Our Chiang Mai Private Tours

Table of Contents

Chiang Mai a la Carte is a brand of Green Trails

Our company Green Trails has two brands: Green Trails and Chiang Mai a la Carte. We offer a wide range of day and multiple-day Chiang Mai private tours on this website and on the website of Green Trails. Chiang Mai a la Carte offers botanical garden tours, samlor tours, temple tours, historical tours, culinary tours, family tours, heritage tours, festival tours, handicraft tours,  Buddhism tours, textile tours, and other special interest tours. All our tours are private and customization is our specialty.

Our sister website Green Trails offers trekking, hiking, rafting, cycling, and national park tours such as trips to Doi Inthanon and the Huai Nam Dang National Park. Green Trails works closely with tribal communities and offers textile tours and trips that focus on learning about the language and culture of ethnic minorities such as the Palong, Akha, Hmong, and other groups.

We have listed several examples. Please have a look at our standard tours but we can customize every tour depending on your interest. Please send us an email: info@green-trails.com

Two young girls in traditional dress
young dancers at Songkran 2019

Special Interest Tours

We are the specialist of customized Chiang Mai private tours. If you have any particular interest such as stone carving, paper flowers, tribal textiles, Lanna culture, temple architecture, history of the teak Industry in North Thailand, any specific hill tribe or minority group; any particular festival, botanical gardens, Burmese legacy in Chiang Mai and Lampang, Northern Thai food, rice cultivation, American missionary history or any other: please contact us. We will put design a customized Chiang Mai private tour for you.

In the past we have successfully designed and operated private tours to Chiang Mai, Lampang and Phrae for relatives of employees of the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation and of the Danish East Asiatic Company.

Old office building
The first East Asiatic Company office in Phrae in 2021

North Thailand Tours

There are two main systems of the geographical division of Thailand: the four- and the six-region systems. We have chosen the six-region system. According to this system, North Thailand is divided into upper and lower parts. The upper part comprises of the provinces Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Lamphun, Lampang, Nan, Phrae, Phayao, and Uttaradit. The lower part consists of the provinces Tak, Phichit, Petchabun, Sri Satchanalai, Sukhothai, Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanulok, Kamphaeng Phet, and Uthai Thani. We organize North Thailand tours in all these provinces.

We offer customized tours on request that are nationwide such as this Bangkok to Chiang Rai trip.

Ruined temple with dark sky Si Satchanalai
Wat Chang Lom at Si Satchanalai

Chiang Mai a la Carte Cultural Tours

We are determined to promote and preserve Lanna Culture, the culture of Northern Thailand. For centuries North Thailand has been an independent kingdom: the Lanna Kingdom. Between roughly 1558 and 1774, it was part of a Burmese kingdom. Only in the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century a Thai kingdom, centred in Bangkok, slowly stamped its authority on the North. This resulted in the end of an independent Lanna kingdom.

Still, there is a very strong Northern Thai identity in architecture, dance, music and culinary traditions. If you are interested in Lanna architecture, Lampang and Phrae are great places to go.

Dancing women
Candle dance Wat Phuak Taem

Our Samlor Tours

The samlor, which means “three wheels”, is the traditional bicycle taxi. In many Southeast Asian cities and towns, the bicycle taxi was an essential means of transportation. In Vietnam, they are called cyclos while in Indonesia, we know them as betjak. Other names you will encounter are trishaw (Singapore and Malaysia) and tricycle or trisikad (Philippines). They all have in common that strong male legs power them. We have never seen a female samlor driver, by the way.

We have to preserve the samlor as living heritage

This beautiful, environmental-friendly traditional means of transportation is unfortunately threatened with extinction. As late as the 1970s there were a couple of hundred samlors in Chiang Mai. Like everywhere in Southeast Asia the samlor had to make space for cars, tuk-tuks and other motorised vehicles.

The only way the samlor will survive is by becoming a tourist attraction. In Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Singapore this has already happened. Local people don’t use the cyclos/trishaws anymore. They only make rides with tourists.

We offer a number of samlor tours. We are dedicated to the samlor drivers of Chiang Mai and will support them as much as possible.

Bicycle taxi Chiang Mai Private Tours
Samlor tour

Chiang Mai cycling tours

We are not a specialized bicycle tour operator but we offer some trips that including cycling such as the Cycling and Zipline Adventure. For student groups our sister company Green Trails has offered cycling tours in the Huay Tung Thao area and from McKean Senior Center to Wiang Kum Kam. If you are interested in Chiang Mai cycling tours, please let us know.

Three bicycles in the sun
Three bicycles

Chiang Mai private Temple Tours

The standard Chiang Mai private tours include visits to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. There are lots of other very interesting temples in Chiang Mai and surroundings. We just mention Wat Umong, Wat Phrathat Doi Kham, Wat Suandok, Wat Lok Molee and Wat Chet Yod but there are many more that are worth a visit.

If you have a little bit more time and are interested in Buddhism a visit to one of these temples we can highly recommend. Don’t miss Wat Sri Suphan, the silver temple. Our standard tour is the Magnificent Temples of Chiang Mai tour, but we can customize this tour to suit your needs and wishes. Behind every Buddhist temple is a story and we love to tell those. Buddhist temples in Thailand are active centers of religion, as opposed to many churches in the west nowadays.

Two golden temple towers Chiang Mai Private Tours

Different styles of temple architecture

There are different architectural styles of temple construction. Temples such as Wat Mahawan and Wat Buparam have distinct Burmese influences. The form of the chedis are typically Burmese. Very interesting are the chedis that have niches in which standing Buddha images are enshrined. The temple towers have the shape of a stepped tapering pyramid. This style is attributed to Mon and Burmese influences.

An excellent example of such a temple tower is the chedi of Wat Chedi Liam as well as the chedi of Wat Phuak Hong which features in our samlor temple tour. Both Wat Phra That Hariphunchai and Wat Ku Kut aka Wat Chamathewi In Lamphun have Mon Style chedis. Lampang, the city of horse carriages, has more Burmese- and Shan-style temples and heritage houses than anywhere in the kingdom.

Chedi with stages
The Chedi of Wat Phuak Hong

We specialize in historical Tours

There are a lot more historical structures than only temples in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai boasts a lot of heritage houses, churches, traditional teak wooden houses and other historical buildings. We offer historical walks on the banks of the Ping River. In the past couple of years, we also did several customized Chiang Mai tours for relatives of people who worked for the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation before World War Two. For the boutique hotel 137 Pillars House, we organize a trip called the Tales and Trails of the Teak Wallahs. This hotel occupies part of the former compound of the Borneo Company Ltd. This company was involved in the teak industry. The restaurant of the hotel is the old office.

Again, Lampang is an outstanding destination when it comes to Burmese- and Shan-style temples such as Wat Sri Chum and the much lesser known temples Wat Phra That Mon Cham Sin and Wat Mon Puyak. Local authorities, with support of the community, restored the former office and manager house of the Louis T.Leonowens Company, known as the Louis House or Baan Louis.

Old fashioned restaurant Chiang Mai Private Tours
The William Bain house in 137 Pillar House

Missionary history

Chiang Mai, Lampang, Nan and other place also have a lot of American Missionary history that few people know about. In 1867 American Presbyterian missionary Daniel McGilvary founded the Laos Mission in Chiang Mai. Many missionaries followed in his footsteps. They founded the McCormick Hospital, the first Girls School (Dara Academy) and the Prince Royal College. The church has now moved to a new location, not far from the old wooden church which is now is part of a school. The nearby Prince Royal College  the Dara Academy, the original missionary girls school, have museums too. Both are schools that were founded more than 100 years ago by American missionaries.

Dr James McKean founded the McKean Leper Asylum in 1908. It features in our Chiang Mai Heritage Tour. Also in Chiang Rai, Phrae, Lampang and Nan the Presbyterian missions where very active and sometimes left legacies such as the old missionary houses in Phrae and the impressive seminary in Nan.

Old church in the tropics Chiang Mai Private Tours
Santitham Church formerly known as Thaw Chapel at McKean

Food, culinary and cooking tours

The Thai kitchen is world famous. In many cities and towns worldwide there are Thai restaurants. The Northern Thai kitchen boasts a number of characteristic dishes such as “sai ua”, the typical northern Thai sausage, and khao soi. Did you know that Khao Soi is originally a dish that the Yunnanese Muslim community introduced in Chiang Mai? Another Chiang Mai specialty is fried pork skin with spicy paste (num phrik), which people typically bring as a present from Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai has many cooking schools and fantastic markets. If you want to learn cooking Thai food Chiang Mai is the place to be. You are spoiled for choice when it comes to cooking schools.

We offer several tours that include cooking such as our Caves, Cooking and Sticky Waterfalls tour and the Thai Cooking and Elephants tour.

Plates with food Chiang Mai Private Tours
Northern Thai Food

The Fresh Markets of Chiang Mai

We will not only take you to a cooking school but also know where the best markets are. Many people nowadays prefer to do their shopping in air-conditioned shopping malls and supermarkets but fortunately the fresh, open-air markets in Chiang Mai are still very much alive and kicking.

Kad Luang (“big market” in Thai) is the most famous open air market in Chiang Mai, a must visit destination for every visitor.  Most people know this market as the Warorot Market but this is only a part of Kad Luang. The other main part is called the Tonlamyai Market. The Tonlamyai market has the colorful flower market along the Ping River. Just off the Warorot Market is the wonderful Hmong Market where tribal textiles and souvenirs are on offer. You can easily spend a couple of hours at Kad Luang, the most fascinating market. It is one of our favorite places in Chiang Mai.

Women making cookies Chiang Mai private tours
Girl making Khanom Babin at the Lamphun Market

Thailand is the land of Coffee and Tea

Thailand always has produced tea for a long time, introduced by Chinese immigrants. The major tea plantations are located in Chiang Rai province, on Doi Mae Salong and Doi Wawee. The Singha Park, just outside Chiang Rai City, has extensive tea plantations.

The Royal Project, initiated by his Majesty King Bhumibol, introduced coffee as a cash crop. It took some time but the consumption of coffee has become very popular in the past ten years. We can bring you to great coffee plantations such as Suan Lahu and to coffee producing villages such as Baan Mae Klang Luang on Doi Inthanon.

beans drying on a terrace Chiang Mai
Coffee beans drying

Beautiful orchards and Rice fields

Explore rice fields and fruit orchards with us. Let our guides show you where your food is coming from. We offer a tremendous half-day culinary tour by samlor. You will sample eight snacks at local markets and shops. In the rainy season aka the “green season” the rice fields are extremely beautiful. We love the green season with bright green rice fields and clear skies.

We can put together customized tours to learn about the agriculture of the north and visit some of the impressive Royal Projects in the North of Thailand such as on Doi Angkhang and Doi Inthanon. Longan, in Thailand known as lamyai, is an important product of Lamphun province where they celebrate the harvest with a festival.

Rice field with nice sky Chiang Mai Private Tours
Pai paddy field

Chiang Mai private Trekking tours

Our sister brand Green Trails specializes in trekking tours so for these trips we refer to them. As a trekking destination, Chiang Mai itself has been somewhat overlooked. The best trekking is right at our doorstep in Doi Suthep/Doi Pui National Park. The one day trek from Doi Pui Hmong village to another Hmong village Ban Mae Sa Mai is the best day trek you can do. If you have a bit more time, we recommend an overnight stay in the Hmong village Ban Mae Sa Mai. Scenery is fantastic and hiking around the village is superb. The Historic Opium Trail trekking is a great program.

Two tourists with local guide
Trekking the Opium Trail

Great Family Tours

We have lots of experience with Chiang Mai private tours for families. Every family has different needs and requirements. We can customise your family trip and can add lots of exciting activities for the young ones. These tours are educational and also fun. Our sister company Green Trails offers many different active tours for the family. A good example is the All in the Family tour, a soft adventure trip for the whole family.

guide and children Chiang Mai Tours
Family trekking

Great Festival Tours

Festival Tours are our speciality. We offer many Loy Krathong tours, private as well as join-in. Loy Krathong is not the only festival we promote. We love Songkran. Other great festivals are the Flower festival, the Poy Sang Long Ceremony, the Lamyai Festival (Lamphun) and the fantastic Salak Yom Festival. There are many other small festivals and events in Chiang Mai and North Thailand.

The most popular festival for visitors is without a doubt the Loy Krathong festival. People are mesmerized by the photographs of hundreds of burning sky lanterns against the backdrop of the night sky. These sky lanterns have caused problems though for air traffic and also cause pollution. In 2022 Chiang Mai authorities banned the use of sky lanterns, which was a huge disappointment for many visitors. Let’s see what will happen this year.

Umbrella and colourful pillars North Thailand Festivals
Donation trees during Salak Yom at Wat Hariphunchai in 2020

Our Handicrafts Tours

Chiang Mai is the handicraft capital of Thailand, no doubt about it. We will take you to handicraft factories where few people go. We will not take you to commercialized handicraft places but have selected several places where sa paper, celadon, pottery, umbrella’s and parasols are still being handmade. You might not want to miss out on the atelier and museum of Petch Viriya, the master carver of wooden elephants. Try our Old Handicrafts of Chiang Mai tour.

Woman putting a leaf on Sa Paper Chiang Mai Private Tours
Woman making Sa Paper

Hill tribes and Ethnic Minorities

North Thailand is home to many ethnic minority groups. Some of these groups in North Thailand are known as hill tribes. Green Trails offers extensive information about the main hill tribe groups. There are also lesser-known groups such as the Tai Lüe, Tai Yuan, Tai Ya, Kachin and Pa-O amongst others, which are not considered hill tribes. All these groups have fascinating characteristics in customs and traditional dress.

Green Trails offers a Tribal Photography Tour but can also customize tours to any of the other ethnic groups and organizes textile tours to ethnic minority villages.

Three people in tribal dress
Lisu people in Chiang Dao

Buddhism Tours: learn about Buddhism

If you are interested in Buddhism, we can organize customized tours to temples, meditation centers, Buddhist Universities, and so on. We can organize lectures, retreats and meetings with monks and experts on Buddhism. Several temples offer a so-called Monk Chat during which you can sit down and talk with monks. Wat Suan Dok and Wat Chedi Luang offer daily monk chats.

One of our most popular Chiang Mai tours is the early morning alms giving tour, that also includes visits to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Pha Lat.

Walking Buddhist monks
Early morning almsgiving to monks on Doi Suthep

Chiang Mai private National Park Tours

There are many national parks in North Thailand. Doi Inthanon National Park is by far the most popular in Thailand. Green Trails offers several day tours such as the “Doi Inthanon, the Roof of Thailand” but also multiple-day tours to this magnficent national park. Doi Khuntan National Park is one of lesser known protected area. It is the only national park that has a railway station.

The Huai Nam Dang National Park offers some of the great classic trekking routes. The Doi Suthep – Pui National Park is one of the most under visited protected areas in North Thailand. Most people only visit the temples and the Hmong village Doi Pui. This protected area has a great network of hiking trails of which the famous Opium Trail is one. It is also possible to hike the Monk’s Trail to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Doi Inthanon National Park Viewdeck panorama Chiang Mai Private Tours
View deck panorama