Take in the highlights
Published/Last edited or updated: 24th August, 2017
A three-day Chiang Mai programme will allow you enough time to take in a cross section of the city’s sites, nearby Doi Suthep plus perhaps a day out in the surrounding area to Mae Sa, Samoeng or Hang Dong.
Start with our Chiang Mai walking tour, which will take you through the Old City and Worarot, to make a full day tour of the downtown’s main sights. This will cover a range of areas from the sedate Old City with a museum or two and a couple of historic temples to the bustling Chinatown and Worarot Market section of town, and a return along the scenic riverside.
Distances aren’t too great—it shouldn’t wear you out too much—and ought to provide time for some distractions such as a massage as well as some quality lounging around time in one of the myriad coffee shops. The walking tour is of course equally suited to a bicycle should you prefer. Have a look at some of our eat and drink suggestions too, so you can check out some of the local cafes and regional specialities on your way from sight to sight.
On the second day, start as early as possible to avoid the crowds and head up Doi Suthep by bike, car or either a public or rented songthaew. Wat Jet Yot and Wat Umong in particular are recommended stops on the way if your means of transport allows, and after a look at the famous mountaintop temple itself we’d skip the Palace and push on to Doi Pui, where you can visit the Hmong village and or do a short and very pleasant forest hike.
Allow time to get down the mountain and carry on to nearby Huay Tung Tao for a late lunch and dip in the lake. This is easy to do if you have your own means of transport; check how much extra if you’re in a chartered songthaew. You would have to forgo it if you’re relying on public transport but as an alternative you can head back into town for some lunch and grab a tuk tuk out to Wiang Khum Kham for some leisurely afternoon exploring of the ancient ruins.
We’d hope at least one of your three Chiang Mai days falls on a weekend so you can get along to either the Saturday or Sunday walking street markets early, before it gets too crowded, leaving the bulk of the evening free to check out some of our restaurant and bar suggestions.
Don’t miss one of the night food markets such as Chang Puak or Chiang Mai Gate for one of your three evening meals; contrast it with a more upmarket, tourist-orientated place such as Dash or Good View for a second night, then sample one of the city’s plentiful and varied international options for something different on the third evening. The Swan Burmese restaurant gets our vote or, if you want to go full-on Western, then try La Terrasse on the moat road near Loi Kroh or Dukes down by the night bazaar.
Having had a decent look around town and Doi Suthep, for your third day we’d suggest getting out of the city and checking out what the surrounding areas have to offer. Mae Sa and Hang Dong are obvious candidates but your choice will depend upon mode of transport. On a rental bike and with an early start you should be able to comfortably take in some of the sites of the Mae Sa Valley and, following the Samoeng loop, swing by Hang Dong and the vast Ban Tawai handicraft market on your way back to town. Otherwise both of these, including a selection of stops, are available as packages from any guesthouse or travel agents. Either organised trip shouldn’t take more than a half-day.
There is plenty more to see and do on offer in Chiang Mai. With another day you could add on perhaps a morning Thai cookery lesson, and it would give you a bit more room for manoeuvre and permit a more leisurely pace for the above three-day programme.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Chiang Mai