10 Best Attractions In Chiang Mai For Savvy Travelers

things to do in chiang mai

The best attractions in Chiang Mai are often overlooked. Especially, if you are trying to find a suitable itinerary from your travel agent. Even worst if you have children in tow or don’t know where to start with your trip planning.

If you are browsing for a travel destination in Thailand for a fascinating holiday, you might like to bookmark this post for future reference. Chiang Mai is the second biggest northern city in Thailand and there’s so much things to do in Chiang Mai.

To avoid any unforeseen hassle, try the new normal privatized tour with local guides. If you wish to visit Chiang Mai on a free and easy itinerary, here are 10 of my most top-notch recommendations for you to pursue.   

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Yi Peng Chiang Mai Lantern Festival

First off, if you’re planning your trip around November, you might want to consider this iconic Loi Krathong festival which starts from 31st Oct.

This is truly a beautiful event and it is well worth it to see thousands of rice paper floating lanterns go up into the sky all at once. Not only it’s just visually stunning, but Chiang Mai at night truly comes alive during this time with warm golden glow filling the night sky.

Many tourist come from all over the world to see this festival and if you’re pretty much open to an experience that might move your emotions. You can pretty much participate to send up a lantern with your thoughts and prayers for someone back home.

Doi Inthanon National Park

While you are still in the city, one of the popular things to do in Chiang Mai is to visit Doi Inthanon National Park in northern Thailand. It’s around 70km from the city.

The highest mountain ( 2,565m) in Thailand with stunning viewpoints, sunrise and sunset, tribal villages and much more. Engaging a local driver/guide is the great way to explore this picturesque part of the Himalayan mountain range.

The perfect condition with dry and chilly weather to visit is between November to February.

Chiang Mai Night Market

Sunday Night Bazaar & Night Market

I highly recommend planning your trip around this time and while talking about timing, ensure that when you’re here, include a Sunday in your itinerary. The most sensational things to do in Chiang Mai at night is to check out the super huge night bazaars, they basically shut down the central streets in the old city.

You might also be confused by “Bazaars and Markets” because there are a few of them at different locations on Saturdays and Sundays though.

Like for example, Kad Manee Night Market is open daily from 5pm to 10pm and has beautiful sitting areas around a water fountain and best for local Food and Beverage. This is really the place to enjoy delicious cheap local delicacies and stuff you can’t find at other shopping spots here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is located at the junction of Chang Khlan Road and Loi Khro Road and open from 6pm to 10.30pm daily. The Chiang Mai night bazaar is possibly the largest night market with hundreds of shops in one location.

This night bazaar offers a range of products such as shoes, bags, clothes, handicrafts, artwork, sunglasses, and electronic items, etc. If you are looking for a relaxing stop for some great meals and entertainment along Chang Khlan Road, look for Kalare Night Bazaar.

Getting there, you need to find a passage surrounded by stalls and shops all around, somewhere near 7-eleven. This undercover arcade gives you an outstanding dinning experience offering vegetarian and non vegetarian eating choices.

With an uncommon combination of cultural performances and open air dining, Kalare night market is an exceptional place to chill out. The one that I’m recommending is the widely famous Sunday Walking Street. This is the ultimate all-in-one Bazaar and Night market in Chiang Mai old city .

The street is closed by 4pm and you can find everything that is available from all the others combine. All the activities runs from the Pae Gate in old city, all the way to  Ratchadamnoen Road.

There are a ton of things to see here but this in particular, brings out the entire Thai community. It’s a really cool thing to do in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Nightlife

Chiang Mai Cabaret Show

So yeah, perhaps you like to tease your friends back home with a totally cool pose with lady boys! For Chiang Mai nightlife, look no further than the cabaret show in new Tsar market, which is a drag show that’s just incredible.

I had actually got to go to see the performance with some friends who knew some of the girls, and it was just so much fun. They are friendly as well and willing to take photo shots for a small tip.

These fabulous performers will put on an incredible show for you and they make their money primarily through tipping. I had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed meeting the girls and a lot of straight people there. Everyone there are really respectful to these girls.

No one treating them as disrespectfully. I think it’s just having a good time for everybody. What makes this old city exceptional is that there are a ton of things to do in Chiang Mai from day to night.

Pai, Mountain Paradise

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Welcome to the mountain backpacker paradise, postcard-perfect little town in Mae Hon Son province nearest to the Myanmar border. It lies 146km northwest of Chiang Mai, Thailand and takes approximately 4 hours drive up the winding mountain road.

There’re tons of nature viewpoints and small little towns just hours away for you to go and visit. So I highly recommend that if you’re visiting Chiang Mai, maybe you can give up a few nights to go over to Pai.

Nevertheless, if you’re in a minivan or on a bike, the trip up there is full of loops and sharp turns. So yeah, it’s not for the faint of heart, ensure to bring along some motion sickness pills, just in case.

But when you get up there it’s totally pristine and beautiful. The air is supper fresh too. I highly recommend renting a motorbike to go around exploring all the different sites and villages.

Take an idyllic ride or arrange with your local guide to visit Wat Phra That Mae located on a hill 2km from Pai town. It offers a breathtaking 360* view of Pai, with a magnificent sunset as backdrop. Totally perfect for Instagram-able photo shots.

So basically it’s like a replica of a mountain village with incredible views all around this village. Also a good place to just be inspired by nature and the beauty of Chiang Mai, Thailand with the hill terraces.

It is totally worth it and you could have lunch at an ethnic-minority Chinese Yunnan village along the route as well. You can add this to one of your remarkable “things to do in Chiang Mai” bucket list.

Nimmanhaemin Road, Muang District

There’s a ton of things to do in Chiang Mai old city, but I would recommend branching out to a chic neighborhood.  Nimman Road is a place where most of the younger crowds and university students hang out.

There tons of really cool restaurants and bars, and lots of different little cafes for you to slip into. If you’re looking for a place to stay on a little bit more long-term basis, you can find some nice apartments here.

There’re cool boutiques and malls with venues that provide lots of entertainment with really good internet service and western food. This upmarket area have the best contemporary shops for handmade stuff from furniture to stylish lighting décor by local artisans.

Lanna Cultural Show

Chiang Mai is really a food mecca of Thailand. There’s a unique quality about northern Thai food that you don’t necessarily get anywhere else. You definitely sit down and have a bowl of Khao Soi, because it’s delicious, supper tastety and something unique to remember.

Don’t forget to include the Lanna Cultural show which showcase a traditional dinning experience together with song and dances.

Chiang Mai Temples

Chiang Mai Temple Tours

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Strolling around the old city of Chiang Mai, you’ll notice a high density of beautiful temples. I would highly recommend if you’re going to do at least one temple, it should be Doi Suthep Temple.

There’s like this very dramatic reveal of it and it’s very special. It has a lot of tourists going there, but this is my favorite temple. Don’t forget to include this fascinating structure to your things to do in Chiang Mai temples visit checklist.

Chiang Mai Cooking Class

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You can learned the most about northern Thailand’s history and culture by signing up for cooking class because it’s a good insight into the local culture.

It allows you to learn through cooking, which is always a great way to experience the culture. There are plenty of cooking schools in Chiang Mai to choose with varying prices and different kinds of ethnicity philosophies.

So I would recommend doing a little bit of research that suits your interest though.

Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary

Elephant Sanctuary

Chiang Mai best elephant sanctuary are located in jungles where these gentle giants roam free. It’s the symbol of Chiang Mai.

It’s not like all elephant sanctuaries in Thailand are equivalent, and it takes a little research to find the most suitable sanctuary in Chiang Mai. You can get a tremendous experience especially if you go to the more ethical ones where no riding are allowed.

To better understand the different sanctuaries, camps and elephant parks, read on my all-you-need-to-know elephant sanctuary, camps and parks in Chiang Mai here.

At this time, you must take this opportunity to go and visit all these attractions. The local guides are the best bet to provide you with all the arrangements possible. Find out more about my honest suggestions about ideal places to stay in Chiang Mai and the best areas to visit. 

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