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Things to do in Chiang Mai

Things to do in  Chiang Mai

Welcome to Chiang Mai

After the dizzying metropolis of Bangkok and the buzzing beach resorts of the south, Chiang Mai shows off a side to Thailand that many visitors miss. The capital of northern Thailand is a city infused with Thai culture and it’s best explored at a leisurely pace, strolling around the maze-like lanes of Old Chiang Mai, admiring the ancient temples and royal pagodas, or browsing the markets for traditional handicrafts. Looming over the northwestern edge of the city, the mountaintop Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is the crown jewel of Chiang Mai’s spiritual heritage. Back in the city, Wat Phra Singh (Wat Phra Sing Waramahawihan), Wiang Kum Kam, and Wat Chedi Luang are among the most visited landmarks, while those intrigued by Thai culture can experience a Thai massage, take a Thai cooking class, or sample a traditional khantoke dinner. Chiang Mai also serves as a popular base camp for trekking to the Hmong, Karen, and Lisu hill tribe villages, and there are ample opportunities for jungle treks, white-water rafting, bike tours, and zipline adventures in the surrounding region. A short drive from the city, the Doi Khun Tan and Doi Inthanon national parks abound with lush rainforest, cascading waterfalls, and forest-cloaked temples. Further north, Chiang Rai is the gateway to the so-called “Golden Triangle,” the meeting point of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

Top 15 attractions in Chiang Mai

Doi Inthanon National Park

Rising 8,415 feet (2,565 meters) above sea level, Mt. Doi Inthanon, situated in the center of Doi Inthanon National Park, is Thailand’s tallest mountain. While many visitors strive to see the views from its summit, the surrounding forests, waterfalls, stupas—dome-shaped Buddhist shrines—and trails are just as impressive.More

Golden Triangle

The mountainous border regions of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand come together in the exotically named Golden Triangle—a haven of Buddhist architecture, lush forest, and colorful riverfront villages. Located in the Chiang Rai province at Thailand’s northernmost tip, the Golden Triangle is thick with wonders, both natural and man-made.More

White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

With brilliant white spires, eaves, and bridges that all glitter in the sunshine and reflect in surrounding pools, the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is Chiang Rai’s signature sight. The building’s surroundings and interior are filled with art inspired by everything fromThe Matrix, to Hello Kitty andKung Fu Panda.More

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The golden spire of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep glitters near the summit of Doi Suthep, a 5,499-foot (1,676-meter) mountain outside Chiang Mai. The wat, established in 1383, is one of northern Thailand’s most sacred temples. The International Buddhist Center at the wat hosts informal discussions, chanting, and meditation.More

Wat Chedi Luang

This partially ruined wat, possibly the largest structure in ancient Chiang Mai, dates back to the year 1441 and is most famous as the former home of the incredible Emerald Buddha. Nowadays, a jade replica fills the eastern niche of Wat Chedi Luang, although you can see the original in Bangkok at the Wat Phra Kaew.More

Wat Phra Singh Waramahawihan

If you only see one temple during your time in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan should be it. Set in the heart of the old city, the temple was founded in 1345 and is home to Chiang Mai’s most sacred relic—the Phra Singh, an image of the Lion Buddha housed within a golden shrine.More

Mae Kachan Hot Spring (Mae Ka Chan)

One of the few natural hot springs in northern Thailand, the Mae Kachan Hot Spring (Mae Ka Chan is so hot—reaching temperatures of 194˚F (90˚C—it can boil an egg in minutes, a feat that locals are more than happy to demonstrate. As well as cooking your breakfast, you can dip your toes in several pools.More

Warorot Market

Warorot Market is a feast for the senses, where stalls selling dried durian paste and exotic fruits stand cheek by jowl with vendors offering fluffy bath towels and Buddhist amulets. The indoor hub—a more authentic alternative to Chiang Mai’s night markets—is a great place to sample local delicacies and purchase handicrafts at low prices.More

Wat Suan Dok

Wat Suan Dok’s brilliant golden spire has stretched high into the skyline of the Northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai since the 14th century. The name roughly translates to "field of flowers," as the temple stands on a site that was once the garden of a ruling monarch just west of the Old City walls.More

Tunnel Temple (Wat Umong)

With its secluded forest location and elaborate network of tunnels, Tunnel Temple (Wat Umong) is unique among Chiang Mai temples. The 15-acre (6-hectare) temple complex is home to saffron-robed monks, as well as free-roaming deer and ponds full of fish and turtles. Signs painted with words of wisdom hang from the ‘talking trees.’More

Chiang Mai Night Safari

Chiang Mai Night Safari is a large zoo and theme park that is open throughout the day and night. Particularly popular with families, it is modelled on Singapore Night Safari but is twice the size; the site is sprawled across some 300 acres and is home to around 1400 animals.There is a scenic daytime walking route called the Jaguar Trail that winds around the lake and passes all the most popular animal enclosures, but arguably the best time to visit Chiang Mai Night Safari is after the sun goes down. The nighttime area is split into two zones, the Savanna Safari Zone and the Predator Prowl Zone, both of which are open from 6pm daily. Visitors travel through the different zones from the safety of an open-sided tram, spotting such animals as white tigers, rhinos, hyenas, lions, cheetahs, wildebeests, giraffes, ostriches, zebras, bears, water buffalos, crocodiles, kangaroos and more.In addition to the walking trails and night safari, there are a variety of other shows and attractions at the park. One of the most popular is the nightly Laser Light Show. There are two shows per night, one at 8pm and one at 9pm, and many visitors consider it one of the main highlights of their visit. It involves a stunning display at the site of a giant fountain, with the cascading water combining with clever light and sound effects to create a spectacular audiovisual experience.For the most convenient way to visit Chiang Mai Night Safari, book a tour that includes round-trip hotel transportation and admission fees.More

Doi Suthep–Pui National Park

Doi Suthep-Pui National Park protects a swath of verdant forest and mountain ranges in Northern Thailand near Chiang Mai. Named after a hermit who lived in the forest before it became a national park, Doi Suthep-Pui is perhaps most famous for the temple at the summit of Doi Suthep Peak (known for its stunning views of Chiang Mai).More

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is perhaps the city's most popular attraction. The colorful mix of shops and stalls sell all sorts of things, from ersatz designer fashions to embroidered hill tribes textiles, Thai silks, silver jewelry, carvings, ceramics, and antiques. It’s also one of the best places in town to sample some spicy street food.More

Mae Ping River

The Mae Ping River cuts through Chiang Mai just a few blocks east of the old city and night market, where its banks have been developed with hotels, open-air restaurants, and bars. As it passes through the countryside, the river retains its natural charms. The ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam is also set on its shores south of Chiang Mai.More

Thapae Stadium

Spend an evening watching Thailand’s national sport—Muay Thai, aka Thai kickboxing—at Thapae Stadium, one of the top spots in Chiang Mai to catch a few matches. Nearly every day of the week, the stadium puts on several show fights and traditional matches featuring a range of fighters, both men and women.More

Trip ideas

Elephant Conservation in Chiang Mai

Elephant Conservation in Chiang Mai

Top activities in Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai : Small-Group Day Trip from Chiang Mai City with Golden Triangle
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Elephant Care at Bamboo Elephant Family Care from Chiang Mai
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Thai and Akha Cooking Class in Chiang Mai
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Recent reviews from experiences in Chiang Mai

Perfect experience
Emiliya_K, Mar 2023
Sunrise, views, Doi Suthep temple, Alms to Monks Wat Pha lat & Wat Umong
To see Doi Suthep on sunrise was amazing!
Great way to see all...
jeminirocks, Mar 2023
Golden Triangle, White, Black, Blue Temple Full Day Tour From Chiang Mai
Great way to see all major temples in Chiang Rai.
Highly recommend this private tour of Chiang Mai!!
Elaine_L, Feb 2023
One Day Highlight of Chiang Mai
This was such a great way to visit Chiang Mai for the first time.
Must book this while in chiang mai
tamara_m, Feb 2023
Full-Day Doi Inthanon National Park Small-Group Tour
Our guide was very knowledgeable and spoke fluent English very caring, and I also got us some awesome fried bananas!!
Dont miss this tour if you are new to the street food scene
John_A, Feb 2023
Small-Group Chiang Mai Evening Street Food Tour
Lively evening jumping around the street food stalls of Chiang Mai with english speaking guide.
Very pleasant evening trip
carol_B, Feb 2023
Best seller!! Amazing Night tour, Doi Suthep + Wat umong - Top Must visit!
Interesting to see the tunnels, even though they are man made.
White Temple is the highlight
Ashley_C, Jan 2023
Chiang Rai Temples Small Group Tour: White Temple, Blue Temple & Black House
But that would be a great way to see the White Temple.
Fun and easy trip with a knowledgeable guide
Rebecca_G, Jan 2023
Half-day Ping River and rice paddies E-bike adventure (flat land, GUIDED)
Fun introduction to e-bikes and an up-close way to see the countryside outside of Chiang Mai.
Perfect Day trip
Synnve_M, Jan 2023
Best Seller! Doi Inthanon National Park, Waterfall & Royal Project - Chiang Mai
You Get to see a lot, travelling comfortably and efficiently.
Amazing Chiang Mai tour
Yasmin_N, Jan 2023
Highlights & Hidden Gems With Locals: Best of Chiang Mai Private Tour
We really go to see the real Chiang Mai, and definitely would have missed out on some amazing sights without this tour.
The best experience in Chiang Mai
May_L, Dec 2022
Whitewater Rafting Adventure
From beginning to end, our white water rafting experience was amazingly fun, exhilarating, and probably one of the best activities we did during our 2 week trip in Thailand.
Amazing half day tour!
Selina_T, Dec 2022
The Best City Tour View Points Wat Doi Suthep, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Pha Lat
Great tour to see the famous temples in Chiang Mai :) A leisure tour with a very knowledgeable guide!
Perfect family driver
Josh_W, Mar 2023
Half day car hire with private English speaking driver
Otto spoke great English and drove us where we wanted.
Day in Chiang Mai
Michelle_G, Mar 2023
Private: VIP. SUV car & Van Rental +English driver ( 7 hrs /day )
Also very honest since we had only one day in Chiang mai, he picked us up at the airport and on the way to our hotel, in order to save time, we stopped at one of the most important temple to see and left him with all our bags and suitcases in the car.
Highlight of our trip
Rachel_C, Mar 2023
3 Experiences: Doi Inthanon Tour, Elephant Sanctuary, Trekking Trail
Lunch was delicious, the pagodas were beautiful, and the waterfall hike was so fun and much easier than we expected.
Top full day tour
Ian_B, Mar 2023
Chiang Rai : Small-Group Day Trip from Chiang Mai City with Golden Triangle
Mr Nong was a brilliant guide, great information all day in easy to understand English.
Get Out of Town and Experience the Northern Thailand Countryside
Ron_R, Feb 2023
Half-day Ping River and rice paddies E-bike adventure (flat land, GUIDED)
It was a pleasure to be out-of-town and to see what daily life is like for the average working-class Thai.
Super trip to see White and Blue Temple
Dariusz_W, Jan 2023
Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai:White-Black-Blue Temple-Golden Triangle-Keren-Boat Trip
Great trip from Chiang Mai to see White and Blue temple in Chiang Rai.
Morning Filled with a Variety of Temples
Katie_C, Jan 2023
Sunrise, views, Doi Suthep temple, Alms to Monks Wat Pha lat & Wat Umong
There wasn't much of a sunrise, but it was still neat to see the view of Chiang Mai early in the morning without many crowds.
JanDustin_G, Jan 2023
Best seller!! Amazing Night tour, Doi Suthep + Wat umong - Top Must visit!
It’s nice to see the place at night, gorgeous and gleaming!
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People Also Ask

What is Chiang Mai known for?

An ancient walled city that’s the travel capital of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is known for monks and temples, including 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, mountainside Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, and Wat Suan Dok, which has a Buddhist university. Other highlights include hill tribe trekking, traditional crafts, and the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

How many days do you need in Chiang Mai?

You need at least three days to see the highlights of Chiang Mai, and longer if you plan a multi-day hike. Over three days, you can sample northern Thai cuisine, take a cooking class, explore temples, monasteries, and perhaps a museum, shop the night bazaar, and take in views from Doi Suthep.

What is a must-see in Chiang Mai?

Dating back to the 13th century, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep sits just below the 5,499-foot (1,676-meter) summit of Mt. Suthep (Doi Suthep). One of Thailand’s most sacred temples, it offers sweeping views across the city. Many tours add in a national park hike and/or a visit to a Hmong village.

Is it worth going to Chiang Mai?

Yes. This historic riverside city is a must-visit for lovers of Thai culture thanks to its ancient temples, rich traditions, colorful crafts, unique cuisine, and dramatic surroundings. It’s also a great jump-off point for exploring more of northern Thailand, such as Chiang Rai, Pai, and Mae Hong Son.

What can you do in Chiang Mai for free?

Many temples are free to visit. Wat Suan Dok runs a regular “Monk Chat” program where travelers can meet trainee monks and learn about their lives, while the Monk’s Trail hike to Wat Pha Lat is magical. Free galleries include Chiang Mai University Art Center and Gallery Seescape.

Is Chiang Mai safe for tourists?

Yes. It’s rare for foreign travelers to experience violent crime in Chiang Mai, although pickpocketing, bag snatching, and ATM skimming are not unknown. It’s worth being aware of Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté law, which prohibits criticism of the monarchy: avoid making political comments or sharing political articles online.


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