teakwood house, and the massages start at 1,350 baht ($37) for an hour.
Letting someone knead all the knots out of your muscles is one of the best things to do in Mae Hong Son if you need to relax. And this is an experience you shouldn’t miss while in town.
3. Explore The Region’s History At Ban Rak Thai
Thailand’s history is fascinating, and Mae Hong Son province has its own share of interesting stories. The small town of Ban Rak Thai was settled by General Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist troops during the Chinese Civil War.
The soldiers were fleeing Communist forces, and they fled to Burma (now Myanmar) before eventually making their way to Thailand. They settled in Ban Rak Thai and created a small community that has preserved its history and culture.
Today, visitors can explore the town and learn about its history. This region is popularly known for its oolong tea plantations, and there are several small shops and cafes where you can relax and enjoy a cup of tea.
This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Mae Hong Son if you’re interested in history and want to learn more about this region of Thailand.
Read More: Best Cities In Thailand To Visit
4. Ride The Mae Hong Son Loop
There is no better way to see Mae Hong Son province than by doing the Mae Hong Son Loop. This is a popular motorcycle route that takes riders through some of the most stunning scenery in Thailand.
The loop can be done in either direction, but I recommend starting in Mae Sariang and riding clockwise. The route takes you through mountains, valleys, rice paddies, and small villages. You’ll also pass by several waterfalls and hot springs.
The loop takes 3-5 days to complete, and there are plenty of places to stay along the way. But you don’t have to complete the entire loop to enjoy the ride. There are plenty of shortcuts that you can take, and you can always turn around and head back whenever you want.
The Mae Hong Son Loop is not for beginners, and it’s important to have a good level of fitness before embarking on this journey. It’s also worth noting that the roads can be quite dangerous, so it’s important to be careful and ride within your limits.
All in all, this is one of the best things to do in Mae Hong Son if you’re looking for an adventure. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s an experience that you won’t forget.
Read More: Best Things To Do In Nakhon Pathom
5. Namtok Mae Surin National Park
Namtok Mae Surin National Park is one of the province’s best-kept secrets. With its towering waterfalls, lush forest, and fantastic hiking trails, it’s well worth a visit.
The park is most famous for Mae Surin Waterfall, which cascades down from a height of 100 meters. It’s a stunning sight and one of the best things to see in Mae Hong Son if you’re looking to get off the beaten track. There are several other waterfalls in the park, as well as hot springs, caves, and hiking trails. You can easily spend a day or two exploring everything here.
Namtok Mae Surin National Park is located about 20 minutes’ drive from Mae Hong Son town and is well signposted. The best time to visit is between November and February, when the weather is cooler, and the waterfalls are at their fullest.
6. Shop For Souvenirs At Mae Hong Son Walking Street Night Market
There’s nothing like night markets in Thailand, and Mae Hong Son’s Walking Street Night Market is a great place to pick up souvenirs and sample local food. The market is open every Friday and Saturday from 4 pm until 10 pm.
You’ll find a wide range of locally made products for sale, including handicrafts, textiles, and artwork. There are also plenty of food vendors offering up snacks and meals to keep you fueled as you shop.
Many tourists visit Mae Hong Son for its natural beauty, but the night market is a great way to experience the town’s more urban side. It’s a fun place to wander, and people-watch, and you’re sure to find some unique souvenirs to take home with you. So be sure to include it on your list of the best things to do in Mae Hong Son.
7. Attend Buat Luk Khao Festival
If you happen to be in Mae Hong Son for the Buat Luk Khao Festival, consider it a stroke of luck. This event is a chance to see boys between the ages of 10 and 13 being ordained as novice monks, a tradition that dates back centuries.
The young boys go through a series of ceremonies over the course of three days, including having their heads shaved and being given new robes. On the final day, they are taken to a temple where they receive their monkhood.
This is a special time for families in Mae Hong Son, as it is considered a great honor for their sons to be chosen for the ordination. The festival is also a time for locals to come together and celebrate their culture and traditions.
The festival takes place every year beginning in the month of April. If you’re interested in attending, be sure to check the dates well in advance so you can make travel arrangements accordingly.
8. Take a Trip To Pai
Pai is a small town in Mae Hong Son that has become increasingly popular with tourists in recent years. It’s famous for its laid-back atmosphere, stunning scenery, and numerous activities for visitors to enjoy.
There are several things to do in Pai, such as hiking to one of the many viewpoints, visiting hot springs, taking a cooking class, riding an elephant, or tubing down the Pai River. You can also simply wander around the town, visit the many shops and cafes, and take in the relaxed vibe.
Expect to see a lot of other travelers in Pai-it’s a great place to meet people and make new friends. There are many accommodation options, from hostels and guesthouses to more upmarket hotels.
Pai is a great place to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle of city life. It was one of my favorite places to visit in Mae Hong Son, and I enjoyed spending a few days there.
9. Explore the Massive Tham Lot Cave
Are you game for a bit of spelunking? Mae Hong Son is home to one of Thailand’s most beautiful caves, Tham Lot. Situated in the small town of Pang Mapha, this vast cavern is over 1600 meters long.
You can explore the cave by boat, which is a surreal experience as you glide through the water in complete darkness, lit only by your guide’s flashlight. The cavern is home to many bats, and you may even see a few cave swiftlets, and small birds that make their nests in the cave.
The highlight of the cave is a huge stalagmite that has grown to reach the ceiling, and there are numerous other rock formations to see as you explore. You can also take a guided tour through the cave, which lasts around 45 minutes. Afterward, you can walk around the small town of Pang Mapha.
Tham Lot cave is an incredible natural wonder, and a trip here is one of the fun things to do in Mae Hong Son if you love adventure. Just be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring a flashlight.
10. Be Amazed At Tham Pla (Fish Cave)
Wonders await inside the Tham Pla (Fish Cave), which is one of the most popular Mae Hong Son attractions. This spelunking adventure requires a short hike through the jungle to reach the caves. The path goes along a small stream, making for a peaceful walk before the main event.
And once you reach the cave, there is a small altar where locals have left offerings for the spirits that are said to protect the area. Afterward, you’ll get to be amazed by one of the unique things to see in Mae Hong Son: hundreds of fish swimming in a hole in the ground. The fish are harmless but fun to watch as they dart in and out of the tiny hole. You can even buy food to feed them.
This fish cave is part of a national park, so there is an entrance fee of 100 THB (about $3) per person. The park also includes a few hiking trails if you’re looking for fun activities to do in Mae Hong Son after exploring the cave.
11. Visit the Su Tong Pae Bamboo Bridge
There are a lot of things that will take your breath away in Mae Hong Son, and the Su Tong Pae bamboo bridge is one of them. This beautiful structure spans almost 500 meters over a rice field, and it’s one of the longest bamboo bridges in Thailand.
The bridge was built for the monks to reach the town from the temple (Tong Pae temple) when going to perform their morning merit ceremony with town folks. Today, the bridge is open to the public and is a popular spot for photos.
Tong Pa temple is also worth a visit as it is one of the oldest temples in Mae Hong Son. Walking around the temple grounds, you’ll see many old buildings built in different styles, i.e., a monk hall covered in wooden carvings, Burmese multi-tier roof design, and Japanese-inspired shrines.
What impressed me most about the temple is that it was not built for tourism. Therefore, it has a more authentic feel to it, and it’s a great place to learn about the local culture and religion.
12. Get Off-the-Beaten-Track Travel at Mae Sariang
Want to get away from it all? Mae Sariang is the place to go. This small town in Mae Hong Son province is often skipped by travelers, but those who make the effort to visit are richly rewarded with pristine natural beauty, traditional villages, and a slow pace of life.
There are several things to do in Mae Sariang, including visiting the hill tribe villages of Kayan and the Hmong people. You can learn about the traditional way of life and see some of the handmade crafts these groups are known for. You can also tour the markets, try the local food, visit its temples, and go hiking or biking in the nearby countryside.
Mae Sariang is the perfect place to get off the beaten track and experience a more authentic side of Thailand. It’s one of the best places in the country, and I highly recommend adding it to your list of the best things to do in Mae Hong Son itinerary.
13. Visit the Padong Longneck Village
I know you’ve probably seen photos of the long-necked women of Myanmar, but did you know that there’s a village of them in Mae Hong Son?
The Karen people have been settling in the hills of Mae Hong Son for generations, and many still maintain their traditional customs. One of these is wearing brass coils around their neck, which give the appearance of a longer neck.
The Karen women begin to wear the coils at a young age, and they are gradually added as they get older. The weight of the coils can cause spinal deformities, but the women see them as a sign of beauty.
The village is located just outside Mae Hong Son town, and it’s possible to visit as part of a day tour. You can also stay in the village overnight, which gives you a chance to learn more about the Karen people and their culture.
I suggest doing your research before you visit as there are a few things to keep in mind, such as not taking photos without permission and being respectful of the village’s traditions. But if you go with an open mind, it’s one of the fascinating places to visit in Mae Hong Son.
14. Pang Tong Royal Development Project
Thinking of things to do in Mae Hong Son that would make for a great day trip? Consider visiting the Pang Tong Royal Development Project, located about an hour from Mae Hong Son town. This development project was implemented by the late king of Thailand and involves a number of different ecological initiatives, including reforestation, watershed management, and the introduction of alternative crops.
The project has been quite successful in its aims, and today the area is lush and green, with hiking trails leading through the forest. You can also see demonstration farms growing things like coffee, macadamia nuts, and avocados.
The Pang Tong Royal Development Project makes for a great day trip from Mae Hong Son town, and it’s a great way to learn more about the initiatives underway to protect and preserve the environment in Thailand.
15. Visit the Burmese Temples (Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang)
One thing that makes Mae Hong Son stand out among other Thai provinces is its large Burmese population. You’ll see evidence of this in the food, architecture, and even the language spoken in some parts of town.
But the most visible reminder of Mae Hong Son’s Burmese heritage are the two temples overlooking the lake. Wat Chong Kham was originally built in 1827 by Tai Yai artisans and Wat Chong Klang a few years later in the 1860s.
The temples are built in the traditional Burmese style, with ornate stupas and beautiful carvings. The more popular of the two is Wat Chong Klang, home to over 30 Buddhas brought over from Burma and beautiful paintings.
And being one of the famous attractions in Mae Hong Son, both temples are definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in learning more about the province’s history and culture.
16. Go Whitewater Rafting Down the Pai River
Are you looking for activities to do in Mae Hong Son that are a little more adventurous? Then why not go whitewater rafting down the Pai River?
The Pai River is located just outside Mae Hong Son town, and several operators offer half-day or full-day rafting trips. No experience is necessary, as you’ll be given a safety briefing and instructions on what to do before setting off.
Expect to get wet as you navigate your way down the river, passing through some challenging sections with rapids up to grade IV. You may even spot some wild animals along the way.
I went rafting with Thai Adventure Rafting, and it was really an adventure. The guides were very professional and made sure we were all properly equipped with life jackets and helmets. The rapids were challenging but not too extreme, and it was a great way to cool off on a hot day. I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for fun things to do in Mae Hong Son.
17. Take a Food Tour
It’s obvious that Mae Hong Son is not going to be a gourmet destination. But the food here is tasty and filling, and there are some interesting things to try. A good way to get a feel for the local cuisine is to take a food tour, where you’ll visit markets and learn about the ingredients used in Mae Hong Son dishes. You’ll get to try things like sticky bamboo rice, which is a sticky rice dish steamed in bamboo, and khao soi, a Burmese-influenced curry noodle soup.
There are many different food tours available in Mae Hong Son, and they typically last between 4 to 6 hours. Prices vary depending on the tour, but it’s a great way to get an introduction to the food of Mae Hong Son.
18. Yun Lai Viewpoint
Want to experience one of Mae Hong Son’s most stunning panoramas? Then head to Yun Lai Viewpoint, where you can take sweeping views of the valley below and the mountains in the distance.
The viewpoint is located near the border of Myanmar, in the town of Pai. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Mae Hong Son town, or you can take a bus (which takes around 3 hours). Once you arrive in Pai, rent a motorbike or hop in a songthaew (red truck) and head to the viewpoint. The ride is about 15 minutes and relatively easy, although there are a few steep sections.
You’ll also need to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the viewing platform, but it’s well worth the effort. The views from Yun Lai are simply incredible, and it’s one of the best places in Mae Hong Son to watch the sunrise or sunset.
Note: There is a small entrance fee of 20 THB (about $0.60). And if you want to spend the night at the viewpoint, a few bungalows are available for rent.
19. Enjoy Mae Hong Son Nightlife
Many will say that Mae Hong Son doesn’t have much of a nightlife scene, but that’s not entirely true. While it’s not on par with Bangkok or Pattaya, there are still plenty of places to enjoy a few drinks and some live music. Therefore, after a day of enjoying all the sights of Mae Hong Son, you can still enjoy a few drinks and some live music.
The most popular spot for nightlife is undoubtedly the Walking Street Market, which comes alive every evening with food stalls, souvenir vendors, and live music. It’s a great place to stroll, eat, and people-watch.
If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, there are several bars and restaurants in town that offer live music most nights of the week. You can find anything from country music to cover bands. This makes it one of the best things to do in Mae Hong Son for those who enjoy a lively nightlife scene.
20. Spend a Night Camping At Pang Oung Lake
Imagine waking up to views of soaring mountains and a pristine lake, all from the comfort of your tent. That’s exactly what you’ll get if you camp at Pang Oung Lake, one of the famous Mae Hong Son attractions.
The lake is under the Royal Forest Project at Pang Tong 2, which means that it’s well-protected and surrounded by virgin forest. It will cost you 100 Baht (around $3) to camp with your own gear or 400 Baht ($12) to rent a tent for the night. You must arrive before 6 pm, as the gate closes at that time.
You can also roll rafts across the reservoir, which is a popular activity for visitors. The cost is 100 Baht (around $3). And if you want to do some hiking, there are several trails in the area.
You can’t deny that Mae Hong Son province is among the most beautiful places in Thailand. With its mountainous landscapes, remote villages, and natural attractions, it’s no wonder it has become a popular tourist destination. So if you’re looking for the best and most fun things to do in Mae Hong Son, be sure to add these 20 activities to your list!