Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a lovely city well-known for its charming temples and ancient sites. Also known as Rose of the North, the historical capital of the old Lanna Kingdom is also an ideal destination for history buffs and travelers interested in architecture. If you are a fan of sprawling modern destinations, you will be happy to hear that Chiang Mai with its boutique hotels, awesome co-working spaces, and stylish cafes is one of Thailand’s coolest creative hubs. To make the most out of your visit, we’ve put together the ultimate list of best things to do in Chiang Mai.
1. Wat Phra Singh (Gold Temple)
Chiang Mai City is home to many important temples and Wat Phra Singh (Gold Temple) is the best known of them all. This extraordinary Buddhist temple and monastery was built in the 14th century and houses the iconic statue of Buddha also known as the Phra Buddha Sihing. Expect to see hundreds of monks here who are always friendly and happy to talk to visitors. Apart from its Buddha statue, the temple also features dozens of detailed murals worth checking out.
2. Wat Chedi Luang
There is definitely no shortage of awesome ruins in Chiang Mai. One of them is Wat Chedi Luang, an imposing structure from the 15th century with a temple constructed in a traditional Lanna style. Admire the massive elephant carvings and take a photo of the Buddha statue called Phra Chao Attarot. Visiting Wat Chedi Luang is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai at night since the temple gets lit up in the evening and the views are just amazing.
3. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
A mountaintop temple located just a short drive from the city, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the number one attraction in Chiang Mai. It is also one of the most historically significant places in the country and millions of travelers from all around the world come to the city just to admire the sheer beauty of this holy temple. Whether you wish to enjoy spectacular views of the city, see the temple’s most famous attractions such as the white elephant shrine and the replica of the Emerald Buddha, a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is an experience unlike any other.
4. Chiang Mai Night Safari
With three animal zones including Savanna Safari, Predator Prowl, Jaguar Trail, Chiang Mai Night Safari is an ideal destination in Chiang Mai to visit with kids. You can explore the grounds on foot or inside an open-sided tram. A visit to this place is a thrilling experience and allows you to explore the region’s wilderness at night. Travelers will have an opportunity to hand-feed wild animals, pet tiger cubs, and see zebras, lamas, elephants, flamingos, ducks, and Bengal tigers.
5. Tha Phae Gate
A part of the crumbling city wall, the Phae Gate is located on the eastern side of the Old Town and is known as the epicenter for tourism in the city of Chiang Mai. Here, you will find everything from stylish cafes and local restaurants to hotels and massage parlors. The area also boasts a lively public square where many annual events ranging from music to cultural shows take place. In case you wish to try the local cuisine, visit Phae Gate on a Saturday evening when food vendors are selling all kinds of Thai food delicacies including fried chicken, shrimp noodles, tom yum soup, and many more.
6. Chiang Mai Zoo
Looking for things to do in Chiang Nai with kids? Consider including a visit to Chiang Mai Zoo on your list of things to do in the city. Covering 200 acres of land and offering nice views of the city, the zoo is home to around 400 different species of animals including elephants, tigers, zebras, hippopotami, and many others. You will also have a chance to see special exhibits such as the panda house and snow dome. It is worth mentioning that Thailand is not that big on animal welfare and many travelers are not interested in visiting these kinds of places in the country.
7. Wat Chiang Man
Welcome to Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in the city that dates back to the 13th century. Home to some of the most important Buddhist images in the country including the crystal Buddha, this temple also features the famous bell-shaped base with 15 life-size stone elephants. There are also tiered roofs, worshiping halls, wood carvings, and kaleidoscopic murals worth checking out.
8. Elephant Rescue Park
Unlike many animal facilities in Thailand where animal abuse like playing with sedated tigers and riding elephants takes place, Chiang Mai’s Elephant Rescue Park is a place that actually cares for the animals and is committed to education and rehabilitation of elephants. Here, travelers can see many rescued elephants in their natural environment instead of riding them. If you are a person who cares about animals and wants to live in a world where they are treated with respect, a visit to the Elephant Rescue Park should definitely be included in your travel itinerary.
9. Art in Paradise
Art in Paradise is a 3-story museum that features an extensive collection of paintings and photos. Explore the museum’s different zones including Ancient Egypt, Underwater World, and European towns while posing for photos. Whether you wish to take a photo in front of a flying carpet, cruise the canals of Venice, or run away from a crocodile, this illusion art museum is a great place to visit with the entire family. In total, there are around 120 paintings on the walls.
10. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is one of the best places in the city to go on a shopping spree. A popular tourist attraction, this night bazaar is located on Chang Klan Road and offers everything from houseware and carvings to clothes, lanterns, and handcrafted items. Once you’ve done with all the shopping, see a Thai boxing fight which is a big part of the local culture. The bazaar is open every day of the year.
11. Royal Park Rajapruek
Dedicated to the previous King of Thailand King Tama IV, Royal Park Rajapruek is a 200-acre park that boasts public gardens, government research buildings, and dozens of exhibition halls. Explore the landscaped gardens dotted with plants, flowers, and sculptures and take a photo on one of the lovely elephant statues. It’s a great place to spend with your family and reconnect with nature.
12. Yee Peng Festival
Getting to know the local cultures is one of the most rewarding experiences a traveler can have. Therefore, a visit to the city’s Yee Peng Festival is a great way to learn more about Thai traditions. This religious festival is celebrated in the country’s northern region and locals gather to honor Buddha before lighting and releasing thousands of lanterns into the sky. Regardless of your personal beliefs and religion, attending this incredible festival and celebration is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
13. Doi Inthanon National Park
Home to the highest mountain in the country, Doi Inthanon National Park is blessed with numerous natural wonders ranging from picturesque waterfalls to dozens of scenic hiking trails. A bird-lovers paradise, this national park in Chiang Mai also features a nice hill tribe village where you can learn more about the local culture and traditions. The two pagodas which were built to honor the kind are also worth visiting.
14. Grand Canyon Water Park Chiang Mai
How about a visit to a waterpark located in an abandoned limestone quarry? A popular swimming destination, Grand Canyon Water Park Chiang Mai is an excellent place to visit while exploring the city. Although the canyon walls are a bit steep, it is safe to enjoy attractions and activities such as a small zipline, slides, and wakeboarding. In case you get hungry after all these water activities, grab a snack from the on-site restaurant. The waterpark is located just a short drive from the city and the easiest way to reach it is with a scooter, local songthaew, or a taxi.