chiang mai attractions

The Best Chiang Mai Attractions You Might Consider Visiting

Posted: 16th May 2023

 Whether you’re a nature lover, foodie or cultural enthusiast, Chiang Mai offer tons of attractions. Thailand’s northern province is best known for its warm hospitality and stunning mountain landscapes.

While visiting attractions in Chiang Mai provides a great experience to dive into its rich cultural heritage, there are more exciting and awesome things to do for any type of travelers.

If you’re looking for great vacation spots in Chiang Mai on a solo or free and easy itinerary, here’s our top travel guide to add into your travel bucket list.  

Immerse yourself in Cultural Splendors

Chiang Mai National Museum

Chiang Mai Museum which was built in 1969 to showcase the finest Lanna and Buddhist relics in the region, has always been Chiang Mai’s points of interest with unique collections of art, distributed across 16 rooms.

The lighting in the property fit to rival 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 one of the top attractions in Chiang Mai.

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

Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most iconic Chiang Mai temples located near Huai Kaew Road, Suthep Sub-district of Chiang Mai (15 minutes drive from Chiang Mai International Airport) 

Explore the exquisite details of this Buddhist temple’s structures, including the main chedi (stupa), the surrounding shrines, and the ornate Naga staircases leading to the temple’s entrance.

Best thing to do is to learn about the annual festivals celebrated at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, such as Visakha Bucha Day, Loy Krathong, and Songkran, which provide unique cultural experiences and vibrant displays of Thai traditions.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival

things to do in chiang mai

If Chiang Mai festivals and events are your favorite activities while on vacation, 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 to experience thousands of rice paper floating lanterns go up into the sky all at once. You can also participate in this heart-warming event.

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. Try sending up a lantern with your thoughts and prayers for someone back home.

Temples and Spiritual Retreats

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 visited.

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

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

Wat Phra Singh

Uncover the fascinating history of Wat Phra Singh which dates back to the 14th century. From the exquisite Lai Kam assembly hall to the glittering golden chedi, each structure showcases a blend of Lanna and Burmese architectural styles.

Learn about the legends surrounding this sacred statue, believed to contain relics of the Buddha, and how it became a revered object of worship for Buddhists across Thailand.

The atmosphere of Wat Phra Singh is pretty serene and calm, which attracts visitors seeking spiritual experience and tranquility. Learn about the meditation programs and divine retreats offered within the temple grounds.

Wat Phra That Doi Kham

Wat Phra is one of the popular Chiang Mai tourist spots on Doi Kham Hill near Chiang Mai city. This sacred site holds religious and cultural significance, and is a hidden gem that captivate visitors with its beauty.

Climb up to the top of Doi Kham Hill and be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of Chiang Mai city and its surrounding mountain landscapes.

You may also want to participate in the meditation session to reset your body and mind, witness the soulful chanting of the monks, or engage in the act of making merit.

Experience Nature's Beauty

Visit Doi Inthanon National Park

doi inthanon chiang mai

One of the best attractions in Chiang Mai is to visit Doi Inthanon National Park, highest peak (2,565m) in Thailand approximately around 70km from the city.

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

Hike to the beautiful Sirithan Waterfall and Mae Ya Waterfall, which offers tranquil spots to relax or trek on Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail along Doi Inthanon’s garden of Eden.

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

Take an Elephant Sanctuary Tour

At the elephant retirement park in Chiang Mai, you can immerse yourself in a truly ethical elephant encounter like walking alongside these gentle giants, feed them, and even bathe them.

Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary pretty much stands as a ray of hope if you are looking for ethical elephant expereince and responsible wildlife tourism in Thailand.

Visitors actually leave with a profound understanding of the importance of protecting wildlife and supporting ethical practices while being close to these elephants and their mahouts.

Pai, Mae Hong Son

Welcome to the mountain backpacker’s paradise, postcard-a perfect little town in Mae Hong Son province. It lies 146km northwest of Chiang Mai, and around 4 hours drive up the winding mountainous 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 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 rice hill terraces and valleys.

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

Wander Through Colorful Markets

Sunday Walking Street Market

The one that I’m recommending is the widely famous Sunday Walking Street. This is the ultimate all-in-one night bazaar in Chiang Mai old city.

The street closes by 4pm, and you can find everything that is available from all the other bazaars combine. All the attractions and activities runs all the way from Pae Gate in the old town to Ratchadamnoen Road.

There are a ton of things to do here, but this event in particular brings out the entire Thai community. Stroll through this famous market for local handicrafts, street food and live performances.

The best part is that all the popular and affordable Chiang Mai hotels near night bazaars are always conveniently located a few steps away.

Night Market

I highly recommend planning your trip around the weekends, and while talking about timing, ensure that when you’re here, include a weekend in your itinerary.

The most sensational things to do in Chiang Mai at night is to check out the super huge night markets. They basically shut down most part of the central streets in the old city.

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

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 having dinner and beers.

This is really the place to enjoy delicious cheap local delicacies compare to other eating spots here in Chiang Mai. 

Indulge in Gastronomic Delights

Central Shopping Chiang Mai

Central Shopping Chiang Mai Airport offer an unparalleled shopping experience as well as one of the favorite places to eat in Chiang Mai, with tons of local food kiosks lining up in the food hub, located at the basement of the complex.

Sample signature dishes like Khao Soi and Sai Oua from rows and rows of food kiosks. Central Shopping Chiang Mai Airport is your ultimate destination for the best eating therapy and a sortment of local snacks.

Join a Cooking Class

One of the best things to do when you’re in Chiang Mai is learn 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 it’s the authentic ones that you should join.

So I would recommend doing a little bit of research on popular northern Thailand dishes such as Gaeng Hung Lay or Khao Soi before enrolling in a cooking workshop. 

Explore the Nimmanhaemin Road

There’re 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 hang out.

There are plenty of awesome restaurants and bars, and lots of little cafes for you to slip into. If you’re looking for a place to stay on long-term basis, you can find some nice apartments on AirBNB for this locale.

There’re cool boutiques and small malls with venues that provide lots of entertainment. Most of the buildings have really good internet service, and international food for you to hang around.

Outdoor Attractions To Visit

Bua Tong sticky waterfall

Chiang Mai outdoor activities are the most sort after day tours from tourists. 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 natural wonder. Climbing the waterfall’s entire 3 levels without slipping is like magic, thanks to the unique limestone formations.

The Sticky Waterfall cascade down year-round due to the water’s natural spring, but sometimes it may dry up from the water source.

Black Canyon Hotel & Café

Chiang Mai attractions

The Black Canyon upside-down hotel offer a quirky experience, and the only one in Chiang Mai. With unconventional designs, this offbeat hotel is somewhat refreshing for those seeking something out of the ordinary. You might just want to stay for a night.

It’s a great place for a pit stop while you are on a tour towards Chiang Dao. You can’t miss it, since where else can you find an entire A330 airbus parked on the side of the road beside the 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 standard table in front of rows of seats.

Formerly known as Air Diamond Café & Hotel,  but recently taken over by Black Canyon Ltd in 1st quarter of 2023. (at this point of writing)

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

One of the latest Chiang Mai family-friendly attractions 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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