One of the most popular destinations in Thailand, Chiang Mai is often referred to as the “Jewel of the North”. As the ancient capital of the Lanna Kingdom, the city has always been rooted in nature – and that continues to this day.
From friendly encounters with elephants to an agricultural project that changes countless lives, here is our 8Shades’ eco travel guide to Chiang Mai.
See also: 8Shades’ Eco Travel Guide To Bangkok
Where to Stay
Chai Lai Orchid
Why just visit an elephant sanctuary when you can stay at an ethical hotel with elephants instead? Chai Lai Orchid is a refuge for Asian elephants that have been rescued from abuse, offering guests the chance to learn more about how to care for these wonderful creatures. The hotel also arranges private treks for guests to explore the heritage of the local Pga k’ nyau people, including learning how to forage for medicinal herbs.
Chai Lai Orchid, 172M 5 T. Mae Sapok, Mae Wang District, Chiang Mai 50360
137 Pillars House
An oasis near the heart of Chiang Mai, 137 Pillars House is an eco-friendly boutique resort that was originally built over 125 years ago as the headquarters of the East Borneo Trading Company. This beautiful fully-restored teakwood building is home to a range of themed suites and a stunning pool. Meanwhile, their sustainability initiatives include eliminating the use of single-use plastics and several recycling schemes – including turning their organic waste into biochar, which is then used for compost in their grounds.
137 Pillars House, 2 Soi 1, Nawatgate Road, Tambon Watgate, Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
Where to Eat
Free Bird Cafe
Free Bird Cafe is the place to go to find vegan, organic versions of all your favourite Thai dishes – including their signature vegetarian khao soi. As a non-profit organisation, their proceeds go to their sister charity Freedom House, which helps Burmese refugees. They also host a regular Wednesday lunch meetup for female digital nomads and travellers.
Free Bird Cafe, 14 Sirimankalajarn Soi 9, Chiang Mai 50200
Waiting For May By Ori9in Farm
Ori9in is a gourmet farm that grows sustainable organic produce, which is then used in their restaurant, Waiting for May – the very epitome of farm-to-table eating! All dishes from their seasonal menu are made on the farm, with plenty of vegetarian options. You can choose to eat either at the restaurant itself or go on a ‘picnic’ within the farm’s grounds.
Waiting For May by Ori9in Farm, RO Pho Cho Chiang Mai 4204 Road, Mae Faek, San Sai District, Chiang Mai 50290
Where to Drink
Fruit Plus+ Cafe
Located just inside Chiang Mai’s Old Town, Fruit Plus+ Cafe serves delicious smoothies, smoothie bowls and fresh cold-pressed juices. Their all-natural cold-pressed juices have no additives, are unpasteurised and are made fresh daily. They also offer vegetarian food and a juice cleanse programme.
Fruit Plus+ Cafe, 27/1 Moonmuang Soi 9, Sri Phum Sub-District, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
Where to Shop
Superbee is a local Chiang Mai brand that aims to reduce single-use plastics in the city. Founder Antoinette painstakingly trialled various formulas to create the perfect beeswax wrap, which has now become their signature product; they also sell a range of sustainable bathroom products and toiletries. As a social enterprise, they employ local women in rural areas, providing an ethical work environment and making sure they are paid a proper wage.
Available at various stores in Chiang Mai
Teak leaves are a traditional part of Lanna culture and offer a great eco-friendly alternative to leather. Homegrown brand Mr.Leaf has perfected the art of turning this material into beautiful creations, making durable eco-friendly bags and accessories in a variety of styles and colours.
Mr.Leaf Thailand, 111/27 Moo.6 Sanklang, Sankamphaeng, Chiang Mai 50130
What to See
Pooh Eco Trekking
Chiang Mai is a mountainous region filled with lush jungles and crops farmed by the many hill tribe villages that have lived there for centuries – an overnight hike with a homestay is the best way to experience this incredible culture and nature. Pooh Eco Trekking is an ethical company that offers two to four day hill tribe treks, offering guests a real-life glimpse into these local communities.
Find out more about Pooh Eco Trekking
Inthanon Royal Agricultural Station
Doi Inthanon National Park is named after Thailand’s tallest mountain, which falls in the Chiang Mai region. Located within the park is the Inthanon Royal Agricultural Station, where you can see the fruits of a project started over 40 years ago by King Bhumibol Adulyadej to encourage local farmers to cultivate vegetables and flowers instead of opium. Featuring beautiful gardens, a lake with its own swans and a charming coffee shop, it’s a great stop on any Doi Inthanon trip.
Inthanon Royal Agricultural Station, 202 Moo 7, Kuhn Klang Village, Ban Luang Sub-District, Chom Tong, Chiang Mai 50160
See also: All 8Shades’ Eco Travel Guides
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