Doi Chiang Dao is Thailands’ third highest peek. It’s made of limestone and due to this it has a massive cave system extending inside it for over 14 km. Visitors can walk unnaccompanied through part of it, or be guided up to 1km inside the cave. The rest of the system is shut off due to the risk of people getting lost! This is a fun little trip to do if you’re in the area.
The Chiang Dao area is home to many hilltribes and the caves are sacred to them. This has been an site of worship for the local culture for over a 1000 years and is still active as a temple today. There is an ancient Shan Chedi outside the temple as well as buddhas and shrines scattered throughout the caves. There are legends including a hermit who lived in the cave for over 1000 years, angels, demons, hidden treasures, cities and a curse that befalls anyone who removes anything from the cave (you have been warned)! Read more about the legends of Chiang Dao here.
The cave (tham in Thai) is actually a temple called Wat Tham Chiang Dao, so you need to dress appropriately in order to be let in. Just outside the entrance there is a huge and beautiful blue-green pool fed by a spring from the mountain. It’s also filled with stunning blue carp and koy who are fed very well fed by visitors! The cave is self-managed by the locals who seem to be doing a pretty good job of preserving it, as it is.
On the stairs you pay a 40 baht electricity fee, and then start to descend into the cave. Here you find the local guides who will show you through three caverns by lamplight. You can walk two larger caverns alone, however we decided to get the guide and see all five! The gas lamp costs 100 baht and the guides are local volunteers so it’s advised to tip them at the end of your tour. Our guide was a little lady (maybe in her 50’s – but I’m awful at guessing ages so who knows!) who carried a gas lantern to light our way. She showed us through the caves and pointed out dubiously named formations as we went. Many of these were unrecognisable from their given name, but trying to see them became half the fun!
There were three ‘doorways’, as she called them, each required you to duck, sit and swivel or shuffle whilst bent over to get through them. I wouldn’t say you have to crawl as they are more like a door between caverns than any length of tunnel, however you do need to be fairly bendable and get right down on the floor to get through them! Each of the caverns were quite large and high, however they were very humid inside and we’re glad we bought water with us. You exit the last cavern via a steep man-made staircase which winds down, we made good use of the handrails here!
This beautiful cave is crammed with formations, some of which are really huge. There are massive rock waterfalls which sparkle in the light due to tiny crystals formed all over them. The floor was bumpy and made of soil or sand, and a river runs through some of these caves in rainy season and you can ask to go see it. The two larger caves are lit with electric strip lights, so whilst it’s not the most atmospheric lighting it does ensure the cave features are easy to see and the path easy to navigate! Apologies for the lack of photos, it’s pretty dark inside the cave and pictures didn’t come out too clear, but you get the idea!
You don’t need a lot of time to see this cave, however the natural features are impressive and well worth the entrance fee!Show on map