Chiang Mai is one of the most beautiful cities in Thailand. It’s located in the mountainous upper region of the country and boasts phenomenal Lanna architecture, gorgeous natural wonders and some of the best food in the country!
While Bangkok and the Thai islands often get most of the credit, a trip to Thailand would not be complete without a visit to the amazing Chiang Mai province. If you want to make the most out of your time in the Land of Smiles, make sure that you check out all of the incredible things to do in Chiang Mai.
1. Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai is situated high in the Khun Tan Range, and one of its most popular Buddhist temples is also located right in the middle of the mountains. Doi Suthep is not easy to get to! You’ll have to make the fifteen-kilometer journey from the heart of Chiang Mai in order to gaze upon the wonders of this ancient and religious site. It’s well worth the trip though. You’ll be able to soak in some history, fantastic art and get an unparalleled view of the city itself.
2. Temples In Old City
There are plenty of temples to see right in the city of Chiang Mai as well.
The temples in Northern Thailand were built in a different style than their southern counterparts. Lanna architecture is uniquely beautiful and specialized in the region, so you should plan to spend at least part of a day checking out some of the amazing temples that Chiang Mai has to offer.
Wat Chedi Luangwas constructed in the fourteenth century and features a large pagoda that can be seen from just about anywhere in Chiang Mai.
The Wat Phra Singh temple has special religious significance to the people of Chiang Mai and is especially popular in April during the Thai water festival of Songkran.
If you want to see beautiful Lanna wood architecture head to the exquisite
Wat Phan Tao temple. It is full of amazing teak wood and lovely mosaics.
3. Doi Inthanon National Park
Chiang Mai is famous for its natural wonders, and none is so popular as Doi Inthanon National Park! This park stretches almost 500 kilometers and features plenty of amazing climbing, breathtaking waterfalls, and treks for people of all ages and levels of fitness. You’ll love getting out into the fresh air and really experiencing the unique topography of the Thai mountains. Doi Inthanon National Park is a great place to see wildlife, enjoy nature and simply take a step out of the busy city!
4. Art In Paradise
With three locations in Bangkok, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai Art In Paradise is a fun collection of 3D images that really allow you to get right into the picture. It’s a great place for families to visit, and a way to take a break from the temples and heat of Chiang Mai. There’s no doubt that you’ll score a lot of memorable photographs when you visit Art In Paradise. Make sure that you put this museum on your Chiang Mai to-do list!
5. Chiang Mai Night Safari
Thailand is home to some of the world’s most amazing animals, and a great way to see them in their natural habitat is to check out the Chiang Mai Night Safari. This safari is as fun as it is educational, and allows you to visit three separate animal experiences either by car or foot. Although it might be intimidating at first, the experience is totally safe and you’ll be with guides the entire time. There is no better way to get up-close and personal with these magnificent creatures!
6. Chiang Mai Night Market
No visit to the Land of Smiles is complete without a trip to a night market! There are several night markets in Chiang Mai, so make sure that you visit at least one or two of them. You’ll experience Thai culture at its best, with authentic food and reasonably priced souvenirs. You might even see some live music! Night markets are great because they get you out of the heat of the day and allow you to see a whole other side of Thailand. Don’t miss Chiang Mai’s epic night markets.
7. Have a bowl of Khao Soi
While you’re at the night market, why not try out a bowl of Khao Soi? This northern noodle dish is famous in Chiang Mai, with plenty of places insisting that they have the best Khao Soi around! Essentially the dish is made up of egg noodles in a curry coconut broth. This flavorful broth is topped with pieces of chicken, pickled vegetables, shallots, and crispy noodles. It all comes together in a dish that you won’t forget anytime soon. There are plenty of restaurants all over Thailand that make Khao Soi, but for the real deal, you need to get to Chiang Mai.
8. Visit An Elephant Sanctuary
Elephants are one of the most majestic creatures in the world and have been a staple of Thai culture for centuries. You can visit these amazing animals at any number of elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai. These sanctuaries generally take in abused or homeless elephants and let them roam free in an enclosed and safe environment. People who are interested in the welfare of elephants and the rehabilitation of these incredible animals can interact with them in an intimate environment. There are plenty of sanctuaries in Chiang Mai that do not exploit the animals. Whenever you’re dealing with animal tourism, make sure that you do it in a way that is humane and knowledgeable.
9. Karen Long Neck Tribe & Chiang Dao Cave
Chiang Dao Cave is an amazing underground masterpiece that stretches for kilometers. You can get a guided tour to this cave system and see the impressive staglimites for yourself. If you plan to make a day of your adventures at Chiang Dao Cave, consider paying a visit to the Karen Long Neck Tribe, a village of ethnic people who are famous for their intricate golden neck jewelry. Step into a new world and learn about an important part of Thai culture by paying your respects to the tribe. It’s suggested that you purchase a souvenir or make a donation, but you don’t have to.
10. Lanna Folklife Museum
Lanna architecture and culture is a big part of Chiang Mai, and you can learn all about it at the Lanna Folklife Museum. Visit a bygone era through life-size exhibits that explore the realities of Lanna life. You’ll get to see how the people of Chiang Mai lived and also why they worshiped and elevated certain symbols. If you are planning on visiting the temples of Chiang Mai, a trip to the Lanna Folklife Museum is an important way to get some context. You can easily see all that the museum has to offer within the span of a few hours, so plan to spend part of your day here!
No matter what your budget, time-frame or interests are, there are so many things to do in Chiang Mai. This northern Thai city is certainly one of the most fascinating parts of the country, and no trip to Thailand is complete without a visit. Make sure that you make the most of your Chiang Mai trip by checking out some of the activities listed in this article!