Chiang Mai is a land of colourful hill tribes and misty mountains, a paradise for shoppers, a playground for seasonal travellers, and a delight for various adventurers. It is Northern Thailand’s largest city and the capital of Chiang Mai Province. Located near the highest mountains in Thailand, it is 700 km north of Bangkok. The city, former seat of the great Lanna kingdom, is a blissfully laid-back and calm place where you can relax and rejuvenate. There are numerous things to do in Chiang Mai like finding your place in the nightlife and indulging yourself in the local cuisines. Stroll down the lively backstreet or participate in the vast collection of activities, the city is the best place to discover the tradition of Thailand along with its attitude and atmosphere.
Table of Contents
Chiang Mai National Museum
Saturday Night Market Walking Street
Doi Inthanon National Park
The Chiang Mai Night Safari
Located on Doi Buak Ha in the Muang District, the Bhubing Palace is a royal winter residence where the Royal family stays on their seasonal visits to the northern parts of Thailand. The palace also serves as the royal guesthouse for significant state visitors from other places. The palace was built in 1961 which initially had only the guesthouse and the royal resident building. All the other buildings were added during the later years. The main palace building or the Phra Tamnak Bhubing Rajanives was constructed in a beautiful Thai architectural style known as the Ruen Mu. Built in a modern Thai style, the Ruen Rab Rong, a two-storey building, was also used as a guest house for members of the royal entourage. The Pha Mon Pavilion and Fern garden is a beautiful garden on a small hill with trees and plants which was built for informal dinner and royal recreation. The water Reservoir is a large area to reserve water for the palace. One side of the water reservoir is an area of teak woods gazebo. The gardens beside it have informal and formal styles of flowering plants. The water reservoir has a musical fountain known as “The Fountain of Celestial Water of people”. Visiting the palace is a very popular thing to do in Chiang Mai.
You can visit the palace from 8:30-16:30 every day, though the interior of the palace can be visited only during Saturdays, Sundays, and other holidays. It will be temporarily closed from January to March since the royal staff might visit.
Wat Chiang Man
The Wat Chiang Man goes all the way back to the founding of this magnificent city in 1296, making it the oldest all of the temples in Chiang Mai. The King Mengrai built the Wat Chiang Man as the first temple when he decided to build the new city, the new capital of the great Lanna Kingdom. The temple is home to several important and very old Buddha images. The temple has several structures with the Chedi, the large Viharn, and the small Viharn being the most important ones. The Chedi was named after the sacred elephant Chedi. The Chedi is a blend of Singhalese and Lanna styles. The large viharn is an impressive building with a beautiful three-tiered roof. The viharn is also built in the Lanna style and is decorated with attractive wood carvings in ochre and gold colours. The ordination hall or the Ubosot of the Wat Chiang Man was built in the 19th century with beautifully decorated carved wooden details in stunning ochre colours. The Ho Trai or the scripture library is where the Buddhist scriptures are kept. They are placed in a small wooden building present on top of the white stone base so that the scriptures are protected from pests and floods. The temple is located between Ratchaphakhinai 1 road and Phra Pok Klao 13 road in the Northeast corner of the walled part of the city. The temple is open every day from 6 am to 5 pm and a very nice thing to do in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai National Museum
Have the opportunity to glance at the rich history of Chiang Mai by visiting the Chiang Mai National Museum. This historical attraction was opened by the King of Thailand in 1973 and it is home to a wide collection of exhibitions depicting the history of the city and the history of the great Lanna Kingdom. The museum is now taken care of by the Fine Arts Department and is a very significant educational centre that preserves the culture and art from the North of Thailand which used to be under the Lanna kingdom. The museum displays many ancient objects from the history of Northern Thailand like intricate statues, models, fabrics, weapons, texts, and pictures. Through the various depictions of culture and art, the museum is a great place to learn about the normal life of the people of Thailand and its geology. Though the museum is small and quiet, it is still one of the most valuable places in Chiang Mai. You can pay more attention to learning new things with a quiet atmosphere like this. The museum is located next to the Wat Jed Yod, on the Chiang Mai-Lampang Road. Admission to the museum is only 30 Baht. There is a Tribal Museum you must visit which is an only 5-minute drive away from the National Museum. Visiting the museum is a very educational thing to do in Chiang Mai and is open between Wednesday and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm.
Experiencing the sacred culture is a very popular thing to do in Chiang Mai. The Way Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temples in Northern Thailand, overlooking the city from its magnificent mountain throne. The temple is a very beautiful example of the northern Thai architecture which can be reached by taking a 306-step staircase. The climb is meant to help the people accrue Buddhist merit. The monastery was first established by King Keu Naone in 1383 to enshrine a sacred piece of bone that was said to be from the shoulder of Buddha. This bone shard was brought to Lanna from Sukhothai by a wandering monk. This broke into two pieces with one piece enshrined at the base of the mountain. The second fragment was mounted on a sacred elephant and the spot it died is where the monastery was founded. The terrace of the steps has small shrines, beautiful breadfruits, rock monuments and statues, and a statue of a sacred white elephant that carried the relic. There are several ways to get to the temple including renting a car, a scooter or a motorbike. You could even hike up to the temple if you are in the mood for some exercise. The temple is open from 6 am to 5 pm. There is something beautiful at every turn to see in this temple, making it a very attractive site and thing to do in Chiang Mai.
Wat Phra Singh
The Wat Phra Singh is a fine example of the Classic Lanna temple style. Amongst the several old and magnificent temples, the Wat Phra Singh is one of the most attractive. The temple is also known as “The temple of the Lion Buddha” or the “Monastery of the Lion Buddha” and is a very active temple with over hundreds of novices and monks staying there. The temple is home to several highly revered and very old Buddha statues and images dating back to the 14th century. There are several classic Lana style buildings like the main Chedi, Viarn Lai Kham, and the Viharn Luang. The main Chedi was built by the King Oha Yu un 1345 to enshrine his father’s ashes and the beautiful structures are decorated with several figures of elephants emerging from the structure. The Viharn Lai Kham or the assembly hall was built to house the Phra Singh Buddha, a very highly revered image of Buddha. The interior of the structure is covered with mural paintings. There is a wooden ubosot where the monks of the Wat Phra Singh get ordained. The gables of the ubosot are decorated with rich wooden carvings. The Ho Trai is decorated with intricate carvings of Devata figures and the stairs leading to the structure is guarded by huge mythical creatures. You can visit the temple between 6 am and 8 pm. Visiting this temple is one of the most popular things to do in Chiang Mai.
The Saturday Walking Street, Wualai, is a fun and lively night market in the Chiang Mai. The market starts in the late afternoon and it will continue to stay alive until around 10:30 pm. The market has a lot of locally-made products and handicraft items and is also a great place to try out the taste of some popular and delicious snacks to add flavour into your wander. The walking street is growing in popularity and is one of the busiest areas towards the evenings. It is a very interesting walk starting from one end of the street to the other. You will find a variety of stuff in the stalls that sells clothes and other accessories from local designers including original paintings. The road is also famous for the silverware. Shopping here is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai. There are many people who come here for food as there are several restaurants that serve authentic Thai food like fried rice, barbequed fish, pad Thai, and som tam. There are several stands that provide you with traditional Thai sweets and freshly blended smoothies. Although the streets and bustling, there will always be a friendly vibe. The opening hours of this street are from 17:00 to 23:00 approximately on Saturdays.
Chiang Mai University
The Chiang Mai University has a very green and beautiful campus that offers tours around the large area around the campus on electric buses. There is only one entrance open for the tourists on the Huey Kaew Road, which is the main entrance. There is a small garden at the main gate with colourful flowers. The university was founded in 1964 under the Royal Charter granted by the King. The electric buses run tours in the university is a very popular thing to do in Chiang Mai which takes around 40 minutes. The tour will offer the guests with a detailed description of the departments, buildings, and the history of the university. The tour bus would also take you to the Angkaew Reservoir which is a large artificial lake with the Doi Pui Mountain in the backdrop. With the large gardens, the reservoir, and some of the listed buildings, the university is a very large tourist attraction. The Chiang Mai University is located on the Huay Kaew Road, Muang district, and next to the Chiang Mai zoo. The opening hours of the university are 9:00-17:00.
While many people love visiting the old attractions of the city, the Nimmanhaemin road is where the younger groups and students shop at the shopping malls with entertainment venues and trendy boutiques. The street is at the heart of the trendiest area of the city. There are various top popular malls on this road. The road is alive with fashionable cafes, restaurants, shops, bars, and boutique hotels. This street would definitely allow you to see a new angle of Chiang Mai, far removed from the rich culture and traditional Thai sensibilities present in various other areas of Thailand. The road features all the elements that make the Chiang Mai. Also called the “Coffee Street”, the road is a Chic, romantic, and modern area making is a must-visit thing to do in chiang mai.
Doi Inthanon National Park
The Doi Inthanon National park is one of the most famous attractions in Thailand. The place is famous for its trails, waterfalls, picturesque montane farms, remote villages, viewpoints, birdwatching, and the cold weather on the higher elevated areas. The main entrance of this park is about 70 km southwest of the city centre. The park is also known as “The Roof of Thailand”, and it covers a large area of the Chiang Mai province. The park was named in the honour of one of the last kings of Chiang Mai, King Inthawichayanon, who wished to preserve the trees and forests of Northern Thailand. The park is home to various unique and beautiful flora. There are several animals like deer, gibbons, wild boars, and serow present in the park. Currently, the park is home to 65 types of mammals, half of which are bat species. Birdwatching is another famous thing to do in Chiang Mai national park. The park is usually bustling with people during the weekends. It is better to visit during the weekdays because the crowds are less. You will surely enjoy this along with various other things to do in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Night Safari park provides its visitors with a very thrilling experience just like being out in the wilderness. There are three major animal zones known as the Predator Prowl, Savanna Safari, and Jaguar Trail you must try for a truly exciting experience. Apart from this, there is a range of other things to do in chiang mai night safari that will keep you happy and entertained throughout the visit like petting tiger cubs and hand-feeding wild animals to dancing fountains and laser light show. Take a journey through the wild African savannas with the Savanna Safari. The trail is 2.4 km is inhabited mostly by prey animals and herbivores, like zebras, antelopes, giraffes, rhinoceros, and various Asian and African wild deer. The tour will take only 30 minutes to complete. Meet the kings and queens of the wilderness through the Predator Prowl. Present at the east of the lake, the route would take you straight through the jungle to see the world’s best predators like the pumas, hyenas, Bengal tigers, bears, and vultures. The Jaguar Trail is a nice stroll around the beautiful lake. The trail would take you through a range of wild animals like tortoises, flamingos, ducks, jaguars, white-striped tigers, and emus. At the Fun Plaza, you can hop, jump, and dance while the water splashes at an erratic rhythm. The laser light show is another crowd-pleasing entertainment. The night safari is open from 11:00 to 23:00.
A land of culture and tradition, Chiang Mai is truly the perfect destination to get the best experiences. Visitors of any age will love the city because of the many things to do in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai will not fail to entertain you with its rich history and modern sights. The best time to visit the city is between October and April. The weather would be mostly pleasant and cool with a light calming breeze making it perfect for enjoying the things to do in Chiang Mai. These months are also the peak tourist season. The other best times to visit the city are during its various festivals when the city is alive and vibrant. If you plan to visit during November then you could catch the Loi Krathong festival. If you are visiting during February then the Chiang Mai Flower Festival is something you should check out. When the summers start, there will be many deals on flights and hotels. Make the best out of your trip to Chiang Mai and experience the city to fullest!