Best things to do in Chiang Mai
Find out more about those top places in Chiang Mai
Located in mountainous northern reaches of Thailand, Chiang Mai, the country’s second city, is famed for its laid back attitude and gilded temples. While Thailand’s rapid post-World War Two development has transformed Chiang Mai into a sprawling metropolis, the historic center, which is encircled by a serene moat, remains remarkably unchanged with the streetscape primarily comprised of traditional wooden houses and peppered with dazzling Buddhist temples, including Wat Phra Singh. What is more, the city itself is lorded over by Thailand’s most sacred temple, the 13th century Wat Phra That Doi, which forms a truly astonishing collection of golden pagodas. Chiang Mai is also the gateway for the Thai Highlands, where hiking trails snake through picturesque rice paddies and enchanting ancient villages.
Perched above the hyper-modern metropolis of Chiang Mai, the glorious temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of Thailand’s most spectacular sights. While the temple is one of the country’s most revered, it is best explored as part of a tour that encompasses the surrounding Doi Suthep National Park, where vast bamboo forests conceal plunging waterfalls and unrivaled wildlife.
Once the largest structure in Chiang Mai, Wat Chedi Luang is a monolithic piece of 15th century Thai architecture. Towering over the Old City, the temple is primarily made of brick and stucco and while it may look plain in comparison to the city’s other places of worship, the sense of history surrounding it is awe-inspiring. To understand the site’s complex restoration process, guided tours are recommended.
Undoubtedly the most sacred site in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Singh is everything you could wish for from a Buddhist temple and more, lavishly decorated monastic buildings pepper the complex; lush gardens are filled with tropical bird life; and gilded pagodas rise into the sky. The main attraction is the Lai Kam Assembly Hall where murals depict daily life in Thailand hundreds of years ago.
Surrounding the evocative Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the Doi Suthep National Park is Chiang Mai’s pristine backyard. Tours of the park take in its towering bamboo forests, numerous unspoiled waterfalls, including the iconic Bua Tong, and its spectacular fauna.
Located south of Chiang Mai, the spectacular White Temple, known locally as Wat Rong Khun, is one of the newest addition to the city’s unrivaled clutch of Buddhist temples. Construction on the site began in 1997 and the building is coated in a dazzling array of mirrored chips that give the impression of gleaming white porcelain.
Face some of Thailand’s most ferocious white water rapids on the Mae Taeng River on this adrenaline filled rafting tour.
Treat yourself to one of the world’s most relaxing experiences with a Thai massage while in the glorious city of Chiang Mai. With options ranging from a classic oil massage to herbal massages and traditional tok sen, the award-winning spas of the city have a treatment for everyone.
Go beyond the usual pad Thai with this vibrant Chiang Mai street food tour. Starting in the center of the city expert guides will take intrepid foodies to hidden stalls and buzzing street-side restaurants to eat local dishes, including khao soi (an aromatic coconut curry) and gai yang chicken (a barbecued chicken served with a zingy papaya salad).
Playing an integral role in Thai folklore for the past millennia, the Chiang Dao caves are one of Northern Thailand’s most historic locations. Equipped with headlamps and caving equipment, local guides take you through the labyrinth of stalactite and stalagmite-clad tunnels to sacred Buddhist shrines located deep in the mountain.