Photo: Buddha image at Wat Phra Singh.

Essential temples

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The sheer number of Chiang Mai’s ancient Buddhist temples, or wats, can be overwhelming for visitors. Here's our take on the highlights of the city’s temple scene.

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Any guide will offer extensive lists of “must-see” temples, prestigious Buddha images, historically significant chedis and not-to-be missed Lanna-style religious architecture. We lost count at 35 wats within Chiang Mai’s Old City walls alone, with at least that number again in the surrounding downtown area—and even more scattered throughout the suburbs. To help you keep your sanity, and hopefully reduce temple fatigue, here’s what we reckon are the town’s essential temples, plus a few of our own lesser known faves.

Classic rooflines at Wat Phra Singh. Photo taken in or around Essential temples, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Classic rooflines at Wat Phra Singh. Photo: Mark Ord

The biggies It’s a toss-up between Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh when it comes to naming Chiang Mai’s most important temple. If you’re only going to see two downtown wats, these are the ones to make a beeline for. They are the most popular among visitors, so be aware of touts and unofficial guides at both of these busy Old City temples.

Wat Chedi Luang was the old royal temple of the Chiang Mai kings. Check out the spectacular 700-year-old partially ruined, partially restored chedi that gives the wat its name as well as the classic Lanna-style worshipping hall and a lovely old reclining Buddha image. Wat Chedi Luang is also conveniently close to the city’s museum district. Exiting Chedi Luang, turn immediately left, then left again on Ratchadamneon, and you’ll reach Wat Phra Singh. Popular among locals and tourists alike, its central location makes it a good choice for a Sunday afternoon visit as it can be combined with a late afternoon stroll down the adjacent walking ... Travelfish members only (Around 800 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Mai.
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