Editor choice

What is The Best Chiang Mai Elephant Tour? – A Comparison

Finding the best Chiang Mai elephant tour is a bit of a challenge. When I did a quick search I was pretty overwhealmed by the results, and conflicting opinions.

Today I’ll be seeking to simplify this challenge for you by comparing a number of key factors across the tour providers. More about that down the page..

But first, I want to tell you a little story…

Some time ago, when I was travelling with my family through Malaysia, we booked ourselves in to go to an elephant tour. As a typical aussie, I hadn’t really thought too much about what would take place when we got there and found that the tour was actually an ‘elephant ride’.

In the moment, again – as a typical aussie, I just went with it and had my turn riding the elephant.

It was only afterwards, upon reflection that I really grasped the ethical issues that go along with elephant ‘rides’. The whole setup was actually pretty depressing.

I just wish that I had took more notice at the time and voted with my wallet

– Me
Best Chiang Mai Elephant Tour - It's important to think about eithics

Thankfully, on our next family trip to Phuket we booked in at an Elephant Sanctuary where the tone of the place was much more positive and the whole tour was structured around caring for the elephants, by feeding them and watching them take a bath with their ‘humans’. It was a really great experience that we had as a family. Once which I would highly recommend to all travelers.

If you’re reading this, I imagine you share a similar curiosity for these majestic creatures and the captivating experiences they offer. But with an array of tour providers all promising the adventure of a lifetime, how does one choose the best elephant tour?

Best Chiang Mai Elephant Tour Comparison Factors

During this exploration, I considered several factors to find the most enriching and ethical experiences. In the upcoming comparison, you’ll find details on the following:

  • Ethical Practices: Elephant tours have, unfortunately, been linked with several ethical issues over the years. The well-being of these noble giants is paramount, so the first criterion for selection is each tour operator’s commitment to ethical treatment, which includes no riding policies, appropriate living conditions, and the overall health and happiness of the elephants.
  • Cultural Insight: A rich, immersive experience goes beyond interaction with elephants – it also involves understanding the local culture, the mahouts (elephant keepers), and their unique bond with these creatures. The authenticity of cultural interaction has weighed heavily in my comparisons.
  • Customer Reviews: Feedback from those who’ve walked the path before us is invaluable. Hence, I’ve scrutinized reviews, ratings, and testimonials to gain a holistic view of past visitors’ experiences.
  • Value for Money: Cost always plays a part in our decisions, and I have compared what each tour offers in terms of experiences, amenities, and overall value for the price.
  • Safety Protocols: Ensuring the safety of both visitors and elephants is non-negotiable. I’ve reviewed the safety measures in place by different tour operators.

Lets investigate the various tour options, weighing their merits and drawbacks, so you can have a memorable (and ethical) elephant tour for you in Chiang Mai.

Comparison Table – Best Chiang Mai Elephant Tour

Here is a super quick overview of the reviews about the best Chiang Mai elephant tour contained below. I would highly recommend reading through the reviews in full – particularly as there are some great videos below showing you what to expect also. But if you’re in a hurry, read the table below:

CriteriaThe Chiang Mai Ethical – Elephant Jungle Sanctuary & Temple ExperienceElephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park, Chiang Mai Tour
Ethical PracticesStrong commitment to ethical practices with no saddles, no chains, and no confined spaces. Elephants are in a safe and nurturing environment.Strong commitment to ethical treatment. Activities are centered around the elephants’ needs. It’s a retirement haven for elephants.
Cultural InsightA visit to a historic temple offers cultural immersion. Deep insight into the relationship between the mahouts and their elephants.Deep insight into local traditions and everyday life of the mahouts. Visitors wear local clothes and participate in preparing food for elephants.
Customer ReviewsPlethora of positive reviews. Excellent customer satisfaction with a 5-star rating based on 18 reviews. Tour is a bit pricey.Overall rating of 4.8/5 based on 1050 reviews. The guides’ punctuality and the delicious food served were praised.
Value for MoneyTour costs about $120 (USD) per adult. All-inclusive trip, covering everything from transportation to lunch, and entrance fees.Priced at approximately $80 USD. Includes interaction with elephants, pick-up and drop-off services, a traditional Thai buffet lunch, and even clothes for engaging in activities.
Safety ProtocolsSafety of both visitors and elephants is prioritized. Protective clothing and sanitizing procedures are in place.Emphasis on safety measures. Clear instructions and constant guidance to ensure safety of both visitors and elephants. Special health and safety measures implemented due to COVID-19.
Tour HighlightsOpportunity to observe, feed and bathe elephants. Visit to a historic temple. Guide acts as personal photographer.Close proximity with the elephants in an environment that respects their autonomy and well-being. The chance to spend a half day learning, observing, and caring for the elephants.

The Chiang Mai Ethical – Elephant Jungle Sanctuary & Temple Experience

Before you read about my experience below, take a look at Enerji’s Vlog about her trip to the Ethical Elephan Santuary:

Having just returned from an exhilarating journey through Chiang Mai, it feels necessary to share my experience with one of the most ethical elephant tour providers in the region – the aptly named Chiang Mai Ethical Elephant Sanctuary & Temple Experience. The journey is indeed as grand as the name suggests, encompassing not only an intimate interaction with the majestic Asian elephants but also a cultural dive into the serene Thai temples.

Ethical Practices

The first aspect that stood out about this tour was their unwavering commitment to ethical practices. There were no saddles, no chains, no confined spaces – a sight far removed from the discomforting scenes that often plague elephant tourism. The sanctuary provided a safe and nurturing environment for the elephants, and it was evident they were well-cared for, healthy, and content.

Cultural Insight

In addition to the elephant experience, this tour provided an enriching cultural insight. A visit to Wat Chedi Luang, one of Chiang Mai’s historic temples, brought me face-to-face with the region’s rich Buddhist heritage.

The bond between the mahouts and their elephants also told a compelling story of tradition and harmony.

Customer Reviews

As someone who values the experiences of fellow travelers, the plethora of positive reviews for this tour was assuring.

Customers who took part in the Chiang Mai Ethical Elephant Sanctuary and Temple Experience provided by ForeverVacation shared that they had meaningful and immersive encounters with the elephants. They found the tour guides to be knowledgeable and friendly, adding to the overall enjoyment of the tour. The guides’ local expertise and ability to capture great photographs were particularly appreciated.

Although the company received a generally positive response, it’s important to note that these experiences are subjective. Several customers praised the level of customer service, however, it was also mentioned that the tour is a bit pricey, indicating that value for money might be dependent on individual expectations and experiences. Ultimately, many customers felt that their expectations were met or exceeded, contributing to an overall positive impression of the company and its services.

At the time of writing – this tour had an average rating of 5 stars from 17 reviews, reflecting the overall excellent customer satisfaction. Consider this write-up as one more 5 star review – so yeah, lets call it 18!

Value for Money

Again, at the time of writing this – the tour is about $120 (USD) per adult, the tour provided exceptional value for money. This was an all-inclusive trip, covering everything from transportation to lunch, and entrance fees. The tour encompassed a full day, allowing for a truly immersive and memorable experience. The guys who run the tour also offer a money back guarantee and a 48hr ‘no hassle’ money back guarantee.

Safety Protocols

Safety, for both visitors and elephants, was clearly a top priority. The guide briefed us on safety measures at the start of the tour, ensuring that we understood how to interact with the elephants respectfully and safely. Protective clothing was provided, and sanitizing procedures were in place.

Tour Highlights

  • The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was a great chance to observe, feed and even bathe the elephants in their natural habitat. I found this direct interaction both humbling and inspiring.
  • Visiting Wat Chedi Luang offered a spiritual pause in the bustling city of Chiang Mai. It’s always amazing to see 600+ years of history that has stood the test of time. The city of Chiang Mai really does have a rich history.
  • The added bonus of having a guide who acted as a personal photographer was pretty cool. Thanks to our guide, I now have some truly amazing and ‘insta-worthy’ pictures to look back on.

The Chiang Mai Ethical Elephant Sanctuary & Temple Experience delivered on all fronts. It was educational, enriching, and most importantly, ethical.

It proved that responsible tourism can indeed provide unforgettable experiences, promoting a harmonious existence between humans and these incredible creatures. I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Chiang Mai, eager to have an authentic, ethical, and immersive encounter with these magnificent creatures.

But… is it the best Chiang Mai elephant tour though?

Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park, Chiang Mai Tour

Before you read about my experience below, check out this Vlog from Joel Friend about their day at the tour:

After my visit to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (above), my love for elephants drew me back to Chiang Mai a few months later, this time to experience the “Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park”. This trip left me a with a few mixed thoughts and feelings about the tour.

Ethical Practices

As with my previous review, the treatment and well-being of the elephants remained my highest priority. I was keen to see whether the practices at the Elephant Retirement Park aligned with the ethical standards that any animal, especially these sentient beings, truly deserve.

Before I went to the sanctury I checked in with the reviews that I could find about the tour. They were mostly positive, though there was one review that gave me pause, along with a few things to look out for. The review spoke about the keepers ‘pinching’ the elephant to command them to do what they wanted, and that the keepers were smoking constantly around the elephants. Honestly though, the review was pretty ‘over the top’ claiming that one of the elephants had died. So I’m thinking this person was likely a bit of a ‘Karen’ – and was merely exaggerating.

My experience – thankfully – was much different to our friend Karen. I found that the Elephant Retirement Park Chiang Mai is genuinely committed to offering a sanctuary for retired elephants.


Importantly, activities at the park are centered around the elephants’ needs, with a strong emphasis on the fact that elephants are not made to perform activities they don’t want to. I was not witness to any of the suggested ‘pinching’, and while I did see a couple of keepers smoking, It was not nearly as bad as the review suggested… phew…

The commitment to elephant conservation and welfare, as suggested by their collaboration with Elephant Sanctuary Asia Foundation, only strengthens their credibility in my eyes. This park isn’t just another elephant tour – it’s a true retirement haven for elephants, and that commitment to ethical practices is one I value highly.

Cultural Insight

The tour guides I had were great. I found the day to be an immersive cultural experience that gives a deep insight into local traditions and the everyday life of the mahouts.

The tour guides acted a bridge between visitors and local customs, providing insights about the elephants’ behavior and the proper care they require.

By wearing local clothes and participating in activities like preparing food and healthy treats for the elephants, I felt that we were offered a unique cultural immersion that adds immense value to the overall experience.

Customer Reviews

On the GetYourGuide website, the experience has an overall rating of 4.8/5 based on 1050 reviews, (thats a heck of a lot of opinions!) it’s clear that the Elephant Retirement Park has made an indelible impact on its visitors.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with customers particularly praising the guides’ punctuality, clear instructions, and the delicious food served.

Visitors were highly appreciative of the opportunity to be in such close proximity with the elephants in an environment that clearly respects their autonomy and well-being.

Value for Money

Priced at approximately $80USD, I believe this tour offers excellent value for money.

This price includes not only interaction with elephants but also pick-up and drop-off services, a traditional Thai buffet lunch, drinking water, and even clothes for engaging in the fun, muddy activities.

The chance to spend a half day learning, observing, and caring for the elephants, coupled with cultural insights and a delicious lunch, make it a truly enriching experience that’s worth every penny.

Safety Protocols

The Elephant Retirement Park puts significant emphasis on safety measures. The instructions are clear, and participants are continually guided to ensure both their safety and that of the elephants. As part of their COVID-19 precautions, they’ve implemented special health and safety measures, and the details are provided on the activity voucher. These maybe rescinded by now though – I am not sure.

In summary, the Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park is a beautiful, enriching, and ethical experience that I would highly recommend for any animal lover or cultural enthusiast.

The commitment to ethical practices, cultural authenticity, positive reviews, value for money, and safety measures make this a top-notch tour in my books. And to top it all, you get to spend an unforgettable day with magnificent elephants. It doesn’t get better than that!

Final Verdict

So, after all is said and done, the question remains – which is the best Chiang Mai elephant tour?

First, let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that both of these tours offer genuinely ethical and memorable experiences. Both the Chiang Mai Ethical Elephant Jungle Sanctuary & Temple Experience and the Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park put the welfare of these magnificent creatures first and foremost, which is the primary concern for any discerning visitor. So hats off to them both.

But let’s be real, we’re not handing out participation awards here. This is about who takes the cake and the title for the best Chiang Mai elephant tour.

Now, I’m not saying that the Elephant Retirement Park doesn’t offer a fantastic experience. They do, and it’s slightly cheaper, too. Their commitment to the ethical treatment of elephants is commendable, and they’ve definitely steered clear of the pinching, chain dragging, and smoking shenanigans that our friend Karen was ranting about.

However, if we’re talking about an experience that goes beyond just a day with the elephants, that’s where the Chiang Mai Ethical Elephant Jungle Sanctuary & Temple Experience nudges ahead.

This tour didn’t just allow me to interact with the gentle giants, but it also immersed me in Thai culture in a way that I’ll forever treasure. That visit to Wat Chedi Luang… wow! It was the cherry on top that sealed the deal for me. There’s just something about stepping into a 600-year-old temple that makes the history buff in me do a little happy dance.

I also really appreciated the photography service included in the tour. Having someone capture all those ‘once in a lifetime’ moments, while I was busy feeding and bathing the elephants or being mesmerized by the historic temples, was definitely a plus.

So, with all things considered, I’ve got to give the crown to the Chiang Mai Ethical Elephant Jungle Sanctuary & Temple Experience. It just offers that bit extra – a fuller, richer experience that’s well worth the additional cost.

So there you have it, folks. If you’re heading to Chiang Mai and looking for an ethical elephant tour, now you know where my vote goes. Whatever you choose, remember, the aim is to respect these majestic creatures and the rich culture of the land they call home.

So, If you’d like to make a booking like I did, click the button below:

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply