Chiang Mai has a lot of options depending on your itinerary, time and the expectation to explore of each visitor. Because in addition to the area near the Old Town with temples, eateries, sights, Chiang Mai is also a place to enjoy the fresh air of the northern mountains of Thailand, with national parks and rich and diverse vegetation. I will list relatively here for your reference:
- Old Town with the temples in the old town such as Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phantao, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Phra Singh.
- Night Bazaar and the pedestrian street from the night market to Old Town.
- Slow life in Chiang Mai with cafes, art venues such as studios, pottery villages, museums ..
- Wat Doi Suthep and Karen long neck village
- Doi Inthanon National Park, Grand Canyon.
- Chiang Mai Zoo, Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
- Fresh and peaceful of Pai town
- Chiang Rai, White temple and Golden Triangle
- The Giant Chiang Mai: unique tree cafe
With so many attractions to explore, you should spend at least 5 days for visiting Chiang Mai, including 3 days to explore the area around the city, 1 day in Pai and 1 day tour to Chiang Rai. The most suitable itinerary and more enjoyment should be 7 days or more.
Chiang Mai Thailand blog: Central area
Old Town and the temples in Chiang Mai
I have been to Bangkok and have visited many temples, but when I came to Chiang Mai I was overwhelmed by the density of temples here. There are countless temples in Chiang Mai, just a few steps you will see a temple, more than enough to feel about a Buddhist country like Thailand. However, with a short trip, you only need to refer to some main temples such as:
Wat Chedi Luang
This temple is very large, is a complex of temples, includes many small temples. In addition to the golden temples, the center of the campus also has a large stupa, looking like the Mayan pyramid or Shwe San Daw temple in Bagan.
Outside the gate of Wat Chedi Luang temple, there are many beautiful cafes, you can visit at noon or early afternoon and sit in these cafes to avoid heat. In addition, in front of the temple gate also has quite delicious mango sticky rice.
Address: 103 Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 53 24 8604
Wat Pan Tao is a temple built entirely of wood, located right next to Wat Chedi Luang. Although not comparable in size, but Pan Tao Temple also has its own unique features, feeling a bit more serene.
Address: 127/7 Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Phone: +66 53 814 689
Wat Chiang Man
As the most famous ancient temple in Chiang Mai built in 1292, Wat Chiang Man is a typical example of Lan Na architectural style. The golden Chedi stupa is engraved with 15 elephants around, It is a symbol image that attracts many tourists visiting here. In addition, the exquisite dome and carved patterns in the temple are also very impressive.
Address: 171 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Wat Phra Singh
This temple is extremely prominent with sophisticated patterns, many of the on-site temples are extremely spectacular built with a layer of gold, feeling like everything in the temple is very new.
Address: 2 Samlarn Rd, Phra Sing, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50280, Thailand
Phone: +66 53 416 027
These temples are located in the Old Town – the square area in central Chiang Mai so quite close to each other, you can easily travel by different means of transport and even walking. In addition to visiting the temples, you can strolling around the old town, immerse yourself in the daily life of the people here.
Join the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng sky lantern festival
This is a festival held every year usually in December according to the lunar calendar of Thailand, that is in November according to the Western calendar. The festival usually lasts for 3 days and ends on the full moon day, the second big festival after Songkran – water festival during New Year.
The festival is an occasion for Thai people to give thanks to the water God, they drop both the water lights and sky lights (Loy Krathong in Thai means “water lights”). Thousands of sky lanterns are released in the sky from an area that is very crowded with people, mainly in the open lands, in the fields because it is also easy to cause a fire. The scenery when admiring the glittering sky in the night was extremely impressive. As for dropping the sky lanterns, they have a separate name, Yi Peng Lantern Ceremony.
The main area to attend the festival is Mae Jo University, dressed in long clothes, and if you want to take the best photos of the festival, you should buy tickets to the area reserved for photographers, the fare is 2.000 Baht or about $100. You should come early to have a place to watch the sky lanterns, around 3PM because later on the road will be very crowded. You should bring a canvas to sit, food and services all are available.
Participation in the festival is free, but if you do not buy tickets, it will be more difficult to admire the sight of all lights being lights up and drop because the seats are not beautiful. With a $100 ticket you will enjoy the following services: 1 Lanna-style meal, 2 sky lanterns, 1 water lights, 1 souvenir gift set, shuttle bus from Chiang Mai to Mae Jo University.
Chiang Mai night market and walking street
Traveling to Thailand, of course, can not miss the local markets, where you can see the best way of living, cultural features of indigenous people. In Chiang Mai, too, there are quite a few small markets in the city, but the most famous is probably Night Bazaar – Chiang Mai night market is located in the eastern part of the old town and right near the Mae Ping river. The market has both indoor and outdoor areas, selling all kinds of goods from clothes, souvenirs, electronics, …
A special thing is the market is extremely bustling, vibrant at night, surrounded by many restaurants and bars with both natives and tourists. The city also has many walking streets between the old town and the night market, making sure you wander forever without getting bored because the two sides of the road have a lot of cafes, small bars, strolling while admiring the shops is also quite interesting.
This is a pottery workshop located on Suthep road of Chiang Mai. Of course, there is nothing but pottery and some handmade items. But all is enough to create an extremely cool “art” background for photos, as well as your experience, right?
Address: 35 Sirorot Rd, Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Hours: 10AM–5PM / Sunday: Closed
Phone: +66 81 785 1943
Chiang Mai trip blog: Suburban area
If in the US there is a famous Grand Canyon, Chiang Mai has a similar wonder. This is considered a must go place when you travel to Chiang Mai. Discovered a few years ago, its beautiful and extremely pristine scenery attracts many tourists. They come here to take photos, swim, watch the sunset.
I drove here in the middle of the afternoon, it was sunny but quite cool. From the highway you will have to turn into a small road to the Grand Canyon, the entrance fee is 50 Baht ($1.64). Most tourists come here mainly to jump off bridges (jump from top of the earthen walls surrounding the lake, have built) and swim in the lake. This area looks small on photos but when looking outside is quite large, there is a cafe inside the grounds.
Address: 244 Moo 1 | Nam Phrae, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230, Thailand
Phone: +66 52 010 565
Baan Kang Wat
This can be considered as a highly artistic village in Thailand. I know it through reference to the article of some foreign bloggers, after playing in the Grand Canyon, on the way back, I came here to play. Baan Kang Wat is like a miniature ecosystem with quite a lot of cafes, ice cream shops, eateries, and handmade stalls. Quite a lot of people come here to visit, or sit in a small corner with the book in hand to enjoy their free time, or take a Yoga class by yourself, unleash your creativity through paintings, …
Address: 191-197 Soi Wat U Mong | Suthep Subdistrict, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Hours: 10AM–6PM / Monday: Closed
Phone: +66 95 691 0888
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and Karen Long Neck Village
It is often said that not visiting Doi Suthep Temple means that you have not visited Chiang Mai. Legend has it that the location of the temple is where the Thai king once came, the white elephant of the King suddenly stopped and scream out three times and refused to move. The temple is located on a hilltop looking down the whole town, about 15 km from Chiang Mai. Going up here, you will visit a lot of valuable scenery, especially the main stupa, Bhubing palace, Botanical garden, then pass 306 steps to reach the temple.
Address: 9 Moo 9 Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Elevation: 1,050 m (3,445 ft)
Phone: +66 53 295 003
In addition to Doi Suthep you can visit more a long neck village (Karen Long Neck Camp). This is a village that originates from the long neck people originating in Myanmar bordering northern Thailand. Visiting and taking photos with villagers is also an interesting experience.
Address: 26 Moo 6 Tambon Nang Lae, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Rai, Chang Wat Chiang Rai 57100, Thailand
Phone: +66 81 993 3827
Visiting Doi Inthanon National Park
This is a large National Park located quite far away from Chiang Mai, which is the gathering and living place of many species of plants and animals, one of the highest points of Thailand. Visiting the national park you can visit a number of other tourist sites such as Royal Chedis built to honor the 60th birthday of the Thai king and the Queen of Thailand.
This is a large area including many places to visit such as Wachiratharn Waterfall, Siritharn Waterfall, climbing to the highest peak to watch the sunset here is also great. For convenience and time saving, you should buy a full day tour to visit Doi Inthanon.
The Giant Chiang Mai cafe
This is a very unique cafe in Chiang Mai, but it’s quite far from the city center. Traveling from Old Town is 80km and the road is extremely difficult to travel, so consider if you go with a group of friends, you should rent a car. This cafe is hanging on a giant tree, has a suspension bridge on the tree to visit and even adventure games like Spelunking (rope swing). Food and drink prices are relatively expensive, in addition to coffee they also have hotel rooms for rent.
Address: Baan Pok Village Huai Kaew subdistrict, Mae On 50130 Thailand
Hours: 8:30AM–5:30PM / Monday: Closed
Phone: +66 86 776 2946
This is a small town located in Mae Hong Son region, northwest Thailand near Myanmar. This town is famous for its beauty in peace, simplicity, everything is beautiful in a simple and close way. There are a number of daily buses running between Pai and Chiang Mai, you can book via the web (similar to the web of booking Chiang Mai – Bangkok above) or come to buy directly at the bus station. The distance of 120km is quite far so the travel time is up to 3.5-4 hours. You can ride a motorbike, but I recommend you take the bus well because riding a motorbike is too far and the roads are many bends and rugged. You should spend at least 1-2 days to explore Pai.
Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle
Chiang Rai is quite far away from Chiang Mai, so if you want to explore Chiang Rai and its famous White temple, you should buy a day tour, the tour will take you from the hotel and visit points of interest in Chiang Rai.
White Temple – Wat Rong Khun is a very famous temple in Chiang Rai, the whole temple is covered with a dominant white tone, reflected on the lake to create a scene like in a fairy tale. In addition to visiting the white temple, you can also combine to visit the long-neck village in Chiang Rai (similar as in Chiang Mai), a tribe originating from Myanmar with long-necked people wearing fancy gold collars.
Chiang Mai Thailand blog: Nightlife in Chiang Mai
Coming to Thailand wherever you stay from Bangkok, Krabi, Phuket to Chiang Mai, you cannot miss the vibrant nightlife. In many places in Chiang Mai, bars are designed with many different styles, they also use cute trucks or mini vans to make as eye-catching small bars. It was great to relax after a day of tiring tours.
Some notable bars that backpackers often come such as Freedom Bar (Address: 4 Rachapakinai Rd. Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand / Phone: 0829293066 – 0861801591), some small pubs located on the eastern edge of the Old Town area such as THC Rooftop bar (Address: 19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road | On the 3rd Floor, Chiang Mai, Thailand / Hours: 5PM–12AM / Phone: +66 87 078 1190). Don’t be afraid to pick a beer bottle and chat with anyone you want, everyone is happy and generous in this exciting atmosphere.
Overall, in order to feel the peace in the life in Chiang Mai, visit and explore tourist attractions, the quintessence of this land you will need at least 1 week. If you have time, you can find homestays, aparments for rent, or guesthouses for monthly rental, the price will be much better. If you don’t have a lot of time, a 3-4 day trip also will be ok, to spend your discoveries in the next trip!
What to do in Chiang Mai: Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in and from Chiang Mai you can refer to
- Private Chiang Mai International Airport Transfers (CNX) for Chiang Mai by Thai Rhythm
- Private City Transfers between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai City & Temples Half Day Tour by Tour East
- Chiang Rai One Day Tour from Chiang Mai
- Doi Suthep-Chiang Mai City Temple Tour
- Classic Chiang Mai Doi Suthep Half Day Tour
- Chiang Mai Custom Tour: Chiang Mai Night Safari, Doi Suthep, Elephant Sanctuary, Zipline Adventure, and More
- Private Car Charter Between Chiang Mai and Pai
- Doi Inthanon National Park Day Tour in Chiang Mai
- [SALE] 4G Sim Card (Thailand Pick Up) for Thailand
- 4G SIM Card (BKK Airport Pick Up) for Thailand (Unlimited Data)
- 4G Pocket WiFi (Bangkok and Phuket Airports Pick Up) for Thailand
Are you looking for best places to visit in Chiang Mai? Read more: Top places to visit in Chiang Mai — Top 19 most famous, beautiful, must go & best places to visit in Chiang Mai.