Chiang Mai, nestled in the mountains of northern Thailand, is a city rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. For those pondering things to do in Chiang Mai, exploring the Old City with its ancient walls and moats, and visiting the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a sacred temple perched on a mountain overlooking the city, are top activities.
The city’s bustling Night Bazaar offers a sensory feast, with stalls selling everything from handicrafts to street food, providing a perfect opportunity to soak in the local atmosphere. Nearby, the Lanna Folklife Museum delves into the region’s cultural heritage, showcasing traditional art, clothing, and artifacts.
Beyond its urban attractions, Chiang Mai serves as a gateway to the lush landscapes of northern Thailand, offering opportunities for trekking, visiting elephant sanctuaries, and exploring hill tribe villages. For those seeking the best places to visit in Thailand, Chiang Mai’s blend of historical charm, cultural richness, and natural beauty makes it a captivating destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
1. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Perched on the mountains overlooking Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of northern Thailand’s most sacred temples. Visitors can ascend the Naga Serpent Staircase to reach the temple grounds, where they can witness the intricate Lanna architecture and panoramic views of the city.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes for the climb and remember to dress respectfully, covering shoulders and knees, when entering temple grounds.
2. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Every evening, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar comes alive along Chang Klan Road, offering a bustling atmosphere where visitors can find everything from handicrafts and art to clothing and street food. It’s a great place to shop for souvenirs and sample local Thai dishes.
Travel Tip: Bargaining is expected here, so don’t accept the first price offered.
3. Elephant Nature Park
A sanctuary and rescue center for elephants, Elephant Nature Park provides a natural environment for these majestic creatures. Visitors can learn about the elephants and support the park’s efforts in conservation.
Travel Tip: Book your visit in advance as the park limits the number of daily visitors to ensure a peaceful environment for the elephants.
4. Doi Inthanon National Park
Known as the “Roof of Thailand,” Doi Inthanon National Park is home to the country’s highest peak. The park features waterfalls, hiking trails, and two beautiful pagodas dedicated to the King and Queen.
Travel Tip: The temperature can be quite cool at the summit, even in summer, so bring a jacket.
5. Chiang Mai Old City
The Old City of Chiang Mai is encircled by ancient walls and moats. Within this square area, you’ll find countless temples, cafes, and boutiques, as well as the Sunday Walking Street Market.
Travel Tip: Rent a bicycle to explore the Old City walls and alleyways easily.
6. Saturday Walking Street (Wualai Road)
Every Saturday evening, Wualai Road, known for its silversmiths, transforms into a lively market full of crafts, clothes, and street food. It’s an excellent place for authentic local handicrafts.
Travel Tip: Try the local specialty, Khao Soi, a coconut curry noodle soup, at one of the food stalls.
7. Wat Chedi Luang
This ancient temple dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries and was once home to the famous Emerald Buddha. Now, it houses a Jade Buddha and remains an active worship site.
Travel Tip: Visit in the evening to witness the chanting of the monks, which provides a peaceful and reflective experience.
8. Mae Sa Waterfall
Mae Sa Waterfall is a series of 10 waterfalls and cascades located within the lush jungle setting of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. It’s ideal for swimming, picnicking, and trekking.
Travel Tip: Bring insect repellent and wear swimwear if you plan to take a dip in the natural pools.
9. Chiang Mai Zoo and Aquarium
The Chiang Mai Zoo and Aquarium offers a look at both local and international wildlife, with the highlight being the panda exhibit. The zoo is set on the side of Doi Suthep mountain, providing great views along with animal encounters.
Travel Tip: The zoo is expansive, so consider renting an electric tram to navigate the steep hills and extensive grounds.
10. Baan Kang Wat Artist Village
This artisan village is a hub for local craftspeople and artists. With charming wooden structures surrounded by gardens, it’s a quiet spot to shop for unique art, jewelry, and hand-crafted items.
Travel Tip: Check the village’s schedule before visiting, as they often host workshops and cultural events for visitors to enjoy.
FAQ About Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
What are some must-visit temples in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is known for its stunning temples. Do not miss the intricately carved Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the historic Wat Chedi Luang, and the peaceful Wat Phra Singh.
Can I experience elephant tours in Chiang Mai?
Yes, Chiang Mai offers various ethical elephant sanctuaries where you can interact with and learn about elephants in a responsible manner. Elephant Nature Park is one of the most popular ones.
What outdoor activities can I enjoy in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Enjoy trekking in the lush mountains, ziplining through the rainforest, white-water rafting, and mountain biking.
Is there a night market in Chiang Mai?
Yes, Chiang Mai is famous for its Night Bazaar, where you can shop for local handicrafts, street food, clothing, and souvenirs every evening. The Sunday Walking Street is also a cultural feast for the senses.
Are cooking classes available in Chiang Mai?
Definitely! Chiang Mai is the perfect place to learn Thai cooking. There are numerous cooking schools where you can learn to make traditional dishes like Khao Soi and Pad Thai.
What is there to do in Chiang Mai for cultural enthusiasts?
Cultural enthusiasts can visit the many temples, take part in a meditation retreat, explore the city’s museums, or enjoy traditional Thai dance and music performances.
Can I go on a hot air balloon ride in Chiang Mai?
Yes, you can experience Chiang Mai from the sky with a hot air balloon ride, offering stunning views especially at sunrise. It’s a magical way to see the countryside.
Are there any unique festivals in Chiang Mai I should know about?
Chiang Mai is famous for the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, where thousands of paper lanterns are released into the night sky. It usually takes place in November and is a part of the Loy Krathong festivities.