If you are planning to visit Thailand and see the North of the country, you are probably wondering when the best time to visit Chiang Mai is. There is no simple answer to that, but here are a couple of facts that will help you choose the best time of the year to go to this amazing and diverse city.
The weather of northern Thailand, including Chiang Mai, differs from the traditional division of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The region has three distinct seasons: the cool season, the hot season and the rainy season. Chiang Mai is cooler than Bangkok, due to its geographical location.
- Northern Thailand has three seasons: cool, hot and rainy.
- The cool season: from November to February; max temperature around 25℃, min temperature 15℃ in the city area.
- Hot season: from March to June; temperatures can reach 40℃ and won't drop below 25℃.
- Rainy season: from July to October; temperatures stay over 30℃. Rainfall is usually heaviest in September, with an average precipitation of 250mm.
- November to February is the best weather, with cool, pleasant temperatures. It is the prime tourist season, so prices are at their peak.
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Weather in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has a tropical savanna climate, tempered by the low latitude and moderate elevation, with warm to hot weather all year round. Nighttime conditions during the dry season can be cool though. Chiang Mai has a particularly chronic problem with burning (and resulting haze) in March. The mountain views disappear as the Ping River valley chokes under a dusty haze that can often be a health hazard.
Generally speaking, the weather of northern Thailand is far more temperate than that of central or southern Thailand. Northern Thailand, with its mountainous terrain and location in the Asian interior, brings cooler temperatures and less humidity. However, there is still quite a bit of precipitation during the rainy season and the weather gets very chilly once you head up into the nearby mountains.
Below is a graph of Chiang Mai's average temperatures and rainfall.
Cool season in Chiang Mai
This is the best time to go and explore Chiang Mai (weather wise). From November to February the temperatures are lower, during the day it is around 25℃ and during the night it can be as cold as 13℃. If you travel up to the mountains, for example Doi Inthanon, you might experience temperatures as low as 3℃.
During this season rain is rare, so humidity is low. You will find it very comfortable when walking around the city, but you may feel really chilly if you decide to ride a motorbike and you may need a jacket. The sky is blue, without clouds. Another good thing is that you don't need to turn on the air conditioning at night.
It is wise to bring all-weather gear along; particularly if you intend hiring a motorcycle to get around, or if going on a mountain trek. However, don't leave out your summer clothes, as midday temperatures can climb up to 30℃.
Bring your photography gear if you love taking pictures; this is the best season to get stunning photos of Chiang Mai. It is recommended to go early in the morning if you are going to tourist spots because it will be crowded.
Festivals and Events
If you plan a trip in November, you will catch the Loi Krathong festivities, and in February you will see the Chiang Mai flower festival.
Loi Krathong festival: Thai people launch their krathong (traditionally a small container made of leaves which holds a small portion of food, like a traditional Thai dish or dessert and a candle) on a river, canal or a pond, making a wish as they do so.
This festival takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, hence, the exact date of the festival changes every year. In the western calendar this usually falls in the month of November.
Chiang Mai flower festival: It takes place on the first weekend of February. Displays of yellow and white chrysanthemums and damask roses, a variety found only in Chiang Mai, abound. The focus of this Chiang Mai festival is at the public garden of Suan Buak Haad.
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Hot season in Chiang Mai
March to June is the hottest and driest time in Chiang Mai. Tourists still visit Chiang Mai during this period; it's a good time to look for deals on hotels and flights. Even if the temperature during the day is high you can spend the afternoon in the pool and head out after sunset.
Temperatures can rise up to 40℃ and rain is rare. The main problem at this time of year is smoke and dust in the air from burning fields. Nights during the hot season don't bring much relief either. Remember to rent a room with air conditioning if you are planning to stay during those months.
It is very important to drink lots of water and bring bottles of water while you are travelling. Sunscreen, a hat and sun glasses are also important for you to bring as the weather can be very hot in the middle of the day. Cotton shirts, shorts and flip flops are the gear you might wear during this season.
Festivals and Events
Songkran (Thai New Year): The Songkran festival lasts for three days in April, and the roads around the old part of the ancient city become one giant water party for that time. Songkran in Chiang Mai is probably the most fun, compared to any other city in Thailand.
Inthakhin Festival: The Inthakhin takes place mainly at Wat Chedi Luang. Every year, citizens of Chiang Mai convene for a week long worship ritual, believed to be the annual blessing for the city. Go after sunset to witness a magnificent offering ceremony or wait until the last day, when this festival culminates in a procession around the Old City moat.
Rainy season in Chiang Mai
July to October is the wettest season in Chiang Mai. Rainy season does not necessarily mean it rains all day; precipitation often comes as a quick, short blast of nature. Temperatures are slightly lower than in the preceding months but it is seriously humid.
The rainy season is otherwise a pleasant time to visit the north. The rains bring respite from the heat, and the landscape returns to its strikingly gorgeous shade of green. Rainfall is usually heaviest in September, with an average precipitation of 250mm.
Umbrella and raincoat should be in your luggage if you are planning to visit during rainy season. It is also recommended to have mosquito repellant handy. Don't risk going into rural areas, as there may be flooding; it is better to stay in or near the city.
Festivals and Events
Rocket Festival: The rocket festival usually falls in July. The main purpose of the rocket festival is to pray for rain at the beginning of a new planting season. The fun part is the rocket contest, in which the scores are awarded based on how high and straight the rockets fly.
Elephant sanctuary: If you don't mind getting a little wet, the rainy season from July to October is ideal for a visit. Elephant sanctuaries are extremely popular in Chiang Mai and visiting during this season means less crowds and more time with the animals.
Visit Chiang Mai with Asia Highlights
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