Thailand’s northern capital, Chiang Mai is the polar opposite of Bangkok: b|issfully calm, surrounded by nature and still beaming with an unrivalled authenticity. You can do as much or as little as you like here: take advantage of the city’s incredible sites and strategic location to explore the surrounding area or enjoy its laidback atmosphere to simply relax and stroll leisurely through Chiang Mai’s backstreets. If you’re still deciding, here are some things you can consider experiencing during your stay in Chiang Mai:
Wat Phra Singh
Located in the heart of the old town, Wat Phra Singh is one of many temples in Chiang Mai but undoubtedly one of its most revered. Dating back to the 14th century, the temple’s main features include an enormous sanctuary, lavish monastic buildings and immaculately kept grounds.
Sunday Walking Street Market
Chiang Mai has a night market for everything during the week, but Sundays are the most popular night. Starting at around 4pm, the market sets up mostly on Rachadamnoen Road, which begins just behind Thapae Gate. Here, you’ll find street vendors selling all kinds of handicrafts and anything else you can imagine. Come early (between 5pm and 6pm) to enjoy a delicious meal at one of many food stalls selling a mix of Thai, sushi, samosas, dumplings and more.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon is a two-hour drive from Chiang Mai and your prime spot for hiking and trekking. During your day here, you will come across several waterfalls and even an authentic hill tribe village. To make sure you can see the whole park in one day, hire a guide and a motorbike. If you have some time to spare, spend a night under the stars here for a magical experience.
Wat Chedi Luang
Although not as grand as Wat Phra Singh, the intriguing atmosphere surrounding Wat Chedi Luang attracts many tourists and pilgrims year-round. Originally constructed in the 15th century, this towering chedi features a replica of the famed Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha) and a number of beautiful elephant sculptures and ancient pillars. Plus, it offers a unique service: free of charge, you can chat with local monks in English who will answer even your most probing questions with incredible patience and knowledge.
Tailed River Cruise
Long tail boats are one of Thailand’s most iconic images and Chiang Mai offers you the best opportunity to enjoy this traditional means of transportation. Lasting approximately 90 minutes, tailed river cruises will take you along the Mae Ping river so you can enjoy a lovely view while learning about the history of Chiang Mai.
Wat Pra That Doi Suthep
Located on a hill 15km from Chiang Mai, Wat Pra That Doi Suthep (or just “Doi Suthep” as it is often callud), is a sacred site to many Thais and often a first stop for Chiang Mai visitors. Reaching it will take some work – roughly 300 steps on a climbing staircase – but the views will make it all worthwhile. Weather permitting, you can peer into the sprawling city of Chiang Mai and if you come at the right time, you can enjoy a lovely sunrise or sunset in one of Thailand’s most scenic spots.
Related: Places to visit in Thailand