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Chiang Mai has plenty of elephant sanctuaries, which I counted well over 20 in the area. In the past and even today, elephants were trained with the use of hooks to break them in or hit the elephants to work mainly in the lumber industry.

And as Chiang Mai grew as a tourist spot, tours offered and still offer elephant riding which involves a cruel process of breaking in baby elephants so tourists can ride them when they become adults.

Now that the elephants have retired or have been rescued are given a better life in the elephant sanctuaries in the northern region of Thailand. There are a lot of elephant sanctuaries in Northern Thailand, especially around the Chiang Mai area.

Unfortunately, not all camps are equal and some research is required to narrow down the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai.

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What Makes An Elephant Sanctuary?

Elephant sanctuaries is a places where the elephants have a home where they have the freedom to move around freely with plenty of room to do so in their normal habitat.

And that the elephants are safe, cared for, and receive medical care when needed.

Best Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai

There are a lot of elephant sanctuaries around Chiang Mai, their problem is finding the ones that look after the elephants properly and not just saying they do. You need to check the current reviews online as how the elephants are treated can change.

Here are some of the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai.

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand, around 60 km from Chiang Mai. And is properly the most popular.

It is not only elephants that help, they also help dogs, buffaloes, and many other animals that add to the natural environment.

Elephants at Elephant Nature Park

This sanctuary provides the elephants a safe natural habitat where they are free to roam the vast forest and play in the river.

The tours give you an opportunity to feed them, bathe with them and learn about elephants. And there is an overnight package.

You can read more about Elephant Nature Park from their website here.

We had such an amazing experience with the elephants! The animals are so free, they each have a person who cares for them 24/7 and makes sure they don’t walk into villages where they could harm themselves and others. Our guide, Dan the legend, was very knowledgeable and he really cared about the animals welfare. This is an absolute must
Amazing experience at ENP! Very cool what this organization is doing to rescue not only elephants but also cats, dogs, and water buffalo. The guides were informative and kind. Would recommend staying overnight as you get much more quality time with the elephants without the day crowds. Also, get a massage! They women do an awesome job, it’s the cheapest price we saw in Thailand, and it was very relaxing listening to the sounds of the jungle during the massage.

Into The Wild Elephant Camp

Into The Wild Elephant Camp is an elephant sanctuary and education center in Northern Thailand. At the sanctuary, the elephants are free to do what they want to which is mostly roam the vast forest and play in the river.

Elephants at Into the Wild Elephant Camp

This sanctuary takes in elephants who are no longer able to work basically retirement. The elephants are treated as part of the staff’s extended family.

They want to ensure the elephants live a happy life after workings so hard for so many years of their lives.

This sanctuary works for the well-being of the elephants and for the local Karen community. They believe in giving back to the community by employing locals and supplying them with clothing.

You can read more about Elephant Nature Park from their Facebook page here.

Had the best time at Into the Wild Elephant Camp. The people who run it truly love these animals and help rescue them and look after them in a wonderful environment. From the start felt so comfortable and saw how happy the elephants were with the guides. Amazing to see that one elephant was pregnant too. A day in my life I will never forget!
Great experience! Pai is very passionate about what he and his camp does. The bond between the guides and the 5 elephants is amazing. The tour starts with an overview on elephants in Thailand and how they came to be here at the camp. It was great to understand the background and misconceptions around elephant tourism. Then you get to walk around the jungle with them before jumping in for a mud bath. The elephants are treated with respect and allowed to roam and wander where they wish. Would definitely recommend! Thank you for a great day.

Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary & Trekking

The Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary & Trekking rescues elephants that have been forced to work in the high-density population and traffic area. This can make elephants stressed and frightened.

Elephants at Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary

The Sanctuary returns the elephants back to their natural habitat and provides a safe place for the elephants to live out their lives peacefully.

The tours, not only help support Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary & Trekking but also gives your an opportunity to feed them, bathe with them, and learn about elephants. And there is a 2-day package that involves trekking.

You can read more about Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary & Trekking from their website here.

My wife and I had a fantastic time on our day trip with Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary! They had four female elephants that we were able to feed, bathe and put mud on. As most people have mentioned, if you feel uncomfortable doing any of these activities there are other companies that offer less interactive and more observation trips. We felt the elephants were taken care of and the guides very knowledgeable. I got to talk with them about the elephants pasts in the logging camp and their lives now. It was a wonderful experience for us. 
Fantastic place! Those who write that the elephants are treated bad and hit with spikes has obliviously mistaken the sanctuary to some other elephant tour, because this jungle sanctuary is genuinely giving these elephants the best life. None of them was forced to do anything, they were running freely and were free to go into the jungle whenever they had enough of the humans. They were playing around, eating plentiful and the staff did not carry any weapons or spikes whatsoever. Also, these are elephants that has been saved from bad places and/or grown up with humans so that they cannot survive in the wild, which is why they rely on humans to get enough food and good treatment. If you want to go to a place where they truly treat the elephants well, go to this one!

Maerim Elephant Sanctuary

The Maerim Elephant sanctuary helps and resumes badly treated elephants and provides them with a beautiful environment where they are safe, loved, and cared for.

Maerim Elephant Sanctuary is 100% against elephant riding, elephants’ performance tricks, and any methods of training where the pain is inflicted.

Elephant at the Maeri Elephant Sanctuary

We believe that by sharing our passion with our guests we can all contribute towards providing rescued elephants the beautiful life which they deserve.

Taking a tour, not only helps support Maerim Elephant Sanctuary but also gives your an opportunity to feed them, bathe with them, and learn about elephants.

You can read more about Maerim Elephant Sanctuary from their website here.

I wish I had more characters to write about this incredible little sanctuary in Chiang Mai. It’s so beautiful what they are doing here for the elephants and how much they love and care for them. Thank you so so much from the bottom of my heart, this experience will last a life time! P.S. Bong is absolutely amazing!
WE LOVE THIS ELEPHANT SANCTUARY!!!! It’s very clear the staff cares greatly about these beautiful animals. They seem like one big happy family. We did the 1/2 day. Included playing, feeding and washing the elephants, building your own lunch, and professional photos.

Happy Elephant Home

At the Happy Elephant Home in Chiang Mai, they help and rescue mistreated elephants and then provide a natural habitat for the elephants to move around freely.

You will see the elephants not only moving around freely but also going for a swim and taking a mud bath.

Elephants at Happy Elephant Home

Taking a tour helps support Happy Elephant Home to continue helping the elephants but also gives your an opportunity to feed them, bathe with them and learn about elephants.

You can read more about Happy Elephant Home from their website here.

My wife celebrated our honeymoon in Chiang Mai and could not think of a better experience than our adventure at Happy Elephant Home. We spent an entire day with close interaction with three elephants, as well as observing a newborn and its mother. The newborn was only a few weeks old when we were there–truly a unique experience. There were only four tourists the day that we were there, so we had a lot of personal time with the elephants and the trainers. Unlike some of the larger elephant sanctuaries where people are moved in stages and do not interact much with the elephants, we had a ton of one-on-one experiences with the elephants–feeding and bathing with them. The site is beautiful, and we had a great experience with the elephants, eating lunch, and swimming in the pool on site.
They say elephants carry great wisdom having survived for ages passing both knowledge and a family focused culture on for generations. For anyone who cares about nature and is in search of deeper wisdom I highly recommend spending time with these incredible animals. The staff are fun, friendly and overall the experience was fantastic.

Encourage Responsible Tourism

A lot of elephants in northern Thailand can go through a very cruel process of intensively conditioning to obey their masters and allow people to ride them. This process starts when the elephant is a baby.

Over the last decade, tourists have become aware and concerned about the cruel process elephants go through to allow people to ride them.

As a result, has created a positive demand for elephant sanctuaries to be created where the elephants are safe and are free to wander around.

This created a more sustainable tourist where tourists can learn about the elephants and join the elephants in swimming with them in the river or in mud baths and feeding them.

What To Pack And Pack?

Chiang Mai is generally hot and humid, you should wear comfortable clothing such as cotton short-sleeved shirts and shorts.

Wear a pair of shoes that are comfortable for walking and ones that you don’t get wet if you go for a swim and bathe with the elephants.

Don’t forget to pack an extra pair of dry clothes to change into before riding back to your hotel. A small zip lock bag, a bottle of sun cream, and mosquito repellent are also useful to have.

Wrapping Up

Finally, a trip to Chiang Mai is not complete until you visit an elephant sanctuary. This provides visitors an amazing opportunity to meet elephants and to interact with them. There are a lot of Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai and you will need to do a little research before deciding on which sanctuary you are going to visit.

And that’s it for now! I’d love to know if this guide on the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai has helped you. Let me know if you have any questions and let me know if are other sanctuaries to add.

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Best Elephant Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai

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