Chiang Mai serves not only as a base for great trekking, river rafting and jungle elephant treks, but also as a fascinating showcase of the north's indigenous culture.
Aside from the numerous elephant camps, cooking schools, handicraft workshops and cultural attractions, the capital of the former Lanna Kingdom boasts diverse dialects, distinctive architecture and cuisine, lively festivals, northern style massage and classical dance.
Don't miss the old city's beautiful and peaceful Wat Chiang Man and Wat Phra Singh monasteries and the unique Burmese Shan, Wat Pa Pao.
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be an elephant trainer, or mahout, then Maesa Elephant Camp, set beside a rushing river on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, is the place to find out. For the past 30 years the centre has been at the forefront of elephant breeding, training and awareness, and is currently home to more than 70 elephants. Elephant rides and parades form an entertaining introduction to the animals, but the mahout course provides the closest connection.