I'm heading to Chiang Mai, Thailand for several days at the end of January and I'm looking to do a 3 day, 2 night trek, but I'm looking for one that doesn't feature elephant rides and it seems to severely limit my choices. I'm not sure about the elephants living conditions and it seems like a potentially cruel setup for the elephants (please correct me if I'm wrong as I have not been there myself).

Are there any trekking trips in Chiang Mai that don't have elephant rides?

  • 1
    You'll find a lot more choices on the ground, the more expensive tours are sold online. And many tour agencies are willing to accommodate requests for dropping items from itinerary. Dec 19, 2011 at 9:52
  • Should I be concerned that I won't be able to find any when I arrive, or that they will be all booked? I only have a 2 day window for the trek because I am only in Chiang Mai for 4 nights (5 days)
    – justinl
    Dec 20, 2011 at 10:01
  • 2
    Nah, that's usually not a problem. There are so many tour operators that you can pick and choose if one's fully-booked. Tour operators in SE Asia very much have a never-say-never attitude to customers. Cost of labour is so cheap that it's easier from them to hire an extra tour guide than turn business away. And because there's so many of them in the off-chance someone is fully-booked, you can choose another one. Dec 20, 2011 at 10:07
  • Did you ever end up using Barking Gecko? We are headed to Chiang Mai Jan 2013 and are thinking about trekking with this company and then going to the elephant sanctuary when we get back into town. Thanks!
    – Emily
    Nov 28, 2012 at 17:59
  • Hi Emily. I'm jealous! We had an amazing time up in Chiang Mai. Yes we did end up booking through Barking Gecko. However Barking Gecko is owned by Travel Hub (sub-program) so you can book through either. The last part of our trek ended with us staying in this Spicy Village Ecolodge for 1 night. Absolutely beautiful place: chiangmaiecolodges.com. I think our guide's name was Dang... or Dayg. And another guide's name was Samart. Trip of a lifetime :) Have fun!
    – justinl
    Nov 29, 2012 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


Goodness, you're not kidding, it's hard to find.

I can offer the following:

Barking Gecko Tours: 2 Day 1 Night Trek and 3 Day 2 Night Trek, both which certainly don't MENTION elephants, despite having a picture of one on their banners. They are officially licensed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

  • Thanks Mark! I haven't seen this particular tour. Do you have any experience with this tour company?
    – justinl
    Dec 19, 2011 at 2:19
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    Not myself, sorry. I just found it an interesting question. But a related one just appeared, which you may consider reading and following for more information: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/4191/how-can-i-be-sure-the-operator-treats-elephants-humanely-before-booking-a-trek-i/
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 19, 2011 at 2:20
  • I ask because I wasn't able to find any reviews about it anywhere else online :)
    – justinl
    Dec 19, 2011 at 2:35
  • 2
    Haha what a coincidence. I appreciate you taking the time to have a look at tours for me. Thank you
    – justinl
    Dec 19, 2011 at 2:46

If you're willing to look a bit further afield, Chiang Dao Nest, a little over an hour north of Chiang Mai, does rather good elephant-free treks. Their site also mentions some treks with elephant rides, but they have plenty of other options as well.

Their guides are all local hill tribe people and all in all their setup is pretty good, they'll pick you up from Chiang Mai in the morning or the night before and the Nest is a really nice place to stay.

Here's some photographic evidence from my own (elephantless) trek with them back in 2005.

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