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Top Attractions in Chiang Mai

Being Thailand’s second most important city, Chiang Mai is well-known for the Lanna culture and the ancient ruins. The city was once the major base of Theravada Buddhism during the Lanna Kingdom, and at that time many fine temples were built within the walled city.

The striking mountainous landscape around the city provides a lot of wonderful natural attractions. In the city itself, there are unique museums, beautiful gardens and parks to enjoy. Check out our pick of the best things to see and do around Chiang Mai to get the most out of this cultural capital of Thailand.

Quick Facts

  • Chiang Mai is the most populous municipality in northern Thailand. The city sits astride the Ping River, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River.
  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the city's most famous temple, stands on Doi Suthep, a hill to the north-west of the city.
  • Wat Phra Singh is within the city walls; it dates from 1345 and offers an example of classic northern Thai style architecture.
  • Wat Chedi Luang is a Buddhist temple in the historic center of Chiang Mai.

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep is a mountain north-west of Chiang Mai, Thailand. This regal mountain overlooks the city, providing commanding views from its summit. The main attractions are Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which is built near the peak of Doi Suthep, a few waterfalls, viewpoints, caves and the nature.

Due to its high altitude, the climate is cool and pleasant all year round, with average temperatures of 20-23°C, making it a good destination for most travelers. Prepare a warm jacket, as temperatures may drop to 6°C during the winter nights in February. For visitors who like trekking, it’s important to know that August and September are the wettest period of the year with daily rainfall, so consider the weather conditions before making a trekking plan.

Location: The National Park is located about 15 km (9 miles) from the city center and the drive to the top of the mountain from the entrance to the park takes about 20 minutes.

Travel essentials: Entrance fee for foreigners is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children. Most of the attractions at the park are free, but there is a 300 baht fee for the Monthathan waterfall, and also a 50 baht admission to get into the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple.

The temple is a sacred place and you should dress respectfully when visiting it. That means no shorts or skirts and no tank tops. If you find yourself at the gate wearing cut offs, don't worry - fisherman's pants can be rented for a minimal fee.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is a historic Buddhist temple and was built in 1391. On Wat Chedi Luang's premises there are several structures of great cultural significance, including the city pillar, the main viharn, housing the principal Buddha image, and a giant gum tree guarding the entrance to the temple.

On important Buddhist holidays, Wat Chedi Luang is where worshippers convene for the evening candle procession. A special pulley system allows visitors to leave offerings and prayers atop the chedi during the day.

Location: Phra Pokklao Road.

Travel essentials: The temple grounds are open daily from 6 am until 6 pm. Admission is free. As a temple is a sacred place, you should dress respectfully when visiting.

Wat Phra Singh

Known as “The Monastery of the Lion Buddha” or “The temple of the Lion Buddha”, Wat Phra Singh is perhaps the second most venerated Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai after Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

It houses three main structures, the main attraction being the elegantly decorated Lai Kam assembly hall and its restored murals, depicting the lives of locals hundreds of years ago. The Wat Phra Singh houses a number of highly revered and very old Buddha images.

Location: Inside the old city wall, at the westernmost end of Ratchadamnoen Road

Travel essentials: The temple complex is open daily from 6 am until 8 pm. Admission is free, except to the main viharn (50 Thai Baht). Please dress respectfully when visiting a temple, as it is a sacred place.

Talat Warorot

Warorot Market is one of the places where lots of Thai locals do their own shopping. A large section of the market features goods, such as clothing, fashion accessories and personal care products. For food lovers, the market offers a wide range of ready-to-eat meals, local snacks and all kinds of fresh produce. Warorot market is a good place to feel the local atmosphere.

Location: 90 Wichayanon Rd, Tambon Chang Moi, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand

Travel essentials: The market is open daily from 6 am to 7 pm, but there are evening food vendors on the outside from 6 pm to 10 pm.

Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is the main neighborhood for shopping and nightlife. The night bazaar consists of countless stalls packed along the sidewalks and spilling out into the street. The best goods on offer here are usually clothes, hand-tailored Thai silk, art, silver and antiques. Visitors often come here to stroll around and pick up some souvenirs to bring back home.

Location: 104-1 Chang Klan Road, Intersection of Tha Pae and Chang Klang Roads

Travel essentials: The night bazaar is open every night from around 6 pm. However, it’s best to go after 7 pm as the shops will only be preparing to open at 6 pm.

Ton Lam Yai Flower Market

Talat Ton Lam Yai is the only place to get fresh flowers in the centre of Chiang Mai and for that reason it is a hive of activity. The market is filled with locals browsing for flowers. If you are looking for a display or a bouquet as a gift, this is definitely the place to come to, and the many vendors will make you something special.

Location: Praisanee Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Travel essentials: The market is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But the very best time to visit is during the evenings when you can witness thousands of fresh blooms arrive on the back of pick-up trucks, just hours after being cut at the local farms all around Chiang Mai area.

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary and rescue center for elephants in Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand, approximately 60 km (37 miles) from Chiang Mai City. It is also a natural home for buffalo, dogs, cats, birds and many other rescued animals.

Enjoy a full day visit to the Elephant Nature Park, with an intimate touch with elephants. You will hear the individual stories of rescued and orphaned elephants. See how they became a proud herd and free from abuse for the first time in their lives. The sanctuary also offers voluntary programs for visitors to take care of the elephants.

Park location: Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand

Office location: 1 Ratmakka Road Phrasing, Chiang Mai Thailand - Tel: +66 (0)53 818932.

Travel essentials: This trip is suitable for all ages, from infants to retirees. Please bring extra clothing as you may get muddy or wet, and a towel. You may bring one small piece of baggage per person, lunch is provided.

The price for this trip will be 2,500 baht for an adult and 1,250 for children (2-11 years). Pick up from your hotel is available, or you can go to a meeting point set by them.

Doi Inthanon

The highest peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon rises to a height of 2565 meters (8,415 feet) above sea level. This national park is a true jewel of natural beauty, consisting of rugged mountainous terrain blanketed by lush tropical forests and dotted with mighty rivers and majestic waterfalls.

Asiatic Black Bears, Barking Deer and Chinese Flying Squirrels can be seen, living alongside a large variety of primates including Gibbons, Macaques, Leaf Monkeys, and over 30 species of bats. Doi Inthanon is also the best locale in Thailand for bird watching, with over 300 different species making their homes in the trees, many of which are not found anywhere else in Thailand.

The park also provides good conditions for trekking, with four striking nature trails to explore. Nature trails are a great way to experience the fantastic scenery of Doi Inthanon up close and personal. Doi Inthanon nature trails take a few hours to walk and maps and guides are available at the ranger station.

Location: Chom Thong District, Chiang Mai Province.

Travel essentials: Guided tours are recommended to visit this place. There are two seasons, the rainy season from 1st June to 31st October and the dry season from 1st November to 31st May. It is recommended to visit during the dry season as you can see more of this national park.

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