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Best Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

By: Swena Kalra

Edited By: Scott Sidders

Updated on November 6, 2023

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Are you planning a trip to Thailand? Do you want to discover some new places to make your trip memorable? Have you been thinking about Chiang Mai? Well, then you have landed at the right place. Chiang Mai is becoming one of the most popular destinations for tourists from all walks of life. No matter whether you want to visit some temples for your spiritual cleansing or go on an adventure course, this city covers it all.

From the city, you will find endless opportunities for appreciating the beauty of nature. Numerous unique animals and communities also lie in the jaw-dropping mountains. Starting with the temples and then moving on to the historical sites of the city like numerous museums, and city walls, we will move step by step to make your journey exciting. Especially, if you are traveling for the first time to Thailand, then these top picks are sure to give you plenty to do during your trip.

Wat Phra That Buddhist Temple

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand

No matter whether you are on a spiritual journey or sightseeing, this temple deserves a visit due to its captivating beauty and peaceful atmosphere. The shrine is popular due to its beautiful seated Buddha sculpture which is truly a work of art. However, be ready for a hike if you want to see the sculpture as the temple stands on the top of the mountains. If you are not a fan of hiking then you can either rent a songthaew or a motorbike that will take you to your destination in around two hours.

Numerous vendors sell antiques, snacks, and other souvenirs at the entrance of the temple. The staircase is rather steep, so be ready for a solid workout while climbing them. The temple and all of its beauty make the hike well worth the trouble. Two demon statues are placed near the entrance that is believed to be guarding it. The entire gallery is decorated with different statues of Buddha in a particular fashion. In addition, different dragon statues, elephant carvings, and Buddha representations adorn the temple. The temple gives you a view of the entire city from the top.


Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon at Chiang Mai, Thailand

Once you have paid a visit to the temple, it is time to head to the highest peak of Thailand. Doi Inthanon is nothing but a place of natural wonders that will make you forget all your problems and exhaustion. The enchanting beauty of nature and the soothing environment makes this place so unique. You can not only hike the mountain but can also stroll across the park. You have to spare an entire day to explore and enjoy the beauty of this mountain.

The other famous attractions include numerous tribe villages and waterfalls beside the famous pagodas. It is not easy to walk the entire park in a day as it covers quite a large area. Therefore, you might need to hire a driver or rent a bike to benefit from every corner of the park. Moreover, the park is not far from the city, so you can spend the day and be back to your hotel by night.

Doi Pui Village

Doi Pui Hmong Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you are interested in the history and culture of Thailand, then make sure to spare some time for Doi Pui village. The village exhibits the initial settlers of the mountains and traditional tribes. If you want to blend in with the culture of the city, then do not forget to grab an ethnic outfit and dress up for a professional photoshoot.

Unlike other destinations, the visit to the village will not cost you much. Plus, the local food vendors offer delicious Thai food at affordable prices. Numerous other vendors and local shops are available that offer handwoven items, jewelry, and their special tea. A hot bowl of soup while enjoying your stroll through the village will make you forget all your worries for the moment.

Doi Pui is just a few hour drive away from the Doi Suthep, so it's best to pay a visit to the village on the same day. Not only is the ride short, but it will be worth it once you witness the beautiful clusters of the city.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The entire Chiang Mai city is filled with ruins and deserted areas but you can not miss Wat Chedi particularly because of its unique beauty. The structure was constructed back in the 1400s. But after a massive earthquake, the entire structure got damaged. However, ever since that incident, these construction sites are considered to be haunted. Although it suffered heavy damage during the earthquake it still stands with its enchanting and remarkable beauty attracting millions of tourists every year.

The unique elephant carvings are still the same. Another interesting temple you can find in these ruins is Lak Muang which is situated just below a huge tree near the entrance. The wooden building of the temple is quite beautiful, especially at night. The compact streets are filled with contemporary shops, historical buildings, and jaw-dropping temples.

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Sing in Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of the most prestigious and famous temples in the old city is Wat Phra Singh which occupies the center of the city. It was built in 1345 and still holds the title of being the biggest temple in the city.

According to historians the temple was built to honor the father of the king after his death. The unique structures and sculptures are quite impressive and must be visited on weekends. One of the most famous shrines is Phra Viharn which was raised during the reign of King San Muang.

The best time to pay a visit to this place is early afternoon. You can browse the market, drink fresh juices, and enjoy souvenirs once you have visited the temples to end your night.

Gate Market

Tha-Phae Gate Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand

You can find the best traditional street food in the Gate market of Chiang Mai. Vendors bring out their stalls every night to sell all kinds of dishes starting from mouth-watering desserts to spicy meat dishes. People go out of their way to try these special smoothies from Mrs. Pa. Ask her to give you a special cup and you will find what all the rage is all about. The markets are open every day but the crowds do pick up considerably on Saturday and Sunday.

Chiang Dao Cave

Chiang Dao Cave, Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of the major destinations you don't want to forget is the Chiang Dao cave located near Doi Luang. The caverns stretch into the mountains up to many miles. However, you can only explore a small portion of the complex. The Seua Dao and Phra Nawn are adorned with electric lights, however, the higher caves are fully dark and have almost zero lights. Thus, you will have to use a lantern to find your way.

Numerous Buddhist shrines and limestone sculptures bring out the beauty of these caves. While exploring the caves, you will also find jaw-dropping frozen water walls that are the result of water dripping for centuries. The best way to explore is by starting from the first chamber and moving to the next chamber in a loop and dodging the low ceilings and narrow passages. While exploring from chamber to chamber, it won't take you more than one hour to see the entire cave.

Lanna Folklife Museum

Lanna Folklife Museum and Dreamer Square in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Check out the exhibitions in the Lanna museum located in the center of the Old City. The museum was designed to depict the culture, history, and lives of the citizens. The authorities have renovated the old building but still, it presents a white colonial-style look. Well, if you are interested in knowing about the history of Chinese, and Thai, then put this place on your checklist.

Elephant Nature Park

Thailand Elephants Roaming Free in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Numerous Elephant camps are located around the city but all of them are not equal. Some of them were even targeted for treating elephants poorly. But one of the places which is a perfect place for both elephants and humans to take a stroll is the Elephant Nature Park. Visitors volunteer to spend a day with the elephants, bathe them and feed them. Most of the animals were rescued from different places. Therefore once they reach the park they are treated with respect and care.

Spending a day with them will not only be exciting but also an eye-opener for you as you get to know more about the poor creatures. You have to pay for transport, lunch, and maintenance of the park while volunteering. But make sure to do a booking as the slots fill quite easily.

Sunday Market Street

Chiang Mai Sunday Market Walking Street

Unlike the other cities of Thailand, affordable Sunday Market Street is still a thing in Chiang Mai. No matter whether you want to grab a bite off the street, or buy something without breaking your bank, this street is a perfect place for you. Try to visit it in the early hours if you do not want to get in crowds.

You can also find numerous vendors selling all kinds of dolls, soaps, handcrafted lamps, clothes, jewelry, and even Christmas ornaments near Rachadamnoen Road. Two temples are standing at the end of the road to maintain the sanctity of the area. The courtyards of both these temples offer all kinds of food starting from samosas, famous dumplings, and fried bananas. These areas are also popular for offering moth watering sushi for just 15 cents.

The market is spread on the entire road, so if you want to buy some souvenirs or gifts for your loved ones, then this is the perfect place. Wander in the street for some hours, eat and shop or whatever grabs your attention.

Huay Tung Tao Hotel

 Huay Tung Tao Lake and Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Now that we have talked about the places that one must visit, it is time to find a place for your stay. Huay Tung Tao Hotel is the perfect place for making your trip comfortable and soothing. The hotel is surrounded by Huay Tung Tao lake and beautiful hills. You can stay in these comfortable huts and it's also a popular place for its fish.

Bua Thong Waterfalls

Bua Thong Waterfall in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Once you have visited all the parks and temples in the city, it is time to move ahead and enjoy the natural beauty of these waterfalls located near Chiang Mai. A wooden area covers these falls and provides a quiet peaceful and serene atmosphere for relaxing. You can even climb up these falls. Aim to avoid this place on weekends if possible as it can get pretty crowded.

Final Thoughts

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep at night in Chiang Mai, Thailand

When it comes to natural beauty and historical temples, it's hard to beat Chiang Mai. We would like to wish you all the best on your adventures and remember to take lots of pictures! These memories will last a lifetime!

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