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Top 10 Amazing Things To Do In Chiang Mai, Thailand


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Tasha Rush



Welcome to Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand renowned for its rich culture, historical landmarks, and natural beauty. Nestled in the mountains, this vibrant city offers a unique blend of traditional charm and modern attractions, making it a must-visit destination for travelers from around the world.


Chiang Mai, often referred to as the “Rose of the North,” is famous for its breathtaking temples, bustling markets, and diverse culinary scene. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or a food lover, there’s something for everyone in this captivating city.


As you explore Chiang Mai, you’ll be captivated by its mesmerizing architecture, with over 300 temples scattered throughout the city. From the iconic Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, perched on a mountain, to the peaceful Wat Chedi Luang in the heart of the old city, each temple tells its own unique story.


Beyond the temples, Chiang Mai’s historic old city offers a glimpse into its past. Walk along the ancient walls and moats, and discover the intricate wooden buildings that have stood the test of time. Immerse yourself in the local lifestyle by exploring the many narrow lanes filled with traditional markets, art galleries, and quaint cafes.


Chiang Mai is also known for its vibrant street markets, where you can sample delicious street food, find unique handicrafts, and mingle with friendly locals. The Sunday Night Market is a must-visit, stretching for several kilometers and offering a wide array of stalls selling everything from clothing and accessories to handmade crafts and souvenirs.


If you’re looking for a unique animal encounter, the Elephant Nature Park provides a responsible and ethical opportunity to observe and interact with elephants in their natural habitat. This sanctuary focuses on the well-being and conservation of these majestic creatures, allowing visitors to learn about their behavior and contribute to their protection.


For nature lovers, the Doi Inthanon National Park is a paradise waiting to be explored. Trek through lush forests, marvel at stunning waterfalls, and climb to the highest peak in Thailand, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The park is also home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.


Explore the Temples of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is known for its beautiful temples, each with its own unique architectural style and historical significance. Exploring these temples is a must-do activity for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the city’s rich cultural heritage.


One of the most iconic temples in Chiang Mai is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, perched on top of Doi Suthep mountain. To reach the temple, you can either climb the 309 steps of the Naga staircase or take a cable car ride. The stunning views of Chiang Mai from the temple’s terrace are worth the effort. The temple is believed to house a relic of the Lord Buddha and features exquisite golden pagodas, intricate carvings, and beautiful murals.


Another must-visit temple is Wat Chedi Luang, located in the heart of the old city. Built in the 14th century, the temple once housed the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most sacred relic. Although the Emerald Buddha has now been relocated to Bangkok, Wat Chedi Luang remains an impressive sight with its towering pagoda.


Wat Phra Singh, also located in the old city, is another temple not to be missed. It is one of the most revered temples in Chiang Mai and houses the highly venerated Phra Singh Buddha image. The temple complex features stunning Lanna-style architecture, intricate stucco reliefs, and beautiful murals depicting the life of the Buddha.


For a more tranquil temple experience, visit Wat Umong, also known as the “Tunnel Temple.” This temple is unique because it is located in a serene forest setting, providing a peaceful and meditative atmosphere. The temple’s highlight is its ancient tunnel system, where you can walk through and discover various meditation spots and Buddha statues.


Other notable temples worth exploring include Wat Suan Dok, known for its large white chedi and beautiful sunset views, and Wat Gatekaram, which houses one of the largest seated Buddha images in Thailand.


When visiting the temples, it is important to dress respectfully by covering your shoulders and knees. Remember to remove your shoes before entering the temple buildings as a sign of respect. Exploring the temples of Chiang Mai will not only give you a glimpse into Thai Buddhism but also provide a deeper understanding of the city’s cultural heritage.


Visit the Historic Old City

The historic old city of Chiang Mai is an area rich in history and culture, offering a glimpse into the city’s past. Surrounded by ancient walls and moats, the old city is a treasure trove of historical landmarks, traditional markets, and architectural beauty.


Start your exploration at Tha Phae Gate, the eastern entrance to the old city and a popular gathering spot. From there, you can walk along the moat and soak in the charm of the ancient walls that once protected the city. As you stroll through the streets, you’ll come across numerous temples, shops, and restaurants, reflecting the traditional way of life in Chiang Mai.


One of the highlights of the old city is the Three Kings Monument, located at the center of the city. This statue commemorates the three kings who played significant roles in the establishment and development of Chiang Mai. Surrounding the monument is a picturesque park, perfect for relaxing and people-watching.


Don’t miss a visit to the Wat Chedi Luang complex, which houses the magnificent Chedi Luang Temple as well as the city pillar shrine. Admire the towering ancient pagoda and explore the temple grounds, which often host cultural festivals and events. Nearby, you’ll find the City Arts and Cultural Center, where you can learn more about the history and heritage of Chiang Mai through exhibits and multimedia presentations.


Within the old city, you’ll also find many traditional markets, such as the Warorot Market and the Somphet Market. These markets offer a sensory experience with their vibrant colors, aromatic spices, and bustling atmosphere. You can browse through a wide range of local products, including textiles, handicrafts, fresh produce, and street food.


For a deeper insight into the local arts and crafts, visit the Baan Kang Wat community. This creative village showcases the work of local artisans, offering a chance to witness traditional crafts being made and to purchase unique handmade souvenirs.


To get a bird’s-eye view of the old city, head to Wat Suan Dok. Climb up the stairs of the temple’s large white chedi and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area. It’s especially captivating during sunset when the golden rays bathe the city in a warm glow.


Visiting the historic old city of Chiang Mai is like stepping back in time. It allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s rich heritage, experience traditional Thai culture, and admire the architectural beauty that has been preserved for centuries.


Experience the Sunday Night Market

If you’re in Chiang Mai over the weekend, don’t miss the vibrant and bustling Sunday Night Market. This weekly extravaganza takes over the streets of the old city and offers a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and delicious aromas. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss.


The Sunday Night Market stretches along Ratchadamnoen Road, starting from Tha Phae Gate and continuing for several blocks. As you navigate through the throngs of people, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a dizzying array of stalls selling everything from clothing and accessories to handicrafts and artwork.


The market is a treasure trove for shopaholics and souvenir hunters. You’ll find items unique to Chiang Mai, such as intricately designed silk products, hand-carved wooden crafts, and vibrant hill tribe textiles. With so many choices, bargaining is expected, so be prepared to haggle for a good deal.


While shopping is a major draw, the Sunday Night Market is also a food lover’s paradise. Street food stalls line the streets, offering a wide variety of mouthwatering Thai delicacies and international dishes. From pad Thai and crispy pork skewers to mango sticky rice and coconut ice cream, the range of flavors and aromas will leave your taste buds satisfied.


Aside from shopping and eating, the Sunday Night Market is also a hub for live performances and cultural displays. You’ll encounter street musicians entertaining the crowds with their melodic tunes, traditional Thai dancers showcasing their graceful moves, and even muay Thai fighters demonstrating their skills.


As you meander through the market, take the opportunity to interact with friendly locals and soak in the vibrant atmosphere. The Sunday Night Market is not just a place to shop and eat; it’s a social gathering that brings together locals and tourists alike.


Due to its popularity, the market can get crowded, especially during peak tourist season. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, consider visiting earlier in the evening or exploring the quieter side streets away from the main thoroughfare.


Remember to bring cash as some vendors may not accept credit cards. Additionally, keep an eye on your belongings as the large crowds can create opportunities for petty theft.


Experiencing the Sunday Night Market is a quintessential Chiang Mai experience. It offers a unique blend of shopping, dining, and entertainment, giving you a glimpse into the vibrant culture and lively atmosphere of this enchanting city.


Discover the Elephant Nature Park

If you’re an animal lover or advocate for ethical tourism, a visit to the Elephant Nature Park is a must when in Chiang Mai. This renowned sanctuary offers a unique opportunity to observe and interact with elephants in a responsible and cruelty-free environment.


Located in the picturesque Mae Taeng Valley, the Elephant Nature Park is home to rescued elephants that have been rescued from logging camps, street begging, or other forms of exploitation. The park provides a safe haven for these majestic creatures, where they can roam freely and live out their lives in peace.


One of the key principles of the Elephant Nature Park is their commitment to the well-being and conservation of elephants. They prioritize the animals’ physical and emotional health, ensuring that they are not subject to riding or other unnatural activities. Visitors are encouraged to observe the elephants from a respectful distance, allowing them to exhibit natural behaviors without human interference.


During your visit, you will have the opportunity to learn about the elephants’ backgrounds and stories from knowledgeable guides. You can witness their daily activities, such as bathing in the river, foraging for food, and socializing in their herds. It’s an incredible experience to see these gentle giants up close and observe their interactions with each other and their environment.


In addition to elephants, the park is also a sanctuary for other rescued animals, including water buffalo, dogs, and cats. This creates a unique and harmonious environment where various species coexist and thrive.


Volunteer opportunities are available at the Elephant Nature Park for those who wish to contribute to the care and conservation efforts. You can help with tasks such as preparing food for the elephants, maintaining their enclosures, and assisting with research and education programs.


When visiting the Elephant Nature Park, it’s important to remember that the elephants are wild animals and should be treated with respect. Follow the park’s guidelines and instructions to ensure the safety of both the animals and yourself.


By visiting the Elephant Nature Park, you not only support the ethical treatment of elephants but also contribute to their conservation and well-being. It’s a truly rewarding experience that allows you to connect with these incredible creatures and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of wildlife protection.


Trek through the Doi Inthanon National Park

For nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers, a trek through the Doi Inthanon National Park is a must-do activity when visiting Chiang Mai. Located approximately 60 kilometers southwest of the city, this national park is home to the highest peak in Thailand and offers breathtaking natural beauty.


Covering an area of over 1,000 square kilometers, Doi Inthanon National Park is a paradise for outdoor exploration. The park is characterized by lush forests, majestic waterfalls, and a diverse range of flora and fauna. It’s a haven for nature lovers and a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.


One of the highlights of the park is Doi Inthanon, standing at a towering height of 2,565 meters above sea level. You can embark on a trek to the summit and be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Along the way, you’ll encounter cascading waterfalls, including the stunning Wachirathan and Sirithan Falls, providing refreshing stops during the hike.


The park is also home to a rich variety of plant and animal species. As you venture through the trails, you may have the chance to spot rare birds, such as the Ashy-throated Warbler and the Green-tailed Sunbird. Keep an eye out for orchids and rhododendrons, which bloom in vibrant colors during certain times of the year.


If you prefer a more leisurely experience, you can explore the park by car or scooter. The road to the summit of Doi Inthanon is well-paved and offers scenic viewpoints along the way. Don’t miss the two famous pagodas, built to honor the King and Queen of Thailand, where you can admire beautiful gardens and pay respect to the royal couple.


Before embarking on your trek or visit to Doi Inthanon National Park, it’s important to come prepared. Wear comfortable shoes, bring plenty of water, and pack some snacks for energy. The weather can be cooler at higher altitudes, so it’s advisable to bring a light jacket or sweater.


Exploring Doi Inthanon National Park is an opportunity to connect with nature and experience the beauty of Thailand’s mountainous landscapes. Whether you choose to trek to the summit or enjoy a scenic drive, the park promises unforgettable memories and a chance to appreciate the wonders of the natural world.


Take a Cooking Class

Immerse yourself in the vibrant flavors of Thai cuisine by taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai. A culinary adventure awaits as you learn the art of preparing authentic Thai dishes using fresh ingredients and traditional techniques.


Chiang Mai is renowned for its culinary scene, and a cooking class offers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the local food culture. The classes are typically led by experienced chefs or home cooks who are passionate about sharing their knowledge and love for Thai cuisine.


During the cooking class, you’ll have the chance to visit a local market, where you’ll learn about the essential ingredients used in Thai cooking. From aromatic herbs and spices to exotic fruits and vegetables, you’ll gain insight into the key components that create the unique flavors of Thai dishes.


Back in the kitchen, you’ll be guided through the step-by-step process of preparing traditional Thai dishes. From Pad Thai and Green Curry to Tom Yum Soup and Mango Sticky Rice, you’ll learn the techniques, balance of flavors, and presentation tips that make these dishes so delicious.


The classes are usually hands-on, allowing you to actively participate in the cooking process. You’ll chop, stir, and sauté your way to creating a complete meal. The instructors provide guidance and share their culinary secrets, ensuring that you can recreate the dishes at home.


What makes a cooking class in Chiang Mai even more enjoyable is the communal aspect. You’ll likely be cooking alongside fellow food enthusiasts, creating a fun and interactive environment. It’s an opportunity to make new friends and share your love for food.


At the end of the class, you’ll have the chance to savor the fruits of your labor by enjoying the dishes you’ve prepared. It’s a satisfying experience to taste the authentic flavors of Thai cuisine that you’ve created with your own hands.


Whether you’re a beginner in the kitchen or a seasoned cook, a cooking class in Chiang Mai offers a memorable and educational experience. You’ll not only learn the techniques and recipes of Thai cuisine but also gain a deeper appreciation for the flavors and cultural significance of the food. So roll up your sleeves and embark on a culinary adventure that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for Thai cooking.


Enjoy a Traditional Thai Massage

When in Chiang Mai, treat yourself to the ultimate relaxation experience by indulging in a traditional Thai massage. Renowned worldwide for its therapeutic benefits, Thai massage is a unique and ancient healing practice that combines acupressure, passive stretching, and rhythmic compression.


Thai massage originated over 2,500 years ago and is deeply rooted in Thai culture and traditions. It is believed to balance the body’s energy pathways and promote overall well-being. Chiang Mai is home to numerous spas and massage centers where you can experience this rejuvenating therapy firsthand.


A traditional Thai massage session typically takes place on a floor mat, with the recipient fully clothed in loose and comfortable clothing. The massage therapist uses their hands, elbows, knees, and feet to apply pressure and manipulate the body into various yoga-like stretches.


The massage techniques used in Thai massage aim to release tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation. The therapist focuses on specific energy points in the body, applying pressure to unblock any energy obstructions and restore the body’s natural balance.


During the massage, you may experience a combination of gentle pressure, passive stretching, and rhythmic rocking motions. The therapist will tailor the session to your needs, adjusting the intensity and targeting specific areas of tension or discomfort.


Participating in a traditional Thai massage is not only a physical experience but also a cultural one. The serene ambiance, soothing aromas, and skilled touch of the therapist create an environment of tranquility and rejuvenation.


After your massage, you’ll likely feel a sense of deep relaxation and renewed energy. Thai massage is known to alleviate muscle tension, improve flexibility, and promote a sense of overall well-being.


Chiang Mai is famous for its wide range of massage options, from luxurious spas to modest street-side massage parlors. Whether you prefer a tranquil spa setting or an authentic local experience, you’ll find a massage venue to suit your preferences and budget.


Before booking a massage, it’s essential to choose a reputable establishment to ensure the highest quality of service and professionalism. Look for reviews and recommendations, and don’t hesitate to communicate your preferences and any health concerns to the therapist.


Indulging in a traditional Thai massage in Chiang Mai is not just a pampering treat, but also an opportunity to experience the healing traditions of Thailand and emerge feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to continue your adventures in this enchanting city.


Explore the Night Bazaar

A visit to the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai is a must for shopaholics and bargain hunters. This vibrant and bustling market comes alive as the sun sets, offering a wide array of goods, street food, and entertainment.


The Night Bazaar spans several blocks along Chang Khlan Road, making it one of the largest and most popular markets in Chiang Mai. As you wander through the maze of stalls, you’ll find a treasure trove of items, from clothing and accessories to handicrafts and souvenirs.


The market is a haven for shoppers seeking unique and locally made products. You’ll discover beautifully handcrafted items such as silk scarves, wood carvings, silver jewelry, and traditional Thai art. Whether you’re looking for gifts to bring back home or something special for yourself, the Night Bazaar offers endless options.


One of the highlights of the Night Bazaar is the opportunity to practice your bargaining skills. Vendors expect customers to negotiate prices, so don’t be afraid to haggle and find the best deal. Remember to be respectful and friendly during the process, as it’s all part of the market experience.


Beyond shopping, the Night Bazaar is a food lover’s paradise. There is an abundance of street food stalls and restaurants offering a wide variety of local and international cuisines. You can sample delicious Thai dishes such as pad Thai, green curry, spicy papaya salad, and mango sticky rice. Be adventurous and try some street snacks like skewered grilled meats, spring rolls, or fresh fruit shakes.


As you explore the Night Bazaar, you’ll also be entertained by street performers, live music, and cultural shows. Watch as artists create intricate sand designs, listen to buskers playing traditional Thai instruments, or marvel at the skilled moves of a fire dancer.


It’s important to be aware that the Night Bazaar can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. As such, it’s advisable to keep an eye on your belongings and practice basic safety measures. Avoid carrying large sums of cash and be cautious of pickpockets in busy areas.


The Night Bazaar is open every evening, starting from late afternoon until around midnight. You can visit multiple times during your stay in Chiang Mai, as different vendors and performances may vary from night to night.


Exploring the Night Bazaar is an exciting and vibrant experience that showcases the energy and creativity of Chiang Mai. Whether you’re shopping for unique souvenirs, indulging in delicious street food, or simply soaking in the atmosphere, the Night Bazaar promises a memorable evening in this enchanting city.


Attend a Muay Thai Boxing Match

Immerse yourself in the thrilling world of Muay Thai, the national sport of Thailand, by attending a Muay Thai boxing match in Chiang Mai. This ancient martial art form, also known as the “Art of Eight Limbs,” combines striking techniques with clinching and grappling, making it a spectacle of skill, strength, and tradition.


Chiang Mai offers several venues where you can witness exciting live Muay Thai matches. These matches feature highly trained fighters who showcase their agility, speed, and power in the ring. They are a testament to the discipline, dedication, and cultural significance of this centuries-old sport.


At a Muay Thai boxing match, you’ll witness the essence of Thai martial arts and experience the electric atmosphere as the crowd cheers on their favorite fighters. The matches are typically held in stadiums, with professional bouts showcasing both male and female fighters.


The fights consist of several rounds, during which the competitors employ a combination of punches, kicks, knee strikes, and elbow strikes. Each round is marked by the rhythm of lively traditional music played by a live band, adding excitement and energy to the event.


While the matches can be intense, Muay Thai is not solely about brutality; it is a sport deeply entrenched in Thai culture and tradition. It is a display of honor, respect, and technical prowess. It’s fascinating to witness the fighters’ strategy, agility, and precision as they execute their moves.


Attending a Muay Thai boxing match also provides an opportunity to learn about the sport’s origins and rituals. Before each match, fighters perform a unique pre-fight ritual called the Wai Khru Ram Muay, paying homage to their trainers, ancestors, and spirits. This ritualistic dance is accompanied by traditional music and adds an element of spirituality to the event.


Make sure to check the schedule of matches and arrive early to secure a good seat. And don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the thrilling moments and dynamic energy of the bouts.


Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or someone curious about Thai culture, attending a Muay Thai boxing match in Chiang Mai is an experience not to be missed. It offers an authentic glimpse into the world of Muay Thai and allows you to witness the passion, skill, and cultural significance of this beloved sport.


Visit the Sticky Waterfall

A visit to the Sticky Waterfall, also known as Bua Tong Waterfall or the “Magic Stairs,” is a unique and exhilarating experience not to be missed during your time in Chiang Mai. Located just outside the city in the Phrao district, this natural wonder offers a thrilling opportunity to climb and explore a waterfall like no other.


Unlike most waterfalls, the Sticky Waterfall features a unique limestone formation that creates a natural grip, allowing visitors to climb up the cascading tiers with ease. The mineral deposits give the rocks a sticky texture, enabling both children and adults to ascend the waterfall without slipping.


Upon arrival at the Sticky Waterfall, you’ll be mesmerized by the crystal-clear turquoise waters and the unusual sight of people effortlessly walking up the waterfall. The tiers of the waterfall are divided into shallow pools, perfect for wading and cooling off during the climb.


As you make your way up the waterfall, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and serene nature. The experience is both exciting and refreshing, providing a fun challenge for those seeking an adrenaline rush and unique photo opportunities.


The Sticky Waterfall is particularly popular for picnics and family outings. The shallow pools and cascades create a safe and enjoyable environment for children to play while adults appreciate the stunning scenery. It’s a magical place that offers a balance of adventure and relaxation.


To make the most of your visit, it’s best to wear water shoes or shoes with a good grip to ensure safe climbing. You may also want to pack a towel, sunscreen, and a picnic to enjoy on the grassy areas near the waterfall.


Getting to the Sticky Waterfall is relatively easy, either by renting a motorbike or hiring a private driver. The journey takes approximately one hour from Chiang Mai, allowing you to escape the city and immerse yourself in nature.


Visiting the Sticky Waterfall is a memorable and unique experience that combines adventure, nature, and fun. It’s a chance to challenge yourself, bond with loved ones, and appreciate the beauty of this natural wonder in the heart of northern Thailand.