20 Best Things To Do In Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, known as the “Land of Smiles,” is a top tourist destination in Thailand.
With its rich cultural heritage, stunning natural landscapes, and vibrant city life, it’s no wonder millions of tourists flock to this enchanting city every year.
Whether you’re seeking adventure, spiritual enlightenment, or simply want to immerse yourself in the local culture, Chiang Mai has something for everyone.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the best things to do in Chiang Mai, from exploring the ancient temples and vibrant markets to indulging in delicious Thai cuisine and experiencing the natural wonders of the region.

Things To Do In Chiang Mai
Things To Do In Chiang Mai

Wander around Chiang Mai Old Town

A great starting point for exploring Chiang Mai is the Old Town. Enclosed by ancient ramparts and moats, this area is home to numerous temples, bustling markets, and fascinating museums.

Take a stroll through the narrow streets, immersing yourself in the rich history and culture of the city. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Chiang Mai, where you can learn about the history of the Lanna kingdom, or the Lanna Folk Art Museum, which offers insights into the local culture.

For a more comprehensive understanding of the city, head to the Chiang Mai Cultural and Artistic Center.

Hike up Doi Suthep

For breathtaking panoramic views of Chiang Mai, embark on a hike up Doi Suthep, a mountain located just 12 km from the city.
The hike takes approximately 3-5 hours, but if you prefer a more leisurely option, you can reach the top by motorbike or car.

Once at the summit, be sure to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a 13th-century temple considered one of Thailand’s holiest Buddhist sites. Marvel at the intricate architecture and soak in the serene atmosphere.

Another must-visit attraction on Doi Suthep is the Bhubing Palace, the royal family’s vacation residence. Note that the palace is closed to the public when the royal family is in residence, typically from December to early February.

Chat with a Monk

Immerse yourself in the local culture and gain a deeper understanding of Buddhism by engaging in a conversation with a monk.
Five temples in Chiang Mai offer programs that allow visitors to interact with monks.

This unique opportunity provides insight into their daily lives, beliefs, and spiritual practices.
Be sure to check the opening times of the temples and dress appropriately when engaging in this enlightening experience.

Explore Chiang Mai’s many temples

Chiang Mai is renowned for its abundance of temples, each offering a unique glimpse into the city’s cultural heritage. Here are a few temples you should consider visiting:

  • Wat Pha Lat: Nestled in the jungle, this temple offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere. Accessible via a hike along the Pilgrim’s Path, it’s worth the effort to reach this hidden gem.
  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: As mentioned earlier, this temple sits atop Doi Suthep and provides stunning views of the city. It is one of the most important and revered temples in Thailand.
  • Wat Chedi Luang: Located within the Old City Walls, this temple is an architectural marvel. Admire the towering pagoda and explore the surrounding grounds.
  • Wat Sri Suphan: This unique temple stands out due to its silver exterior. Located near the Saturday night market, it’s a must-visit for its intricate silverwork.
  • Wat Suan Dok: Within easy walking distance from the West Gate, this temple is known for its beautiful mausoleum garden. It’s also a great place to chat with a monk and learn more about Buddhism.
  • Wat Phra That Doi Kham: Situated on a hilltop, this temple is home to a magnificent 17-meter-tall Buddha statue. Enjoy the panoramic views and explore the serene surroundings.

Remember to dress modestly and be respectful when visiting temples. Keep in mind that some temples are still active places of worship, and monks may be present.

Take a trip to Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon

For a unique swimming experience, head to Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon.
Formerly known as the Hang Dong Quarry, this water park features deep canyons filled with rainwater. It’s the perfect place to cool off from the heat and enjoy a swim with stunning views.

The Grand Canyon Chiang Mai is open daily, and an entry fee is required. Don’t forget to bring your towel and some snacks for a full day of fun under the sun.

Visit the Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park

For an ethical and unforgettable encounter with elephants, visit the Elephant Nature Park. Located 64 km from Chiang Mai, this sanctuary rescues abused elephants and provides them with a safe and natural environment.

Unlike other attractions that promote riding elephants, Elephant Nature Park strictly prohibits such activities. Instead, visitors can observe the elephants in their natural habitat and learn about their conservation efforts.

By supporting this sanctuary, you’re contributing to the well-being of these majestic creatures and their rehabilitation. Book your visit in advance to secure your spot at this incredible sanctuary.

Visit Doi Inthanon, National Park

Nature lovers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to explore Doi Inthanon National Park, home to the highest mountain in Thailand.
The park offers a range of activities, including nature trails, visits to remote villages, and the chance to see majestic waterfalls.

Don’t forget to visit the Twin Pagodas, also known as the Queen and King Pagodas, which offer breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

Bird watchers will be delighted to know that Doi Inthanon National Park is home to a wide variety of bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts. Consider joining a guided tour to make the most of your visit to this natural wonder.

Spend a day in Huay Tung Tao Lake

Escape the tourist crowds and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Huay Tung Tao Lake.
This hidden gem is a favorite spot for locals who come here to hike, relax, and enjoy the scenic surroundings.

You can even walk to the Taab Mook Waterfall for a refreshing dip. To reach the lake, you can take a taxi from Chiang Mai or rent a motorbike for more flexibility.

Zipline through the Chiang Mai Jungle

For adrenaline junkies seeking an exhilarating adventure, zip-lining through the Chiang Mai Jungle is a must-do activity.

Flight of the Gibbon, a reputable company, offers thrilling zip-lining tours that combine adrenaline-pumping action with responsible tourism practices.
Soar through the treetops and enjoy breathtaking views of the lush jungle below. Book your zip-lining adventure in advance to secure your spot.

Tour San Kamphaeng Hot Springs

Nestled in a picturesque mountainous area, the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs offer a relaxing retreat from the city. The hot springs are believed to have curative properties due to the high sulfur content in the water.

Take a dip in the natural baths or indulge in a rejuvenating massage. Enjoy the serene surroundings and let the therapeutic waters wash away your worries.

Visit the nearby waterfalls

Chiang Mai’s natural beauty extends beyond the city limits, with numerous waterfalls waiting to be explored.

Here are a couple worth visiting:

  • Huay Kaew Waterfalls: Tucked away and less crowded, these waterfalls offer a peaceful retreat. Follow the path westward from Chiang Mai Zoo to reach this hidden gem.
  • Bua Thong Waterfalls: Known as the Sticky Waterfalls, these unique falls are famous for their non-slippery limestone surfaces. Climb the falls and swim in the pools for a truly unforgettable experience.

Take a Thai cooking class

For those interested in learning how to recreate the flavors of Thai cuisine at home, taking a Thai cooking class is a fantastic experience.
Several cooking schools in Chiang Mai offer hands-on classes where you’ll learn to prepare traditional dishes under the guidance of expert instructors.

Visit local markets to select fresh ingredients, master essential cooking techniques, and savor the fruits of your labor.
By the end of the class, you’ll be equipped with the skills to impress your friends and family with authentic Thai dishes.

Sample Thai cuisine

No visit to Chiang Mai is complete without indulging in the mouthwatering flavors of Thai cuisine.
From street food stalls to upscale restaurants, the city offers a wide range of dining options to suit every palate.

Don’t miss the opportunity to try Khao Soi, a delicious noodle soup that originated in northern Thailand but has gained popularity throughout the country.
Other must-try dishes include Guay Teow (noodle soup), Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup), and Pad Thai (Thai-style fried noodles). Joining a guided food tour is a great way to explore the local culinary scene and discover hidden gems.

Visit a Cat Cafe

Cat lovers will be delighted to know that Chiang Mai is home to several cat cafes. These unique establishments allow you to enjoy a cup of coffee or a slice of cake while interacting with resident cats.

The cats are free to roam around, providing a relaxing and cozy atmosphere. Note that these cafes can get crowded, so it’s best to visit in the morning when the cats are most active.

Go on a shopping spree at the Sunday Night Market

For an unforgettable shopping experience, head to the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai.
This vibrant market stretches along Ratchadamnoen Road and offers a treasure trove of souvenirs, handicrafts, clothing, and street food.

Browse through the stalls, haggle for the best prices, and immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere.
The market is usually crowded, so arriving early is advisable to avoid the crowds and have the best selection of goods.

Get a Thai massage

After a long day of exploring, treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage. Chiang Mai is renowned for its massage parlors, offering a range of treatments to relax and rejuvenate your body and mind.

For a unique and meaningful experience, consider visiting the Women’s Prison, where female inmates are trained in massage therapy.
By choosing this option, you’re not only indulging in a therapeutic massage but also supporting the rehabilitation and empowerment of these women.

Party the night away

Chiang Mai may not have the same bustling nightlife scene as Bangkok, but it offers plenty of options for those looking to let loose and have a good time.

Nimmanhaemin Road is known for its trendy bars and clubs, where you can mingle with the locals and dance till the early hours.
Enjoy a refreshing drink, soak up the vibrant atmosphere, and create unforgettable memories.

Attend Loi Krathong Festival

If you’re lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong Festival, you’re in for a truly magical experience.
This annual festival celebrated throughout Thailand, takes place on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month (usually in November).

Join the locals as they release beautifully decorated baskets, known as krathongs, into the water. The festival symbolizes letting go of negative energy and making wishes for the future.

Witness the sky come alive with floating lanterns, creating a breathtaking spectacle. Be sure to book your accommodation in advance, as the festival attracts a large number of visitors.

Watch a Muay Thai boxing match

Immerse yourself in the thrilling world of Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport, by watching a match in Chiang Mai. Experience the excitement as skilled fighters showcase their strength, agility, and technique in the ring.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take Muay Thai classes to learn the basics of this ancient martial art. It’s an opportunity to witness the rich cultural heritage of Thailand and appreciate the dedication and discipline of the fighters.

Ride in a songthaew (Red Truck)

To get around Chiang Mai, hop on a Songthaew, a red truck that functions as a shared taxi. This is a convenient and affordable way to travel within the city and explore its various attractions.

Simply flag down a passing songthaew, negotiate the fare, and enjoy the ride. Keep in mind that Songthaews usually follow specific routes, so make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Take part in the Songkran festival

Another popular festival in Chiang Mai is Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year celebration. Taking place from April 13th to 15th, this vibrant festival is known for its massive water fights.

Locals and tourists alike take to the streets armed with water guns, buckets, and hoses to participate in the fun-filled water battles.
It’s a joyful and refreshing way to ring in the New Year, but be prepared to get wet!

Practical Tips to Plan Your Trip

How to Get to Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is easily accessible from major cities in Thailand and neighboring countries. If you’re traveling from Bangkok, you have several options:

  • By bus: Buses run regularly between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with a journey time of approximately 10-12 hours. Tickets are affordable, making this a popular choice for budget travelers.
  • By train: Trains depart from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station and take around 12-15 hours to reach Chiang Mai. You can choose between daytime or overnight sleeper trains, depending on your preferences.
  • By plane: The quickest way to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok is by air. Several airlines operate daily flights between the two cities, with a flight time of approximately 1 hour. You can also fly directly to Chiang Mai from other Asian countries.

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. Whether you’re looking for a luxury hotel, a cozy guesthouse, or a budget-friendly hostel, you’ll find plenty of choices in the city.

Some popular areas to consider for your stay include the Old Town, Nimmanhaemin Road, and the Riverside area.
Research and book your accommodation in advance to secure the best deals and availability.

How to Move Around Chiang Mai

Getting around Chiang Mai is relatively easy, thanks to the city’s well-developed transportation system. Here are some options for moving around:

  • Songthaew: These red trucks function as shared taxis and follow specific routes. Simply flag one down, negotiate the fare, and hop on.
  • Taxis and Ubers: Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are widely available in Chiang Mai. They provide a convenient and comfortable way to travel, especially for longer distances.
  • Tuk-tuks and samlors: Tuk-tuks are three-wheeled vehicles, and samlors are Thai rickshaws. These traditional modes of transport are popular among tourists and offer a unique experience. Remember to negotiate the fare before getting in.
  • Bicycles and scooters: Renting a bicycle or scooter is a popular option for exploring the city at your own pace. However, be cautious when riding as traffic can be busy and chaotic.

Other Useful Information

Before traveling to Chiang Mai, it’s essential to be prepared and take the necessary precautions. Here are a few additional tips:

  • Travel insurance: It’s always wise to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen circumstances. Make sure to choose a policy that suits your needs.
  • Respect local customs: Chiang Mai is a culturally rich city, and it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting temples, and be mindful of your behavior in sacred places.
  • Stay hydrated: The weather in Chiang Mai can be hot and humid, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  • Protect yourself from mosquitoes: Chiang Mai is in a region where mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent. Use mosquito repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and consider staying in accommodation with mosquito nets or air conditioning.
  • Bargain at markets: When shopping at markets, don’t be afraid to haggle for the best price. Bargaining is a common practice in Thailand, and you may be able to score a good deal.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared for your trip to Chiang Mai and able to make the most of your time in this vibrant and culturally rich city.

When to Visit Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai can be visited year-round, but the best time to go is during the cooler months from November to February. The weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius (59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit).

However, this is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices. If you don’t mind the heat, you can visit during the shoulder seasons of March to May or September to October.
Keep in mind that the rainy season occurs from June to August, with frequent showers and higher humidity.


Now that you have a comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Chiang Mai, it’s time to start planning your adventure.

Whether you’re exploring ancient temples, indulging in delicious cuisine, or immersing yourself in the local culture, Chiang Mai promises an unforgettable experience.

So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and get ready to discover all that this enchanting city has to offer. Happy travels!

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