15 awesome things to do in Chiang Mai for your easy travel
Used to be the capital of Lana Kingdom, Chiang Mai nowadays is a favorite attraction for all types of travelers, retiring ex-pats, and digital nomads due to its relaxing atmosphere and picturesque scenes. Despite its popularity among tourists, Chiang Mai still keeps its slow and ancient waves of life, which make it loved by both locals and foreigners.
If you are a first-time traveler in this city, you may be drowning in hundreds of things to do in Chiang Mai when you research them on the Internet. This post will help you find out your favorite things to do in Chiang Mai briefly, but informatively.
As visiting temples is one of the main things in some activities, do check out some temple manners to be well prepared for the best experiment.
1. Discover the Old City area
Considered one of the best places to stay in Chiang Mai, the Old city is home to many ancient temples, cultural centers, nice cafes, and good restaurants. Spending 1 day to discover this area by visiting the below attractions is one of the awesome things to do in Chiang Mai.
Let’s stop and see some highlights of the Old City. If you don’t want to explore it on your all, you can also book a tour to get the informative history of each attraction.
Tha Phae Gate
The old city is surrounded by a brick wall with several entrances and the Tha Phae Gate is the main entrance to the old city. It is a popular landmark in Chiang Mai that everyone wants to come here to check in. You can easily find a local market, restaurants, and ancient temples in this area.
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang is the largest temple in the Lanna Kingdom with a height of 82 meters. This temple used to be home to the Emerald Buddha statue, which is now located in Wat Phra Keow inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok. This is one of the must-visit temples in Chiang Mai due to its antique beauty and tranquil atmosphere.
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh was built in the 14th century. It is famous for the Golden Buddha statue and hundreds of paints depicting the lives of local people over several centuries ago.
Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man is one of the famous ancient temples in Chiang Mai which was built in the 13th Century. The highlight of this temple is the Chedi which is surrounded by 15 elephant statues and a solemn atmosphere.
Wat Umong ( a bit outside Old city)
Wat Umong was built in the 13th century, and it is 700 years old now. Known as the only forest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Umong is loved for its peaceful and tranquil air.
Wat Phantao is a beautiful temple located next to Wat Chedi Luang. It is worth visiting when you visit Wat Chedi Luang due to the close distance and the nice design.
Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli is one of the important temples in the Lanna Kingdom. The temple was likely built in the 14 century, and it was considered the residential place for 10 Burmese monks who were invited by King Kuena to propagate Buddhism in Thailand.
Wat Suan Dok ( a bit out of the Old City)
The temple stands in a peaceful and tranquil area with a lot of antique tombs and chedis. It was built in A.D 1373 by King Kue Ba to enshrine the Buddha relics brought from Sukhothai.
2. Enjoy local life in Mae Kampong
Located 50km east of Chiang Mai, Mae Kampong is a small village hiding among forests and mountains. It is one of the most beautiful towns in Chiang Mai where tourism is run by its own villagers. Mae Kampong offers you a peaceful place to relax and calm down if you are fed up with the busy and vibrant city life. Moreover, Mae Kampong has almost everything you need to connect to nature: abundant natural resources such as streams and forests, picturesque scenes, and a perfectly tranquil atmosphere. It is really worth it to be one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
3. Visit Wat Phra Doi Suthep
Wat Phra Doi Suthep is one of the mountaintop temples in Chiang Mai. It is famous for its panorama view of Chiang Mai city and its perfect cultural experience. The temple is decorated with many Buddha statues in Chiang Mai and Sukhothai style. It is easy to find those statues, dragon statues, and elephant carvings everywhere in this temple.
You can drive up to the temple gate. From here, you can choose whether to take the cable car or hike up to the temple. As Wat Phra Doi Suthep is quite big, you may need to spend 1.5 – 2 hours to discover the whole place.
Down the temple gate, there are vendors selling souvenirs, local clothes, herbs, tea, and other goods. You can easily find a restaurant to try some local food.
4. Discover H’mong village in Doi Pui
This H’mong village hides under a valley in the Doi Pui area. It is more prone to tourist orientation than authenticity; however, visiting this village is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai because the tribal people still maintain their culture and wear traditional garb.
You can quickly get some hand-made tea, local wine, silver jewelry, hand-woven clothes, and plenty of souvenir options. This village is also home to a cultural museum and a big beautiful garden with a diverse array of plants and flowers.
5. Explore Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon is the highest peak in Thailand which is about 100 km from the old city. This area is a good place for connecting to nature. You can do hiking to the 8,415 feet summit of Inthanon, trek in the national park, and also explore several waterfalls and the daily life of ethnic people in Chiang Mai.
Taking a day trip or spending the night at the camping site in Doi Inthanon is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai. If you go on a day trip, you can either choose to book a day tour to Doi Inthanon or simply hire a motorbike or get a driver to bring you there if you want to explore the place on your own. Do make sure you have a motorbike or a driver to be with you on the trip as you are unable to walk through the entire park.
6. Visit Queen Sirikit Bontanic Garden
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden is Thailand’s first botanic garden and is known as the major travel attraction in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai. The garden covers a mountainous area with hundreds of plants all over the world, and it is home to plenty of birds. The main attractions of this place are the glasshouse where you can watch abundant types of Asian-forest plants, and the Canopy Walkway which offers you an amazing trip around the garden. Opening from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm with an admission fee of 40 THB/adult and 25 THB/children under 12 years old, this botanical garden is worth visiting as one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
7. Try some North-Eastern Thai cuisine
Chiang Mai is famous for a lot of delicious food and specialties. It will be a miss if you don’t try some of the specialties in Chiang Mai.
If you don’t have a chance to try all kinds of food, please make sure you have tried some in the below list:
Khao Soi – the crunchy noodle in rich coconut curry soup has a great state that you cannot find anywhere else.
Nam prik – a spicy dip that has plenty of variants. It can be made from minced pork, potato, and herbs, or first and eggplant, etc. Nam prik is normally eaten with vegetables or sticky rice.
Sai krok Issan – Thai sausage which is made from rice and minced pork and served with raw cabbage and green chili.
Due to the good taste, trying North-Eastern Thai cuisine is really worth it as one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
8. Join a cooking class
Besides having good food in a restaurant, you can try to cook them in a cooking class as well. This activity is loved among foreign travelers in Chiang Mai. You can learn how to make some traditional Thai cuisine such as Khao soi, or Pad Thai (Thai Fried noodles).
Mama Noi Thai Cookery is one of the highly recommended Thai cooking classes to take in Chiang Mai.
9. Try some adventurous zipline game
Chiang Mai is famous for many long zip lines and relevant jungle games. If you are interested in the adventurous game, do try this activity. We highly recommend you book a tour for your convenience as they will pick up and drop you off as well. This will help your trip less hassle.
Join this activity and you will know for sure it is really one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
10. Enjoy the beauty of Mon Jam
Located in the Mae Rim district, Mon Jam is a mountain community that is famous for beautiful flower gardens, gorgeous mountain views, and ethnic Hmong tribals. This area was purchased and developed by the Royal Project as a part of Nong Hoi Royal Project with a variety of activities to restore the land after it was used to plant opium by the villagers.
With the implementation of the Royal Project, the residents are given a chance to have work and income for a better life. Besides being a research center for cold weather fruits and vegetables, Mon Jam is also known as a tourist attraction due to the nice cold weather and the gorgeous beauty of nature. You can easily get some hand-woven textiles and a plethora of local goods and souvenirs. Come and visit the place, you will not regret it as one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
11. Spend a night glamping in Mae Rim
Owning a perfect location in Chiang Mai, Mae Rim is a perfect place for various accommodations including hotels, resorts, and camping sites. Yet, camping is the most popular and favorite for those who want to stay closer to nature and enjoy the amazing sunrise and sunset. Despite the abundance of camping sites, camping accommodation is always fully booked. As such, you may need to book in advance. They are easy to be found on Google Maps, you can make a call to reserve the tent/room as those camping sites are not popular on online booking platforms.
12. Visit Ban Khun Chang Khian
Also located in Mae Rim district, on the same way as Wat Phra Doi Suthep and Hmong Village, Bann Khun Chang Khian is the agriculture research center of the Faculty of Agriculture at Chiang Mai University. This center is dedicated to research on coffee, and cold weather fruits such as plums, peaches, avocado, etc… Visiting this place during New Year or January is one of the awesome things to do in Chiang Mai as it is the time when the cherry blossoms bloom. the place looks gorgeous because the sakura blooms everywhere along the way and in Ban Khun Chiang Khan as well. If you don’t visit Chiang Mai during New Year or January, you can skip this area.
13. Discover peculiar cafes
There are 2 peculiar cafes in Chiang Mai which are must-visit places for any travelers due to their outstanding location and architecture: The Giant Chiang Mai and Cafe’@panglung.
The Giant has been a famous tree cafe in Chiang Mai for a long time. It is a cafe on a giant tree. Sitting in this cafe you can merge with nature and enjoy the fresh air from the forest.
Meanwhile, Cafe’@panglung is quite newly constructed, but absolutely outstanding. It was built really high on a tree with minimal steel stairs for you to go up. From the cafe, you can swallow the panorama of Chiang Mai’s mountainous area. Not to mention the air, it is really fresh and amazing. When I was at this cafe, it is still in construction in some areas. However, it is in operation already. If you are afraid of heights, you still can enjoy the nice atmosphere on the first floor, among the beautiful flower garden.
14. Shopping at the Night Bazaar
The Night Bazaar is the old town neighborhood starting when the sun sets. the market opens at 5:00 PM with hundreds of vendors selling all kinds of goods you can think of. Walking down the street, enjoying shopping at cheap prices, and grabbing some local food to eat are really satisfying after a long day of visiting all kinds of travel spots. It is really courageous that this is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
15. End your day with a relaxing massage
After a long day of traveling and shopping, there is nothing better than treating yourself to a Thai massage or a foot massage. The massage doctors in Thailand are really skillful. No matter it is Bangkok or Chiang Mai, we highly recommend you to try some massage and you will definitely not regret it.