While Chiang Mai is the ideal destination for trekking and trekking enthusiasts to explore the wilderness and get a chance to experience a slice of nature, it's best to know the perfect time to visit the adventure capital of northern Thailand for trekking and indulging in this exuberant activity.
1. Dry Season
The dry season begins around October and lasts until March and is usually the best time of the year to go trekking in Chiang Mai as the climate is moderate with no extreme temperatures. The gentle breeze during this time makes it easier to do the climb and enjoy the breathtaking views.
The hot season begins around April and lasts until june. This is the hot and humid weather that trekkers usually try to avoid. The temperatures might shoot up to 40 degrees, and trekking can get challenging. It's generally best advised to avoid trekking during this weather.
Lastly, the wet season which is the peak monsoon season begins in June and lasts until halfway through September. It can be a daunting task to trek during this time, but at the same time it's not impossible. Some trails get really beautiful and the weather becomes nice and breezy making it ideal for a trek.
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
-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.'
How many days to visit Chiang Mai? I recommend planning at least 3 days to visit Chiang Mai and its surroundings. The old town can easily be visited on foot in one day, but there are so many other activities to do that it would be a shame not to spend a few extra days in Chiang Mai to try them out!
If you're planning on staying in the city to visit the markets, do a bit of shopping, see the temples and eat a Khao Soy, I'd recommend you stay for two nights and three days.
If you're planning on doing day trips to see the elephants, to go to Pai and Chiang Rai, then I'd suggest you stay for a week. This would include 2-3 nights in Pai.
I'd recommend you stay in the Old City if you like markets and temples. Otherwise, you could stay in the Nimman area (close to Maya Shopping Mall).
You'll also find markets there, but also lots of modern hotels and restaurants. I prefer Nimman since it's a bit less crowded than the Old City. Nimman is also known to be the expat area.
Santitham,To the northeast of Nimmanhaemin is Santitham, referring to Santitham Road and its general surrounding streets. In recent years, it has experienced something of a boom.
Riverside,Refined and genteel, the Riverside area displays to first-time visitors the traditions
Located in Thailand's mountainous northern region, Chiang Mai is Thailand's second city. With streets that reflect Thailand's mix of traditional past and trend-oriented youth, the city is an enticing antidote to the busy streets of Bangkok.
Built in the lush valley of the Ping River, Chiang Mai's mix of modern mindset and old architecture is a lure for backpackers, digital nomads, and adventurous holidaymakers. Founded in 1296 as the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, at Chiang Mai's center is the Old City with its historic crumbling city walls and moat. Complete with tree-lined avenues and easily walkable streets, the city is easily traversable on foot – or in the back of a tuk-tuk.
Accommodation around the various neighborhoods is plentiful and usually high quality. From budget dorm beds to mid-range trendy boutique hotels, as well as high-end rooms that offer all the trimmings, there's a lot of choices. Chiang Mai is an exciting glimpse into the wonders of Thailand's future, with all the respect and intrigue of its past.
Packed full of many of Chiang Mai's historical sights, as well as a load of bars, cafes, and restaurants, the Old City is the place to go in Chiang Mai for culture, buzz, charming and leafy sois (backstreets), and a whole lot of good food.
Best Places to Visit in Thailand
It's easy to spot this part of Chiang Mai on a map; it's a clear-cut square defined by ancient walls – some of which still stand – as well as a moat. These walls date from 1296, when Chiang Mai was founded as the new capital of the Lanna Kingdom (Chiang Mai means 'New City').
Today, the historical importance of this city can be known through exploring the bustling old town. Buddhist temples – or wats – dot this part of the town; these include Wat Phra Singh with its murals, the less visited and tranquil Wat Jet Yod, and the oldest temple in town, Wat Chiang Man.
Chiang Mai is also famous for its markets and the Old City is no exception; the Sunday Walking Market is a huge affair, where roads are blocked off for an array of vendors – from crafts and trinkets to cute socks and baseball caps. It's quite touristy, like certain areas of the Old City, but still fun.
Staying in the Old City means a lot of options. Budget guesthouses are rife, as are very affordable boutique hotels, with most accommodation falling into the low-end to mid-range in terms of price. You can find a few luxury places to splurge your money on, too. When you need to have a bit of fun, head to the cluster of bars on the corner of Ratchapakhinai Road and Ratvithi Road.
Where to Stay in the Old City
Rachamankha – Featuring classically Thai interiors, the rooms at Rachamankha boast high wood ceilings, terracotta tiled floors, and dark, solid wood furniture. Throughout the rest of this warmly decorated hotel, there are polished concrete floors, shady courtyards, and charming design features. In terms of amenities, this one boasts a scenic outdoor pool as well as an exquisite restaurant and spa – amongst other things. When it comes to location, this decidedly 5-star hotel is situated just 100 meters from the Sunday Market.
Pingviman Hotel – The Pingviman Hotel is set in a beautifully opulent building with stunning interiors – think hardwood paneling and shining tessellating tiles. There's a lush outdoor pool lined with tropical plants and palm trees, plus a pool bar and a stylish fitness center to keep up with your workouts. Onsite guests can try out local and regional cuisine at the Thai restaurant. The rooms at this 4-star offering are decorated with carved dark wood furniture, large beds, and touches of traditional Thai aesthetic.
Tamarind Village – With hints of Lanna design, Tamarind Village is a minimal and modern affair. True to its name, this hotel is an elegant place to stay, surrounded by tamarind trees. You'll find unfussy whitewashed rooms here, providing a calm place to unwind with their tiled floors and cooling, neutral color palettes. There are both indoor and outdoor restaurants at this hotel, a spa, and an outdoor pool to cool off in after a day of exploring Chiang Mai. From here, it's a 10-minute walk to the Night Bazaar and the Ping River – and all the restaurants it offers along its banks.
Wing Bed – Located close to religious and historical sites like Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh, Wing Bed is a cozy and convenient place to stay in this easily walkable part of town. The rooms are fresh and modern, from the mix of tasteful wood paneling and wooden floors to the white linen and whitewashed walls. There's a tasty buffet breakfast served up each morning in the hotel restaurant, which makes for a great way to start a day of discovering what Chiang Mai has to offer.
Fashionable and fun, the cosmopolitan area of Nimmanhaemin has a lot more going for it than first meets the eye. It's where to stay in Chiang Mai if you're looking for a touch of style and some great places to eat.
Located a couple of kilometers from the center of the city, you may not think that the district is a hub for style at first glance, but look past the traffic fumes and take a wander down the side streets that run between the squat buildings; you'll come across boutique shops, trendy cafes, and a scattering of hairdressers and spas too.
The small lanes – or sois as they're called in Thai – are a warren for all sorts of interesting discoveries: great restaurants that buzz with diners, and boutique hotels that brim with upscale aesthetics. Staying in Nimmanhaemin will give you access to the more modern side of Chiang Mai, where the young and well-heeled can be seen socializing and enjoying their free time together.
Further along Nimmanhaemin Road is the shiny new Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre, where you can pick up pretty much anything – from cosmetics and clothes to food and electronics. There's even a cinema and food court.
The area also encapsulates the city's university, with its young students adding a depth of interesting counterculture to the streets. And, of course, you have to take a trip to the electric Kad Ma Mor night market that sets up most nights in front of the university.
Getting around is easy on foot, especially down the sois, and you can choose to stay at budget hostels which are small but polished, or mid-range hotels, as well as high-end stays with all the services of a luxury hotel.
Where to Stay in Nimmanhaemin
U Nimman Chiang Mai – Boasting a sizeable outdoor pool where guests can sunbathe with views of the surrounding mountains, this hotel also features amenities like a large sun terrace, sauna, well-equipped gym, and a chic restaurant and cocktail bar. Throughout, the boutique interiors and large guest rooms of U Nimman Chiang Mai are perfect for any style-conscious traveler; there are plush carpets, stylish seating areas and geometric themed tiles and wall art. In terms of location, this 5-star option is well suited for shopaholics; the Maya Lifestyle shopping center is just on the doorstep.
Buri Siri Boutique Hotel – The minimal bedrooms in this hotel provide a relaxing environment with their whitewashed walls, simple tiled floors, and graceful wooden furniture. There are also historic artworks on the walls depicting a Thailand of the past. One of the best features of Buri Siri Boutique Hotel is the charming colonial style restaurant, complete with dark wood furniture and ceiling fans. Guests can also enjoy a cooling swim in the outdoor pool here and chill out in the landscaped tropical gardens. There's a bus stop close by, which makes getting around Chiang Mai convenient.
Sakulchai Place – Sakulchai Place is a simple, traditional hotel with spacious rooms featuring balconies, modern bathrooms, and shiny, tiled floors. There's a hotel restaurant where guests can enjoy a mix of international and Thai cuisine throughout the day. You'll also be able to soak up the heat of the day on a sun lounger around the hotel's outdoor pool. Well positioned to explore what the surrounding area has to offer, this 3-star option is near to the Kad Suan Kaew shopping center – but equally, the Old City is easily walkable, too.
To the northeast of Nimmanhaemin is Santitham, referring to Santitham Road and its general surrounding streets. In recent years, it has experienced something of a boom; demolition teams have got to work, tearing down the old to make way for sparkly new shop houses and shiny condo-style buildings.
Traditionally the red-light district of the city, this has declined with the recent renovation of the district. However, there are still many Thai-style bars and restaurants to be found here, where you can eat and drink cheaply.
The surge in the development of this area has been a boon to Chiang Mai's gay residents and expats, with many gay guesthouses, bars and even a karaoke place or two now adding to this area's landscape. It's also a great place for students to reside. The location (close to quite a few major universities), plus the cheap living costs make it a prime spot.
Accommodation here is almost all budget hotels and guesthouses, with a few mid-range, 3-star hotels to choose from, too. It's a pretty small area to explore, so getting around on foot is fine – though the area doesn't really have pavements or sidewalks. However, you may want to rent a motorbike if you want to get into the Old City or anywhere else around Chiang Mai.
Where to Stay in Santitham
POR Santitham – A modern, urban style hotel with charming walkways that overlook the outdoor pool area and mountains, this affordable option is decidedly cool. Rooms here boast large beds and flat-screen TVs. They're decked out in monochrome and are all about clean-cut straight lines and a sleek sense of design-led taste – all accented with good use of tropical plants. Just a kilometer from the Chang Puak Market, POR Santitham is within walking distance of Wat Lokmolee.
Refined and genteel, the Riverside area displays to first-time visitors the traditions and charm of Thailand's second city. The riverbank is alive, with locals enjoying great food in reasonably priced restaurants where live music is played almost nightly. This isn't an area aimed at tourists, it's an area to soak up the wonders of Thai life and enjoy the jovial atmosphere as local friends and families meet up to have a good time.
Nestled along the banks of the Mae Ping, the city here is noticeably split in two; modern Thai life on one, and the old and traditional on the other. The right bank of the river is all about fishermen, food stalls and the Warorot Market – where you can pick up some bargain textiles – whilst the north bank is busy with boutiques, spas, and art galleries.
A good place to stay in Chiang Mai for couples, as night falls, there's a relaxed atmosphere as people stroll along the riverside looking for somewhere to eat dinner or simply soak up the views of the night sky reflected in the river.
Hotels along the riverbank are a little more expensive than other parts of the city. If you want to get from Riverside to explore the rest of what Chiang Mai has to offer, the best thing to do is to hop in a tuk-tuk; it's usually very inexpensive and will get you where you want to be quickly.
Night Bazaar Area.As you might be able to tell from its name, this area – situated between the east of the Old City and the Mae Ping river – is all about the Night Bazaar. In fact, it's about many different markets. And shopping in them!
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