Just 3 hours away from Chiang Mai by car, Doi Angkhang is a mountain retreat popular with local tourists seeking respite from the tropical climate. This place is home to a royal agricultural project, a tea plantation and strawberry terraces, and is just a stone’s throw away from the Thai-Myanmar border.
This guide will help you plan a trip to Doi Angkhang, including your transportation and accommodation options.
How do I get to Doi Angkhang?
There are several ways to get to Doi Angkhang. In order of convenience and cost:
- Rent a car and drive up the mountains
- Hire a private driver from Chiang Mai for 2 days
- Hire a private driver from Fang for 2 days
The best way to travel is by private car. Renting a car is relatively affordable, with rental rates for a basic car starting from 1,250 Baht per day. Driving your own car allows you to explore the area at your own pace, especially since there are many scenic viewpoints along the way.
However, be prepared to take on very steep and winding mountain roads for at least the last 30 minutes. You should be confident in your driving ability, and the car must be able to switch to low gear to make this climb. Cars with automatic transmission may have this setting, if there’s a ‘L’ marked on the gear stick.
Also, top up your fuel along the main road, before starting the climb up. Driving on low gear will consume a lot of fuel quickly, and there’s no petrol stations up in the mountains.
If you rather hire a driver, you’ll find plenty of tour agencies in Chiang Mai who can help. A full day rental can cost around 2,500 Baht, plus the driver’s expenses and accommodation for an overnight stay in Doi Angkhang.
Another option is to find a driver to make the trip up from Fang, the nearest city before the turnoff to Doi Angkhang. While you might save a bit on the drive from Chiang Mai, there are fewer tour agencies in Fang. To save a few dollars, you might end up wasting more time looking for a driver.
The roads to Doi Angkhang is well-maintained but narrow. There may be local marshallers along steep stretches, so keep a look out for them and do not speed. That is, of course, assuming your car is capable of moving beyond 10km/h on a very steep incline.
What is there to do in Doi Angkhang?
If trekking, scenic viewpoints and long walks in cool weather is your thing, you’ll enjoy Doi Angkhang. Located almost 2,000m above sea level in the remote mountainous region of Northern Thailand, this place is blessed with a comfortable temperate climate, manicured rows of tea and strawberry shrubs, and a small town with some shops.
The Royal Agricultural Station
Started by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the 1960s to reduce the cultivation of poppy, this project has blossomed into beautiful gardens and an agriculture research facility. The entrance fee to get in is 50 Baht per person and per car (separately), and the gardens closes at 6PM daily.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, there’s a hotel with rooms available for rent. You’ll need to call in ahead of time to make a booking though, as there’s no online reservation service.
Located near the hotel, you can also choose to have a proper (but expensive) meal at the hotel restaurant, offering a selection of western and Thai cuisine.
The Tea Plantation 2000
Head up the slopes from the Royal Agricultural Station for about 5 minutes, and you’ll come to a one-way road cutting through a forest. As you exit, you’ll pass by a small checkpoint manned by a guard.
Take a left turn from the checkpoint as you join back to a main road. Just further down, take another left to exit and you’ll reach the Plantation 2000. Roads signs are mostly in Thai, so set your GPS to the right coordinates beforehand, or keep a map handy to ask for directions.
Driving into the tea plantation, you’ll first come to a tea shop overlooking the terraces. Stop by for a spot of tea tasting, and buy some back if you prefer. There’s a difference between highland and lowland tea leaves, so so try both before making a decision. You can drive further down or take a slow walk to the plantation itself. There’s no barriers, so feel free to explore the place, as long as you don’t disrupt the tea leaf pickers or damage the plants.
The Strawberry Terraces
Return to the main road, and follow along the same direction as before until the next turn left. You’ll need to drive along a sandy track for a bit, so don’t worry if the place seems too secluded. After 5-10 minutes on the track, you’ll come to a small village with shacks on both sides. If you see ladies dressed in traditional tribal attire manning souvenir stalls, you’re at the right place.
Park your car along the side, and enter through one of the openings along the wooden fence. Enjoy the picturesque view of strawberry plants growing on terraces cut into the sides of the hill, and check out the fresh strawberries sold at the shops near the entrance. This plantation is managed by the local hill tribe, so buying the local strawberries is a great way to contribute and support their community.
The Thai-Myanmar border
Once again, drive on along the same road and in the same direction for another 10-15 minutes. Eventually, you’ll reach another village with the same layout as the previous one. As you drive in, look to your left and see a slope leading up. A manned military checkpoint marks the entrance to the army observation post guarding the Thai-Myanmar border.
You can drive up the slope and into the camp. As you make your way in, souvenir stalls run by women from the hill tribes line the road. Go past them, and you’ll reach a small carpark where you can stop for a while.
Unlike the border crossings elsewhere, this is a fortified border with military camps on both side. Between the fences, barbed wire and wooden spikes stare back at each other threateningly. As long as you’re well within the Thai camp, you can walk along the foxholes, enter the pillboxes, and take photos of the border and the camp itself. It’s not advisable to take photos of soldiers without permission, though.
The Sakura trees
Washington and Japan are famous for the annual Sakura flower blossoms. But few are aware that Doi Angkhang also has Sakura flowers blooming between December to January. These trees grow wild in the forest, and some areas along the main road are popular with locals who stop by for a quick photo-taking session.
There’s also a clearing where you can drive in and park the car, if you prefer to spend more time admiring the flowers. Street food and fruit vendors offer cheap eats if you’re hungry while at it.
Where should I stay in Doi Angkhang?
Hotels and guesthouses
There are limited accommodation choices in Doi Angkhang. For most tourists, the Angkhang Nature Resort is the best place to stay. A double room will set you back 3,000 Baht though, so be prepared to splurge on a stay here. Check out the latest prices and room availability.
If you’re looking for cheaper alternatives, there are guesthouses in town. Unfortunately, they’re not listed on major hotel booking sites, so you’ll need to call ahead to reserve a room, or take a chance and show up at the entrance. Be warned that rooms may be snapped up quickly on public holidays and weekends.
If all the guesthouses are full, your best bet is to head down the mountain and find lodging in the nearby city of Fang. As far as possible though, try to spend the night in Doi Angkhang to experience the serenity and peace found only in the mountains.
For a list of available options, check out Booking.com:
Doi Angkhang offers a unique camping experience for tourists willing to rough it out for the night. While driving along the main road in the direction of the Royal Agricultural Station, look out for tents on the right side of the road. To the left, there should be several small wooden huts selling food and basic supplies.
At 400 Baht per night for a tent and sleeping bags, camping in Doi Angkhang is cheaper than other accommodation options. There are two ways to go about finding a tent though, each with pros and cons.
Renting a tent from the official campground office
As you drive past the campground, look for a modern one-storey building located just beside the road. Inside, the office is manned by park rangers who manage the campground and surrounding hiking trails.
You can rent a tent and sleeping equipment from the office. The tents are already set up at the cleaning just below the office, and offer panoramic views of the valley below. The opening of the tent face east, so expect a spectacular sunrise if you can wake up early to catch it.
There are shared toilet and shower facilities a short walk up from the tents. While hot water is not available, you can pay to use a heated shower at one of the shops opposite the campground.
Renting from a private operator
Alternatively, consider renting a tent from a private operator. They’re another option should all the tents from the campground office be occupied, or you prefer to camp at a different location. The difference is minor though, as all the tents are pitched in the same general area. The private ones are just slightly higher up the slope, among trees that can provide shade from the afternoon sun.
Renting a tent from a private operator is slightly more expensive at 600 Baht, but it comes with free hot water shower and manpower. If the thought of lugging all your bags and sleeping equipment from the office to the tent is daunting, look for these guys to help you out.
Dining options at the Doi Angkhang campground
While the campground is a 20 minute drive away from Doi Angkhang town, don’t worry about going without food. You can find plenty of food just across the road, as the shops stock everything from instant noodles to freshly grilled corn.
As the night falls and the temperature falls below 20°C, choose your favourite shop to order mookata for dinner. You’ll receive trays of ingredients to cook on a circular hot-plate fuelled by charcoal, which is reminiscent of huddling around a campfire with friends or family. An employee of the shop will help carry the hotplate and charcoal to your tent, so you can enjoy your meal at your own pace, with an amazing view to boot.
There’s plenty of food for 2-3 people if you get the small set, and 4-5 if you purchase the large one. Here’s a pro tip though – bring a headlamp so you can shine a light at what you’re eating. The campground gets dark at night, and there’s not a lot of street lamps around so you get a good view of the night sky. The trade-off, of course, is that you need your own light to look around. Your hands will be busy holding your bowl and chopsticks, so keep the light around your forehead for your convenience. You’ll probably need to go through it to know what I mean exactly, I suppose.
Getting out from Doi Angkhang
After a full day exploring Doi Angkhang, head back to ground level by using the same mountain road down. From here, return to the major road from Chiang Mai. If you continue on towards Fang, you can visit the small Chinese town of Mae Salong. This town has an interesting background story dating back to the days of the Chinese civil war and a lost battalion of troops. Alternatively, you can also reach Chiang Rai in a few hours.
For more ideas, read our full 2 week itinerary in Thailand.