The former seat of the Lanna kingdom is a blissfully calm and laid-back place to relax and recharge your batteries. Participate in a vast array of activities, or just stroll around the backstreets, and discover a city that is still firmly Thai in its atmosphere and attitude.
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 .You will absolutely enjoy your vacation here.
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, a special vacation ,you will see 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. Your holiday will be intensively rich.
First time to Chiang Mai?
The best things to do to enjoy your holiday here in Chiang Mai include visiting some of the city's beautiful temples and unique sites. The historical capital of the old Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai is rich in culture. The Old City – an attraction in itself – hosts most of the best temples, museums and other interesting sites, with many more just outside the ancient city walls and moat.
If you're willing to travel a little further afield, say you have a very long vacation .You'll find that Chiang Mai is ringed with outstanding, unique places to see and things to do. There's Thailand's tallest mountain nearby, as well as two different tribal villages and various national parks. Check out our pick of the best attractions in Chiang Mai to make sure that you don't miss the most important sites and experiences in this outstanding part of Thailand.
Top 15 free things to do in Chiang Mai
Street food and smoothies for the equivalent of $1, private rooms for around $10 and dorm beds for even less – even within Thailand, Chiang Mai is known for being an especially affordable destination. It's easy to stick to a budget here and still feel like you've truly experienced the city.
But if you really want to stretch your budget, there are also plenty of superb free things to do in Chiang Mai – here's our pick.
-Deepen your practice at Yoga in the Park
-Learn another language
-Stop at some of the city's lesser-known temples
-Go salsa dancing
-Listen to live music at North Gate Jazz Co-Op
-Find a moment of mindfulness
-Hike to a temple
- Explore ancient ruins at Wiang Kum Kam
-Wander through myriad markets
-Chat with a monk
-Look at local art at free galleries
-Relax with a gong bath
-Bathe in a waterfall
-Eat at the Vegetarian Society
-Marvel at the magical festivals
Top 16 attractions in Chiang Mai
-Doi Inthanon National Park Tours and Tickets
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.
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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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).
-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.
-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.
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.
-Mae Kachan Hot Spring (Mae Ka Chan) Tours and Tickets
You can boil an egg in minutes in the 80 C water of the Mae Kachan Hot Spring (Mae Ka Chan) located in Chiang Rai province. The water from the main geyser is too hot for bathing, so instead there are separate pools where you can soak your feet in the naturally warm water and relax amid the gardens.
Mae Kachan hot springs make a popular rest stop for people traveling between the cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. In addition to the hot springs, you'll find washrooms, souvenir shops, restaurants, food vendors, and people selling raw eggs to boil in the hot springs!
-Wat Chiang Man
Thought to be the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Man is a typical Northern Thai temple, with massive teak columns holding aloft the central sanctuary. The wat has two important Buddha images—one on a marble bas-relief, the other a crystal seated Buddha—both of which are visible in a glass cabinet housed in a smaller sanctuary.
-Three Kings Monument (Anusawari Sam Kasat)
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 bronze sculpture of the founder fathers of Chiang Mai – King Mengrai standing with King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Phayao – is a proud symbol of the history of Chiang Mai, commemorating the alliance forged by the kings in the development of the city in the 13th century. The monument serves as a shrine for local residents, who often leave offerings of flowers and candles in the hope of receiving blessings.
Due to its historic and cultural significance, as well as its central location, visiting the Three Kings Monument is included on various Chiang Mai sightseeing tours, including historic bike tours and even food tours.
-Wiang Kum Kam
Wiang Kum Kam, an ancient "lost city" on the banks of the Mae Ping River, was founded in the 13th century by King Mangrai as the Lanna capital before Chiang Mai. The city was abandoned in the 16th century due to flooding and was only rediscovered in 1984. Since then the temples and other structures have been partially restored.
-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.'
10 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai,Most Important Temples of Chiang mai
Chiang Mai is not exactly short of a temple or two. There are over 300 'wats' scattered throughout the city and surrounding countryside - no other province in the whole of Thailand is home to more. Choose a private Chiang mai tours with a private guide so you can know more interesting stories about these important temples of Chiang mai tours.
-Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Forever holding onto the crown of the most-visited, most famous, and most highly revered temple in Chiang Mai is the magnificent Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (for short, you can just call it Wat Doi Suthep). The journey up the winding mountain road is an experience in itself, whether you're doing it on a rented scooter (250 baht for the day), as part of a private excursion (600 baht there and back) or sitting in a packed-out songthaew with the locals (80 baht for one way).
-Wat Chedi Luang
If you're short on time or have already done Doi Suthep and need more temple action, one of the best is located right in the middle of the Old City, walking distance from many of most popular hotels and markets
-Wat Phra Singh
Thanks to a huge renovation in the 19th century, plus numerous licks of paint ever since, Wat Phra Singh stands as one of the most visually impressive temples in Chiang Mai.
-Wat Suan Dok
Characterised by its shining array of brilliant-white chedis surrounding a glowing golden stupa, Wat Suan Dok is one of the less-visited temples in Chiang Mai but still definitely still worth a look.
Still standing after 700 years, Wat Umong certainly shows its age, despite numerous touch-ups over the years. The crumbling, weather-worn central stupa towers into the sky, set around a well-maintained tropical garden and smart-looking green lawns.
-Wat Phra That Doi Kham
Famous (mostly among locals) for its huge seated Buddha, Wat Phra That Doi Kham is one of the lesser-known temples in Chiang Mai thanks to its slightly out-of-the-way location, but nonetheless just as spectacular as many of the more popular temples in Chiang Mai.
-Wat Sri Suphan
This central Chiang Mai temple really stands out from the rest with its shiny coat of silver paint that glistens brightly in the sunlight. The tips of the stupas are solid silver and at night they have a neon light display which turns the temple into multiple colours – a stunning sight indeed.
-Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man temple once served as the residence of the city's founder, King Mengrai, shortly after its construction in the 13th century (which makes it one of the very oldest in the region).
-Wat Lok Molee
Another visually striking temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Lok Moli, well-known for its three-tiered wooden roof and prime location very close to Chang Puak Gate on the north edge of the Old City.
-Wat Phan Tao
Next door to Wat Chedi Luang – the most famous temple in Chiang Mai's Old City – you'll find this rather more modest building.
Heed the call of the wild
Selfie-snapping tourists have come under fire in recent years for posting pictures of themselves cuddling tiger cubs or riding elephants. But there are still plenty of ways to get up close and personal with nature ethically. Elephant Nature Park, some 40 miles from Chiang Mai, has been rescuing and rehabilitating pachyderms since the 1990s. Visitors can join private tours to spend the day feeding, swimming with and walking alongside the contented herd in their 200-acre habitat. Got a little extra time and cash? Consider a week-long homestay in a Karen village helping with reforestation, animal vaccinations and farming.