Climbing Up the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls
Not sure what day trip from Chiang Mai to tackle next? Looking for something different to do? Or keen to get off the beaten track? The Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls make for a completely unique, memorable experience.
Only an hour and a half from the old city of Chiang Mai these waterfalls aren’t just great to photograph and look at, they’re also brilliant fun to climb, explore and swim in. If you’ve spent any time in Thailand you’ll have come across a few waterfalls, but we’re guessing that you’ve never climbed up one! That’s exactly what you’ll do at Bua Tong.
What to Expect
The Sticky Waterfalls are a sight to behold. Latte-coloured, bulging rocks look like they balloon out of the water that rushes over them. Luscious, rugged jungle surrounds the cascades. Thanks to the upstream natural spring the water is a cool, clear antidote to the sweltering sun.
They’re a photographer’s dream with 6 different tiers of falls. Shafts of sunlight glint through the canopies and there’s a mixture of pools and cascades.
Be prepared to work up a sweat. Even if you don’t climb the waterfalls themselves, to see the full height you’ll have to climb a couple of hundred steps. Obviously, we recommend getting yourself wet and going up the adventurous way.
You’ll find a few small snack shops at the top, changing rooms (if they’re open!) and sometimes camping options.
At the top of the falls, near the picnic area you’ll find a small pool which is great for a relaxing, low adrenaline dip.
Making the Climb
Take the steps down. Find a spot where you can keep an eye on your kit. Get into your swim shorts or bikini and jump in! There’s a natural staging area about halfway down. Most people leave their bags here (make sure not to leave valuables out on display).
The moment you step onto the rocks you’ll notice they’re different. Thanks to the natural limestone deposits you’ll feel like Spider-Man! For the steeper sections, grab hold of one of the many ropes and pull yourself up. For the ultimate refreshing experience lie down in one of the natural pools and let the water rush over you!
The Secret Spring
Search for a sign for Nam Phu Chet Si near the top of the falls. After a short walk you’ll be rewarded with a barely visited small shrine and sacred spring. This area is usually only frequented by religious locals who believe in the mysterious healing benefits of the water. Try the sacred experience for yourself by using one of the buckets attached to a stick. Scoop some up from the spring and give yourself a cooling douse.
How to Find the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls
A short hour and half from Chiang Mai, it’s a straightforward 60km drive on the 1001 into the Sri Lanna National Park. We’d recommend either renting a scooter (if you have riding experience) or a car. There are plenty of scenic photo stops en route.
If you’d prefer someone else to do the driving then grab a red Songthaew truck from the streets for the day. The cost is best split with friends and you can usually comfortably fit around 8 of you in it.
Climb down further than you would expect to (after the man-made path ends). You’ll come across a bonus section of sticky falls and a small plunge pool. If the vines have grown the right way you can swing around like Tarzan and drop into the water. Be sure to check the depth of the pool and if there are any sharp rocks before swinging in!