Chiang Mai is famous for its ancient ruins, the Lanna culture, and the Old City. Usually two days are enough to spend in Chiang Mai. If you want a deeper experience, we suggest you spend one more day to do an elephant volunteer program and to take a Thai cooking class.
If you are planning a trip to Chiang Mai in November, you can put the Yee Peng Light Festival on your must-do list.
Why Visit Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is the city of Buddha, for there are more than 300 temples in the small city. You can feel the religious atmosphere in temples like the Chedi Luang Temple and the Phara Temple. You can see local people go to the temples to pray, monks in yellow robes walking and meditating in the temples and chanting in the halls.
The delicious food is also a highlight of Chiang Mai. You can visit the popular local market to experience typical snacks, or take a cooking class to cook authentic local dishes.
Chiang Mai has an elephant voluntary program, for volunteers to take care of elephants instead of riding them or seeing them do a circus performance.
12-Day Thailand Wonders Tour:
What to Explore in Chiang Mai
Ancient temples in the Old City are the main highlight of Chiang Mai. By visiting one or two of the ancient temples, like the Chedi Luang temple, you will get to know more about the religious culture.
Markets give you a chance to see the daily life of local people. Spend some time at a local market, like the Warorot night market; you will see people making handicrafts and local snacks.
The Elephant Nature Park provides an elephant volunteer program for visitors to take care of elephants, which is a deeper experience in Chiang Mai.
Take a cooking class to learn to cook authentic Thai cuisine. It is also a unique experience to do shopping for fresh ingredients and get to know the local spices.
Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is a good place for a trekking tour, in order to enjoy the well-protected environment.
Ancient Temples in Chiang Mai Old City
Buddhism is the traditional religion handed down from one generation to another. There is a profound temple culture in Thailand. The ancient temples are decorated with fine statues and figures.
The must-see temples are the Chedi Luang Temple and the Phara Sihgh Temple. You can see the magnificent temple structure, the golden pagoda and the fine Buddha statue. You can also witness monks chanting in the main hall.
It’s very interesting to experience the local market in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai’s local markets are a combination of culture and food.
The most famous market is Warorot Market. Many artists from hill tribes will sell their handicrafts at that market. You will see a variety of goods with local cultural elements. Most of the goods are hand-made, such as lovely sloth bags, painted mugs or plates, and beautiful bracelets.
If you want to bring some souvenirs back home for friends and family, a trip to a local market is a good choice.
Elephant Voluntary Program
If you want your Chiang Mai tour to be a more meaningful one, you can take part in an elephant volunteer program in the Elephant Nature Park.
Unlike zoos, that train elephants to do performances, the Elephant Nature Park rescues elephants and helps people to learn more about the species and how to care for them.
During the volunteer program, you will walk with the elephants in the jungle, feed them and bathe them. You will learn everything you want to know about elephants from the park staff.
A cooking class gives you a chance to get close to authentic Thai cuisine and culture. The cooking school we will set you up with is run by a family of locals, with an organic farm. Recipes are different every day but all of them are authentic and local.
You will first learn how to shop for the freshest vegetables and meat at a local market, then the professional chef will teach and assist you to cook some dishes.
Trekking in a National Park
If you are a nature lover and enjoy outdoor activities, Chiang Mai Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, located northwest of Chiang Mai, is a good place for you.
The park has some beautiful nature with high peaks, waterfalls, caves, and forests. During the trekking tour, you may also see many animals, like birds, boars, macaques, and porcupines. On your tour, you can visit the Phara That Doi Suthep Temple, which featurs golden pagodas, and visit Bhubing Palace, which is like a botanical garden with a big variety of flowers.
Plan Your Trip
To enjoy a flexible and relaxing tour, you are suggested to spend 3 days to explore Chiang Mai. During the 3-day tour, you can take time to visit temples in Chiang Mai Old City, do an elephant volunteer program, trek in the national park, and experience Thai cuisine and culture during a cooking class.
Half a Day to Discover Chiang Mai Old City
Inside the old city, you can visit the most famous temple, Chedi Luang. This temple once was damaged during an earthquake in 1545 and its height was reduced to nearly half of its original size. However, it’s still an impressive structure with fine art collections and wonderful statues.
You will witness how local people believe in Buddhism, by praying in the temple and monks chanting in the hall. Besides the temples, you can visit shops and cafes in the old city. The Nimmanhaemin Road is a popular area to shop, eat, and drink. You can slow down there to have a cup of coffee or a meal.
Half a Day to Join in an Elephant Voluntary Program
The Elephant Nature Park provides a home for elephants to protect them from being mere tour attractions to make money. Usually half a day to spend at the elephant voluntary program is enough.
The park staff will teach you how to communicate with elephants, how to take care of them, for example to make food, feed them, and bathe them in the river.
During the program, you will hear the stories of rescuing elephants. You will be able to witness elephants in a proud herd, free from abuse for the first time in their lives.
Half a Day to Doi Suthep Mountain
Doi Suthep Mountain is in the northwest of Chiang Mai city. You can get a bird’s eye view of Chiang Mai city from the top of Doi Suthep Mountain.
You can take a nature trekking tour at Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Besides, you can visit the famous Wat Phra That. There is a sarira stupa covered with gold foil and the enshrined remains of Sakyamuni inside it. Many Buddhists from home and abroad come to pay homage at the Wat Phra That.
Half a Day for Cooking Class
If you love cooking or you love Thai cuisine, then you can’t miss the unique experience to cook some authentic local dishes.
During the cooking class, you will follow the local people to the market to pick up the freshest ingredients and will get to know different kinds of spices and herbs. It will be an unforgettable experience.
More Things to Do
Enjoy Massage and Spa
Thai massage and spa is a famous experience in Thailand. Many resorts and luxury hotels, some of which we will introduce later, have excellent spa treatments for customers.
You can enjoy a massage and spa to get rid of the tired feeling. Every bone and muscle will be stretched and relaxed. Not only your body, but also your mind will be released from tiredness.
There is a famous massage and spa shop inside Chiang Mai Old City, named Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution.
Saturday or Sunday Night Market
To experience more local life, you may visit a local market. You can visit the Warorot Market at night, which is more popular than at daytime.
It’s a good place to feel the local atmosphere. There are local snacks, handicrafts, beautiful clothing with local cultural elements, and so on. You can buy some souvenirs for your friends and family that can only be found at the market in Chiang Mai.
Yee Peng Festival Experience
If you are visiting Chiang Mai in November, you may experience the Yee Peng Light Festival. In 2018, the festival will be celebrated on Friday, November 23rd.
Yee Peng Festival is also known as Chiang Mai Lantern Festival. It’s usually celebrated in northern Thailand, and the biggest celebration activities are held in Chiang Mai.
People light paper lanterns and let them float up into the sky like tiny hot air balloons. They believe that the lantern will take their bad luck and mistakes away. It’s a spectacular view, seeing thousands of lanterns float up to the sky and light up the night.
5-day Highlights of Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai :
3-Day Itinerary of Chiang Mai
It’s suggested to spend 3 days in Chiang Mai to enjoy a slow life. Below is our suggested itinerary arrangement for a 3-day Chiang Mai tour. You can also contact us to help you customize the tour itinerary.
Day 1: Chiang Mai arrival; a half-day Chiang Mai Old City walking tour, and enjoying a relaxing massage
After your arrival, you may check in at the hotel and have a short rest. Then you will start your Chiang Mai tour of the Old City!
Inside the Old City, you can visit the famous Chedi Luang Temple to appreciate the beautiful architecture and feel the atmosphere of people believing in Buddhism by their praying and chanting. Then you can wander around on Nimmanhaemin Road to have a meal in a cafe or have a cup of coffee in a coffee shop.
After the walking tour, you may enjoy a relaxing Thai massage to get rid of tiredness due to the flights and walks.
Day 2: A half-day experience at an Elephant Voluntary Program and a half-day cooking class
Your tour guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel and escort you to the Elephant Nature Park. Today, you will get close to the big elephants and take care of them by helping them take a bath, making food and cleaning up their dung.
On the same day, you may take a cooking class in the afternoon, as the weather is very hot outdoors.
Day 3: Half-day tour to Doi Suthep Mountain and Chiang Mai Departure
On the last day during your Chiang Mai trip, you may get close to nature and enjoy the fresh air at Doi Suthep Mountain. The mountain is cool and has plenty of nature with trees and birds. Your tour guide will tell you stories about the royal family’s palace at Bhubing Palace.
After the trek, you can go back to your hotel and spend the rest of your time at your leisure, before leaving Chiang Mai.
Staying at a Luxury Resort for Your Days in Chiang Mai
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
Location: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai is located in the countryside near the elephant camp, about 30 minutes’ drive from Chiang Mai Old City.
strong>Highlights: The hotel looks like the local traditional buildings. There are comfortable views of rice paddies and mountains. The hotel provides many things to do, from morning to night. You will have a chance even to experience farm work.
Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai
Location: Dhara Dhevi is a former royal palace. It’s about 20 minutes’ drive from Chiang Mai Old City.
Highlights: The hotel looks very beautiful with palace style buildings. It’s a nice hotel, especially for a family holiday. There is a kids club for babies and many activities for kids and teenagers.
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort
Location: Anantara Chiang Mai Resort is very close to Chiang Mai Old City, about 10 minutes’ drive. The Saturday night market is within walking distance.
Highlights: The hotel is at the banks of Ping River and features a beautiful garden layout.
8-Day Northern Thailand Discovery：
Tips for Travelling with Children
- Private tours are the best choice if you are travelling with kids. You and your children will be taken good care of by your private guide. You don’t need to worry about the schedule and transportation. Your private guide can also help you order food.
- Help your children to learn about wild animals and get close to them, for example by taking a safari trip to see gibbons, elephants, and macaques. Your children can even join in the elephant voluntary program with you.
- If you want your children taste the local street food, choose a clean vendor, or ask your private guide to recommend a restaurant.
- Many hotels/resorts have kids clubs and you can let them join in the activities, which will help you save energy.
How to Get to Chiang Mai
The most popular flights to Chiang Mai are from Bangkok. Many travelers choose to fly to Bangkok first and then spend a couple of days touring around the capital city, before flying to Chiang Mai. >>>Chiang Mai Maps
If you want to skip Bangkok, you can take direct international flights to Chiang Mai. There are many direct flights to Chiang Mai International Airport by airlines like Nok Air, Air Asia, and One-to-Go. You can get to Chiang Mai from Singapore, Laos, China, and Myanmar.
Chiang Mai has flights from/to many popular international destinations as follows:
China: Some of our customers extend their trip from China to South Asian countries. The flights from China to Chiang Mai are also popular. You can take flights to Chiang Mai from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Changsha, Xiamen and Nanning.
South Asian Countries: Flights from Myanmar (Yangon), Singapore, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), and Laos (Luang Prabang) are available. If you happen to plan a trip to other countries in South Asia, you can consider an international flight.
Korea: flights from Seoul are also available.
Chiang Mai is usually not the arrival city in Thailand for most travelers. You may arrive in Thailand at Bangkok, Phuket or other cities first. The good news is that domestic flights are available from Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Crabi, Suratthani, and Pattaya.
If you want to extend your tour to more places in Thailand from Chiang Mai, you can also take domestic flights to Udon, Khon Kaen, Bangkok-Don Mueang, Ubon, Mae Hong Son, Hatyal, and Nakhon Ratchasima.
4-Day Best of Chiang Mai Tour：
Explore Chiang Mai with Asia Highlights
Chiang Mai is one of the most popular cities in Thailand. You can experience local life at one of the markets, take part in an elephant voluntary program, and learn to cook authentic local dishes.
Asia Highlights will help you arrange a hassle-free trip to Chiang Mai. You will be taken good care of by our professional and knowledgeable local guides. You only need to decide on the dates and can leave the rest to us.