Photo: Khao soi in Chiang Mai.

Things to see and do

Use the quick links below to jump to a particular section of our sights and activities coverage for Chiang Mai.


Essential Chiang Mai temples

Chiang Mai’s myriad famed Buddhist temples, or wats, can be overwhelming for visitors. Any guide will proffer 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 ... Read more about Essential Chiang Mai temples .

Wat Phra Singh
End of Phra Singh Rd, Chiang Mai

While it doesn't hold a candle to Wat Doi Suthep in terms of scenery, Wat Phra Singh is Chiang Mai's most prestigious temple and therefore is the epicentre of yearly Songkran festivities among the Buddhist faithful. ... Read more about Wat Phra Singh .

Wat Chedi Luang
Phra Pokklao Rd, Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang rivals Wat Phra Singh for the title of Chiang Mai’s most important and prestigious city temple. Though it comes a definite second for local visitors, the two temples are probably neck and neck in terms of foreigners, though for sheer size Wat Chedi Luang has no ... Read more about Wat Chedi Luang .

Wat Pan Tao
Corner of Ratchadamnoen and Phrapopklao Rds

Wat Pan Tao is not one of Chiang Mai’s most famous wats but this small temple with its attractive teak viharn is well worth a peek, and since it’s conveniently located right next door to the prestigious Wat Chedi Luang it wouldn’t be going far out of your way to drop ... Read more about Wat Pan Tao .

Wat Umong
Tambon Suthep, Chiang Mai

Definitely one of Chiang Mai’s most unusual and interesting temples, Wat Umong, (or ‘tunnel temple’ – umong meaning tunnel in Thai), is set in forested grounds near the foot of Doi Suthep. ... Read more about Wat Umong .

Wat Pansao
Off the western moat road, just below Chiang Mai Ram hospital and Central mall -- about 400m south of the hospital, on same side of road

The setting for this post is the tiny and rather hidden away Wat Pansao, a temple that we reckon gets almost zero foreign visitors but is actually well worth a visit if you’re wandering or cycling around town. The wat is tucked off the western moat road just below Chiang Mai Ram hospital and Central mall (approximately 300-400m south of the hospital on the same side of the ... Read more about Wat Pansao .

Wat Jet Yot
Superhighway, north of intersection with Huay Kaew Rd

The correct name for this historic, attractive and unusual Chiang Mai temple is Wat Potharam Mahavihara, though locals generally use the name Wat Jet (or Chet) Yot, meaning the Temple of Seven Spires for its famous centre piece, a seven-spired chedi, or ... Read more about Wat Jet Yot .

Wat Lok Molee
North side of the moat road, down from Chang Puak night market and close to Computer Plaza.

Wat Lok Molee is an attractive and often overlooked little temple that’s recently received a facelift, and while not being one of Chiang Mai‘s most well known temples is well worth including on any temple tour of the downtown ... Read more about Wat Lok Molee .

Wat Sri Suphan
Wualai District

Wat Sri Suphan is a worthy addition to our current Chiang Mai temple coverage — it’s a good one and its location adjacent to the Wualai walking street market makes it very convenient to combine the two. With Wualai being Chiang Mai’s traditional silver-making district, the temple’s claim to fame is unsurprisingly its silverwork. Having seen the wat we now wonder how there’s any of that ... Read more about Wat Sri Suphan .

Wat Chiang Man
Ratchaphakinai Rd, Chiang Mai

Possibly the oldest surviving temple in Chiang Mai city, Wat Chiang Man is said to have been built in 1296 under the orders of King Mengrai himself. Indeed it must have been one of the first features to have been finished, since legend claims the king lived here while he was overseeing the construction of his new ... Read more about Wat Chiang Man .

Not so lost chedis of Chiang Mai

I came across a few more of these odd, isolated stupas on our travels around Chiang Mai so here are a few more images of lost chedis in addition to my last ... Read more about Not so lost chedis of Chiang Mai .

Lost chedis of Chiang Mai

Pronounced jedee not jedi, so if you’re after a Star Wars-related post you’re going to be disappointed! Walking or riding around Chiang Mai you can’t help but notice these isolated, old brick stupas — or chedis as they call them in these parts — liberally scattered around ... Read more about Lost chedis of Chiang Mai .

Mai kham sari

Visitors to almost any northern Thai temple will notice the numerous wooden poles propping up branches of the temple’s bo tree. What are ... Read more about Mai kham sari .

Top of page


Chiang Mai National Museum
Super highway

Chiang Mai’s National Museum, located on the ‘super-highway’ close to Wat Jet Yot, isn’t a huge museum but is nicely laid out, well lit and large enough to provide an easily followed and succinct outline of the northern city’s history from prehistoric times until the 20th century. In fact it’s a jolly good little museum and deserves to get more than the trickle of visitors it seems ... Read more about Chiang Mai National Museum .

Chiang Mai Arts and Culture Museum
3 Kings Monument, Phrapokklao Road

Chiang Mai’s new museum district — as we’re calling it — offers not only the new Lanna Heritage Centre and the Chiang Mai Historical Centre but also the freshly upgraded Arts and Culture ... Read more about Chiang Mai Arts and Culture Museum .

Chiang Mai Historical Centre
Ratvithi Road, immediately behind the large Arts and Culture Museum and former City Hall
T: (053) 217 793

Along with the Lanna Folklife Centre, the excellent Chiang Mai Historical Centre is another brand new museum in the northern capital.Here’s a rundown on what goodies to expect ... Read more about Chiang Mai Historical Centre .

Lanna Folklife Museum
Phrapokklao Rd, Chiang Mai
T: (053) 217 793

Chiang Mai’s Lanna Heritage Centre, (or Lanna Folklife Museum depending upon which sign you read), is a brand new city ... Read more about Lanna Folklife Museum .

Top of page


Night Bazaar
Chiang Klan Rd, starting at Thapae and ending at Sridonchai

Chiang Mai’s famous Night Bazaar is one of the city’s prime evening attractions and is one of Thailand’s oldest night street markets. Such bazaars, night markets or “walking streets”, where souvenir, handicraft and food stalls line footpaths, are these days a feature of many Thai towns, but they were innovative in their day. Chiang Mai now also has Saturday and Sunday Walking Street ... Read more about Night Bazaar .

Farmers' Market
Chiang Mai Historical Museum, Ratvithi Rd, Chiang Mai

To compliment Chiang Mai’s Saturday and Sunday walking street markets the city now lays claim to a weekly Farmers’ Market. Though tiny compared to the long-standing and sprawling weekend markets, the centrally located Farmers’ Market certainly does quality instead of ... Read more about Farmers' Market .

Chiang Mai Sunday Walking Street market
Ratchadamnoen and Pra Singh Rds

There isn’t actually an official ‘walking street’ in Chiang Mai, but every Sunday the whole length of Ratchadamnoen and Pra Singh Roads, the old city’s principal east/west axis, plus several side streets, are closed to traffic and become one long street bazaar, stretching all the way from Wat Pra Singh down to and including Tha Pae Gate. (That’s well over a kilometre, plus it seems to ... Read more about Chiang Mai Sunday Walking Street market .

Worawot (Chiang Mai's
Around Chang Moi Rd near the Ping River

We can’t have any pretensions at comprehensive Chiang Mai coverage without mentioning what is the city’s largest market: Worarot. ... Read more about Worawot (Chiang Mai's "Chinatown") .

Saturday Walking Street Market
Wualai Road

Although Chiang Mai’s Saturday Walking Street Market started up around the same period as the Sunday one, for some reason it’s never really caught on in the same way. ... Read more about Saturday Walking Street Market .

Don Phayam Market
Junction of Suthep and Canal roads, Chiang Mai

Don Phayam market is a bit out of the way but well worth the trip if you’d like to visit, what for us is, the quintessential Chiang Mai ... Read more about Don Phayam Market .

Kamthieng Market
Atsadathon Road

Kamthieng market is what in the West we might call a garden centre, as it sells flowers, plants, trees, garden equipment, furniture, decorations and so ... Read more about Kamthieng Market .

Somphet market
Moonmuang Rd

A very traditional little shopping spot, Somphet market is just off Moonmuang Road, right in the heart of Chiang Mai’s Guesthouse-land . In fact we can only assume that most customers in the market these days are guesthouse cooks, since there really aren’t many private houses in this part of town anymore. Now there’s not a lot there that your average visitor would actually want to purchase, ... Read more about Somphet market .

Organic farmers' market
Nimmanhemin Road, Chiang Mai

With its wooden tables, thatched roof and mud floor, the organic farmers’ produce market in Chiang Mai is very much an old-style, traditional village market conveniently set up in downtown Chiang Mai ... Read more about Organic farmers' market .

Lang Prince Market
Northern section of Bumrung Rat Road between Kaew Narawat and Rattanakosin Roads.

Lang Prince Market, also known simply as the secondhand market, runs across the river in eastern Chiang Mai and is well worth a poke around to see how Thais love to buy and sell a bargain. It’s not as well known to foreigners as Saturday’s Wualai walking street or the Sunday Ratchadamnoen version, but this is a fun place for a stroll and a ... Read more about Lang Prince Market .

Top of page

General activities

A good Chiang Mai swimming pool

The large monolithic red brick Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel next to Central Huay Kaew shopping mall might not look desperately exciting from the outside, but it’s a good spot to waste away a few hours on a hot Chiang Mai afternoon if you’ve no pool in your own Chiang Mai hotel. The hotel itself is actually rather a good midrange deal, but the main attraction for non-residents is their large, ... Read more about A good Chiang Mai swimming pool .

Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
116 Maneenoparat Road, Chiang Mai

Other than running Chiang Mai's excellent Freebird Cafe -- a Shan/Burmese vegetarian restaurant -- Thai Freedom House runs a community education, arts and language centre for both refugees from Burma (Myanmar) as well as underprivileged ethnic minorities in Northern Thailand ... Read more about Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai .

Flight of the Gibbon
Near Mae Kompong village, one hour from Chiang Mai city
T: (053) 010 660-3

We’ve been a bit reluctant to try this popular Chiang Mai attraction out to be honest since swinging through tree tops didn’t really sit well with our vertigo. But as it came recommended by several mates and, apart from anything else, its ads are plastered over every other tuk tuk and outside every tour agent’s office in town, we thought we’d better give the Flight of the Gibbon a ... Read more about Flight of the Gibbon .

Monk chat clubs

Maybe I’m a cynical old whatever but… “monk chat club” sounds a little like monk feeding time in Luang Prabang. Not that it’s the tourists’ fault: the monks seem more than happy to go along with it. Luang Prabang novices have never been so well fed and Wat Chedi Luang donation boxes are brimming. But is this a laudable attempt by an ancient religion to move with the times or merely ... Read more about Monk chat clubs .

Thai cooking classes
All over and around Chiang Mai

Most courses kick off with a trip to the market to peruse and learn about fresh ingredients. The teacher will then give a demonstration, after which students prepare the dishes themselves, usually ones you've chosen yourself from a list. Some courses cook then immediately eat their produce throughout the whole day, but most save all dishes for mealtimes. In one day, you will generally cook around ... Read more about Thai cooking classes .

Bamboo rafting
Through any travel agent

Guides can be cheeky, splashing water on their passengers and generally making fun. Even without splashing it is highly likely that you will get wet up to the ankles at the very least. Luggage should be left behind, and any valuables should be securely sealed up in plastic bags. Bamboo rafting is often offered as an extra in combination with elephant riding on a trek or day tour. The cost ... Read more about Bamboo rafting .

Mae Ping River Cruise
T: (053) 274 833

We cannot guarantee any uncharted rocks or icebergs on this cruise and the Nam Ou, Sangkar River, or even River Kok it is not, so don’t expect dramatic scenery; yet a cruise on the Ping River is a very pleasant way to while away a couple of ... Read more about Mae Ping River Cruise .

Top of page

Public parks and zoos

Chiang Mai aquarium
Part of Chiang Mai Zoo complex, 100 Huaykaew Rd, Chiang Mai

Instead of trying to cover the whole of Chiang Mai zoo in one post we’ll concentrate on what to our mind is the best part of it — the aquarium. Chiang Mai’s state of the art aquarium opened some three years ago and it’s been improving ever ... Read more about Chiang Mai aquarium .

Chiang Mai Aviary
Chiang Mai Zoo, 100 Huay Kaew Rd, Chiang Mai

Along with the excellent aquarium, the aviary is another of our favourite spots in the vast Chiang Mai zoo. ... Read more about Chiang Mai Aviary .

Suan Buak Hat
Southwest corner of the old town, corner of Bumrung Buri and Bunreuang moat roads

Greater Chiang Mai weighs in these days with a good million inhabitants (the exact figure varies according to where one draws cut-off points), and it has most of the attributes a modern city aspires to have. It has whopping shopping malls and chic boutiques, a Chinatown, a professional football team (albeit an embarrassingly bad one), historic monuments, university, famous zoo, vibrant ... Read more about Suan Buak Hat .

Top of page

Natural attractions

Doi Suthep
West of central Chiang Mai

Doi means mountain in the northern Thai dialect, so Doi Suthep of course means Suthep Mountain. Doi Suthep’s most famous feature is its temple, Wat Doi Suthep, and is part of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Finally, Suthep is the name of the western district of Chiang Mai city abutting said mountain and home to CMU, Chiang Mai Zoo and the fashionable Nimmanhemin Road ... Read more about Doi Suthep .

Mon Thaa Than Falls Nature Trail
Near Wat Doi Suthep

The Mon Thaa Than Falls Nature trail near Chiang Mai is an easy-to-moderate hike of two to three hours that you can do on your own, though it does get trickier during the rainy season. The entire route is in the forest, with the first half or so being flat and the second downhill. It’s good for spotting bird life and a pleasant waterfall lies at the ... Read more about Mon Thaa Than Falls Nature Trail .

Top of page

Day trips

Easy motorbike day trips

It’s a familiar dilemma; you’re trying out this whole Southeast Asia, motorbike experience, and while you’re pretty comfy on the bike, you’re scared to venture too far, much less brave the windy, treacherous roads that lead to Pai. Fear no more. Here’s a list of our favourite Chiang Mai getaways that are all easily accessible to someone who’s relatively new on two wheels. So slap on ... Read more about Easy motorbike day trips .

Elephant camps: Should you go?

Elephants are central to Thai culture, and if you’re coming to Chiang Mai hoping to encounter the beautiful Asian elephant, then you’ve come to the right place. Thailand itself has more than 70 elephant camps, most located in the north, and you’ll soon find that every guesthouse, travel agent, and tuk tuk driver seems to be peddling a different elephant experience. The abundance of choice ... Read more about Elephant camps: Should you go? .

Ob Khan National Park
Nam Prae, Hang Dong, Chiang Mai
T: (086) 181 1068, (081) 724 4272

Less than an hour away from the Old City of Chiang Mai lies an expanse of natural beauty teeming with legendary wildlife. At least, that’s what we were told when we first made a trip out to Ob Khan National ... Read more about Ob Khan National Park .

Wiang Khum Kham ancient city
10 minutes' tuk tuk ride from downtown Chiang Mai

Just outside of downtown Chiang Mai, on the edge of the ‘super highway’, lie the recently excavated ruins of the ancient city of Wiang Khum ... Read more about Wiang Khum Kham ancient city .

Doi Pui
Past Wat Doi Suthep

I recently re-visited the Doi Pui Hmong Village with some trepidation; on my first visit nearly 10 years ago I’d found it tacky and touristy, and had turned my nose up at a hill-tribe village with Visa stickers and a coach park. As it turns out, I thoroughly enjoyed it this time ... Read more about Doi Pui .

Wat Pra Prabat Si Roy (Temple of the Four Buddha Footprints)
Around 30 km north of Mae RIm

Temple of the Four Buddha Footprints, or Wat Pra Prabat Si Roy in Thai, is a remote and spectacular forest temple located in Mae Rim’s Salouang district. Though it’s a highly prestigious and popular temple among Thais, very few foreigners make it out here. This is a shame since it’s a picturesque spot, with a lovely drive to get there, making it an interesting day or half-day out from ... Read more about Wat Pra Prabat Si Roy (Temple of the Four Buddha Footprints) .

Mon Cham: Restaurant and camping in Mae Rim
Mae Rim

Mon Cham is a restaurant and “camping resort” situated in the Nong Hoi Royal Project in a remote corner of Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim district. ... Read more about Mon Cham: Restaurant and camping in Mae Rim .

Top of page


Ban Tawai handicraft market, Hang Dong
15km south of Chiang Mai in Hang Dong district

Ban Tawai boasts of being the largest handicraft market in Thailand. Whether or not it really is the largest, it certainly is huge; even if you have no intention of purchasing anything we reckon it makes for a fascinating place to wander ... Read more about Ban Tawai handicraft market, Hang Dong .

Chiang Mai Hilltribe Handicraft Training Centre
248/1 Maneenoparat Road
T: (053) 287 047

The Chiang Mai Hilltribe Handicraft Training Centre was established in 2007 by the Seventh Day Adventist Church to help train and provide income for education for women and girls from poor hilltribe families in northern ... Read more about Chiang Mai Hilltribe Handicraft Training Centre .

Buying a secondhand book in Chiang Mai

I often get asked by visitors about bookstores in Chiang Mai, perhaps because a) it’s hard to choose from among the bewildering number of secondhand bookshops, b) it’s hard to find the decent new book shops or c) they’re looking for books in obscure, minority languages like ... Read more about Buying a secondhand book in Chiang Mai .

Buying new books in Chiang Mai

While Thai language readers are spoiled for choice and plenty of excellent secondhand hand options are available, considering the large expat community and number of Western visitors the new reading material situation is disappointing in Chiang ... Read more about Buying new books in Chiang Mai .

Buying or fixing a camera in Chiang Mai
Rattanakosin Rd
T: (053) 211 450

Following on from our recent Songkran post: if your $1,000 Nikon does get totally destroyed by water pistol-frenzied 5-year-olds during the festivities don't ... Read more about Buying or fixing a camera in Chiang Mai .

Central Department Store, Chiang Mai
Huay Kaew Road

Yes, Chiang Mai is home to two Central department stores, Kad Suan Kaew and Airport Plaza — in this post we’ll deal with the former since it’s the closest to downtown and probably more frequented by tourists than its larger, though slightly more out of town, ... Read more about Central Department Store, Chiang Mai .

Top of page

Hiking, walking tours and itineraries

Chiang Mai's Tha Pae Road

The slightly grubby and often congested stretch of road running between Chiang Mai’s Narawat Bridge and Tha Pae Gate, which goes by the name of Tha Pae Road, has always been firmly in the say light blue or at best purple set on Chiang Mai’s imaginary Monopoly board but these days, while not yet up there with the dark blue of Nimmanhemin, is doing its best to earn a place in the green row. Tha ... Read more about Chiang Mai's Tha Pae Road .

A walking tour of old Chiang Mai

One of the finest ways to spend time in Chiang Mai is to wander the streets of the old town. Explore the narrow alleys, local markets, ancient temples; take in a museum maybe, take a break in one of the town’s myriad coffee shops and of course check out the ... Read more about A walking tour of old Chiang Mai .

Hikes around Chiang Mai: Nam Tok Huay Tung Tao

An easy but very scenic short hike near Chiang Mai that’s practical to do on your own is this trail from Doi Suthep’s ranger sub-station at Huay Tung Tao to the nearby waterfall of the same name. At present our route is about an hour there and an hour back by the same route, though we are looking at some additional trails with a view to mapping a possible round ... Read more about Hikes around Chiang Mai: Nam Tok Huay Tung Tao .

The Chiang Mai soi tours: Ratchamanka Soi 2

Any expat or visitor to Chiang Mai will quickly become familiar with the town’s main drags. You’ll have strolled along Ratchadamnoen running through the centre of the old town, tuk-tuked down Tha Pae Rd on your way to or from the night bazaar and of course eaten, drank, hired a motorbike and bought a Bangkok Post on Moonmuang running alongside the eastern ... Read more about The Chiang Mai soi tours: Ratchamanka Soi 2 .

A walk around Chiang Mai's old city: part 1

We have complained about downtown Chiang Mai’s lack of parks before but there is a stretch of grass and trees that we inconsiderately overlooked, a very long stretch in fact — nearly eight kilometres long — which makes for an interesting and attractive hike without ever having to leave the city centre. We’re talking of course about the strip of tree-lined parkland that borders the moat ... Read more about A walk around Chiang Mai's old city: part 1 .

Walking Chiang Mai: The north side

We begin our circumnavigation of Chiang Mai’s old city at the northwest corner known as Hua Lim, for no particular reason other than you have start somewhere. And we move in a clockwise direction simply because it’s considered the more auspicious by ... Read more about Walking Chiang Mai: The north side .

Walking Chiang Mai: the east side

Having reached Sri Phum corner on our last Chiang Mai city walk and continuing in our auspicious clockwise direction, we’re going right into the thick of the action with a stroll along the old city’s eastern wall and ... Read more about Walking Chiang Mai: the east side .

Walking Chiang Mai: the south side

Having snacked, supped and cappuccino-ed your way along the Tha Pae side of town you’ll probably be ready to hit the much quieter southside of Chiang Mai’s old city. ... Read more about Walking Chiang Mai: the south side .

Walking Chiang Mai: the west side

We’ve covered north, south and east: now it’s time for the final stretch of our Chiang Mai hike, which covers the stretch of moat road between Suan Buak Hat Park and our initial starting point at the northwest corner and junction of Huay Kaew Road. This stretch is one of the least built up and most scenic of the four sides of the old city, though once again traffic on the one-way system can ... Read more about Walking Chiang Mai: the west side .

Top of page

Festivals and events

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

Songkran is the Thai name for the Theravada Buddhist New Year which falls on the 13th April. (The Mahayana Buddhist New Year, in Vietnam or China for example, is based on the lunar calender – in Thailand it’s always a fixed date.) It’s not only Thai New Year but in theory is the same for Laos, Cambodia, Burma and Sri Lanka though dates may vary ... Read more about Songkran in Chiang Mai .

Top of page

Art galleries or venues

Art galleries

An abundance of college students plus some stellar art and music departments at local universities have made Chiang Mai Thailand’s artistic capital in the eyes of many. The city hosts a wealth of young creative talent and spending some time gallery hopping may show you a whole new side to Chiang ... Read more about Art galleries .

Top of page

Massages and spas

Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Institution
100 Rachawithee Rd
T: (053) 706 1041

Well correctly speaking, (and we need to be correct here), we’re talking about the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional ... Read more about Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Institution .

Top of page

Like what you see? Then you’ll love our newsletter

The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Chiang Mai? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

Top of page