Mae Hong Son Loop Motorcycle Adventure: A 5-7 Day Itinerary

A 5-7 Day Itinerary Visiting Chiang Mai, Pai, Mae Hong Son, Mae Sariang and Doi Inthanon

DATE POSTED: 9th of January, 2024

The Mae Hong Son Loop is a dream ride for every motorcycle rider, whether their mode of transport is a scooter, moped, or motorbike (or, as Thais call them, big bikes). One of the best things to do in Thailand is hire a motorcycle and ride freely around town. For us, happiness starts with sunshine on our arms and warm wind on our cheeks.

Living in Chiang Mai post-pandemic, we were constantly researching new and exciting local adventures that would open the door to seeing quieter parts of Northern Thailand. After chatting with some Thai friends, we came across the Mae Hong Son Loop. 

Doi Inthanon (M)

In this guide, we will go through the best itinerary for the Mae Hong Son Loop as well as provide some useful information on stops, hiring motorcycles, what to pack, and some key highlights along the route.

Don't Want To Ride?

Check out our two-week highlights itinerary for Northern Thailand here (it’s still fun, don’t worry).

Table of Contents

Mae Hong Son Loop Overview

The Mae Hong Son Loop is a 600km loop that starts and ends in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The road weaves and winds through picturesque landscapes, beautiful valleys and scenic mountains. 

The first stop takes riders through the winding roads to Pai, which is Thailand’s hippy town. It continues to the town of Mae Hong Son- home to misty mountains and hill tribes. The next overnight stop is Mae Sariang, known for its beautiful views and waterfalls. Lastly, it stops in Doi Inthanon- the highest mountain in Thailand. It can even be ridden in reverse. 

Mae Hong Son Loop Map

Mae Hong Son Loop Map
M- Mae Hong Son Loop Map

Time Allocation

In a speedrun, the trip can take four nights and five days. This amount of time is only recommended if the goal is to ride a motorbike, not sightsee. The most comfortable amount of time is a minimum of 5 nights, allowing two nights in Pai. Our itinerary is for a six nights and seven days, but can be adjusted accordingly.

Pai Canyon
Pai Canyon (M)

When To Visit

Seasonally, Chiang Mai can be a bit of a challenge. Similiar to elsewhere in Thailand, Chiang Mai has a monsoon season from early June to October. We do not advise planning for the Mae Hong Son Loop during this time, as the roads are extremely slippery, dangerous and prone to flooding. If you are okay with winging it, we recommend checking the weather reports when you’re there and playing it by ear. Some weeks, it will rain nonstop, and others will lightly sprinkle at about 4 pm.

That leaves November to May. Unfortunately, the pollution in Chiang Mai is terrible (we’re talking #1 in the world for some days) during the burning season from about February to April. That means that the viewpoints will be smoky, and you will need to wear an N95 mask (and still have a sore throat).

Therefore, November to January are the ideal months to ride the Mae Hong Son Loop. There is a chance that the weather will be fine during other times of the year so take this with a grain of salt.

Buddha Pai (M)

Is It Safe? Scams & Licence Requirements

Northern Thailand is a very safe place to visit. Millions of tourists visit every year without hassle. Of course, it’s imperative to remain alert and follow the usual travel safety precautions (don’t get wasted on bucket drinks, keep your valuables tucked away, exercise caution at night, etc). You can check out our post about travel safety hacks for more information. 

The biggest scam to be aware of comes from renting a motorcycle. People have reported instances where they were charged hundreds of dollars for motorbike scratches that were already there, so completing a pre-rental inspection is essential. We have made a free pre-rental PDF that you can download here. Be sure to check reviews on motorcycle companies, and if something doesn’t look right, simply walk away to one of the other 5000 rental shops.

In 2022, Thailand had nearly one million road accidents, with 15,000 of those being fatalities [fact]. Those are the highest numbers in the world. Do not forget to wear a helmet, ride slowly and above all, carry a valid motorcycle licence (not a car licence)+ International Driving Permit + travel insurance. We have written all about riding safely in Thailand.  Failure to be properly licenced, and thus insured, will haunt you in the event of an accident. Check out the plethora of GoFundMe pages if you don’t believe us. 

Doi Inthanon
M- Doi Inthanon

Packing List

There are so many things to pack when heading off on the multi-day Mae Hong Son motorbike trip. Just so many indeed, that we have gone right ahead and written a whole post about it. We even included a packing list PDF for you to download for free or share with your riding pals. ♥ You can also expand the menu below.

There are many things to pack when riding the Mae Hong Son Loop. I chose to strap my 40L Osprey  backpack to my motorbike, but you could also just wear your backpack as normal. Pai has shops and pharmacies, so you can buy any extra essentials in town. 

  • Windproof Jacket
  • Jeans or Trousers
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Sandals
  • Underwear
  • Breathable shirts
  • Shorts
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof Poncho
  • First Aid Kit
  • Sunhat
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellent
  • Toiletries
  • Small Daybag
  • Travel Towel
  • Water Bottle (many hotels will have refill stations)/ lifestraw bottle
  • Portable Charger 
  • Travel Adaptor
  • Snacks 
  • Multi Tool Pocket Knife
  • Phone Mount 
  • Bungy Cords

Cover up while riding the Mae Hong Son Loop. Not only will you be safer during an accident, it can get quite cool, and the sun can still burn you. 

  • Full-faced Helmet
  • Windproof Jacket
  • Closed-in Shoes
  • Gloves (esp. for sun protection)
  • Jeans

Day 1: Chiang Mai to Pai

Pai Field
M- Pai Field

The first stop on the Mae Hong Son is Pai. This road is notoriously sickening… for bus and car travel. For motorcyclists or scooter riders, riding from Chiang Mai through the curved roads to Pai is a dream. The cool air and fun twists make this section a memorable one. Just be sure to check your brakes beforehand!

The first leg of the journey should take about 4 hours. It will take more if you make stops along the way, which we encourage. Ideally, leave early in the day so you aren’t stuck behind endless cars, vans and smelly trucks. Avoiding holidays and weekends is also a good idea.

After arriving in Pai, enjoy lunch at one of the many excellent restaurants, check in to your accommodation and rest. We stayed at a nice little place called Vimarnkiri Resort. It was outside of the hustle and bustle, surrounded by rice paddies, and had lovely owners.

In the cool afternoon, wander along the bustling Walking Street, where the aroma of local delicacies mingles with the vibrant energy of street performers. Visit the Pai Canyon at sunset if you feel up for it, have a massage to unwind those shoulder knots/butt cramps and soak up the chill serenity. You can enjoy the backpacker nightlife or simply chill out in a bungalow. Pai is quite versatile.

Hotels In Pai

Our favourite booking sites in Thailand are or HostelWorld

Day 2: Relax in Pai

Pai NT
M- Pai

Start the day off with a tasty breakfast overlooking the rice fields. Pai is a sleepy town in the mornings (possibly due to its party vibes). There’s plenty to do during the day!

Riding around town makes for a fun day. Stop at the hill temple, roam through Pai Canyon for breathtaking views, visit the historic World War II Memorial Bridge and head to the Hot Springs for a relax before checking out the night market again.

Day 3: Wind Your Way To Mae Hong Son

Tea in Pai
Tea in Pai (M)

Pack up and begin the journey towards the town of Mae Hong Son. Make stops along the winding road at the Pang Mapha viewpoint and the mystical Lod Cave.

After arriving in Mae Hong Son and checking into your accommodation, take a visit to Wat Phra That Mae Hong Son. Then, head towards the serene shores of Jong Kham Lake.

Day 4: Cultural Highlights in Mae Hong Son

Mae Song Hon Longneck
M- Mae Song Hon Longneck

Sleep in before enjoying a fresh cup of locally brewed tea or coffee. From then, you can delve into Mae Hong Son’s rich culture, exploring Wat Chong Kham and Wat Chong Klang.

Mae Hong Son is where you can also encounter the world-renowned longneck Karen hill tribe village, and take a glimpse into their lives. These hill tribes are undoubtedly human zoos, where the government collects money from tourists to enter. It’s considered a violation of human rights by many, as the rings are placed from age five and many people aren’t granted Thai citizenship. 

Exploitation aside, the women in these villages are kind, beautiful people who appreciate the purchase of handmade crafts. That makes it a true conundrum and a battle of morality.

If you do choose to visit the Karen hill tribes, it is far better to take yourself there on your motorbike, to avoid giving tour companies money to continue the cycle. 

However, buyer beware: sometimes these products are just imported.

Day 5: Mae Sariang

Mae Sariang
M- Mae Sariang

Jump back on your bike, and head southeast on the Mae Hong Son loop to Mae Sariang, where the journey unfolds against a backdrop of picturesque landscapes.

Today, explore the riverside charm, meander through local markets and embrace the peaceful ambience of this hidden gem town.

Day 6: Explore Doi Inthanon

Today’s the day you embark on a journey to Doi Inthanon- Thailand’s highest peak. Stop off at your hotel to drop your bag off, and change into some comfortable walking clothes. The first stop will be to marvel at the Royal Twin Pagodas and have a cool drink in the gardens.

Top places to visit in Doi Inthanon: 
  • Royal Twin Pagodas (Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon and Nophamethanidon): Park in the carpark and catch the songthaew up the hill/ walk up the slope. It really is a beautiful view up the top, and it’s well worth while grabbing a cool drink and walking through the gardens. 
  • Wachirathan and Sirithan Waterfalls: These cascading waterfalls were such a mesmerising experience for us. Feeling the cooling mist on our faces was a highlight for the entire loop. 
  • Ang Ka Luang Nature Trail: We really enjoyed our time on this nature trail. It is well-paved and doesn’t take very long, but the reward is a superb view over the mountain range and some shady stairs.
  • Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail: This trail is particularly popular as it offers stunning views and a chance to see unique flora and fauna.
  • Inthanon Agricultural Station (Doi Inthanon Royal Project): You can learn about sustainable agriculture, see beautiful flower gardens and purchase fresh produce by supporting local farmers. Our favourite avocados came from here. 
  • Mae Klang Luang Village: A picturesque village offering a glimpse into local life that is well-known for its scenic terraced rice fields.

Day 7: Head Back To Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Temple
M- Chiang Mai

The final part of the Mae Hong Son Loop can be done in two ways. The quickest way is to take the 1009 and follow the river towards the 108 highway. Our personal favourite way is to head directly north on the 1284 and enjoy the quiet, winding roads. You can stop for a dip at Mae Wang waterfall and also find a wonderful lunch spot along the way.

Either way, relish the final stretches of Northern Thailand’s scenic landscapes and make spontaneous last-minute stops. Your arrival back to the easy comforts of Chiang Mai may give you mixed emotions- just as it did us.

Final Notes

The Mae Hong Son loop is truly an iconic Northern Thailand motorcycle trip. It maintains a perfect balance between adventure, relaxation, serenity and fun, and is easily accomplished by even a novice motorcyclist.

If you haven’t had enough of Northern Thailand, be sure to check out our travel itinerary here. It can absolutely be ridden on a motorbike, we just haven’t (yet).


Book Your Trip


We rely on these travel sites to book our life on the road.

Hotels: We find all of our best deals at booking.comAgoda & Hostelworld.

Flights: Our go-to for cheap flights has been Skyscanner for many years. Google Flights is a win too!

Activities: Klook offers the best deals for fun activities in Asia. For tours elsewhere, we rely on Get Your Guide.

E-sim: Airalo is a reliable source for getting connected as soon as we land.  

Insurance: We use Safetywing to cover pre-booked trips and Genki to cover medical-only backpacker trips.

Banking: We have relied on Wise for all our travel banking needs for years now. Their Customer Service is super! 


We’re Meg and Kolby- two travellers impulsively wandering across the globe since 2016. We’re passionate about travelling through the world slowly on a budget. We hope to inspire you on your next adventure.



Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of motorbike rental shops in Asia? We were too. We’ve sourced the most reliable shops so that you don’t have to.

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