June marks the arrival of the raining season in Chiang Mai, a period of several months of changeable weather which between June – September is considered the ‘wet’ season or monsoon season. Whilst it certainly is the time of year that sees the majority of rainfall in Chiang Mai, it is somewhat of a mis-conception that it rains constantly. Generally, downpours are heavy but short and for the most part, days are overcast with intermittent sunshine.
Before we look into whether it is possible to cycle in Chiang Mai in the rainy season, lets get an overall picture of the weather in Thailand.
Thailand has three seasons, these are the cool season, hot season and wet season. The term ‘cool’ and ‘wet’ needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as for it generally remains warm even in the cool season with the exception of higher altitudes, and there can be long dry stretches in the wet season.
Cool Season Weather in Thailand
Thailand’s peak season coincides with the cool season, often referred to as Winter. The cool season is between November and February with temperatures varying between 19 to 30 degrees Celsius (66-86 degrees Fahrenheit). The further North you go, the colder it will be and temperatures at higher altitudes can be in single figures taking many visitors to Thailand by surprise. Day’s a dry and sunny and it certainly is the most beautiful time to visit Thailand.
Hot Season Weather in Thailand
After the glorious winter season comes the hot season which is between March – May with temperatures rising to between 30 and 40 degrees Celcius (86 – 104 Fahrenheit) or even higher. Coastal regions will be several degrees cooler as winds forming out to sea bring a little relief, for those in the North some relief can be found at altitude so when looking for things to do in Chiang Mai in the hot season, a mountain biking tour is often a good way to escape the oppressive heat in the city, however even at altitude it can feel very hot so it is important to remain hydrated and not to over exert yourself.
Rainy Season Weather in Thailand
After the long hot spell comes some welcome relief with cooler temperatures, rain and windier conditions. As mentioned above, the monsoon season doesn’t mean 24-7 rain, rather it pours for 1 to 2 hours a day before clearing up. It can be very refreshing and brings with it clean air and a drop in temperature. The monsoon season differs depending on the region, for example the South can expect more thunderstorms and heavier downpours, whilst the North can see more localized storms with less ferocity.
Now we have a general overview of weather in Thailand, let’s take a more in depth look at whether it is that is possible to cycling in Chiang Mai during the rainy season.
Well the simple answer is yes, definitely! There is little to stop you from booking a cycling tour in Chiang Mai during the rainy season and with the rain comes many benefits. For one, the mountains and rural areas come alive, bursting with colour. Paddy fields turn into an Instagrammers dream as they fill with water and green shoots sprout out, mountains suddenly turn vibrant green as the trees and plants come alive and the air is crystal clear as the rain removes dust particles from the air. You will also find a visit to Chiang Mai in the wet season is significantly cheaper than in December for example. With fewer arrivals Chiang Mai is quieter and has a more relaxed feeling compared to peak season with droves of tourists arrive. You may find yourself alone at many tourist attractions featured in our cycling tours and attractions such as waterfalls are far more impressive in the raining season.
What Trail Conditions Can Be Expected During a Cycling Tour in Rainy Season in Chiang Mai?
This is very much dependent on where the cycling tour takes place. For example, trails on Doi Suthep / Pui will be muddy with slippery roots and rocks at higher elevations, but tackier conditions as you descend. By this we mean the mud is almost sticky, providing excellent traction and control and fun! Conditions are certainly more technical, especially on the steep sections so downhill / endure type trails are only recommended for experienced mountain bikers. The rain can create deep ruts so extra precaution is required on steep trails.
Rural tours may have muddy sections but they are no more difficult than riding in other seasons, the only recommendation is to take a change of clothes as getting muddy is a given. Gravel roads are not affected so much by the rain and tyre traction should make cycling on rural roads a breeze. Precautions should be taken when riding around corners on roads as there may be some slick areas reducing tire traction.
The road conditions won’t differ much during a city cycling tour, the only recommendation is to opt for a morning tour as showers tend to be in the afternoon or evening time. We recommend taking a light raincoat with you at all times if you do get caught out in a rainstorm.
What Other Things To Do in Chiang Mai Can Be Done in Rainy Season?
On average there is a 50% chance of rain during rainy season so most activities can be done, some in fact are best in rainy season especially water based activities like rafting or kayaking.
Head to the Teang river for a half day rafting trip with a class III / IV section of white water adrenaline filled fun. 8Adventures is a leading rafting company in Chiang Mai offering a range of rafting options plus other activities.
If it is pouring down then why not join one of the many cooking classes in Chiang Mai? After learning about the various ingredients used in Thai cooking, you can learn how to cook a variety of classic dishes before the best bit – getting to eat what you’ve cooked. Asia Scenic is a long established cooking school and one of the highest rated on Trip Advisor.
Well they don’t call it rainforest for nothing! Take a guided hike in Northern Thailand and experience amazing vistas, remote hilltribes and unique flora and fauna along the way. Hiking in the forest during a shower can be a magical experience, aside from providing some cooling relief, the forest comes alive as a variety of animals become more active.
Visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai is a very popular activity in any season, be careful to do your research, read reviews and learn about elephants before choosing which company to visit. Take a raincoat or a poncho in the raining season and a sanctuary will generally recommend a change of clothes, although they often provide mahout clothing as part of the experience.
So if you’re considering to cycling in Chiang Mai in the raining season be sure to make the necessary considerations and preparation but don’t be put off by the thought of it. With crisp, clear and clean air, slightly cooler temperatures and with fewer people it can be one of the best times to ride. Watching a storm roll in from a distance is an amazing and unforgettable experience.