Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, and a huge hotspot for digital nomads from all over the world. It’s a big city with a great mixture of the ancient Lanna kingdom and the modern society.
There is a lot of things you could do in this city, and here is my list with top things to do in Chiang Mai.
Wat Chedi Luang
This temple is located in the heart of the old city of Chiang Mai. It’s also one of the most stunning temple areas in Chiang Mai with old buildings dating back to the 14th and 15th century. This is a must to put on your list with things to do in Chiang Mai when planning the trip.
Address: 103 Phra Pok Klao Road.
Have you ever had any questions about the Buddhism way of life? Monk Chat gives you the opportunity to get some answers, or simply ask the monks whatever you want to. This is a great exchange where you get to learn more about them, and they can practise their English.
Monk Chat is available at several temples, but I can highly recommend the monk chat at Wat Chedi Luang. It’s open every day from 09.00 am to 06.00 pm, and most of them speak very good English. Wat Suan Dok is another popular temple for monk chatting in Chiang Mai.
This was definitely one of my favourite things to do in Chiang Mai!
Loy Krathong / Yi Peng Lantern Festival
This is the biggest annually event in Chiang Mai, where monks and local people pay their homage to the Buddha. It’s a great festival that is ongoing for several days. It’s celebrated in November, but the actual dates is changing every year, since it takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar.
On the last day you will see thousands of lanterns lit up and released into the sky. If you have the opportunity to be here when the event occur, this is a must to put on your list with things to do in Chiang Mai. It’s a magical event which should definitely be on every travellers bucket list.
Most of the lanterns is released at the Ping river. You can buy your own lantern on your way down to the river, around 20-30 bath for a small one, and 30-40 bath for a big one.
However, if you’ve never done this before, I would suggest that you ask a local for help before you light your lantern, since it could end badly and be dangerous for you and others if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Sunday Night Market
Take a stroll around the lovely and buzzing Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai. It’s located along Rachadamnoen Rd, but you will see stalls in the side streets as well. This is a local event where you will find handicrafts, art, clothes, street food and of course some souvenirs for the tourists. Having a massage at the Sunday Night Market is one of the must things to do in Chiang Mai, if you’re on a budget.
Address: Rachadamnoen Rd and side streets.
Wat Sri Suphan
Also known as the Silver Temple. This temple is one of the most unique temples in Thailand. However be wary that females is not allowed inside Wat Sri Suphan. It’s ok for females to stand outside. I have asked Thai people why (even the monks), and the answer is that it has something to do with the women’s period. It’s a Thai belief, and has nothing to do with Buddhism, they think that the period of a woman will destroy the magic of the temple.
Address: 100 Wua Lai Road.
Thai Cooking School
Do you have a desire to learn how to cook authentic Thai food? In Chiang Mai there are plenty of places offering cooking classes, where you start the day at the local market to do some shopping before you prepare and cook the food.
While I haven’t done this myself, I have heard lots of good things about Thai Farm Cooking School.
Address: 38, Soi 9 Moonmuang Rd.
Pamper yourself at one of the many spas in Chiang Mai. Here you will find everything from a nice foot massage to a traditional Thai massage or something more exotic like a coconut butter scrub. There is plenty to choose from within different price ranges, starting from around 150-180 bath for 1 hour.
If you’re on a budget I would suggest that you go for a massage at the Sunday Night Market, where you can find a massage from 50 bath. Having a massage at the Sunday Night Market is a very local thing to do in Chiang Mai.
Elephant Nature Park
This is definitely one of the top things to do in Chiang Mai, and if I would put them in order this would probably be my number one. The Elephant Nature Park is simply amazing, and unlike other elephant parks in Thailand, this one is actually great for the animals.
Here no one is allowed to ride the elephants (one should never ride an elephant, it’s bad for their back). They rescue elephants from illegal logging areas, street begging, and other places where the elephants are treated badly. This is a sanctuary and it’s possible to volunteer and help take care of them, or simply go for a day visit and get the opportunity to meet the elephants.
If you like Elephants, just as I do, this is the place to go! It’s possible to book a day tour on their website or by visiting the office in Chiang Mai.
Office address: 1 Ratmakka Road.
The night bazaar in Chiang Mai is open every day and offers mostly souvenirs or touristy stuff and clothing. The prices are overrated and you should always haggle here. Begin with 50-80 percent off the given price. Most of the sellers offer similar things, so you will not find any great variety of things here.
If you’re into art you should go down to the art gallery where local artists is painting everyday.
Try out the street food
Northern Thailand probably have the best street food in Thailand, there is just so much to choose from and it’s basically everywhere. It’s also really cheap! The northern and southern gate is famous for their street food.
Chiang Mai is home to many temples and lots of them are ancient temples with roots back to the famous Lanna Kingdom. While Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Sri Suphan and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is some of the more famous temples of Chiang Mai, there is still lots of other beautiful temples to explore.
I can recommend to do some temple hopping. To get around, either hire a songthaew/tuk-tuk for a day, or simply make up a walking route and get some exercise at the same time!
This is the highest point in Thailand, with the highest peak located at 2,565 metres above sea level. Doi Inthanon offers a beautiful landscape with tropical forests, rivers and waterfalls. It’s also a great place if you’re into birdwatching, since it’s home to more than 362 different species of birds. To explore this area I would suggest you to hire a songthaew for a full day and combine with other nearby sights.
Catmosphere Cat Café
If you’re a cat loving person like me you will love the Catmosphere cat café. It’s situated in a local area and offers a relaxed and fun day with their furry friends. Before you go it’s possible to get to know the cats a little more via the website.
Btw, they also have delicious cookies and smoothies. You will notice that the cats also love the cookies and smoothies at Catmosphere! You get free entrance if you order food or drinks, otherwise it’s 100 bath p/p.
Address: 233/5 Huay Kaew Road.