Chiang Mai

25 Best Things to do in Chiang Mai

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Chiang Mai, an amazing city in Thailand that is known for its mesmerizing natural beauty, serene landscapes, historic ancient temples, and a number of other adventurous activities. Once a glorious capital of the Lanna Dynasty, it now is a place that represents its golden past with a touch of the modern present. It’s a city that’s also close to nature and is actually known for having the best elephant sanctuaries in the whole of Thailand. So, YES – Chiang Mai is worth visiting if you get the chance!

Pattaya and Bangkok might be called as the Party Capitals of Thailand, but surprisingly, Chiang Mai nightlife is no less in this aspect as well. From sassy Go-Go Bars to lively nightclubs, this city has got something for everyone. Hence don’t worry if you are a romantic or a nature lover or an adventure seeker, Chiang Mai has got you covered!

Read through to know-how!

Places of Worship in Chiang Mai:

1.  Wat Phra That Doi Suthep:

One of the most revered and famous temples in Thailand, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep rises for about 1,676 from the ground of the city of Chiang Mai. One of the best Chiang Mai tourist places it is extremely sacred as it houses a piece of Buddha’s shoulder.
This awe-inspiring temple is one of the things to see in Chiang Mai. The centerpiece of the temple is called the Chedi (meaning – Monument) which alone is 24 meters in height and is completely plated in gold. It is said that the temple has been erected upon the grave of the legendary white elephant. You will find interesting statues of Buddha beneath a Bodhi Tree and a set of temple bells that are touched by even the Buddhist monks for good luck.Opening Hours: 6 am – 6 pm
Location: Huay Kaew, Doi Suthep

2.  Wat Umong:

Wat Umong in Chiang Mai’s only forest temple and should be in your list of things to see in Chiang Mai. Wat U-Mong is known for its “fasting Buddha”, representing the Buddha at the end of his long and fruitless fast prior to gaining enlightenment.
This “Temple in a Cave” is a 13th-century monument in a forest just outside Chiang Mai and consists of old ruins, meditation tunnels, and a large unpainted stupa. In Wat Umong you can even feed the fish and turtles in the garden’s main pond, walk around the ‘talking trees’ and seek advice and check out the series of ancient tunnels.

Opening Hours: 06:00-18:00
Location: Suthep Road, Soi Wat Umong

3. Wat Phra That Doi Kam:

One of the lesser-known Chiang Mai tourist places, Wat Phra That Doi Kam is famous for its huge seated Buddha. The Giant Buddha statue is painted in white and gold and is nearly 20 meters high.
Dating back to over 1,000 years this is one of the best temples in Chiang Mai offering you plenty of shrines, pagodas, and relics to explore in the foothills of the Doi Suthep Mountain range, it is also known as the ‘Temple of the Golden Mountain’
Wat Phra That Doi Kham also houses a Buddha relic and can be accessed by a staircase with nagas on either side.Opening Hours: Daily Sunrise – sunset
Location:  Doi Kham, Mae Hia, Chiang Mai

4.  Wat Sri Suphan or the Silver Temple:

A temple that stands apart from the rest because of its handcrafted silver decorations. Wat Sri Suphan is completely covered in silver, from the walls to the roof and silver carvings of the statues of Buddha. One of Chiang Mai tourist places that is not to be missed.
The tip of the stupas is in solid silver and at night they have a neon light display which makes the temple colorful. The inside of the temple is decorated with silver, mirrors and bright colors mixed together. However, due to old Buddhist rules, women are not allowed to enter the inside of the temple and must remain outside.Opening Hours: 06:00 – 21:00
Address: 100 Wulai Road (next to the Wualai Saturday Walking Street Market

5.  Wat Chedi Luang:

One of the historically most important Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai is the Wat Chedi Luang. Luang in the Lanna transcript means – very big which is a very apt name for this temple as it is a huge structure.

This crumbling structure was once the bearer of the most revered Emerald Buddha Statue which now is the pride of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. This shrine has the tallest point in the whole of the Old Chiang Mai; the centerpiece of the Chedi that is – 80 meters tall.Opening Hours: 06:00 to 17:00
Address: 103 Prapokklao Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Nature Retreats in Chiang Mai:

6.  Mae Sa waterfall:

Mae Sa Waterfall is an impressive eight-level waterfall with a small plunge pool for swimming in. Mae Sa Waterfall is located about 30 minutes away from Chiang Mai by car, in an area also called Mae Sa. While the waterfall is not visible from the road, there are lots of signs that point the way. Mae Sa is made up mostly of rainforest and set in a valley, where there is a range of adventure activities, elephant camps as well as Mae Sa waterfall. If you are visiting the waterfall it can be combined with one or two of the other activities in the Mae Sa valley.Opening Hours:  Daily sunrise – sunset
Location: Mae Rim:  Samoeng Road 

7. Huay Tung Tao Lake:

One of the best places to spend an extremely relaxed day is at the Huay Tung Tao Lake. A man-made reservoir overlooking the mountains of Doi Pui is just 20 min away from the City of Chiang Mai. Surrounded by serene lush green scenery, this is like a paradise for joggers and cyclists.

There are restaurants lining the banks of this lake and each restaurant has bungalows that are built on stilts for you to just sit and rejuvenate. There are camping areas as well and also many interesting activities like parachute jumping, ATV Rides, Paintballs, etc.Opening Hours: 06:00 – 18:00
Address: 107 Don Kaeo, just off Canal Road

8.  San Kamphaeng Hot Springs:

2 hot springs surrounded by untouched nature in the middle of the Mae On District. About 35km from the city you will be able to witness two water sprays jutting out of the Earth’s surface for over20 meters into the air.

There is a very famous saying here that, if you get some eggs and expose them to this water they get cooked. You are also allowed to do that and cook eggs for yourselves. This water which is at a 100 degree celsius is extremely good for the health due to their sulfur presence. The authorities allow the visitors to even soak their feet, have a traditional mineral bath or even a mineral swim to relax your muscles.

The park also has restaurants and small stalls where you can have some food and also buy some souvenirs for your friends and family back home.Opening Hours: 08:00 – 21:00
Address: Moo 7 Mae On, Chiang Mai

9.  Pha Chor:

Known as the Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai, this mesmerizing rock formation never ceases to amaze people. Present in the limits of Mae Wong National Park, this is one of the best Chiang Mai attractions where people get to see Chiang Mai at its mysterious best.

This unbelievable rock and pillar formation were due to the Ping River changing its course several years ago. At first, hills were formed due to the change in this topology and gradually eroded over the years to form these distinct 30-meter tall beauties.

While on your way back you will be able to see the Mae Wang river flowing gently along the road where you can also kayak, go on some bamboo rafting tours and tubing.Opening Hours: 08:30 – 16:30
Address:  Santi Suk, Mae Wong National Park limits, Doi Lo District

10. Golden Triangle (Sop Ruak):

How can one miss out on this Chiang Mai attraction?

This is the place of the confluence of rivers Mekong and Ruak rivers and also the international borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand.Known by the name of Sop Ruak to the locals this was once a major Opium hotspot of the world. However, now it has been cleaned up and settled and has been converted into a major tourist attraction. There are also cruises and boat rides offered here. One can also just relax and hike through some rough patches of nature and experience the beauty of Chiang Mai to the Max.

Adventure Sports in Chiang Mai:

11.  Bamboo Rafting:

The thrill of experiencing whitewater rafting with pumping adrenaline is a must for adventure seekers. One of Chiang Mai tourist attractions that either increases your heartbeat when you run through boiling rapids or helps you to relax if you opt for a bamboo float to traverse leisurely through hushed valleys.
Whitewater rafting tours are available for 1st timers too. The tour operator will provide instructions, safety gear, and an experienced guide to take you through the waters.If you want to relax, then you can lazily float down the Ping River onboard a bamboo float and enjoy the peace and tranquility. Bamboo rafting is included with many treks and tours in Chiang Mai.

12.  Chiang Mai Night Safari:

For a truly exciting adventure, you can explore the world’s 3rd Nocturnal zoo by going on Chiang Mai Night Safari. There are 3 animal zones – the Savanna Safari Zone where you can see giraffes, zebras, rhinos, elephants in an open tram, the predator prowl zone where you can see the fiercest predators like tigers, lions, pumas and many more in a tram and the Jaguar trail where you can see white tigers, jaguars, tortoises by walking around the lake.
One of Chiang Mai attractions that is unforgettable and will be engraved in your memory for a long time.Opening time: 11 am to 11 pm

13. Flight of the Gibbon:

Flight of the Gibbon is one of the popular Chiang Mai attractions. It is the most important destination for travelers in Chiang Mai.The zip line, a globally renowned outdoor thrill activity, is famous at this place. You can zip more than 6 km through the ancient rainforest with steep trees and thick foliage. It provides a genuine zip line adventure with sky bridges and nature trails. This activity attracts a lot of visitors and brings out the adventurous spirit in them.
You should include this in your bucket list to enjoy the thrilling outdoor activity while traveling to Chiang Mai.

14. Cycling tour:

As aptly said, Joy lies in Simplicity, cycling is one of the most basic forms of transport and there is nothing like riding a bicycle in a place as beautifully set as Chiang Mai. There are so many places to explore and paths to experience. There are even guided cycling tours which take you through the city, or the national park, the mountainous terrains, along with tribal villages and many more such unforgettable tours.There are options for cycling rides as well. You can either choose to go solo or join a Pre-planned group tour. Just put on some comfortable pair of shoes and keep water and medical handy and you are all ready for your tour!

15.Cliff Jumping:

The most daring and adventurous activities to do in Chiang Mai is to jump off a cliff and dive straight into the cold waters. And the best-suited place to visit in Chiang Mai is the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon. Called the Pha Chor by the Thai people, this activity is not for the faint-hearted. You have different spots to jump, however, please jump only if you know swimming. You can choose to jump from 2 meters in height or even 10 meters.

Entertainment in Chiang Mai:

16. Night Bazaar:

To experience shopping in Chiang Mai one has to visit its Night Bazar. One of Chiang Mai attractions that are not to be missed.
Night Bazar is a place where you can shop till you drop. There are countless stalls all along the sidewalks selling almost everything from CDs, DVDs, clothes, purses, wallets, furniture, statues, spices, souvenirs, jewelry, and many more. There are a handful of side-walk bars and pubs where you can relax with a glass in hand after a hectic time spent on shopping.Opening Hours: 18:00 – 22:30
Location: Intersection of Tha Pae and Chang Klang Roads

17. Walking street:

The Walking Streets are one of the best Chiang Mai attractions for tourists of all ages, be it the Sunday Walking Street or the Saturday Wualai Walking Street.
The best way to spend an evening in Chiang Mai is to experience the shopping and the street food and the cultural shows ranging from dances to local beauty pageants.

After a tiring walk down the street, you can relax with a glass in hand and get a Thai massage done.Opening Hours: Sun 16:00 – 24:00
Location: Tha Pae to Ratchadamnoen Road, Chiang Mai Old City

18. Cabaret shows:

For many tourists visiting Chiang Mai for the first time one of the things to see in Chiang Mai is the Ladyboy Cabaret Show. Located in the Night Bazaar these shows feature some of Chiang Mai’s prettiest and liveliest ladyboys. The performers wear gorgeous dresses with full makeup and sing, dance, and entertain the audience. The themes may be glamorous or hilarious and are suitable for couples as well as families.

Buy your ticket in advance and the early bird gets the best seat.Opening Hours: Every evening 21:30 and 23:00
Location: Anusarn Night Market, Night Bazaar, Chang Klan Road

19. Cultural Performances:

Chiang Mai is known for its rich culture and heritage and hence you should definitely not miss this aspect of your Chiang Mai Vacation. Chiang Mai offers some of the most spectacular cultural shows specially curated for its tourists. Like the rest of Thailand, even Chiang Mai has its own artforms, some of which are – Thai Finger Dance, Candle dance, a thrilling Sword dance to name a few. Given Chiang Mai is a land of Tribes, and each tribe has its own styles and culture you get to see as many diverse shows as there are in Chiang Mai. Some of which are – Yao, Meo, Karen and Lahu tribes.

20. Thai Boxing:

The most unique sport of Thailand is the Thai Boxing aka Muay Thai. These are the aspects of Thailand which makes it stand out on the tourism spectrum. CM Entertainment Complex is one such place where you will be able to not only enjoy a festive atmosphere but also get to see some of the most brutal fights.The complex is located on Loi Kroh Road, the hub of Chiang Mai nightlife. And at the end of the narrow alleys and beer bars is the boxing ring where the matches happen every day. They are mostly free but sometimes they do charge a nominal fee during the weekends.

Leisure in Chiang Mai:

21.  Elephant jungle sanctuary:

Chiang Mai is actually known for having the best elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. Located approximately 60 km from Chiang Mai City, Elephant Nature Park is one of the best ethical sanctuaries that care for rehabilitated elephants and hence, one of the things to see in Chiang Mai.

22.  Mae Ping River Cruise:

Idyllic dinner cruises on the waters of the Ping River. Chance to see glimmering lights of Chiang Mai at Night. And an array of mouthwatering Thai Food. Enjoy the scenic views of the Ping river and experience the romance and magic of Chiang Mai while you cruise along the infamous river. You will also be able to witness the beautiful sight of the twinkling lightning of the Old monuments and the new teak houses along the banks
You can roam with the elephants with an endless round of rides. You will be able to feed, bathe, and play with the elephants. You will also get a chance to learn about each animal’s past. You can take care of the rescued and rehabilitated animals in the elephant park.Morning visit:  6:30 am to 12:30 pm
Afternoon visit:  13:30 to 18:30 pm.

23.  Kanta elephant sanctuary:

‘Kanta Elephant Sanctuary is an ethical and sustainable Eco-tourism project. A natural habitat where tourists can observe, feed, and touch the elephants in the wild open space, without worrying about any other dangers. Here they are considered to be a part of the family. “No training hook No ankle chain and Absolutely No riding” – is their Moto.This is the place where one can actually experience the gentleness of these huge mammals.

24.  Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders:

An eccentric entomology Manop enthusiast and his wife Rampa, a Ph.D. in the field founded the museum together in 2002. Now being nicknamed “The Mosquito Man”, they have been studying and collecting insects for most of their life and also they have been traveling the world studying and working with bugs.
They founded the museum together in 2002. Sometimes Manop himself will guide you through exhibits that run from massive beetles that look like something out of the movie. Seeing 422 species of Thai mosquito dead and encased in a glass case is a different feeling and experience altogether.Address: Sirimangkalajarn Road, Soi 13
Opening hours: 09:00 to 17:00

25. Spa and Massages:

There is no excuse for not making time for the world-renowned Thai Massages and Spas. One of the most treasured heritage of Thailand, Thai massage is usually passed down from generation to generation. This is one of the best relaxing and rejuvenating techniques that have been there for centuries.There are many good places in Chiang Mai as well. They are;

  • Fah Lanna Spa, Panviman Resort
  • Anantara Chiang Mai
  • The Panviman Chiang Mai Spa Resort
  • Zira Spa

Final Thoughts:

Best suited vacation abode for all kinds of tourists is the glorious city of Chiang Mai. Families, solo travelers, budget travelers, honeymooners this place is for everyone. From centuries-old temples to man-made water reservoirs and everything in between can be found in Chiang Mai.

So, hurry up, what are you thinking about. We are sure that you will never be disappointed by Chiang Mai!

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