Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Chiang Mai Things To Do: What You Need To Know


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Gianna Cleaver



Chiang Mai, known as the “Rose of the North,” is a vibrant city located in the mountainous region of northern Thailand. It is a city rich in culture, history, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit destination for travelers from around the world. With its ancient temples, bustling markets, and stunning landscapes, Chiang Mai offers a plethora of activities and attractions that cater to all kinds of travelers.


As you explore the charming streets of this city, you’ll be captivated by its unique blend of old and new. The Old City, surrounded by ancient walls and moats, is home to numerous temples, each with its own intricate architecture and fascinating stories. Outside the walls, you’ll find modern shopping malls, trendy cafes, and a thriving food scene, providing a perfect balance of tradition and innovation.


One of the highlights of Chiang Mai is its breathtaking natural surroundings. From the lush jungles to the towering mountains, nature enthusiasts can embark on incredible adventures such as trekking, zip-lining, and exploring waterfalls. The nearby Doi Suthep mountain offers panoramic views of the city, while the Doi Inthanon National Park is home to Thailand’s highest peak and stunning waterfalls.


When it comes to cultural experiences, Chiang Mai offers plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in Thai traditions. Learn the art of Thai cooking through a hands-on cooking class, where you’ll discover the secrets behind vibrant and flavorful dishes. Indulge in a traditional Thai massage, a therapeutic experience that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed.


Chiang Mai is also known for its love and care for elephants. Visit the Elephant Nature Park, an ethical elephant sanctuary where you can learn about and interact with these magnificent creatures in a responsible and compassionate way.


Explore the vibrant Night Bazaar, a bustling market filled with handmade crafts, clothing, and delicious street food. Take a boat ride on the Mae Ping River, and witness the serene beauty of the surrounding countryside. And on Sunday evenings, don’t miss the famous Sunday Walking Street Market, where the streets come alive with stalls selling everything from unique handicrafts to mouthwatering street food.


Whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, a foodie, or someone looking to immerse themselves in Thai culture, Chiang Mai has something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the enchanting city of Chiang Mai.


Exploring the Old City

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Chiang Mai by exploring the Old City. Enclosed by ancient walls and moats, this area is filled with beautiful temples, traditional wooden houses, and narrow winding streets.


Start your exploration at the iconic Tha Phae Gate, the main entrance to the Old City. From there, you can walk or rent a bicycle to navigate the maze-like streets. Marvel at the intricate architecture of the temples such as Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Chiang Man, each with its own unique charm and historical significance.


Take a stroll along the ancient walls and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere as you pass by serene gardens and small cafes. The Old City also offers a variety of shops, galleries, and boutiques where you can find unique handmade crafts, traditional textiles, and artistic souvenirs.


Don’t miss the chance to visit the Three Kings Monument, a tribune to the founders of Chiang Mai. Learn about the city’s origins and the role of these ancient rulers in shaping its history.


As you wander through the Old City, be sure to sample some of the delicious local street food. From savory dishes like khao soi, a northern Thai curry noodle soup, to sweet treats like mango sticky rice, there are plenty of flavors to tantalize your taste buds and satisfy your cravings.


For those interested in learning more about the local culture and traditions, consider visiting the Lanna Folklife Museum. Here, you can delve into the unique heritage of the Lanna Kingdom and gain insight into the customs and beliefs of the people of Chiang Mai.


Exploring the Old City is like stepping into a living museum, where every corner reveals a piece of Chiang Mai’s colorful past. Soak up the atmosphere, admire the historic architecture, and let the timeless charm of the Old City transport you to a bygone era.


Visiting Doi Suthep

Perched atop Doi Suthep mountain, just outside of Chiang Mai, is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This sacred temple is not only a place of worship but also offers stunning panoramic views of Chiang Mai and its surrounding countryside.


To reach the temple, you can either take a songthaew (red truck) or drive up the scenic mountain road. As you ascend to the summit, you’ll be greeted by a grand staircase flanked by a mythical Naga serpent. Climbing up the staircase, you’ll pass through a beautiful terrace with intricate carvings and statues, depicting scenes from Buddhist folklore.


Reaching the top, you’ll be in awe of the temple’s golden chedi (stupa), adorned with intricate details and sparkling against the clear blue sky. Step inside the main hall, and you’ll find a revered Buddha statue and a tranquil atmosphere, perfect for meditation and reflection.


Exploring the temple grounds, you’ll come across various shrines, colorful prayer flags, and bells that visitors can ring for good luck. Additionally, there is a viewpoint that offers breathtaking views of Chiang Mai cityscape and the surrounding countryside, especially during sunrise or sunset.


For those seeking a spiritual experience, it’s possible to receive a blessing from the resident monks, who often offer chanting and blessing ceremonies. This is a unique opportunity to have a personal connection with the local Buddhist culture.


If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hike up the mountain through the trails in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The trails wind through lush forests and offer a chance to immerse yourself in nature while enjoying the stunning views along the way.


Visiting Doi Suthep is a must-do when in Chiang Mai, as this iconic temple symbolizes the city’s strong spiritual heritage and offers a serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Soak in the beauty, spirituality, and breathtaking views that make Doi Suthep a truly unforgettable experience.


Discovering the Night Bazaar

When the sun sets in Chiang Mai, the city comes alive with the vibrant energy of the Night Bazaar. Located in the heart of the city, this bustling market is a haven for shoppers, food enthusiasts, and culture seekers.


The Night Bazaar stretches along the famous Chang Klan Road and boasts an impressive array of stalls and shops selling everything from clothing and accessories to handicrafts and souvenirs. Bargaining is a common practice here, so don’t be afraid to negotiate and snag yourself a great deal.


As you navigate through the maze of stalls, you’ll find beautifully handcrafted items such as intricately woven Thai silk, unique jewelry, wood carvings, and colorful artwork. It’s the perfect place to find unique gifts for loved ones or a memorable keepsake to remind you of your time in Chiang Mai.


One of the highlights of the Night Bazaar is the vibrant food scene. Street food vendors line the streets offering a tantalizing array of flavors, from savory dishes like pad Thai and green curry to sweet treats like mango sticky rice and fried bananas. Take your time to explore the various food stalls and indulge in the delicious local cuisine.


As you stroll through the Night Bazaar, you’ll also be treated to live performances by local musicians and entertainers. Traditional Thai music fills the air, adding to the lively atmosphere and creating a truly immersive experience.


In addition to the shopping and dining experiences, the Night Bazaar is also home to massage parlors and spas, offering weary shoppers a chance to relax and rejuvenate. Treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage or pamper yourself with a spa treatment, and let your worries melt away.


The Night Bazaar is open every evening, making it the perfect place to spend a leisurely evening immersing yourself in the vibrant culture and lively atmosphere of Chiang Mai. Whether you’re looking for a unique souvenir, craving delicious street food, or simply want to soak up the ambiance, the Night Bazaar is a must-visit destination for any traveler.


Taking a Thai Cooking Class

Immerse yourself in the flavors and culinary traditions of Thailand by taking a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai. Known for its vibrant and diverse cuisine, Thailand offers a myriad of flavors and dishes that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.


Thai cooking classes provide a unique opportunity to learn the secrets behind the delicious flavors of Thai cuisine. You’ll have the chance to visit local markets and select the freshest ingredients, including aromatic herbs, vibrant spices, and exotic fruits.


Under the guidance of experienced instructors, you’ll learn traditional cooking techniques and discover the balance of flavors that make Thai cuisine so unique. From classic dishes like pad Thai and green curry to lesser-known delicacies, you’ll gain the skills and knowledge to recreate authentic Thai dishes back home.


Thai cooking classes are often conducted in a relaxed and interactive setting, allowing you to get hands-on experience in the kitchen. You’ll chop, stir-fry, and taste your way through the recipes, all while learning about the cultural significance of certain ingredients and the history behind the dishes.


What makes Thai cooking classes even more special is the opportunity to customize the experience to your preferences. Whether you’re a meat lover, a vegetarian, or have dietary restrictions, most cooking schools can accommodate your needs, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the experience.


At the end of the class, you’ll savor the fruits of your labor as you sit down to enjoy the delicious meal you’ve prepared. This communal dining experience fosters a sense of camaraderie and allows you to share your newfound culinary skills with your fellow classmates.


Taking a Thai cooking class not only allows you to learn how to recreate authentic dishes but also immerses you in the cultural heritage of Thailand. Through the art of cooking, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of Thai traditions, flavors, and the importance of food in Thai culture.


Whether you’re an aspiring chef, a food enthusiast, or simply looking to learn something new, a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai is an experience that will add a flavorful twist to your journey.


Trekking in the Doi Inthanon National Park

Escape the city and venture into the breathtaking wilderness of Doi Inthanon National Park during your visit to Chiang Mai. Located about 60 kilometers west of the city, Doi Inthanon is home to Thailand’s highest peak and offers nature lovers a paradise of stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and fascinating hiking trails.


Doi Inthanon stands at an impressive height of 2,565 meters above sea level, providing visitors with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and valleys. As you embark on a trek through the lush vegetation, you’ll encounter cascading waterfalls, meandering streams, and vibrant flora and fauna that make this national park truly enchanting.


The park is a paradise for hikers of all levels, with trails ranging from easy walks to more challenging treks. You can opt for a shorter hike to reach popular attractions like the twin pagodas, which offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Or, for a more immersive experience, choose a longer trek that takes you deep into the heart of the park, where you can discover hidden waterfalls and remote villages.


Along the trails, you’ll have the opportunity to observe a rich variety of plant and animal species, including colorful butterflies, exotic birds, and rare orchids. The park is also home to several hill tribe communities, such as the Karen and Hmong people, who still maintain their traditional way of life amidst the natural beauty of Doi Inthanon.


For those not inclined to trek on foot, there are also options for biking or driving through the park to explore its wonders. The scenic roads wind through the mountains, offering breathtaking views at every turn.


Be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and proper hiking gear when embarking on a trek in Doi Inthanon National Park. The weather can be cooler and more unpredictable due to the higher altitude, so it’s important to dress in layers and be prepared for changes in temperature.


Trekking in Doi Inthanon National Park is an unforgettable experience that allows you to connect with nature and fully appreciate the beauty of this pristine wilderness. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a tranquil escape from the city, a visit to Doi Inthanon will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.


Getting a Traditional Thai Massage

No trip to Thailand is complete without indulging in a traditional Thai massage, and Chiang Mai offers the perfect setting to experience this therapeutic and rejuvenating practice. Thai massage is a unique blend of ancient healing techniques and elements of yoga, making it a holistic and immersive experience for both the body and mind.


Thai massage is based on the belief that life energy flows through the body along specific pathways known as “sen.” The massage therapist uses a combination of acupressure, stretching, and gentle rocking motions to stimulate and balance the energy flow.


As you enter a traditional Thai massage parlor, you’ll be welcomed into a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere. The massage typically takes place on a mat on the floor, with the therapist using their hands, elbows, knees, and feet to apply pressure and manipulate your body. The massage is performed fully clothed, so you can feel more comfortable and relaxed.


During the massage, the therapist will guide your body through a series of stretches and postures, targeting specific muscles and pressure points. The rhythmic movements and stretches help to relieve muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote deep relaxation.


Aside from the physical benefits, Thai massage is also known for its ability to reduce stress, increase energy levels, and improve overall well-being. It’s a deeply calming and meditative experience that allows you to completely disconnect from the outside world and focus on self-care.


Chiang Mai is renowned for its abundance of massage parlors and spas, ranging from luxurious establishments to more modest family-run businesses. Whether you prefer a traditional massage in a serene temple or a modern spa with all the amenities, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.


Make sure to communicate your preferences and any specific areas of concern to the massage therapist, as they can customize the massage to suit your needs. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water afterwards to help flush out any toxins released during the massage.


A traditional Thai massage is not just a treatment, but a cultural and sensory experience that allows you to connect with the Thai wellness traditions. Take the time to pamper yourself, relax, and rejuvenate both your body and mind during your time in Chiang Mai.


Exploring the Elephant Nature Park

When visiting Chiang Mai, one of the most ethical and enriching experiences you can have is a visit to the Elephant Nature Park. This sanctuary is a haven for elephants who have been rescued from exploitation and mistreatment, providing a safe and natural environment for these magnificent creatures to thrive.


The Elephant Nature Park is dedicated to the conservation and welfare of elephants, offering visitors the opportunity to learn about and interact with these gentle giants in a responsible and compassionate manner. The park is situated in a lush valley, surrounded by picturesque mountains, creating a serene and idyllic setting.


During your visit, you’ll have the chance to observe the elephants in their natural habitat, observing their behavior, feeding habits, and social interactions. The knowledgeable guides will share insights about their individual stories, as many of these elephants have been rescued from logging camps, street begging, or tourist attractions.


Interactions with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park focus on observation and non-intrusive experiences. You may have the opportunity to feed the elephants their favorite treats, bathe them in the river, or simply spend time observing them from a safe distance.


While the Elephant Nature Park is primarily known for its work with elephants, it is also home to a variety of other rescued animals, including dogs, cats, and water buffalos. You’ll have the chance to visit these animals as well and learn about the park’s holistic approach to animal welfare and conservation.


By visiting the Elephant Nature Park, you are directly supporting the care and rehabilitation of elephants in a responsible and ethical manner. The park follows strict no-riding policies and focuses on providing a natural environment that prioritizes the well-being and happiness of the elephants.


Remember to plan ahead and make a reservation, as the park operates in small groups to ensure a personal and intimate experience. It’s advised to bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and comfortable clothing suitable for outdoor activities. Most importantly, come with an open heart and a desire to learn and contribute to the well-being of these incredible animals.


Exploring the Elephant Nature Park is an opportunity to witness the resilience and beauty of elephants while promoting ethical and sustainable wildlife conservation. By supporting this sanctuary, you are contributing to the continued protection and well-being of these majestic creatures.


Discovering the Temples of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is often referred to as the “Land of a Thousand Temples,” and for good reason. The city is home to an impressive array of temples, each with its own unique history, architecture, and cultural significance. Discovering these temples is not only a spiritual experience but also a journey through Chiang Mai’s rich cultural heritage.


One of the most iconic temples in Chiang Mai is Wat Phra Singh, located within the walls of the Old City. This temple is renowned for its exquisite Lanna-style architecture and houses a revered Buddha statue. Explore the intricately decorated prayer halls and admire the golden spires that glisten in the sunlight.


Another must-visit temple is Wat Chedi Luang, known for its towering pagoda that once stood at 98 meters high. Although partially destroyed by an earthquake, the temple is still an impressive sight, with ruins and intricate stone carvings that tell a story of its former grandeur.


For a unique spiritual experience, visit Wat Umong, a forest temple located in the outskirts of Chiang Mai. This temple is known for its serene and peaceful atmosphere, with ancient tunnels and meditation caves where you can find solitude and reflection.


Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, dating back to the founding of the city in the 13th century. Explore the beautiful gardens and the intricate artwork that adorns the temple walls, and admire the crystal Buddha image housed within its walls.


Beyond these well-known temples, there are countless others waiting to be discovered. From the stunning Wat Suan Dok with its rows of white chedis to the ornate Wat Phra That Doi Kham perched on a hilltop, each temple offers a unique glimpse into the rich religious and cultural heritage of Chiang Mai.


While exploring the temples, be sure to dress respectfully, covering your shoulders and knees, as these are sacred places of worship. It’s also recommended to remove your shoes before entering the temple grounds as a sign of respect.


Whether you’re seeking a spiritual experience, an appreciation for intricate architecture, or simply a moment of tranquility, the temples of Chiang Mai hold a special allure. Take the time to explore these sacred sites and let the peacefulness and reverence of these places envelop you.


Taking a Boat Ride on the Mae Ping River

One of the most enchanting experiences you can have in Chiang Mai is taking a boat ride on the Mae Ping River. Flowing gracefully through the heart of the city, this river offers a picturesque setting for a leisurely cruise that showcases the beauty and tranquility of Chiang Mai’s natural surroundings.


Embarking on a boat ride allows you to see Chiang Mai from a different perspective, away from the bustling streets and surrounded by lush greenery. As you glide along the gentle currents of the river, you’ll be captivated by the serene landscape of rolling hills, swaying palm trees, and charming riverside villages.


There are various options for boat rides, ranging from short leisurely trips to longer excursions that take you deeper into the countryside. You can choose to join a group tour or arrange for a private boat ride, depending on your preferences.


During the boat ride, you’ll pass by traditional wooden houses, historic temples, and local markets, giving you a glimpse into the daily lives of the people who call the riverside communities their home. Along the way, you might spot locals going about their daily activities, such as fishing or tending to their crops.


One particularly scenic stretch of the Mae Ping River is located just outside the city, where you can enjoy the peacefulness of the rural landscape. The riverbanks are dotted with rice fields, grazing water buffalos, and grazing water buffalos, creating a serene and idyllic setting.


As you cruise along the Mae Ping River, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as birds, butterflies, and even the occasional monitor lizard basking in the sun. The river ecosystem is teeming with life, and you might be lucky enough to spot some of its inhabitants.


Some boat rides include stops at riverside markets, where you can browse for local handicrafts, fresh produce, and delicious street food. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and savor the flavors of traditional Thai snacks and dishes.


Whether you choose a short boat ride or a longer excursion, a journey on the Mae Ping River is a peaceful and mesmerizing experience that allows you to connect with the natural beauty of Chiang Mai. Relax, unwind, and let the gentle rhythm of the river transport you to a place of serenity.


Experiencing the Sunday Walking Street Market

If you find yourself in Chiang Mai on a Sunday evening, prepare for a vibrant and bustling experience at the Sunday Walking Street Market. This weekly market takes over the streets of the Old City, transforming it into a lively and colorful spectacle that shouldn’t be missed.


The Sunday Walking Street Market is a mecca for shoppers, foodies, and culture enthusiasts. Stretching along Ratchadamnoen Road, this pedestrian-only market offers a feast for the senses, with vendors selling a wide variety of goods and street food.


As you make your way through the crowded streets, you’ll be surrounded by a plethora of goods, from handmade crafts and clothing to unique souvenirs and artworks. This is the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind treasures to take home as mementos of your time in Chiang Mai.


The market is a haven for food lovers, with countless stalls offering an incredible assortment of delectable street food. From savory favorites like grilled skewers, pad Thai, and crispy fried insects, to sweet treats like mango sticky rice and coconut pancakes, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to satisfying your taste buds.


But the Sunday Walking Street Market is not just about shopping and eating – it’s also a vibrant cultural experience. Along the way, you’ll encounter traditional Thai music performances, street entertainers, and even live art demonstrations. Take the time to appreciate the local talent and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.


Amidst the hustle and bustle, you’ll also have the chance to interact with local artisans and learn about traditional craftsmanship. Watch as skilled craftsmen create beautiful pieces of pottery, carve intricate wooden sculptures, or weave vibrant textiles. They are often happy to share their knowledge and stories with curious visitors.


Exploring the Sunday Walking Street Market is not just about shopping or eating – it’s about immersing yourself in the local culture and embracing the vibrant energy of Chiang Mai. Take your time to wander through the colorful stalls, sample the mouthwatering street food, and appreciate the artistic talents on display.


Remember to bring plenty of cash and be prepared to bargain, as haggling is a common practice in Thai markets. Additionally, be mindful of your belongings in the crowded spaces, and make sure to stay hydrated as you navigate the bustling market.


The Sunday Walking Street Market is an unforgettable experience that showcases the beauty, creativity, and vibrant spirit of Chiang Mai. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere, embrace the local culture, and create lasting memories as you explore this vibrant street market.



Chiang Mai, with its rich cultural heritage, stunning natural landscapes, and vibrant traditions, offers a plethora of experiences that cater to all types of travelers. From exploring the ancient temples of the Old City to trekking through the lush jungles of Doi Inthanon National Park, there is something for everyone in this enchanting city.


Immerse yourself in the spiritual ambiance of the temples, where you can witness the intricate architecture and learn about the deep-rooted traditions of Buddhism. Take a boat ride on the Mae Ping River and witness the serene beauty of the surrounding countryside. Indulge in a traditional Thai massage and let your worries melt away.


For those seeking adventure, Chiang Mai offers opportunities for trekking, zip-lining, and exploring waterfalls in the nearby national parks. Dine on delicious street food at the Night Bazaar and shop for unique handicrafts and souvenirs.


But beyond the attractions, it is the warmth and friendliness of the Thai people that make Chiang Mai truly special. Their genuine hospitality and welcoming nature will leave a lasting impression on you, turning your visit into an unforgettable experience.


As you journey through Chiang Mai, remember to embrace the cultural nuances, respect the local customs, and treat the environment with care. Chiang Mai’s beauty relies on the preservation of its traditions and nature, and as a responsible traveler, it is our duty to leave a positive impact.


Whether you are seeking spiritual enlightenment, thrilling adventures, or a taste of Thai culture, Chiang Mai offers it all. So pack your bags, embark on an unforgettable journey, and discover the wonders and magic of the “Rose of the North” for yourself.