Chiang Mai is a captivating province nestled in the picturesque mountains of Northern Thailand. The city’s founding dates back to 1296 when it served as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. Chiang Mai still carries an old school charm but with strokes of contemporary colours. Now known for its national parks, temples, traditional art and craft workshops, delectable food stalls, and walking streets, it is a melting pot of diverse experiences. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat or a vibrant cultural adventure, Chiang Mai has something to offer every traveller.
Come and explore this enchanting northern city for yourself, and discover the top 15 things to do in Chiang Mai.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
No trip to Chiang Mai is complete without a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple – a highly revered and iconic temple in the region that holds immense significance for Thai and Buddhist people alike. It’s a must-see destination that ranks among the best things to do in Chiang Mai. As you approach the temple, your gaze will be captured by the impressive seven-headed serpent statues that line the stairs leading up to the temple.
Upon reaching the summit, you’ll be mesmerized by the stunning golden pagoda, built in the Chaen and Chiang Saen styles, which serves as a breathtaking backdrop for your photographs.
Location: 9 Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
How to Reach: You can take a songthaew or a red truck taxi from Chiang Mai city centre. These shared taxis depart regularly from the Chang Phuak Bus Station and will take you to the temple for a reasonable fare.
You can also hire a private taxi to the temple. Once you arrive at the temple’s base, you can either climb the 306 steps to the top or take a funicular to the temple entrance which is available from 6 AM to 6 PM for a fare of 20 THB to 50 THB.
Timings: The temple is open for visitors from 6 AM to 8 PM.
Entrance Fees: 30 THB for foreign visitors
Dress Code: To show respect to the temple, it’s important to avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts or T-shirts. It’s always a good idea to carry a scarf that can be used to cover your head and shoulders. You may be asked to remove your shoes before entering the temple. It’s important to be mindful of the temple’s rules and regulations and to follow them accordingly.
Also Read: Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai
Explore and shop at the Thapae Sunday Walking Street
Thapae Sunday Walking Street is one of the most renowned walking streets in Chiang Mai province, stretching for approximately 1.5 kilometres. This bustling market offers an array of artwork, clothing, footwear, handicrafts, accessories, and custom-made souvenirs, catering to both foreigners and Thais alike. The vibrant atmosphere is further enhanced by the presence of live entertainment provided by numerous buskers who come to perform here.
As you wander through the market, you’ll come across an extensive selection of food stalls, local bars, cafes, and restaurants. In addition to the usual American fast food outlets such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, you’ll also find a variety of local cuisines. Don’t hesitate to bargain while shopping, even if you think the price is reasonable, as there’s still a good chance of receiving a 15-20% discount.
Location: Rachadamnoen Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
Timings: Opens every Sunday from 4 PM to 10 PM
Travel Tip: Always reach this market as early as possible to avoid massive crowds.
Also Read: Places to Visit in Chiang Mai
Go to Chiang Mai Night Safari (Theme Park)
One of the most exciting things to do in Chiang Mai is to visit Chiang Mai Night Safari where you can observe wildlife up close and personal. A beautifully adorned 50-seater tram awaits to take you on a once-in-a-lifetime journey alongside tourists from all over the world. This experience is truly unique and offers an opportunity to bathe elephants and feed giraffes, hippos, rhinos, and bison, making it a must-visit for all wildlife enthusiasts.
In addition to the expedition, visitors can enjoy a spectacular musical fountain display. After the safari tour, you can unwind at the Chiang Mai Night Safari Resort while savouring delectable dishes such as omelette rice, sticky rice, roasted pork, sausages, buns, and beverages, all expertly prepared by skilled chefs.
Location: Chiang Mai Night Safari, 33 Moo 12, Nong Khwai, Hang Dong, Chiang Mai 50230
Timings: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Entry Ticket Fee: 800 THB for Adults and 400 THB for Children (FREE ENTRY for children below the height of 100 cm)
Ticket Window closes at: 09:00 PM
How to Reach Chiang Mai Night Safari: From your hotel take a mini bus or a taxi.
Do Trekking in Chiang Mai
Embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery with a healing trekking experience in the breathtaking Chiang Mai province. The region boasts several trekking trails that offer panoramic views of the Northern part of Thailand, but the Baan Pha Dang to Huay Kukap route stands out as one of the most thrilling.
The primary objective of this excursion is to immerse oneself in the local village cultures nestled in the mountainous terrain. Interact with the friendly locals to gain a wholesome experience and a deeper appreciation of their way of life. Even beginner trekkers can undertake this expedition, as the 3-hour trail starts from the meditation cliffs and winds through the exotic mountain cliffs and streams, culminating in Huay Kukap. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning landscapes and opportunities to connect with nature, ultimately resulting in a profound sense of inner peace and rejuvenation.
Best time for Trekking: During dry seasons of October and March when temperatures are not extreme.
Things to Pack for Trek: A bag pack, a medical kit, a hand sanitizer, trekking boots and flashlight.
Click Photos with Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
One of the most memorable things to do in Chiang Mai is to click snaps with Tigers. Contrary to popular belief, tigers here are not drugged or sedated; instead, they are under control by trainers from the time they are born. At the Tiger Kingdom, you will witness the most humane experience of a bond between tigers and their trainers.
You can select which tiger you want to get your photos clicked with and pay accordingly. The professional trainers here are friendly and helpful and will take great care so that you can comfortably spend time with tigers, feed them and click photos with them.
Location: 51/1 Moo 7 Rim-Tai, Mae-Rim Chiang Mai, Thailand 50180
Timings of Tiger Kingdom: 09:00 AM – 05:00 PM every day including public holidays. Open in all weather. Last admission 04: 30 PM
How to reach Tiger Kingdom: It typically takes 30 to 40 mins to reach Tiger Kingdom from the old city. You can take a Tuk Tuk, taxis or red trucks to reach here.
Relax at the Mae Ping River Cruise
Experience the beauty and tranquility of Mae Ping River with a soothing river cruise that promises to be a memorable experience. Choose from two options – the “River Trip” or the 90-minute “Dinner Cruise” – and enjoy the breathtaking scenic views that unfold along the river. As you glide through the water, you’ll pass by lush greenery and stop at local homes to learn about the cultivation of jasmine rice and try herbal juices like lemon grass.
The cruise offers a rewarding cultural experience that’s perfect for anyone looking to soak in the natural beauty of Chiang Mai. And the best part? The cruise offers free pick-up from hotels in the city area, making it convenient and accessible for tourists. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to unwind and appreciate the beauty of Mae Ping River.
Address: 33 Charoen Prathet Rd, Tambon Chang Khlan, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai
Ticket Price: 550 THB per person.
Timings of Cruise:
- For Mae Ping River Trip the boat departs every hour from 9.00 am.-5.00 pm.
- For the Dinner River Cruise, it departs only at 6:30 so make sure to do your booking before 5:00 pm.
Attend the Chiang Mai Flower Festival
If you happen to visit Chiang Mai during late January to early February, don’t miss out on the spectacular annual Chiang Mai Flower Festival. This three-day festival usually takes place on the first weekend of February, marking the end of winter and the arrival of spring as new flowers start to bloom. The festival runs from early morning to afternoon and sometimes even into the evening, offering a range of activities for visitors to enjoy.
The festival is renowned for its breathtaking flower decorations, which make for perfect backdrops for photos. One of the main highlights is the colourful parade that starts at 4:00 PM, featuring stunning carriages adorned with beautiful floral arrangements that tell the tales of the Lanna Kingdom. The parade also includes marching bands, dancers, and musicians, creating a festive atmosphere for all to enjoy.
In addition to the parade, the festival also includes the Miss Chiang Mai Flower Festival competition, where a Flower Festival queen is crowned. Overall, it’s a fun and memorable experience that should not be missed.
Location: Suan Buak Haad Public Park
Timings: Begins from Morning till evening
Enjoy the Grand Canyon Water Park
If you’re looking for some exciting outdoor fun with family and friends, the Grand Canyon Water Park is a must-visit destination in Chiang Mai. As the only outdoor water park in the area, it offers a range of thrilling activities like kayaking, ziplining, and wakeboarding. And if you’re travelling with kids, there’s a whole separate Children’s Water Park to keep them entertained.
For the adrenaline junkies, there are exciting attractions like the floating trampoline and giant slide, where you can take the plunge and show off your skills to your friends and family. The park also offers rental lockers and shower facilities, so you can freshen up after a day of fun in the water. After working up an appetite, you can indulge in delicious food at the on-site restaurant or sip a hot coffee at the cosy Caramleo Café. And if you forgot to pack your swimwear, don’t worry, the park offers rental and sales of swimwear too.
Overall, the Grand Canyon Water Park is a perfect spot for a day of thrilling water-based activities and relaxation, suitable for all ages.
Location: Nam Phrae, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230,
Timings: Opens every day from 10 AM to 7:00 PM
Ticket Price: Adult – 700 THB & Kids – 550 THB. Kids below the height of 90 cm can get free entry.
Wakeboarding Pass: Receive 1 hour of training and coaching for 550 THB
Gobble on delicious street food of Chiang Mai
There are many amazing things to do in Chiang Mai, but one that you must not skip is trying the street food here. Chiang Mai has a Sino-Burmese influence on its food, which stands out the most – in a good way! Visit any Chiang Mai walking street market and have a delectable food experience.
You will find colourful food stalls selling some of the famous local Chiang Mai dishes like – Khao Soi (Egg Noodle Curry), Sai Oua (Grilled herb sausage), Tam Khanun (Jackfruit salad), Pancake with banana, Crispy Pork Rinds and Gaeng han lay which is a Burmese styled sweet curry. The street food here is highly affordable and fills your tummy well.
Spend idyllic time in Ban Wat Chan Pine Forest
If you are in search of tranquillity and want to spend some quality time with your partner, or if you simply wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Ban Wat Chan Pine Forest is the perfect destination for you. This charming forest is located in the Kanlayanee Wattana district and is approximately 150 km from the city centre.
As you walk through the forest, you will be surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colours from the vibrant trees, ranging from orange and red to green and yellow. Ban Wat Chan Pine Forest has become increasingly popular among tourists, especially those seeking solitude and peaceful surroundings. Early morning is the best time to visit as the water reservoir has a misty surface, offering a picturesque view.
Apart from enjoying the scenic beauty, visitors can also engage in activities such as cycling, strolling, and boating. Moreover, interacting with the friendly locals is an excellent opportunity to experience their culture and way of life.
Best time to visit: December to early February
How to Reach: Take Song Taew, the local truck taxi, from Chang Phueak Road in Chiang Mai city to Ban Wat Chan. The taxi leaves every day at 9 AM and 11 AM and the fare cost is 120 THB.
Step back in time at Lanna Folklife Museum
The Lanna Folk Museum is a must-visit destination for those looking to explore the rich cultural heritage of Northern Thailand. Located in a historic courthouse building, this museum boasts of 18 exhibition rooms, each filled with a fascinating collection of artefacts and memorabilia from the Lanna Kingdom.
You will have the opportunity to witness beautifully preserved murals, traditional clothing, and other items related to religion, culture, and Thai village life. The museum also showcases an impressive collection of Lanna textiles, accessories, and other handicrafts that are sure to captivate your imagination.
With its extensive collection and attention to detail, the Lanna Folk Museum is more than just a museum; it is an immersive experience that will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Lanna culture.
Address: Prapokklao Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
Timings: Wednesday to Sunday from 8:30 am to 4:30 am
Ticket Price: For Thai citizens – 20 THB and for Foreigners – 90 THB
Be a part of Bicycle Tour in Chiang Mai
Cycling enthusiast or not, a bicycle tour in Chiang Mai is unlike any other experience. Peddle your way and explore the fields and mountains of Chiang Mai. You can join a bicycle group excursion or ride solo if you want to. Chiang Mai has many scenic routes and bicycle trails, making the cycling experience extremely rewarding.
If you have never been a part of a cycling expedition but are ready to take the plunge, choose a smaller trail like The River ping loop. It’s about a 3.2 KM long track where you can easily cycle along the river. If you think you are an expert, choose a longer path. You can rent a cycle or e-bike, helmets, and safety gear.
Tour the colourful Bo Sang Umbrella Village
If you want to discover and support local artisans and their crafts during your trip to Chiang Mai, be sure to visit Bo Sang Umbrella Village. This village has a rich history of creating beautiful and intricate paper umbrellas using mulberry tree paper, reflecting the deep-rooted Lanna culture. Many local and foreign visitors take these umbrellas as a unique souvenir. To preserve the tradition of umbrella-making and support local artisans, the annual Bo Sang Umbrella Festival is held each year.
As you wander through the village, you can see skilled artisans hard at work perfecting their craft. You can support them by purchasing umbrellas, ceramics, wood carvings, lacquer ware, and other handmade items for yourself and your loved ones. A visit to Bo Sang Umbrella Village is a meaningful way to appreciate and support the local community.
Location: Ton Pao, San Kamphaeng District, Chiang Mai 50130
Best time to visit: Any time of the year but if you want to see the umbrella festival then choose January 13 to 15.
Feed elephants at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Chiang Mai’s Elephant Jungle Sanctuary offers a unique and ethical experience with the gentle giants of the animal kingdom. Visitors get the opportunity to feed and bathe the adorable elephants, making it a highly recommended tourist attraction. The sanctuary is renowned for its sustainable and ethical practices aimed at conserving the elephants and improving their welfare.
Upon arrival, a knowledgeable tour guide takes you through the sanctuary’s history and mission of elephant conservation. Then, you get to interact with the elephants, feeding them and giving them a refreshing bath while taking photos with them. Do note that you will get drenched during the bathing session, so it is advisable to bring a change of clothes, a towel, sunscreen, and a bathing suit.
Overall, a visit to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a great way to have a fun and fulfilling time while supporting ethical practices in animal tourism.
Address: 119 10 Tha Phae Road, Tambon Chang Moi, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
Timings: 07:00 AM to 9:00 PM
For a half-day visit- Adults – 1,700 THB and Children – 1300 THB
For a full-day visit- Adults- 2400 THB and Children – 1800 THB
Infants from 0-3 years can get free entry.