The verdant hills surrounding cosmopolitan Chiang Mai have long been dotted with hill tribe villages of Thailand’s many ethnic minorities. Visiting one or more of these rural outposts has become a quintessential northern Thailand experience. Here’s what you need to know.
Thai Elephant Conservation Center
Km. 28-29 Lampang-Chiang Mai Highway, Hang Chat, Thailand, 52190
Most visitors to this conservation center in Lampang are here on a day trip from Chiang Mai, sometimes in combination with other provincial attractions such as the ceramic museum and Wat Phra Lampang Luang Buddhist temple. A typical visit to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center includes a chance to watch the elephants bathe and exhibit some of their characteristic behaviors. Overnight experiences allow guests to spend one, two, or three days with one particular elephant while learning the ins and outs of their day-to-day care. Overnight guests also have the chance to spend more time with themahouts (elephant handlers) and their families to get a glimpse of this unique way of life.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Thai Elephant Conservation Center is an excellent option for animal lovers and those looking to get off the beaten path.
Don’t forget to bring sun protection, insect repellent, and plenty of water.
The conservation camp is located about an hour outside of Chiang Mai.
How to Get There
While many travelers visit the Thai Elephant Conservation Center as part of a guided tour, it’s also possible to get there independently by taking a bus from Chiang Mai or Lampang. Bus drivers can let you off at the center. Guided tours include round-trip transportation.
When to Get There
Since many of the center’s activities are outdoors, it’s a good idea to visit during the dry season, between November and mid-February.
The Elephants of Thailand
Experts estimate that Thailand is home to between 2,000 and 3,000 wild Asian Elephants. Another 2,700 are considered “domesticated” and live in captivity. While domesticated elephants were once used in the logging industry, logging was banned in 1989, leading to a drastic drop in the number of elephants in captivity.
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