There are many things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This historic city along the banks of the Ping River boasts a tropical climate, a rich cultural history, and some of the finest cuisine in Asia. It’s no surprise that millions of tourists from around the world flock to Chiang Mai every year to immerse themselves in its incredible culture and history.
Chiang Mai was the capital of the Lan Na kingdom from 1296 to 1768. The city, whose name translates to “New City,” became the new capital of the kingdom after Chiang Rai, which had been the capital since 1262. With a history spanning over seven centuries, Chiang Mai is home to both pristine temples and those that lie in ruin.
Chiang Mai also boasts fascinating villages, bustling markets and bazaars, and amazing wildlife parks, which are sure to entice travelers of all types. The sights, sounds, and tastes of Chiang Mai are a never-ending thrill ride that’s sure to make you want to go back again and again. These are the 10 things to do in Chiang Mai!
Wat Chedi Luang
Located in Chiang Mai’s historic center is Wat Chedi Luang, a Buddhist temple built during the 14th and 15th centuries. The temple, which was built to contain the ashes of King Saen Muang Ma’s father, has had a rocky history, including a 1545 earthquake that destroyed the upper 30 meters of the temple’s chedi.
The palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand, the Emerald Buddha, which had been housed there since 1468, was moved to Luang Prabang in 1551. Even without the Emerald Buddha figurine, Wat Chedi Luang is a breathtaking place to visit.
Two stunning viharns, or assembly halls, stand in the grounds. The larger of the two has a three-tiered roof and a golden facade, while the smaller viharn’s front facade contains intricate wood carvings and is guarded by mythical snake creatures called Nagas.
This gorgeous temple is free to explore, so be sure to stop by the next time you’re in Chiang Mai!
Loi Kroh Road
No trip to Chiang Mai is complete without a visit to Loi Kroh Road, which you can find between the Ping River and the Old City moat. While parts of the road have a reputation as a center for seedy nightlife and a red light district of sorts, the atmosphere is completely different during the day.
Along Loi Kroh Road are fantastic eateries such as the Raming Lodge and the Teak Baan Sakthong, as well as bars, pubs, beautiful temples, and handicraft shops. But the one thing you must do at Loi Kroh Road is get a relaxing massage from Young & Beautiful Massage Parlor on the street!
At 80 Baht or roughly $2.53 for a 30-minute foot massage, you can’t beat the price. Kick back, relax, and enjoy one of the top things to do in Chiang Mai!
Chiang Mai is famous around the world for its Night Bazaar, a one-kilometer-long market near the intersection of Chang Khlan Road and Loi Kroh Road. Every night, hundreds of vendors set up shop along the streets between 6 p.m. and midnight and await the influx of bargain shoppers.
Vendors at the Night Bazaar offer just about anything you could imagine, including knockoff clothing, accessories, CDs, DVDs, figurines, sarongs, Thai silk, and artwork. Street food is also plentiful here, so you can snack as you browse, or have your meal in the seating area near the food vendors.
Note that there aren’t many set prices in the bazaar, so be prepared to arrive early to haggle with the vendors if you want the best deals. The bazaar is quite expansive, so set out to drop some major cash and spend at least a few hours there. Visiting the Night Bazaar is an experience like no other and one thing you must do in Chiang Mai!
One of Chiang Mai’s most prominent landmarks is Doi Suthep, a mountain that rises high above the city and provides stellar views of the city. The mountain is covered in dense forests and stunning waterfalls and is a great place to spot local wildlife.
Check out 5 Things to Do in Chiang Rai, Thailand
The main reason to visit Doi Suthep is the Theravada Buddhist temple at the summit, Wat Phra That. The temple can be reached via a path of 309 stairs lined with statues of the mythical Naga, whose serpentine tails trail up the mountain.
Upon entering the temple complex, you can view a white elephant statue, which represents an elephant from the temple’s legendary creation story; the temple’s gold-plated chedi; monasteries called viharas; intricate murals telling the story of Buddha’s life, and much more. Wat Phra That is one of Thailand’s most beautiful temples and is easily one of the top things to do in Chiang Mai!
While Chiang Mai is known for it’s Night Bazaar, its largest shopping area is its Sunday Market, which receives over 100,000 visitors during the peak season. Located in the heart of the old walled city along Ratchadamnoen Road, this massive market opens every Sunday at 4 p.m. and runs until midnight.
The main reason why a trip to the Sunday market is essential during a stay in Chiang Mai is that the beautiful, painstaking art and craftsmanship of the northern Thai people is on full display there in gorgeous items like clothing, shoes, artwork, and my favorite, masks.
Unlike the Night Bazaar, which features lots of low-quality knockoffs, the crafts at the Sunday Bazaar are premium fabric, glass, ceramic, wood, silk, paper, and metal goods. You can also find mouthwatering street food and have a Thai massage to give your feet a rest, which only adds to the reasons why the Sunday Bazaar is one of the top things to do in Chiang Mai.
Markets are plentiful in Chiang Mai, but one of the most unique is Warorot Market, also known as Kad Luang. This enormous wholesale market and historical landmark is located in a three-story building in Chiang Mai’s Chinatown. The longtime public market is quite old and is extremely popular among Chiang Mai residents, so a visit there is like peeling back the curtain to get an authentic look at local life.
Because it caters to locals instead of tourists, Warorot Market is a fantastic place to try local Thai food, including full meals, street food snacks, and fresh produce. I recommend the spicy pork sausage, which you can find at one of the market’s most popular stalls. It’s a fantastic treat to munch on as you shop for souvenirs!
Warorot Market is also one of the best places to find deals on simple clothing such as T-shirts and shorts. The merchandise is nowhere near as flashy or tourist-driven as the things you’d find at the Night Bazaar or Sunday Market, but it is an authentic Chiang Mai experience you can’t afford to miss!
Bo Sang Umbrella Village
If you travel roughly five and a half miles outside of Chiang Mai’s Old City, you’ll find Bo Sang Village, which is famous around the world for the craft of making beautiful and intricately designed paper umbrellas.
These stunning creations come in various sizes, including small, cocktail umbrellas and large parasols designed to keep patio furniture in the shade. Solid colors umbrellas are available, as well as those with floral patterns, landscapes, and abstract artwork. Made of sa paper, bamboo, and sometimes cotton, they are somehow impervious to water!
Be sure to pay a visit to Bo Sang Village’s handicraft center to learn more about this meticulous craft and watch the locals build their creations from start to finish before you buy some to take home with you! Visiting Bo Sang Umbrella Village is, without a doubt, one of the top things to do in Chiang Mai.
Elephant Nature Park
One of the most amazing things to do in Chiang Mai and one of the best day trips you can take from the city is a journey to Elephant Nature Park, located 90 minutes north of Chiang Mai in Baan Lo.
This incredible sanctuary and rescue center was established in the 1990s with the goal of providing a safe and nurturing environment for the elephants, buffaloes, cats, dogs, and other species they host. Since they opened, the Elephant Nature Park has taken in dozens of injured, sick, and orphaned elephants from all over Thailand.
Elephant Nature Park’s goals go beyond simply housing and protecting these magnificent animals. They also go to great lengths to plant 25 acres of trees every year to restore the rain forest, preserve the cultural integrity of the local community, and educate visitors about the plights of endangered local animals, who roam freely.
Take the opportunity to feed these gentle giants and take a tour of the park while you’re there. It’s an experience you won’t forget!
Eat Thai Street Food
If you visit Thailand without trying its world-famous street food, did you even visit Thailand at all? There is an incredible amount of variety when it comes to the street food in Chiang Mai, and the best things about it are that it’s inexpensive and some of the best street food in the entire country!
Whether you’re craving grilled and skewered chicken, beef, pork, chicken, or duck, you’ll find it in the various markets in the city, including the Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai Gate, Kad Suan Kaew, the Sunday Market, and more.
Soups, green papaya salad, fried egg rolls, fried quail eggs, pad thai, fried Thai noodles, and stir-fry are common foods that can be found in a variety of locations. The pork sausages at Warorot Market are a fantastic treat, and if you’re in the mood for something more adventurous, you can always try more exotic fare like grasshoppers, silkworms, dried lizard, bat, and much more. They’re high in protein, so eat up!
Stay at the Dhara Dhevi
If you’re looking for the best accommodations Chiang Mai has to offer, look no further than the award-winning Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai Resort, a beautiful, 123-room resort that features amazing recreational activities, fine dining restaurants, and structures inspired by ancient palaces, traditional Lan Na-style villas, luxurious residences, and gorgeous tropical grounds on 60 acres of land.
In all my years of traveling, the Dhara Devi Chiang Mai Resort stands out as one of the most beautiful and unique I’ve ever stayed at. The resort is laid out to resemble an incredibly detailed ancient Thai city, and exploring its grounds is like taking a walk through time. Among the locally-crafted teak wood villas, cultural villages and colonial suites are green rice paddies and even water buffalo wandering the fields.
With 11 different types of villa and residence, there are options for every wallet and personal preference. Guests can enjoy private dining or one of the several on-site restaurants, which offer Thai, Chinese, French, Italian, and international cuisine. Their Dheva Spa and Wellness Centre also offers Ayurvedic programs, spa treatments, and a wellness program for their guests’ physical and psychological needs.
The phenomenal service and lavish accommodations are deserving of the multiple awards the resort has won and it’s no doubt that Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai is the ultimate resort and a stay there is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
A stay in Chiang Mai is an incredible feast for the senses. Between its awe-inspiring temples, unique cultural experiences, opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the planet’s most magnificent animals, and its spicy, tangy flavors, Chiang Mai is a city for all, and it’s one you have to see to believe. Book a trip to Chiang Mai today!
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