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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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Dao Caves

Situated within Chiang Dao National Park, the 6-mile-long (10-kilometer-long) Chiang Dao Caves system penetrating Thailand’s third-highest peak ranks among the most spectacular in the country. Impressive stalagmites and stalactites grow from the ceilings and floors of the five interconnected caves, along with other limestone and crystal formations.More

Trip ideas

Chiang Mai Temple Trail

Chiang Mai Temple Trail

Elephant Conservation in Chiang Mai

Elephant Conservation in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Hill Tribe Villages

Chiang Mai Hill Tribe Villages

Top activities in Chiang Mai

Small-Group Chiang Mai Evening Street Food Tour
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Thai and Akha Cooking Class in Chiang Mai
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Full-Day Doi Inthanon National Park Small-Group Tour
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Recent reviews from experiences in Chiang Mai

Sunrise in Chiang Mai is amazing
Denise_L, Jul 2022
Sunrise, views, Doi Suthep temple, Alms to Monks Wat Pha lat & Wat Umong
The early start was perfect to see the sunrise over the temple and city of Chiang Mai.
Fantastic day tour, saw lots of interesting things plus some walks. Great tour guide!
Dee_J, Jun 2022
Inthanon Day Trip from Chiang Mai with Lunch - Small Group
Fantastic day trip with great tour guide “M” good English and very knowledgeable (thanks mate!
Great start
Penelope_M, Nov 2022
Chiang Rai : Small-Group Day Trip from Chiang Mai City with Golden Triangle
Included on the tour: Thai set lunch Bottled water Hotel pickup and drop-off (selected hotels) Transport by air-conditioned minivan Boat trip along Mekong River Visit House of Opium All admission fees and activities Travelling accident insurance Entry| Admission - Wat Rong Khun Entry/ Admission - Golden Triangle Entry| Admission - House of Opium Bee got us cappuccino and chocolates on our way back, very nice treat ❤️ The experience was definitely worth the time and cost.
Amazing Day Out
Martin_P, Nov 2022
Best of Chiang Mai: Private Tour in a Day
We customised our trip to include Doi Suthep, Orchid & Butterly farm and the Sticky Waterfalls (which had to be the highlight of our visit to Chiang Mai).
Great tour!
Lynne_D, Nov 2022
Full-Day Doi Inthanon National Park Small-Group Tour
As advertised, we saw 2 beautiful waterfalls, visited an indigenous Karen village, did a mini-trek, saw the twin temple complex, & finally the Hmong market.
Great way to start our time in Chiang Mai!
hirsch, Nov 2022
Small-Group Chiang Mai Evening Street Food Tour
We assumed it was a total walking tour but we found that there was a van that took us to various markets which was great that we got to see a lot more than we would otherwise.
HIGHLY recommend this trip as it covers a lot of ground, literally
Parashar_M, Oct 2022
3 Experiences: Doi Inthanon Tour, Elephant Sanctuary, Trekking Trail
We were able to see a lot of the non-touristy areas.
Worth the money! Market in Laos was crap though.
Chritopher_C, Oct 2022
Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai:White-Black-Blue Temple-Golden Triangle-Keren-Boat Trip
All the attractions were beautiful and worth the long drive.
Breathtaking sunrise views during tour
Rachel_W, Jul 2022
Sunrise, views, Doi Suthep temple, Alms to Monks Wat Pha lat & Wat Umong
Led by ex-monk, Tom, the tour was timed perfectly to see the Doi Suthep temple lit under night lights and during sunrise.
Great Private Driver/ Day Tour Guide
Sarah_N, Jul 2022
Full day car hire with private English speaking driver
His English was good and he was friendly, knowledgeable and fun.
Look no further - these are the experts - June 2022
Kevin_L, Jun 2022
Doi Inthanon Private Tour with Trek & Lunch from Chiang Mai
They are prompt diligent communicative, speak perfect English, are welcoming friendly and we cannot say enough about them.
Zero stress tour of Doi Inthanon
Norman_L, May 2022
Best Seller! Doi Inthanon National Park, Waterfall & Royal Project - Chiang Mai
She gave a history of Chiang Mai and its attractions and frequently offered to take photos.
Diffrent tempels + +
Bernt, Feb 2020
Private: VIP. SUV car & Van Rental + English Speaking driver ( 8 hrs / day )
Recommended well-known tourist attractions and told things along the way.
Best way to see Chiang Mai
Bernt, Feb 2020
Private: VIP. SUV car & Van Rental + English Speaking driver ( 8 hrs / day )
Highly recommend this for those who want to see Chiang Mai in the best way.
Temple tour
michelleroya, Jan 2020
Chiang Mai City and Temples Half-Day Tour
Got to see 3 different temples around Chiang Mai.
Waterfall was amazing
Scott_H, Oct 2019
CHIANG MAI: One day Doi Inthanon Tour & 2 Waterfall with Lunch
Waterfalls were great and the lunch was OK also.
White Temple Chiang Rai Tour from Chiang Mai
GrandTour56772674007, Feb 2019
Chiang Rai : Small-Group Day Trip from Chiang Mai City with Golden Triangle
Maybe they can look at dropping one of the activities on this tour.
Very informative guide. You get to...
Daniel K, Jan 2018
Private Tour: Chiang Mai City and Temples
You get to see a few improvement temples (one of which is on top of a mountain) and hear about the rich history of Chiang Mai.
Very good way to get a glimpse of...
Marie Emilia V, Jul 2017
Chiang Mai City and Temples Half-Day Tour
Despite the pouring rain, we were able to visit all the sights.
We enjoyed our tour of Chiang Mai's...
Donna P, Feb 2017
Small-Group Chiang Mai Evening Street Food Tour
It was enjoyable to share the experience with other tourists, and interesting to see the city at night.
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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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