India is often termed as the most colourful pace in the world. And it lives up to its title with its splendour at every corner of the country. Whether it is the snowy mountains of the Himalayas, the stunning lakes, the mesmerizing deserts, the enchanting…
Just so you know, you’ll never run out of things to do in Chiang Mai. After all, this is a city that is popularly known as the Rose of the North. Located far away from the hustle bustle of the capital city Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a great place for all kinds of tourists. If you’re a backpacker, a student of history, or just someone looking to relax, don’t worry! Chiang Mai has you covered!
Exploring Chiang Mai can be very daunting. There are truly so many things to see there. Almost everyone ends up asking themselves the same thing. What to do in Chiang Mai? What to see in Chiang Mai? After all, there are so many things to do in Chiang Mai.
The evergreen rainforests. The venerable, old temples. Not to mention the beauty of the ancient city, as well as the markets which keep it alive at night. So many things you’ll want to do in Chiang Mai. It’s very obvious – Chiang Mai is a beautiful place deserving your attention! To make things easier, here are thirty things to do in Chiang Mai.
30 Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
1. Doi Suthep
Of the things to do in Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep is the most popular. It is a mountain located less than an hour away from Chiang Mai. There is also a 13th century Buddhist shrine known as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep located on the mountain. It is home to a replica of the Emerald Buddha. Going to the mountain can cost 400 Baht if you use Grab, or 100 if you take local transportation. To enter the temple, you will also have to pay an additional 40 Baht for entry.
Doi Suthep is very famous. Almost every driver knows where it is. Take a ride from the city and ask them to take you to Doi Suthep. The best time to visit Doi Suthep is either sunrise or sunset.
2. Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon National Park is situated in the mountain of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s tallest. The highest point here takes you up to over 8000 feet! The park itself is expansive, covering over 48,000 hectares of land. It is home to all sorts of wildlife, especially birds. There are also several places of interest in the park. For instance, there are several waterfalls. Also, there are pagodas and a hill tribe village for you to explore.
A good idea is to go visit the park early, as it’s a two hour drive. The best thing to do is to hire a car for the day, which can cost you above 2500 Baht. Taking a car is very important, as the park is too large to walk on foot. Also, there is an entrance fee of 300 Baht for foreign adults. For children, the fee is 150 Baht.
3. Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm
Located just outside of Chiang Mai, the Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm is quite the sight to see! This place is home to the orchid, which is synonymous to the Thai identity. There’s a spectacular array of colors on display, from both the orchids and butterflies. There’s also a café, in case you’re hungry. It’s one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai for people that like colors.
It’s not very easy to get bored here – there are two orchid gardens and a butterfly house, after all! It should take less than an hour to get to the farm. Taking a Grab it should cost you anywhere between 100-200 Baht, depending on your proximity to the farm. As for the entry ticket, it is around 60 Baht per person.
4. Wat Chedi Luang
You might be asking about what to see in Chiang Mai when it comes to temples. Thailand is a home to many temples, and Chiang Mai is no exception to this fact. The temple of Wat Chedi Luang is located at the very center of the city. Although constructed in the 1400s, the temple was severely damaged due to an earthquake in 1545. Despite this incident, Wat Chedi Luang remains active to this day.
It’s best to visit the temple early on, in order to avoid crowds. Alternatively, coming before 11 AM would allow you to witness the temple bells tolling. There is an entrance fee of 40 Baht, although this fee also permits entry to nearby temples. Bear in mind that there is a dress code that one has to be wary about.
5. Wat Phra Singh
Among the most venerated temples in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Singh is located at the heart of Chiang Mai. This temple was made around the 1300s, and still stands today. It underwent renovations around the 19th century, and as a result is one of the better kept temples around. Buddhist worshippers throng the temple throughout the year. There is an assembly hall, home to a 15th century Buddha. The temple also has an old library.
Wat Phra Singh is open from 06:00 AM – 5:00 PM. You can find it deep in the center of Chiang Mai, in the old city. The entrance fee to the temple is 20 Baht. Going to Wat Phra Singh is a great way to learn more about the architecture of the old Lanna Kingdom.
6. Chiang Mai Night Safari
Only the third of its kind, the Chiang Mai Night Safari is a must see. There are over 400 animals of 50+ different species here. From alpacas to tigers to ostriches – there’s no end to the variety in the safari. There are three different ways to go through with the night safari. You can take the Jaguar Trail Zone – a walk only tour. The trail zone is open from 11:00 AM to 9:30 PM. Tickets cost 100 Baht, and 50 Baht for children.
Alternatively, you can take the Day Safari, open from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM. The Night Safari, on the other hand, is from 6:50 PM to 10:00 PM. Both safaris will cost you 800 Baht for adults, and 50 Baht for children. The safari is close the airport, and there is also a free return minibus which conveniently drops you near the Night Bazaar.
7. Elephant Nature Park
The Elephant Nature Park is a splendid ethical center in Chiang Mai. Animal abuse is widespread in the country, and so the park prides itself in providing a proper home for elephants. The park is 250 hectares in size. Not only can you visit the park, but you can also work as a volunteer! It’s a good way to spend time in a very tranquil place with several beautiful animals. This is one of the nicest things to do in Chiang Mai.
Rates vary. A single day trip can cost 2500 Baht, and 1250 for children. You’ll have to be ready by 8:30 AM from your hotel. Alternatively, you can reach the place by 7:40 AM privately. Volunteering is a lot longer, requiring seven days of dedication and approximately 15,000 Baht. Again, packages vary, so you’ll have the chance to select one that’s convenient to your timing and budget.
8. Nightlife in the city
Bangkok is famous for its exciting nightlife. There are dozens of bars and clubs throughout the city that bring the city to life at night. However, it’s also known to be more on the expensive side for nightlife. Chiang Mai, on the other hand, is much cheaper when it comes to nightlife. It also maintains a plethora of options for the night, ranging from bars to clubs. It’s now a good contender for Bangkok when it comes to nightlife!
In one of the more popular clubs, a beer can cost you 60 Baht, and cocktail 100 Baht. There’s not too much to worry about regarding safety, as Thailand is generally regarded as a safe tourist spot. Bars and clubs are very easy to find as well. There are a lot of wild things to do in Chiang Mai … if you’re up for it!
9. San Kamphaeng Hot Springs
The Hot Springs are a perfect place to unwind in Chiang Mai. Dip your feet in the water or just relax around the fountains! The temperatures are at roughly 105 degrees Celsius – a good temperature to cook an egg! You can buy three eggs at 20 Baht to try it yourself. If springs aren’t your thing, there are also massage parlors and a restaurant. Spa treatment costs 200 Baht an hour, and 120 Baht for half an hour. This is among the most relaxing things to do in Chiang Mai.
The entrance fee is roughly 100 Baht for the Hot Springs, and an additional 50 for access to the mineral pool. You can take a songthaew from the Warorot Market in the city. It’s an hour-long ride costing you only 50 Baht. There’s also a specific timing during which the springs are open – 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM every day.
10. Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution
There’s something very humbling about the CMWCI. It’s tough for women to get back out there after serving time. As a result, the CMWCI provides a massage parlor program to help them in transitioning. They’re trained to a workmanship standard, and are generally very polite and hospitable. Massages here also a lot cheaper than elsewhere in Thailand, which is known for Thai massages. In case you’re hungry after the fantastic massage, there is also a café nearby. Tipping is encouraged here, as you contribute to the inmates’ finances by doing so.
Otherwise, you will have to pay on average around 200 Baht for a foot massage. The place is very popular for massages, and as a result waiting times can be lengthy. Some have had to wait an hour or two to be served. The massage parlor is open from 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM.
11. Chang Klan Road
Visiting night markets is a great way to learn more about a city. Chiang Mai, in fact, is home to the popular Chang Klan Road, which turns into a bustling market at night. If you’re looking for what to eat, this is a great place to start. Regional cuisines are on display, as well as trinkets of every sort. The variety and number of goods on sale is limitless. If you’re looking for things to do in Chiang Mai regarding shopping, look no further!
Also, the prices in Chiang Mai are substantially less compared to that in Bangkok or Phuket. If you’re looking to shop in Thailand, this night market is the best place for it. Value for money, good quality and variety – all conveniently located in a single road! The road is conveniently located in the city center and so may be walking distance. The market is open from 6:00 PM – 12:00 AM.
12. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is located roughly 30-50 minutes away from Chiang Mai. Unlike its more popular American counterpart, this Grand Canyon is also home to a beautiful water park. You can choose to relax and enjoy the brilliant views, but there are several activities too. You can go cliff jumping across various parts of the area or go swimming or sunbathing in the summer heat. If you’re into adventure, this is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
It is best to go early, as the canyon can get particularly hot midday. The entrance fee is 50 Baht, but you’ll need well over 100 Baht for food, drinks and what not. Life jackets for rent cost around 25 Baht. There are no lockers, however, and as a result personal items must be kept with great care. On the plus side though, parking is free.
Chiang Mai has an excellent array of cafes, and Catmosphere is no exception to this. Known as the “world’s first space-themed cat café”, it is a great place to get a drink if you love cats. Drinks are generally over 70 Baht, with smoothies, shakes and coffee for sale. Waiting for your order is very fun, as meanwhile you can play with cats which dot the premises. There are also souvenirs on sale, if you’d like to take a t-shirt or a mug with you. Chilling at this café is one of the most fun things to do in Chiang Mai for animal lovers.
Catmosphere is located at Huay Kaew Road, which is conveniently located in the city. To reach it, one can take a Tuk Tuk or a Grab. The store is open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Children below six years of age are not allowed.
14. Have a Monk Chat
If you’re looking for insightful things to do in Chiang Mai, there are several temples in Chiang Mai which offer Monk Chats. You can sit down personally with monks and talk with them for a while. Novice monks mainly carry the conversation, as a way to improve their English, and senior monks supervise while they talk. This is a great way of exchanging ideas, particularly regarding culture and religion. Life in the monastery is generally secretive, so monk chats offer insight into this. There are a few rules to follow, of course. Dressing modestly is important.
Timings, of course, vary from temple to temple. Usually, monk chats take place around the evening (5:00 PM – 7:00 PM), either daily, on alternate weekdays, or weekends. There is no cost, save for the entry fee to each individual temple.
15. Watch Muay Thai matches
Thailand is the birthplace of the martial art Muay Thai. It is known as the country’s favorite sport. There are several boxing stadiums across Chiang Mai for you to watch a Muay Thai match. There are several fights that go on in these stadiums, located all around the city. The Thapae, Loi Kroh and Chiang Mai Boxing Stadiums are all ideal places to watch such matches. This is among the most adventurous things to do in Chiang Mai!
Depending on the stadium, matches take place on most days. In Thapae, for example, matches take place from Monday to Saturday. Tickets will cost you around 400 – 1500 Baht, depending on the location and quality of the seats available. There are also drinks available on venue. Timings for matches range from 08:30 PM to 12:00 AM, with usually 5-7 fights in this time slot.
16. Bua Thong Waterfall
A small, beautiful gem located outside of Chiang Mai, the Bua Thong Waterfall are also known as the “sticky waterfall” due to the ease with which one can climb up the falls. The Waterfall is a great place for a picnic, or even a swim. There’s also a small shrine a walk away from the waterfall with flora and fauna to see. Like many other sights, you will never have to ask yourself what to eat in Chiang Mai, as restaurants are located near Bua Thong.
The waterfall is open from 06:00 AM to 6:00 PM. The good news is that here is no entrance fee. Travelling may be tough though, as it is located an hour and a half away from the city. Your best bet, again, is to hire a car. Don’t forget to bring a bathing suit, if you’ll be taking a dip!
17. Chiang Mai Zoo & Aquarium
No city is complete without a zoo, and the same applies for Chiang Mai. At over 200 acres in size, the place is also home to an aquarium, Asia’s largest. It was the first zoo to be made in North Thailand. It is located at the base of mountains nearby. There are over 400+ species to see here. For a more convenient experience, there are trams for movement through the zoo. The aquarium also has the world’s longest aquatic tunnel.
The zoo is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Fees are approximately 150 Baht for adults and 70 Baht for minors. If you choose to take transport through the zoo, it’ll cost you another 30 Baht. Transportation is recommended as the zoo is far too large to walk in.
18. Huay Kaew Waterfall
If you’re looking for a relaxing day trip, then the Huay Kaew Waterfall is a good idea. It is one of the closest waterfalls to Chiang Mai, with travel time ranging around 10-25 minutes. This is an excellent place for relaxation. It is also perfect for a picnic, as there are a few vendors nearby serving food for people visiting the waterfall. You can also consider hiking here or even going for a swim.
The best thing, however, is that the Huay Kaew Waterfall is completely free of charge! There is no entry fee whatsoever. And since it’s really close, travel costs are low as well. A return trip can cost around 60 Baht. It isn’t as crowded as other tourist spots either, making the experience a lot more comforting. Of the things to do in Chiang Mai, this is one of the most affordable.
19. Ride in Songthaew
One of the most iconic things to do in Chiang Mai is riding a Songthaew. It is a famous part of the Thai culture. It is a communal, shared transport which uses the back of a pickup truck to seat people in two rows. This is a very cheap form of transport, with average prices being 50 Baht. In Chiang Mai especially, it is an easy way to go to sights as there are designated Songthaew dropping and pick up points for certain noteworthy places.
It isn’t any challenge to look for Songthaew, which throng the city and the surrounding areas. You can even hail a moving one by waving. Of course, this is the best mode of transportation if you’d like to make conversation with fellow travelers who will be with you. If you’re not too big on taking a Songthaew with strangers, you can just hire your own.
20. Mae Ping River Cruise
The Mae Ping River is a beautiful river, and a very significant one in the region. It is one of the main tributaries of the Chao Phraya. The river runs through a lot of Chiang Mai. As a result, people travelling the river get to witness life in the region. Passing through cities, towns, and villages, it is a tranquil tour that gives you an insight into riverine Thai life. This is one of the things to do in Chiang Mai if you like river travel.
Tickets will cost you around 500 Baht for adults, and 200 Baht for children. This includes pick up from your hotel and drop off as well. Not only do you get to enjoy the cruise, there is also a stop off to a farmer’s house. There will be fresh fruits and other refreshments in the cruise.
21. Sak Yant Tattoo
There’s no end to the souvenirs you can buy in Chiang Mai. The most special one you can take, though, is the Sak Yant Tattoo. It is an art embedded in Buddhist faith, and many people tend to get the tattoo in Chiang Mai. There are all sorts of tattoos to get, such as the Hah Taew, Gao Yord, and Paed Tidt. You have the freedom to choose where you want the tattoo, although some have specific places in the body. If you want to remember your adventures in Thailand, a Sak Yant is one of the things to do in Chiang Mai which are permanent.
It takes roughly 20-25 minutes for a basic Sak Yant design. It generally costs 2000 Baht, but it can cost more depending on design. Your tattoo can also be blessed by the monk who designs it. Sak Yant can be done at places like temples and what not.
22. Ladyboy Cabaret Show
We’ve mentioned how nightlife here includes bars and clubs. But there has been little to no mention of Cabaret shows. Visiting Cabaret shows is one of the most common things to do in Chiang Mai during the night. This is the most popular of the Cabaret shows in the city. You get to see them dance and sing, and it’s a good time. Be careful when taking seats – people at the front will probably be used for audience participation.
The show will cost you around 290 Baht, which includes a snack, a drink and a seat. You can get extra drinks at the bar too. The show is open every day with two timings. The first starts at 9:30 PM, and the second at 11:00 PM. The cabaret show is conveniently located in the night bazaar.
23. Eating a Century Egg
There’s not a lot of history regarding what to eat in Chiang Mai. Sure, you have the recipes passed down from generations, but edible history is non-existent. The century egg, however, is an exception. Aged for weeks, or maybe months, this is a unique dish that you’ll find in the markets of Chiang Mai. For instance, the Somphet market is home to vendors who sell the egg. When it comes to things to do in Chiang Mai, this is one of the most unique!
The egg does taste rather odd to some. It uses materials such as clay and quicklime for preservation, and smells somewhat like ammonia. On the inside, the egg is strangely green. Even still, it is a delicacy and a chance to eat one of Chiang Mai’s weirdest food items.
24. Cooking Classes
Thai Cuisine is a very popular kind of cuisine. As a result learning a meal or two from it can sound like a very appealing idea for some. Thankfully, Chiang Mai has countless places offering cooking classes. The competition, in fact, is cutthroat. Each cooking class has some spin to it. Some teach you extra things. Others give you tours. On average, cooking classes will charge you 1000 Baht, although depending on the class it can be more or less.
You will find these classes all around the city. Thus, travelling is not an issue. Timings also vary from classes to classes. Some are full day courses, starting at the morning and ending around the evening. Others may be express classes for only two hours. Roughly speaking, classes tend to start around 8 or 9 in the morning and end 4-5 PM.
25. Eating Khao Soi
Now, this isn’t any sight to see, but a delicacy of the region that you must try! Khao Soi is a dish found primarily in Northern Thailand, as well as Myanmar and Laos. The broth comprises of a delicate curry flavor, as well as coconut milk. Hand cut noodles are submerged in this broth, along with very losucculent chicken. To conclude, you have crunchy dry noodles on top of the soup, to give it a double texture. This is a dish you won’t find anywhere else in Thailand.
The best place to find authentic Khao Soi would be in the various markets that dot the city. For instance, the Saturday Night Market near Chiang Mai Gate has many shops that serve Khao Soi. The cost of the meal itself ranges from 30-50 Baht. Talk about the tastiest of things to do in Chiang Mai!
26. Enjoying a Khantoke Dinner
Chiang Mai was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, and as a result, still retains some of its culture. The Khantoke dinner is a part of this culture. The word “Khantoke” is used to describe the round, intricately designed table the food is served on. This is a great way of getting a spread of different types of Northern Thai food. Various restaurants offer Khantoke dinners, and prices can anywhere from 400 – 700 Baht. Not only do you get a spread of Northern Thai cuisine, but you also witness traditional Lanna entertainment. As a result, you get to enjoy music and dance along with the dinner.
It’s a great way to immerse yourself into Lanna culture and to enjoy the fragrant, artisanal cuisine of the region. Dinner timings are fairly strict, however, with many restaurants asking that you reach the venue around the time 6:30 PM – 7:00 PM.
27. Chiang Mai 3D Museum
The Chiang Mai 3D Museum is the first of its kind in the region. It is home to over 130 3D art pieces which are ideal for children and family. Visitors get to interact with all sorts of murals. These were designed by a specialized Korean team of artists, and are very masterfully done. The museum is three stories tall and home to various sections. From Lanna to Thai to even Egyptian art – this 3D museum has it all. Feel free to take pictures and immerse yourself in this art! For kids, this is among the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
Tickets will cost you around 300 Baht for adults and 200 Baht for children. It is conveniently located near the night market road. This makes it accessible. The museum is open from 09:00 AM to 09:00 PM, although the last tickets are made around 07:30 PM.
28. Royal Park Rajapruek
If you’re interested in gardens, you should definitely visit Royal Park Rajapruek! This is a place full of manicured, landscaped gardens. There are a lot of good places in the area to take a photo, or even to simply appreciate. There’s some history involved too! Royal Park Rajapruek was made to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the late King Bhumibol’s ascension to the throne.
The park is open from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM. There is public transportation leading directly to the park, costing only 40-60 Baht. Otherwise, the entrance ticket is 200 Baht per person. Since the park is expansive, it’s best you rent a bike for the duration of your visit. Alternatively, make use of the hop on hop off shuttle in the premises. This costs 20 Baht for adults, and 10 Baht for children.
29. Bo Sang Handicraft Center
The Bo Sang Handicraft Center is located south east of Chiang Mai. It’s approximately 8 kilometers away from the city. Here, artisans make the region’s finest handiworks. These can range from parasols to umbrellas. You can even give these artists a personal item of yours, and they can paint an attractive design on them. There is no confirmed price, of course, as that is negotiated with the artist. This process can take minutes, depending on the complexities of design and what not.
Otherwise, you can simply marvel at these people working. Attached to this centre is the impressive shop. Here you can buy an umbrella or parasol for yourself, as well as other handicrafts. If it’s all too much for you to take now, you can simply have them deliver to you overseas.
30. Wiang Kum Kam
The ancient ruins of Wiang Kum Kam are located 5 kilometers away from the city. It is south of Chiang Mai and west of the Ping. It is among the oldest ruins, even older than some of the temples in the city. In fact, it was Lanna’s capital city before even Chiang Mai was! It is a great way to learn more about the Lanna Kingdom and its history. There are over 40 structures.
You can take a Grab or a Tuk Tuk to the ruins. In the ruins you can rent a horse drawn carriage for 200 Baht. A tram will cost you anywhere from 250 to 400 Baht depending on tram size. Or, you can rent a bicycle for yourself. This will cost you only 20 Baht. Additionally, there are cafés nearby and a museum which you can enter for 20 Baht.
Why is Chiang Mai Attractive to Tourists?
As mentioned before, Chiang Mai is known as the “Rose of the North”. It is a city that is full of history and culture, which interests many. There are also several mountains to explore, waterfalls and other natural sites. Due to its mixture of nature and history, Chiang Mai is appealing to many. It is also smaller in size to Bangkok, and so prices are generally cheaper here.
How to Get to Chiang Mai?
If you’re in Bangkok, you can go to Chiang Mai via the airport. A flight is one and a half hours long, and costs around 700 Baht. You can opt for lengthier journeys using a bus (which can take 9 to 11 hours) or train (which can take 11 to 15 hours). Reaching Chiang Mai from other places such as Koh Samui and Phuket will take longer, but the same means of transport are used.
Chiang Mai Useful Links
You should make use of the following links during your stay:
https://www.tourismthailand.org/About-Thailand/Destination/Chiang-Mai – This is the official website of the Tourism Authority.
http://www.chiangmai.go.th/english/ – This is the official province site of Chiang Mai.
https://www.chiangmai-thai.com/TAT.htm – This contains contact details of the tourism authority.
https://www.chiangmaicitylife.com/ – This English publication has a lot of information regarding Chiang Mai.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g1308496-Chiang_Mai_Province-Vacations.html – You can ask for advice regarding Chiang Mai using its TripAdvisor page.
These are 30 different things to do in Chiang Mai. It should help you know what to do in Chiang Mai, or what to see in Chiang Mai. Should you still find the idea of travelling daunting, don’t worry! Go with the flow. You’ll never run out of things to do in Chiang Mai. Go out and explore as you see fit. Chiang Mai is a beautiful city steeped with a lot of history. Allow yourself to be moved by the different markets and mountains. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the temples and waterfalls. If you allow yourself to do this, you’ll see that your trip to this city go by in moments!