You haven’t truly been to Chiang Mai until you’ve visited some of its three dozen beautiful Buddhist temples. From Doi Suthep Temple in the mountains outside the city to a clustering of ancient temples within its ancient walls, here are a few of our favorites.
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 10 attractions in Chiang Mai
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....
If you’ve ever wanted to chat to a Buddhist monk, pull up a chair at Wat Chedi Luang. As you enter the wat from Th Phra Pokkao, turn right and you’ll see some tables under a sign reading ‘Monk Chat.’ The partially ruined wat 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, and you can see the original in Bangkok at the Wat Phra Kaew. Wat Chedi Luang has undergone a restoration program, which has added several Buddha images, porticoes and statues....
If you only see one temple during your time in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Singh (also known as Wat Phra Sing Waramahawihan) 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 (Lion Buddha image). The temple consists of many buildings, but the most spectacular is the golden wihan that houses the Phra Singh. Look for classic Lanna architectural features like the three-tiered roof, white chedi with an octagonal base, and lion statues guarding the entrance. It is possible to go inside to see the Buddha statue, just remember to remove your shoes first. Wat Phra Singh is an active temple and lucky visitors may see chanting monks or a blessing ceremony. Many novice monks study here and are happy to practice their English by sitting and chatting with tourists in the temple gardens....
Whether it’s dried durian paste and spicy bowls of hot curry or prayer beads and bath towels, the halls of Warorot Market definitely have a little something for everyone. The indoor hub for local ingredients and inexpensive clothing is a perfect place for travelers to sample local cuisine and stock up on handmade items and cheap souvenirs. The streets surrounding the market are also lined with stalls selling handicrafts and artwork from area hill tribes at a fraction of the cost....
Wat Suan Dok’s brilliant golden spire stretches high into the skyline of the northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai and has done so just west of the old city walls 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. Today, the ashes of some of the royal family are tucked into the wat’s spires, as homage to leaders past. Wat Suan Dok is a favorite among travelers, particularly photographers, who gather amid the temple’s ornate structures during sunrise and sunset to capture impressive photos filled with rose-colored light. A 500-year-old bronze buddha—one of the largest in the region—also makes this a popular stop. Aside from the structure itself, there is a Buddhist university at the site as well. Monks in training are often eager to share conversation and practice their English with visitors in informal "monk chats."...
This Buddhist temple near Doi Suthep mountain is also known as the “Tunnel Temple,” both for its unique network of underground tunnels and its location in the forest. There is a large stupa to visit, as well as “talking trees,” which feature words of wisdom in both Thai and English. Monks here live in a very natural setting, among deer and ponds full of fish and turtles. Stroll the temple grounds under trees and across trails, or explore the underground tunnels, featuring many shrines to Buddha. It is said that the tunnels, dug underneath an artificial mound, were created to keep a highly regarded monk who was prone to wandering from getting too far from the temple. It was later abandoned, adding to its ancient, wooded feel—but today several monks live on the site. Its tranquil environment makes it a popular spot for meditation....
Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is perhaps the city's most popular must-do attraction. The colorful mix of regular shops and stalls create a unique market buzz. You’ll find everything for sale here, from ersatz designer brands to embroidered hill tribes textiles, lacquerware, silver jewelry, carvings, silks, ceramics and antiques. The best range of antiques is on the second floor of the covered market building called the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, to the north of the busy intersection near a narrow cross street....
The Three Kings Monument (Anusawari Sam Kasat) is located in the center of Chiang Mai’s walled city in front of the old provincial administration building, which now houses the Chiang Mai City Art & Cultural Center. This is one of several museums that have opened within old municipal buildings surrounding the Three Kings Monument, making this area particularly popular with history fans and other tourists....
The Mae Ping River cuts through Chiang Mai just a few blocks east of the old city and night market. In central Chiang Mai the banks of the river have been developed and are home to hotels, open-air restaurants, and bars, while in the countryside the river retains its natural charms. The ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam is also set on the banks of the Mae Ping River south of Chiang Mai. Sight-seeing tours and dinner cruises along the Mae Ping River available. For the more adventurous, kayaking and rafting trips can be arranged....
Wiang Kum Kam is an ancient “lost city” located on the banks of the Mae Ping River. It was founded in the 13th century by King Mangrai and was the royal capital prior to Chiang Mai. Wiang Kum Kam was abandoned in the 16th century due to flooding, and was only rediscovered in 1984. Wiang Kum Kam has been partly restored to its former glory and visitors can tour the ruins of ancient temples and see the carved stone tablets unearthed by archaeologists. Some of the sites have plaques with information in English and guides are available for hire....
Top activities in Chiang Mai
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the top things to do in Chiang Mai?
What are the top activities in Chiang Mai?
Top activities in Chiang Mai include:
Discover the top things to do in Chiang Mai.
- Chiang Rai Small-Group Day Trip from Chiang Mai City with Golden Triangle
- Chiang Mai City and Temples Half-Day Tour
- Doi Inthanon Private Tour with Trek & Lunch from Chiang Mai
- Small-Group Chiang Mai Evening Street Food Tour
- Chiang Rai Temples Private Tour from Chiang Mai with Lunch
Discover the top things to do in Chiang Mai.
What are the top things to do near Chiang Mai?
Things to do near Chiang Mai
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