Top 5 Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai, Thailand

Jordan Walsh

best ethical elephant sanctuaries in chiang mai

Have you ever dreamed of walking alongside the earth’s giants, feeling the gentle touch of an elephant’s trunk, and looking into their wise, knowing eyes? 

These encounters deeply connect us to nature and arouse our souls. And for a digital nomad traveling to Chiang Mai, this is a must-try experience!

Nevertheless, how can we ensure that our interactions promote the best welfare of these fantastic animals?

I remember my first time seeing these majestic animals in Thailand. Back then, responsible tourism was still unheard of. I witnessed the elephants chained, forced to bow, and carry those tourists on their backs from morning to late afternoon. 

It was heartbreaking!

Key Highlights

  • Chiang Mai’s ethical elephant sanctuaries are committed to giving elephants a humane, natural habitat free from exploitation, emphasizing their freedom, well-being, and health.
  • These sanctuaries are unique in combining educational initiatives with ethical tourism, allowing guests and digital nomads to interact politely with these magnificent creatures while learning about elephant conservation.
  • Experiences like feeding, bathing, and walking with elephants are available at sanctuaries like Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary, BEES—Burm, and Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. These sanctuaries protect the dignity and well-being of the elephants while facilitating a close relationship with the natural world.
  • Elephant Jungle Sanctuary’s immersive cultural experience, Patara Elephant Farm’s all-encompassing conservation approach, and Elephant Nature Park’s “Saddle Off!” program showcase the variety of moral approaches to elephant care and conservation.
  • In addition to giving elephants a place to live, these sanctuaries are essential in spreading awareness among the general public about the value of conservation, humane treatment, and the difficulties elephants encounter in Thailand and elsewhere.
  • Chiang Mai’s ethical elephant sanctuaries are a ray of hope for elephant conservation. By providing a model for sustainable tourism, they ensure that people and elephants live in harmony while also respecting and preserving Thailand’s natural and cultural heritage. These sanctuaries, through their commitment to moral behavior, encourage a global movement toward more conscientious relationships with the magnificent species of our earth.

Best Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai

As people become more conscious of elephant tourism’s moral issues, more discriminating tourists are looking for sanctuaries that prioritize the well-being, freedom, and health of these magnificent animals. 

A few sanctuaries in Chiang Mai stand out for their dedication to conservation, rehabilitation, and ethical treatment.

Join us as we shed light on these havens by providing insights into their practices, ideologies, and experiences.

1. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with elephants. 

Nomads and visitors can dress in traditional Karen tribe attire and fully immerse themselves in the native way of life as their tour begins. This will establish the tone for an engaging day spent with the cherished elephants at the sanctuary.

The opportunity to personally prepare and feed the gentle giants, the elephants, was one of my favorite highlights. It’s a unique chance to get to know these fantastic animals personally and discover more about their eating requirements and lifestyle.

Throughout the day, guests are encouraged to play, interact, and photograph the elephants. In doing so, they not only create lasting memories but also gain insight into the rescue stories of these remarkable animals. 

The stories provide insight into the elephants’ difficulties and offer suggestions for shielding them from cruel treatment.

Elephant mud spas are one of the sanctuary’s unique offerings for visitors looking for excitement and adventure. Yes, prepare to get dirty and bring extra clothes.

After engaging in some lighthearted playtime in the mud, visitors can help give the elephants a bath in the river, which will leave them feeling clean and rejuvenated.

You can participate in the One Day Walk program if you’re itching for even more time with these fantastic animals. You can visit additional camps and get to know more elephants during this extended vacation, which offers many chances for learning and bonding.

A hearty meal is served as the day ends to ensure everyone is well-fed and content. 

When it’s time to depart, you may relax knowing that your experience was morally and safely done while also improving the well-being of these elephants.

Your journey back to your hotel is comfortable and secure, leaving you with a sense of fulfillment, having positively impacted the lives of these remarkable animals.

119/10 Tha Phae Road, Chang Khlan Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

+66 53 273 415

2. BEES – Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary

The BEES elephant sanctuary is located in Maechaem, 134 kilometers southwest of Chiang Mai. It was founded in 2011 by Burm Pornchai Rinkaew and Emily Rose McWilliam, who were disturbed to see the pitiful conditions of elephants involved in tourist rides. 

It is undoubtedly the most ethical sanctuary. Its primary focus is to ensure a natural habitat for the elephants where they can forage, dust, bathe, roam, explore, and socialize. 

I love how BEES’s practices are deeply rooted in sustainability. The sanctuary supports local farmers by buying their produce to feed the elephants. Thus, benefiting not only the elephants but also the farmers and the community in general.

Currently, it provides full-time employment to 5 locals and part-time income opportunities to various others. 

The sanctuary offers a picturesque view of the lush green forest, rivers, and lofty Doi Inthanon Mountain.

34 M1, Ban Thung Yaw, Tambon Chang Keung Chiang Mai

+66 (0)8619 72519

3. Happy Elephant Home Sanctuary

The Happy Elephant Home is located in the Mae Taeng district, one hour from Chiang Mai. Nearly all the elephants in this sanctuary were rescued from logging or performing operations, where they lived the hard days as captive elephants. 

The rescued animals enjoy swimming and mud-bathing in their natural habitat. Since there are no barricades or fences, visitors must wear special dresses to make the elephants feel like they are part of their team and ensure their safety. 

The dress is similar to what the Karen Hill tribe people wear and prevents your dress from getting soiled or wet.

Still,I recommend you bring extra clothes to change into. After all, it wouldn’t be as much fun if you didn’t get all muddy and cozy with the elephants.

74/1 Kuet Chang, Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai, 50150

+66 87 577 8885

4. Patara Elephant Farm

The Patara Elephant Farm is located 45 minutes south of Chiang Mai. It is a health-recovery and reproduction-management farm that focuses primarily on elephant welfare. 

The farm’s conservation philosophy is that extinctions are forever, so they try to mitigate them by ethically breeding elephants. Broadly, they try to achieve the goal of elephant conservation through four focus points: rescue, recovery, reproduction, and re-introduction. 

Patara aims to educate people about elephants’ needs so they can better understand how to promote their welfare. I am all ears for this!

One of their most popular programs is ‘Elephant Owner for a Day,’ where each guest is given an elephant to take care of for a half-day or a full day to give them hands-on experience with elephants.

Meanwhile, the Elephant Day Care program exclusively cares for non-working pregnant and baby elephants.

T.Baan Pong A.Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, Thailand

(+66) 824939644 T. (+66) 819922551

5. Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park is situated around 60 kilometers from Chiang Mai. It is one of the most ethical rescue and rehabilitation centers in Northern Thailand. 

It was founded by Lek Chailert, widely known for her elephant conservation work. She has won multiple awards and has been named one of “Asia’s Heroes.” 

The sanctuary offers a unique ‘Saddle Off!’ program whose primary goal is to improve the safety and quality of life of the elephants that have previously been mistreated. 

The program involves educating the elephant owners on how to properly care for the elephants while bringing income to the families without resorting to elephant riding or cruel circus training. 

It is a must-visit for anyone who wants to enjoy an ethical elephant experience. It has a whopping 5/5 rating on Trip Advisor, with positive responses from over 1000 visitors.

1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

+66 (0) 53 272855

Final Thoughts Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai

In exploring the most ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, we delve into spaces that respect and honor the natural behaviors and habitats of elephants, ensuring their well-being is at the forefront of operations. 

Sanctuaries like Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and BEES- Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary have set high ethical standards by providing environments where elephants can forage, dust bathe, roam, and socialize, essentially living as they would in the wild. 

These sanctuaries rehabilitate and care for elephants and educate visitors and digital nomads like us on the importance of ethical treatment and proper conservation, making every encounter with these majestic creatures meaningful and respectful.

So, what are the most ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai?

When identifying the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, the focus is on those that offer immersive, ethical experiences that contribute positively to the lives of elephants and their surrounding communities. 

Elephant Nature Park stands out for its ‘Saddle Off!’ program, emphasizing the health and recovery of elephants previously subjected to mistreatment. Similarly, Patara Elephant Farm’s approach to elephant conservation through rescue, recovery, reproduction, and re-introduction provides a comprehensive model for ethical elephant care. 

By supporting these ethical sanctuaries, nomads and visitors contribute to a broader movement towards the promotion of sustainable and humane animal tourism, fostering a future where elephants can live and thrive in their natural habitats, free from exploitation.


Ethical elephant sanctuaries usually prohibit activities that include harsh training and allow the elephants to live in their natural habitat. You can choose those who are transparent about their service and have experienced mahouts. These sanctuaries usually don’t allow riding the animals.

Most elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai let you feed, bathe, and enjoy roaming with the elephants. Some even teach you to make herbal medicines for animals.

Elephants are naturally wild animals, and taming them for human riding is a harsh and abusive procedure. For training, elephants are snatched from their mothers at a very early age.

Elephants usually swish their tails from side to side when they are happy. They sometimes even put their trunk around a person’s neck to show affection.

It would help if you ideally carried a hat, sunscreen, camera, bathing suit, and towel.

Founder - Thailand Nomads Jordan started Thailand Nomads primarily for sharing his experience of exploring Thailand for several years. The objective is to help tourists especially digital nomads plan their travel itinerary when visiting Thailand.

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