20 Best Things To Do in Chiang Mai in 2024: Travel Guide

In this ultimate guide we give you the top things to do in Chiang Mai, known and lesser-known spots, how to get there and go around, where to stay and eat, prices, and all the trips you can take.
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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Croatian-Slovenian full-time travel duo, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists for over 4 years. We write in-depth travel guides about destinations we have personally visited, providing practical travel tips and recommendations.

About Chiang Mai

Nestled in northern Thailand’s misty mountains, Chiang Mai is a must-visit city where you can catch a glimpse of Thailand before it became a bustling tourist destination.

Founded in 1296, Chiang Mai served as the new capital of the Lanna Kingdom. And now, it’s Thailand’s second-largest city, drawing millions of visitors every year because of its laid-back vibe and rich culture.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - temple hopping - visiting temples in Chiang Mai

Often referred to as the “Rose of the North,” Chiang Mai boasts more than 300 ancient Buddhist temples (or wats) and heaps of sacred statues, with many stunning temples found inside its famous Old City, surrounded by a moat.

These stunning structures stand alongside modern cafes and hundreds of night market stalls. In one moment, you can immerse yourself in the past and, in another, experience present-day Thai culture and modernity.

In addition, Chiang Mai is also home to tasty authentic dishes like the famous Khao Soi, scenic mountain views, national parks, lush forests, and vibrant festivals, making it one of the best destinations in Thailand, especially for first-time visitors.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - moat around the Old City

Whether you’re seeking adventure, culture, or affordable relaxation, Chiang Mai offers a lot of things to do. The friendly locals, beautiful architecture, and mouthwatering cuisine will surely capture your heart.

Chiang Mai Travel Tips

But first, before we jump into the top things to do in Chiang Mai, let’s cover the essentials and tips to help you have a more fun, enjoyable, and safer trip to the north and the rest of Thailand.

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Book trusted tours

Chiang Mai has lots of amazing activities to choose from. Book top-rated Chiang Mai tours on Viator or GetYourGuide.

Get travel insurance

While Chiang Mai is a safe destination, we recommend getting travel insurance for any trip outside your country. We highly recommend an insurance package from Heymondo. And as our reader, you get 5% off the price.

ATM fees

Chiang Mai still relies heavily on cash. So we recommend taking out a good amount each time you visit an ATM. Note: There is an 8.5 USD fee for each withdrawal (most Thai ATMs).

Get a Wise card to save money on additional conversion fees and ATM transactions from your bank.

Hotels in Chiang Mai

The best area to stay in Chiang Mai is in the Old City. To secure the best deals, we recommend booking in advance.

Travel map

We have compiled a Chiang Mai Travel Map, which you can refer to when exploring.

Top things to do in Chiang Mai

In this travel guide, we give you the most comprehensive list of the top things to do in Chiang Mai, from the best activities to the best day trips, as well as the absolute best tourist attractions that are worth visiting on your trip.

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1. Sunday Night Market – Tha Phae Walking Street

Include the weekends when planning your trip to Chiang Mai because your visit is not complete without exploring the Sunday Night Market, a must-visit place in Chiang Mai for trying fabulous food and buying souvenirs.

Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai is open every Sunday, from 4 PM until midnight, and happens at the famous Tha Phae Walking Street, which stretches for roughly a kilometer starting from Tha Pae Gate.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Sunday Night Market - street food stalls - Tha Phae Walking Street - Chiang Mai night markets

As the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai only occurs once a week, it is always packed with shoppers. Everywhere you look, there’s a stall for everything! From jewelry to handmade crafts, unique clothes to designer knockoffs, and a lot more.

  • Read everything you need to know before visiting Sunday Night Market here!
top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Sunday Night Market - street food stalls - Tha Phae Walking Street - Chiang Mai night markets

However, the best thing about Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Market is the food! There are a few food courts located off the main street with lots of food and drink options, from typical Thai dishes to Western food and lots of different desserts. Some vendors even offer a free taste before you buy!

  • Check out this street food tour that takes you to 2 different local markets. You’ll learn more about Thai cuisine and try lots of dishes.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - pad thai prepared on a street food stall at Sunday Night Market - Chiang Mai night markets

Tip: An alternative to Sunday Night Market is Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, which is open every day from 5 pm until midnight.

2. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Situated on Doi Suthep Mountain’s summit, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most beautiful temples in Chiang Mai and, therefore, a must-visit. Not only is this golden temple breathtaking, but the location is also the perfect spot for you to catch the sunrise over Chiang Mai.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - catching a sunrise at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple above Chiang Mai

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is one of the most important and revered sites in Northern Thailand, as the temple is believed to enshrine a relic of the Buddha.

To reach the temple, you need to climb more than 300 steps on a beautiful staircase lined with ornate Naga serpents. Wander around and find the white elephant statue, monuments, shrines, and the glistening golden Chedi. You might even hear chanting monks!

  • Read our detailed guide for Wat Phra That Doi Suthep here!

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - golden chedi and beautiful architecture of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple

DRESS CODE

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a holy place, and you need to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is open daily (except holidays) from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Admission is 30 THB ($0.85) per adult foreigner.

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The easiest way to reach Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is to rent a car or a scooter and drive there yourself. Otherwise, you can catch a shared red songthaew truck from the city.

For the most convenience, you can join an organized tour with transport included.

3. The Old City and its beautiful temples

The best Chiang Mai attractions are mostly located in Chiang Mai’s city center, better known as the Old City. This is where you’ll want to start sightseeing because of its rich history and many beautiful temples that are worth checking out.

Tip: The Old City is also the best area for first-time visitors to stay in Chiang Mai. Book your hotel in advance for the best deal.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Old City shopping street

Before entering the Old City, take a moment to appreciate the ancient clay walls surrounding it. The Old City Walls are said to have been constructed as early as 1294 A.D. and restored for us to see today.

The most famous entrance you can walk through is Tha Pae Gate, a buzzing meeting place and a favorite among photographers. From here, market stalls of the Sunday Night Market are right next door.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - city walls at Tha Pae Gate of Old City

Old City in Chiang Mai is a great place to visit at any time. We recommend strolling through its cute streets and grabbing a cup of coffee in one of its many cafes, and then, later in the evening, coming back to enjoy live music or one of the night markets.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - cafe culture - coffee culture - ice coffee

The best thing to do in Chiang Mai’s Old City is, of course, to explore the beautiful temples. There are lots of temples in this area, but the must-visit ones are Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, and Wat Phra Singh.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is a massive temple despite missing a chunk of its top half. This is where the sacred Emerald Buddha was once housed. It’s open from 8 AM to 5 PM with a 40 THB entrance fee for adults and 20 THB for children.

Wat Chiang Man

Chiang Mai’s oldest temple is Wat Chiang Man, an impressive sight with a gold-painted top of the chedi and stone elephants carved at the bottom. You can walk around for free during its opening hours, from 6 AM to 5 PM.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Wat Chiang Man the oldest temple in Chiang Mai - golden chedi

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh, on the other hand, holds a golden chedi that is blindingly shiny whenever the sunlight reflects on it. The temple is open from 5:30 AM to 8:30 PM, and the entrance is just 20 THB.

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top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - impressive golden chedi of Wat Phra Singh in Old City of Chiang Mai

4. Cycling around Chiang Mai

Visiting Chiang Mai is best paired with cycling if you want to get the most out of your trip and time. Whether you want a leisurely or an adventure-packed ride, there are plenty of bike trails to take and tours to join.

Hop on and pass through Chiang Mai’s temples, traditional villages in the countryside, and gorgeous mountain views.

There are various cycling tours in Chiang Mai, from half-day to full-day, some around the city and some in the countryside.

Best Chiang Mai cycling tours:

5. Cooking Class

Taking a cooking class is one of the best Chiang Mai activities if you’re interested in exploring the local culture and cuisine.

Tip: Check out the Chiang Mai cooking classes on Cookly, a site with the best cooking classes worldwide.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - cooking class - cuisine - culinary exploration - food preparation

At Thai cooking classes in Chiang Mai, you can learn about traditional Thai ingredients, techniques, and recipes while creating delicious dishes showcasing the unique culinary heritage of Chiang Mai, such as mouthwatering Khao Soi, curry soups, the famous Pad Thai, and more!

6. Coffee culture

Chiang Mai in Thailand has emerged as a hub for coffee lovers and enthusiasts, with a vibrant and thriving coffee culture that is truly unmatched.

With its lush mountainous landscape and ideal climate conditions, the region is perfect for cultivating high-quality coffee beans, making cafe hopping one of the top things to do in Chiang Mai.

The city is home to numerous specialty coffee shops, each offering a unique and diverse range of flavors and brewing methods. From traditional Thai-style coffee to artisanal pour-overs and espresso-based drinks, there is something to satisfy every palate.

What sets Chiang Mai’s coffee scene apart is not only the quality of the beans but also the emphasis on sustainability and fair trade practices. Many coffee shops in the city source their beans directly from local farmers, ensuring that they receive fair compensation for their hard work.

In addition to serving exceptional coffee, these establishments often provide a cozy and inviting atmosphere where you can relax, socialize, and truly immerse yourself in the rich world of coffee.

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To prepare for long days of temple and nature exploration, head to one of Chiang Mai’s cafes and enjoy the coffee culture.

Best cafes in Chiang Mai:

  • Ristr8to Lab
  • Akha Ama Coffee
  • Gateway Coffee Roaster
  • The Baristro
  • Maled Coffee Roasters
  • Khagee
  • Artisan cafe

In addition to enjoying delicious coffee, while visiting Chiang Mai, you can also participate in coffee-tasting sessions and barista workshops and even visit coffee plantations to learn more about the entire coffee production process.

7. Street food

Chiang Mai’s markets are a street food paradise with stalls offering a wide selection of dishes, from savory to sweet dishes, ready to accommodate every type of traveler.

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Fall in love with the taste of Thai cuisine by trying out popular dishes like Khao Kha Moo, sukiyaki, and Suang Bualoy. If you feel bold, many more exotic food choices are also available.

Some street food stalls are open in the morning, while others only operate at night. Chiang Mai South Gate Market, for example, is open every day from 7:30 AM to midnight.

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top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - street food in morning market - noodle dish

Markets and street food in Chiang Mai are easy to explore on your own. But if you’d also like to learn more about the cuisine and culture of Northern Thailand, going on a street food tour is a must-do in Chiang Mai. You get to visit the best places and taste must-try dishes.

Best street food tours in Chiang Mai:

8. Nimman Neighborhood

Nimman Neighborhood, located along Nimmanhaemin Road, is the best place to visit in Chiang Mai for quaint cafes, bars, shopping malls, boutiques, and more cool venues for entertainment.

It’s a hip and chic place, especially visited by younger crowds, and is also known as an expat area.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - street performance in One Nimman mall on Nimmanhaemin Road

A popular mall in the Nimman Neighborhood is One Nimman. With its European-style exterior, clock tower, and industrial-style courtyard ceiling, One Nimman will give you a fresh take on shopping. Inside, you’ll find shops, galleries, food, and open spaces for dining. Live music is also available from buskers.

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9. Doi Inthanon National Park

Dubbed “the roof of Thailand,” Doi Inthanon National Park is one of the top attractions in the Chiang Mai area. Situated at the country’s highest peak, it’s a bucket-list destination for both locals and foreign travelers.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Doi Inthanon National Park - the roof of Thailand - country's highest peak

The Doi Inthanon National Park is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM, and the entrance fee costs 300 THB ($8.5) for adults and 150 THB for children.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Doi Inthanon National Park - the roof of Thailand - country's highest peak

Some of the top attractions in Doi Inthanon National Park are the Royal Twin Pagodas, Kew Mae Pan Trail, Wachirathan Waterfall, and the Ang Ka Nature Trail.

If you don’t want to rent a car or motorbike to drive there, you can visit many of Doi Inthanon’s top attractions on a Doi Inthanon Tour.

Best Doi Inthanon tours from Chiang Mai:

Royal Twin Pagodas

Near the summit of Doi Inthanon, you will find Chiang Mai’s famous landmarks called the Royal Twin Pagodas (Pra Mahatat Noppamethanedon and Pra Mahatat Nopphonphusiri). The tip of both structures is painted gold because they were built as gifts for royalty.

You can sit and admire the views from the surrounding gardens. If there are clouds or fog and there is no view, it’s worth waiting for 5 to 10 minutes, as they might just move in that time.

The Royal Twin Pagodas are open from 6 PM to 6 AM and have a separate fee of 100 THB, which is not included in the Doi Inthanon National Park fee.

Kew Mae Pan Trail

Kew Mae Pan Trail is Doi Inthanon National Park’s most popular trail, and depending on your speed, it can take 2–3 hours to complete. Along the trail, you will pass by a waterfall and beautiful flowers, walk in the cloud forest, learn about the area, and soak in the mountain views.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Doi Inthanon National Park - Kew Mae Pan Trail in the nature

A mandatory local guide is required for the Kew Mae Pan Trail in Doi Inthanon, costing 200 THB, and the trail is accessible from 6 AM to 4 PM every day.

If you’re planning on visiting Doi Inthanon from Chiang Mai on a tour, we recommend the Doi Inthanon Park Day Trip with Kew Mae Pan Hike.

10. Sticky Waterfall (Bua Tong)

Visiting Bua Tong, also known as Sticky Waterfall, is the most unique thing to do in Chiang Mai.

Bua Tong is special because you can climb up the rocks while high-pressure water is gushing towards you. Unlike the usual slippery waterfalls, your feet will strongly grip Bua Tong’s porous rocks underneath.

The sticky waterfall is located an hour’s drive north of the Old Town in Chiang Mai.

Bua Tong – Sticky Waterfall is open from 8 AM to 5 PM with free entrance, and you can drive there yourself or book a tour, which can lessen the hassle of organizing the trip there.

11. Adventure activities

Chiang Mai offers a plethora of thrilling adventure activities for adrenaline enthusiasts.

From white water rafting to ATV tours and paramotor flights to kayaking and ziplining through lush forests, there is something for everyone seeking an adventurous experience in Chiang Mai.

Best adventure activities in Chiang Mai:

White Water Rafting

A great adventure activity for courageous travelers is whitewater rafting, one of the best activities to do in Chiang Mai. Prepare to be splashed with lots of water because the rapids can get crazy, especially if you take high-level routes.

White water rafting in Chiang Mai is worth it not only for the adrenaline rush but also for getting a chance to take in the nature scene.

ATV Adventure

One of the best adventurous things to do in Chiang Mai is an ATV adventure, where you can visit a ton of places in the countryside by driving your own vehicle or as a passenger.

Choose one of Chiang Mai’s off-road tours and enjoy a fun-filled ride through Chiang Mai’s dirt paths, lakes, rivers, and more. The rugged trails part of the ATV Countryside Adventure will surely challenge you (in a good way).

Mountain Biking

Chiang Mai offers an array of exciting mountain biking opportunities for enthusiasts of all levels with its diverse terrain and stunning natural landscapes. From gentle paths for beginners to challenging routes for experienced riders, Chiang Mai provides a thrilling mountain biking experience amidst its picturesque surroundings.

Best mountain biking tours in Chiang Mai:

One of the best tours that combines hiking and mountain biking is the Hike & Bike at Doi Suthep Mountain National Park. You first hike up to the old Hmong Hill Tribe Village at the summit of Doi Pui National Park. On top, you get your well-deserved lunch, and then you go on a downhill bike ride to Lake Huay Tung Tha while enjoying the lush forests.

This is easily one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai if you’re looking for an active and fun-filled day out in nature.

13. Hiking and trekking

Chiang Mai offers a great selection of hiking and trekking options for outdoor enthusiasts. With its diverse landscapes and lush greenery, this area is a haven for adventurers seeking to explore nature’s wonders.

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A popular hiking option in Chiang Mai is the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. This sprawling park boasts numerous trails that cater to different fitness levels and preferences. From easy walks through scenic forests to more challenging hikes up steep mountainsides, there is something for everyone here.

Another notable hiking destination near Chiang Mai is Doi Inthanon National Park, home to Thailand’s highest peak. This park features several well-maintained trails through picturesque landscapes dotted with vibrant flora and fauna and breathtaking vistas from viewpoints along the way.

For those seeking more immersive experiences, multi-day treks into the surrounding mountains are available as well. These treks often take you through remote villages inhabited by various hill tribes, such as the Karen and Hmong people. Along the way, you can witness traditional ways of life and soak in the natural beauty of cascading waterfalls, rice terraces, and dense jungles.

Hiking and trekking tours

In addition to the trails that you can do yourself, it’s worth checking out some of the well-designed trekking tours that start from Chiang Mai if you’re looking for a more organized experience.

Best hiking and trekking tours in Chiang Mai:

14. Spa and Thai Massage

Chiang Mai is a popular destination for those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation through spa treatments and Thai massages. The city is known for its abundance of high-quality spas and massage parlors that offer a wide range of services.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Thai massage - spa experience

Whether you’re looking for a traditional Thai massage, a soothing oil massage, or a pampering spa package, Chiang Mai has something to suit everyone. Many spas in the city also incorporate natural ingredients and traditional techniques into their treatments, ensuring a truly authentic experience.

With its serene atmosphere and skilled therapists, Chiang Mai is the perfect place to indulge in some well-deserved self-care and emerge feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Best spa and Thai massage options in Chiang Mai:

Klook.com

Klook.com
Klook.com

15. Visit Pai

A great nature escape from Chiang Mai is Pai, a charming town in the Mae Hong Son province, located about 3 hours northwest of Chiang Mai and offers picturesque natural scenery and a laid-back atmosphere.

We loved Pai and would recommend at least an overnight trip there, but if you’re short on time, it’s doable on a day trip.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - visiting Pai from Chiang Mai - Pai day trips - Pai canyon

To get to Pai from Chiang Mai, you have a few options. Renting a car or motorbike allows you the freedom to explore at your own pace and make stops along the way. Otherwise, there are frequent daily buses to Pai from Chiang Mai.

You can also join a day tour from Chiang Mai that includes transportation to and from Pai and visits to top attractions.

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16. Visit Chiang Rai

If you’re visiting Chiang Mai and looking to explore beyond the city, a day trip to Chiang Rai is a great option. Located just a few hours away from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai offers a different atmosphere and attractions to enjoy.

One of the must-see sights in Chiang Rai is the White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun. This stunning architectural masterpiece is adorned with intricate details and features unique contemporary artwork.

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Another popular attraction is the Blue Temple, or Wat Rong Suea Ten, which showcases vibrant blue hues and intricate murals. And a visit to the weird but interesting Black House – Baan Dam Museum is a must.

Further north of Chiang Rai, there’s the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet – it’s a great spot for scenic views and learning about the region’s history as well as about the Opium cultivation and economy.

You can visit Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai with a rented car or motorbike, or if you don’t prefer driving, there are frequent buses to Chiang Rai.

While you can’t arrive in Chiang Rai by bus sooner than around 11 am, you can still have the full afternoon and leave with the latest bus at around 6:30 pm. Otherwise, if you’d like to just visit the main spots without handling the organization, we recommend a Chiang Rai Day Tour from Chiang Mai.

Best Chiang Rai tours from Chiang Mai:

17. Muay Thai

For centuries, Muay Thai has been one of Thailand’s most effective martial arts. And while it is native to Thailand, it has become one of the most popular fighting styles in the world.

You can find Muay Thai gyms in every city and town in Thailand, and Chiang Mai is no exception.

It offers various gyms, classes, and workshops for all experience levels – from beginners to advanced fighters.

Whether you are looking for an introduction to the sport while watching a match, self-defense training, or just want to get fitter, Chiang Mai has got you covered!

Best Muay Thai options in Chiang Mai:

18. Yoga retreats

Chiang Mai is a popular destination for those seeking relaxation and inner peace. With its serene atmosphere and beautiful natural surroundings, it’s no wonder that yoga, meditation, and yoga retreats are some of the top things to do in Chiang Mai.

There are numerous yoga studios and meditation centers throughout the city that offer classes and workshops for all levels of experience. Many also organize yoga retreats, where you can immerse yourself in a week-long or month-long program focused on self-care and spiritual growth.

Whether you’re a beginner looking to try out yoga for the first time or an experienced yogi searching for a peaceful escape, Chiang Mai has plenty to offer in terms of rejuvenation and mindfulness.

Best Yoga experiences and retreats in Chiang Mai:

19. Hot Air Balloon

If you’re looking for a unique and breathtaking experience in Chiang Mai, don’t miss the opportunity to take a hot air balloon ride. Flying above the city’s stunning landscapes and lush greenery, you’ll be treated to panoramic views that will leave you in awe.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Hot air balloon ride
We did a hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia, and it’s still one of our favorite experiences!

As the sun rises, you’ll witness the beauty of Chiang Mai from a whole new perspective as you fly above rice paddies and forests before returning for a celebration with Champagne and a delightful breakfast spread.

top things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai attractions - Hot air balloon ride

20. River Cruise

One of the alternative ways of exploring Chiang Mai is to embark on a Mae Ping River Cruise in a traditional longtail boat. This trip along the beautiful Mae Ping River offers nice views of teak houses and local village life among lush rural greenery.

It’s a great way to get out of the Old City and see more of Chiang Mai.

Best time to visit Chiang Mai

The best time to visit Chiang Mai is from November to February when the weather is cool and dry. The cool, dry air makes sightseeing and outdoor activities much more enjoyable compared to the hot, humid months.

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The worst and hottest months in Chiang Mai are from March to June. Many tourists avoid these months because temperatures regularly top 33°C during the day. However, hotel rates are much cheaper during this low season. If you can tolerate the heat, you’ll save a lot of money on accommodations. Just prepare tons of sun protection!

If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai between October–November, join the Loy Krathong festival. This is one of the coolest festivals in Thailand, where locals celebrate by releasing little floats made of banana leaves and flowers on rivers all over the city. People also release paper lanterns into the sky, making magical displays of floating lights.

In April, you can experience the Songkran Festival, which is Thailand’s most important festival. Marking the beginning of the year in the Buddhist calendar, this is a massive, multi-day water fight that takes over Chiang Mai. Don’t forget to keep your valuables safe in waterproof bags because you will literally get soaked.

Celebrating Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand - Chiang Mai in April for Songkran - festivals in Chiang Mai

Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Because the city offers a wide variety of areas and accommodation options to suit travelers with different budgets and itineraries, choosing where to stay in Chiang Mai will depend on your target destinations.

If it’s your first time visiting Chiang Mai, staying in the Old City puts you in the heart of the best attractions. Staying in one of the hotels or hostels there is ideal because not only will you be near the famous ancient temples, but you will also save a ton of money on transportation.

The buzzing night market, street food stalls, restaurants, and streetside cafes are easily accessible and within walking distance of any hotel in the Old City.

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If you’d rather explore hip galleries, bars, trendy coffee shops, and modern shopping malls, the Nimman area is a great option. On the other hand, Chang Khlan is a peaceful neighborhood with stunning views of the Ping River.

Here are some of the best hotels, ranging from luxury to budget-friendly, in the Old City that are worth considering:

Where to eat in Chiang Mai

When deciding where to eat in Chiang Mai, there are plenty of places to choose from that are not only delicious but also affordable. Because of its rich cultural heritage and diverse influences, Chiang Mai is truly a foodie paradise that offers a wide array of dishes that fit every palate.

You can try some of the best local cuisine, like flavorful noodle soups and fragrant curries, at fine-dining restaurants, casual eateries, and also at street food stalls. You can also be confident that the dishes are prepared using local produce, bold spices, and fresh herbs.

Tip: A must-try dish in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi, a rich, flavorful noodle soup and a typical example of the Lanna cuisine. It’s easily one of the best dishes in Thailand.

For vegetarians and vegans, you’ll be happy to know that Chiang Mai has a lot of restaurants that have plant-based versions of traditional dishes that will definitely satisfy your cravings without the need to compromise.

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As for sweet tooths, one of the famous and must-try desserts in Chiang Mai is mango sticky rice. And yes, while mango sticky rice is a super simple dish, believe us, you will crave it once you leave Thailand. We know we do. So have as much as you can, while you can.

Top restaurants in Chiang Mai:

How to get to Chiang Mai

There are several convenient ways to get to Chiang Mai, allowing you to choose the mode of transportation that best suits your schedule and preferences.

Chiang Mai can be easily accessed through its international airport, which is well-connected to all other Thai destinations and major cities in Asia, like Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and beyond.

In addition, traveling to Chiang Mai is simple by regular trains from the south, as well as countless buses.

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By plane

Flying to Chiang Mai is easy because of the affordable and nonstop direct flights from domestic destinations and surrounding Asian countries. If you’re coming from Europe or the US, most flights have one stopover before getting to Chiang Mai International Airport.

From Europe, you’ll likely have a stopover in Bangkok or Singapore and from the US, in either Taiwan or South Korea.

It’s also a good idea to pre-book a private hotel transfer to get to your hotel to avoid high taxi fares.

By train

Taking the train is a great way to get to Chiang Mai, especially if you’re coming from Bangkok and don’t want to fly domestically. The journey can take about 10-15 hours, depending on which train you take.

From Bangkok, you can go to either Don Mueang or Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal and enjoy the beautiful scenery on the way to Chiang Mai Railway Station.

TRAVEL TIP

Book tickets to Chiang Mai in advance, especially during the high season!

It’s common for trains to be fully booked out for weeks in advance.

How to get to Chiang Mai - train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai - overnight sleeper train Bangkok to Chiang Mai
How to get to Chiang Mai - train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai - overnight sleeper train Bangkok to Chiang Mai
A sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

By bus

For a slightly faster option than the train, you can catch the bus to Chiang Mai that frequently arrives from various destinations. And if you want to be more comfortable and sleep along the way, overnight buses are available.

Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3 is the most modern stop for buses coming from different terminals like Mochit, Bangkok (10 hours), and Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1 (3 hours).

By car

If you enjoy the freedom of driving, reaching Chiang Mai by car is the best. The city is connected to major highways, making it easily accessible from other parts of Thailand.

Driving along the scenic roads can already provide memorable experiences before even reaching Chiang Mai. Renting a car in Thailand is an invaluable way to get more out of your trip.

And while it’s more pricey to rent a car in Thailand than using other transportation options, you can stop and explore different attractions along the way. Some that you might have to skip otherwise.

How to get around Chiang Mai

As a city with many modes of transport, there are tons of ways to get around Chiang Mai other than walking. Whether you want to soak in the sights or simply get from A to B.

Rent a motorbike

Motorbikes are popular for zipping through Chiang Mai’s traffic. Renting one for a full day will cost you between 150 and 450 THB (5-10 USD), depending on the motorbike’s quality and the rental shop.

While this option is cheap, it’s important to note that most shops will require you to leave your passport as collateral. It’s better to look for a place that asks for a deposit instead (2000 to 5000 THB).

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Rent a car

Renting a car in Chiang Mai is a great option to have the freedom to see the sights at your own pace.

Grab or taxi

Booking a Grab car (Uber) is an easier alternative to getting a taxi that runs by the meter. We especially recommend it if you’re in a rush to get to the airport or your hotel.

An alternative to booking a Grab or taxi to explore Chiang Mai is to book a private car/van with a driver.

Songthaew

For an authentic local experience, hail a songthaew in Chiang Mai. Songthaew are red trucks that drive set routes around the city and pick up passengers along the way. You can either rent one or ride with locals and fellow travelers. A shared ride should not exceed 100 THB.

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How many days to spend in Chiang Mai

If you’re the type of traveler who plans an itinerary packed with multiple activities in a day, staying for 3-5 days in Chiang Mai is ideal. This will give you enough time to visit top attractions around the Old City, as well as some spots outside the city.

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For a more relaxed experience focused on Chiang Mai’s culture, nature, and local cuisine, a week or longer is recommended. You will be able to fit in day trips to rural villages, hiking, and exploring nearby destinations like Chang Rai.

With over 300 temples in Chiang Mai, you could spend many days just temple-hopping. And with such a large amount of activities like zip-lining, mountain biking, and white water rafting, it’s worth giving Chiang Mai a bit more time on your visit.

Prices in Chiang Mai

Whether you want to save money or splurge on the perfect vacation, Chiang Mai offers something for everyone. From high-end hotels and restaurants to great hostels and delicious street food, there are countless options to customize your experience according to your budget.

AccommodationFoodTransport
Hotel: $20 – $150 / nightInexpensive meal: $2 – $4Taxi 1km: $1 – $2
Hostel: $5 – $10 / nightMid-range meal: $7 – $10Bike rental: $6 – $12
Chiang Mai budget overview

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Internet in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has reliable internet with fast speeds, so you can pretty much expect good internet on your visit. The mobile network coverage is also great when exploring the outskirts and more remote areas.

A fact that Chiang Mai’s internet speed is great is that it’s Thailand’s most famous digital nomad destination, with countless coworking spaces, and also cafes great for working.

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Although Wifi is readily available, we highly recommend a local phone package so you can book a Grab and similar. We’ve used and can recommend the eSIM by Thailandesim packages (get 5% off with code SHIPPEDAWAY).

Stay protected on public WiFi

We’ve been using NordVPN for over 5 years now and can highly recommend the tool for protecting your privacy and freedom while browsing the internet.

It encrypts your connection and hides your data from potential hackers. Also, with a VPN, you can access blocked/restricted content like some Netflix movies or booking sites.

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Is Chiang Mai a safe destination?

While no place is completely without risk, Chiang Mai is a very safe destination, much like all of Thailand, especially for visitors staying in the main tourist areas. Solo and female travelers can also enjoy walking around because of the friendly and helpful locals.

However, in any new place, it’s wise to always remain alert. Always keep an eye on your belongings and avoid flashing expensive jewelry or gadgets. Be wary of pickpockets in night markets and potential scams like overpriced tuk-tuk tours.

With basic travel precautions, you’re highly unlikely to encounter any trouble in this welcoming city. Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s safest cities for a reason.

Need reliable Travel Insurance for Thailand?

With 24/7 worldwide assistance, Heymondo insurance includes comprehensive coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellations, and baggage loss or delay.

For digital nomads or full-time travelers, we recommend SafetyWing, which includes brief visits to your home country every 3 months abroad.

What not to do in Chiang Mai

As you may have noticed by reading this article, we have not recommended a single activity/experience/attraction involving any animals. And that’s because Chiang Mai, like many other places in Thailand, is known for unethical animal tourism.

We kindly ask you not to participate in animal tourism in Chiang Mai, especially anything involving bigger animals like elephants and tigers.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of animal exploitation in Chiang Mai, and it is tough to trust any “sanctuary”. Their marketing tactics are on point. They know how to trick those visitors who have not done extensive prior research into making their business seem ethical and good when it is not.

“There is a growing awareness among tourists that circus-style shows using elephants and elephant riding cause suffering.

But instead of driving tourists away from elephant entertainment altogether, it has led to a boom in the popularity of elephant washing venues in the last five years, with the number of ‘washing’ venues in Thailand more than tripling.”

World Animal Protection – Tourists choosing elephant bathing over elephant riding, unaware of cruelty involved

NOTE

Any place offering riding, bathing, photoshoots with animals, or any type of direct physical contact is likely not an ethical establishment.

Is Chiang Mai worth visiting?

The short answer to the question of whether Chiang Mai is worth visiting is yes, and the long answer is yes, absolutely.

Chiang Mai is a wonderful base to explore a nice chunk of North Thailand and offers a wide variety of things to do.

From simply trying the delicious local dishes, temple-hopping, and exploring the lush landscapes to going on awesome adventure activities like whitewater rafting and mountain biking, there are a lot of exciting things to do in Chiang Mai.

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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Full-time travelers, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists.

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We're Arijana and Matej, a couple and travel blogging duo from Croatia and Slovenia who thrive while slow-traveling. And we have been doing it for over 4 years.

During and after our travels, we love publishing in-depth, researched and above-all, useful travel guides, full of personal first-hand information on the places we personally visited.

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