12 Top Things To Do In Chiang Mai

Recently Updated: November 2022

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

The most desired things to do while visiting the best attractions in Chiang Mai are often overlooked. Especially, if you are looking for a suitable vacation itinerary to Thailand.

If you searching for things to do in Chiang Mai or book a hotel near the famous night bazaar on a free and easy itinerary, here are 12 of my top-notch recommendations for you to pursue.   

Quick Jump Contents

best vacation spots

Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall

If you love waterfalls, the must do thing is to visit Bua Tong Sticky waterfall in Mae Taeng National Park. Surprisingly, there is no entrance fee to visit this unique Chiang Mai waterfall.

 You may scale the entire waterfall, all 3 levels without slipping, thanks to the unique limestone formations. The Sticky Waterfall flows year-round due to the water’s natural spring source.

To avoid the crowd, head down to this popular Chiang Mai waterfall as early as possible. The best thing is that you can stay overnight at Santitham Home Stay for around USD $22 including breakfast.

best vacation spots

Chiang Mai National Museum

The Chiang Mai National Museum which was built in 1969 to showcase the finest Lanna and Buddhist relics in the region, has always offered one of Thailand’s richest collections of art, distributed across 16 rooms.

The lighting in the property fit to rival the top museums in the world including 3D imaging. The museum provides comprehensive display information on the beautiful architectural treasures and ancient Buddha casts.

The largest Buddha Head to be seen in the Lanna Kingdom: Phra Saen Swae, which was totally cast in bronze in the fourteenth century, continues to be the top attraction for tourists.

  • Entrance fee for foreign tourist: 100 baht
  • Opening hours: Wednesday – Sunday (9am – 4pm)

To experience Chiang Mai and the surrounding area, you can hire a local guide who will take you anywhere you like. 

things to do in chiang mai
best vacation spots

Yi Peng Lantern Festival

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

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 tourists come from all over the world to see this festival. You can also participate to send up a lantern with your thoughts and prayers for someone back home.

best vacation spots

Doi Inthanon National Park

One of the top things to do in Chiang Mai is to visit Doi Inthanon National Park approximately around 70km from the city.

The perfect condition with dry and chilly weather to visit is between November to February. This is one of the top outdoor activities to do for a great family vacation in Chiang Mai. 

The highest mountain ( 2,565m) in Thailand with stunning viewpoints, sunrise and sunset, tribal villages and much more. There are clear path for those who wish to hike as well.

Engaging a local driver/guide is the great way to explore this picturesque part of the Himalayan mountain range. Before you start your hike, its compulsory to engage a local Hmong guide.

best vacation spots

Trendy Nimmanhaemin Road

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 are tons of pretty cool restaurants and bars, and lots of 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 on AirBNB.

There’re cool boutiques and malls with venues that provide lots of entertainment. Most of the buildings have 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.

Wat Chedi Luang
best vacation spots

Wat Chedi Luang

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 Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai old town.

Originally constructed in the 14th or 15th century, this temple is both fascinating and majestic. It is situated in the downtown area and is highly recommended.

There’s like this very dramatic reveal of it and it’s very special. This is my favorite temple because of its pretty huge courtyard with comfortable benches to let your thoughts wander and relax.

The Buddhist Manuscript Library and Museum, which is nearby offers detailed information about Wat Chedi Luang and is a highly recommended spot to visit.

chiang mai cooking class
best vacation spots

Chiang Mai Cooking Class

One of the best things to do when you’re in Chiang Mai is learn the most about northern Thailand’s history and culture by signing up for a cooking class.

There are plenty of cooking schools in Chiang Mai to choose with varying prices and different kinds of ethnicity philosophies but its the authentic ones that you should join.

So I would recommend doing a little bit of research on popular northern Thailand dishes such as Tom Yam, Khao Soi etc. 

chiang mai night bazaar
best vacation spots

Night Bazaar & Night Market

I highly recommend planning your trip around the weekends 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 10.30pm 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.

Kalare Night Bazaar is located at the junction of Chang Khlan Road and Loi Khro Road and open from 4pm to 10.30pm daily.

This Chiang Mai night bazaar is possibly the largest night market with hundreds of shops in one location offering 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 all the way from Pae Gate in old city to Ratchadamnoen Road.

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

Chiang Mai Cabaret Show

So yeah, perhaps you like to tease your friends back home with a pretty cool pose with lady boys! For Chiang Mai nightlife, look no further than Chiang Mai Cabaret Show at new Tsar market.

I had actually got to see the performance with some expat friends 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 really enjoyed meeting them up close and a lot of straight tourists there. Everyone at the show are really respectful to these performers.

I think its 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, chiang mai
best vacation spots

Pai, Mae Hong Son

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

There’re tons of beautiful viewpoints and some pretty nice vacation spots for couples just hours away. So I highly recommend that if you’re visiting Chiang Mai, perhaps, 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 and the air is super fresh too. I would suggest renting a motorbike to go around exploring all the different attractions and villages.

Top Attractions In Pai:

Take an idyllic ride or arrange with your local guide (in Chiang Mai city) 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 a backdrop. Totally perfect for Instagram-able photo shots.

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

It’s totally worth it and you can have lunch at an ethnic-minority Chinese Yunnan village along the route as well. 

things to do in chiang mai with family
best vacation spots

Air Diamond Cafe & Hotel

Before boarding the plane, you need to fork out 120 baht for admittance including a free drink/dessert at a “terminal.” It’s not much different from a regular airliner, except for the presence of a table in front of row of seats.

This could be nostalgic if you haven’t travelled since international borders were closed in April 2020. Snacks are available for purchase onboard, and they are pretty much the same as many airline’s meals.

Art Diamond is a great place for a pit stop while you are on a trip towards Pai village. You can’t miss it, since where else can you find an entire A330 airbus parked on the side of the road!

Open (weekday) 9:00am – 6.00pm
Open (weekend) 9:00am – 6:00pm

  • Seats in Plane – 200
  • Parking – Free
  • Wifi – Free
  • Alfresco Area – Free Seating
chiang mai zoo
best vacation spots

Chiang Mai Aquarium

One of the latest family vacation spots in Chiang Mai is the sprawling Fish Aquarium, featuring a wide glass underwater tunnel separating the Aquarium from the rest of Chiang Mai zoo.

The freshwater tunnel is 66.5 meters long and the sea tunnel is at the same length, making it the world’s longest. There are more than 20,000 aquatic species from all over Asia and the Amazon.

  • Admission is free
  • Open Daily from 10.00am – 4.00pm
  • Freshwater feeding show 10.30am – 3.30pm
  • Marine feeding show 11.30am – 2.30pm 

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