Chiang Mai City Guide

Chiang Mai is the main Northen Thailand city and the most visited in the region. One of the favorite cities of many travelers and digital nomads.

Also known as the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the country, due to its historical old town and the nature of its surroundings.

ℹ️ Top Things to Do in Chiang Mai

Explore the Old Town

Wat Phra SinghChiang Mai’s Old Town is surrounded by walls and a water moat. This is the most touristy and bustle area of ​​the city, perfect to spend a morning exploring it on foot, by bike or by motorcycle. Here you will see many temples. The most famous ones that you should not forget to stop are the Wat Phra Sing, built in 1345, and the Wat Chedi Luang. You can get an idea of ​​what the walls that protected Chiang Mai were like, by visiting the eastern entrance of the historic area, Tha Pae Gate. If you like markets, on Sundays, starting at 6:00 p.m., you can visit the night market where, walking through it you will find a wide variety of souvenirs and very delicious local food.

Stroll around its lively Night markets

Chiang Mai Sunday walking street night marketEvery Sunday, the main street in the historic center of Chiang Mai, Ratchadamnoen, is closed to vehicle traffic and turns into a huge and colorful street market, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in all of Southeast Asia! There are hundreds of stalls selling all kinds of products, including clothing, crafts and lots of food. On the other hand, on Saturdays you can find a more local atmosphere night market on Wua Lai Street, which starts right where the southern end of Old Town ends. If your visit does not coincide with the weekend, you can visit the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, located to the east of the historic area.

Go up to Doi Suthep Mount

Doi SuthepΒ Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, located in the Doi Suthep Mount. It’s still an active monastery and it is the most revered temple in the province and one of the most important in northern Thailand. If you want to explore deeply the mountain, we suggest you to reach Ban Kun Chang Kian village in Doi Pui. It’s quite an interesting Hmong tribe village. Be careful not to confuse it with the more touristy town of Ban Doi Pui. Apart from the typical excursions, you can also rent mountain bikes to go down the slopes of the mountain.

Pay a visit to the local markets

Warorot MarketVisit these markets and get a feel for local life in Chiang Mai. The Waraot Market – also called Kat Luang (Big Market) – is the oldest and most important market in Chiang Mai, and it is located at the east of the old town, along the Ping River, on Chang Moi Street, just a couple of minutes away, walking from the Night Bazaar. Wararot market opens something before sunrise, and stays open until around 6pm. Next to it is the Talat Tonlamyai market, the main flower market of Chiang mai. Among the great variety of Flowers on offer highlight the cool climate varieties grown in the mountains of the Northern Thailand. The market is open 24 hours a day.

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Have fun learning a new skill

thai food cooking lessonsThai cuisine or language, Buddhism, massage or Muay thai, Chiang Mai is an excellent place to learn. In Chiang Mai you will find schools of all kinds. You can take a Thai cooking course for one day or one morning, learn some Thai to enrich your trip or sign up for a Thai massage school (even you can get aΒ  degree), although the latter will take longer. Chiang Mai and its surroundings are also famous for spiritual tourism, there are several temples to study Buddhism or do vipasana meditation, and for muay thai training camps. What a contrast, right?

Day tour to Mae Kampong

Mae-KampongMae Kampong is one of the most beautiful towns in Thailand. It’s located 1:15h to the East of Chiang Mai and there you will find plenty of small and cozy coffee shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. The village is also home of a small waterfall and a creek that crosses the town and creates a nice and cool atmosphere. Also, the world famous zip line Flight of The Gibbon is here. If you don’t have a private vehicle, you can get to Mae Kampong by public van from Warorot Market (300 THB return trip).

Get close to elephants

Elephant parkDO NOT RIDE THEM! The elephant is the national animal of Thailand and if you want to visit and experience being close to them Chiang Mai is the ideal place for it. You will find several sanctuaries in which they take care of elephants and they are not trained nor forced to do shows or be riden by tourist, allowing you to enjoy their company and learn from them. You don’t need to interact with them to enjoy the experience. Just by looking them doing their thing, you will have fun!

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Enjoy some adventure

Rafting in Chiang MaiChiang Mai is the capital of the adventure in Thailand. Here you will find plenty of offers to do trekking through small ethnic villages, rafting on the Kok River, Quads through the forest, Zip Lines from banyan trees, mountain biking or any other mountain activity that you can imagine. It is worth doing some adventure activity in order to get close to the nature and enjoy the beauty of the landscapes, the jungle, the mountains and the rivers. Some of the best known areas for trekking are Samoeng, Mae Sa, Doi Inthanon and Ma Chaem.

Explore Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi InthanonIt is one of the most important and beautiful national parks in Thailand, and a must visit if you go to Chiang Mai. Here you will find the highest point in the country (2565 m), magnificent temples and pagodas, impressive waterfalls and dreamlike vegetation. You will also find cooler temperatures than usual in the country. Entrance to the park costs THB 300 for adults and THB 100 for children. You can also sleep in bungalows for about 1000 Bat (€ 25) or camp for about 60-90 Bat (1.5-2 €).

✍️ Latest Posts on Chiang Mai

🏨 Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Best Areas & Neighborhoods:

Chiang Mai is a rather small city when compared to other conurbation in Thailand, such as Bangkok or Phuket – and also cheaper than those metropolis. However, it is a town with many faces, and depending on where you want to stay, one neighborhood will accommodate you more than another. Each area has its appeal: proximity to the temples and attractions of historical interest, a rich nightlife, tranquility by the river or neighbourhoods that reveal its more elegant and sophisticated face. In all of them you will find affordable options for accommodation and a variety of places to eat for all budgets.

Old Town

Chiang Mai Old Town IconBest for:Β  First time visitors, tourists and backpackers.

Accommodation available: Hostels and 3 and 4 star hotels.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Most important temples are here.
βœ”οΈ Many travel agencies and tour operators.
βœ”οΈ Lots of restaurants and coffee shops.
βœ”οΈ Ratchadamnoen Sunday Walking Street Market

Tha Phae Gate

Tha Phae GateBest for:Β  Backpackers.

Accommodation available: Hostels and 3 star hotels.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Cheap area and good backpacker night life.
βœ”οΈ Lots of restaurants and coffee shops.
βœ”οΈ Near the main temples of the Old Town.
βœ”οΈ Nearby the Night Bazar.
βœ”οΈ Many travel agencies for backpackers.

Night Bazar

Shopping SiamBest for: Traditional tourists and shopping lovers.

Accommodation available: 3 to 5 star hotels.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Night bazar at walking distance.
βœ”οΈ Near Wararot and Tonlamyai market.
βœ”οΈ The most active night life in the city.
βœ”οΈ Large variety of Asian and Western styles restaurant

River side

Riverside Chiang MaiBest for: Traditional tourists and families.

Accommodation available: 4 to 5 star hotels.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Views of the river.
βœ”οΈ Quiet and beautiful area.
βœ”οΈ Closer to nature.

Nimmanhaemin Area

Nimmanhaemin, Chiang MaiBest for: Digital Nomads, Flashpackers, Shopping lovers.

Accommodation available: hostels, guesthouses and 3 to 5 star hotels.

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Sophisticated night life and chic bars.
βœ”οΈ Young local environment.
βœ”οΈ Exclusive shops, art galleries.
βœ”οΈ Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center.

🧭 Itinerary to visit Chiang Mai

It can be done in one or two days:

1

Wararot and Tonlamyai market

Waraot Market is the oldest and most important market in Chiang Mai, it is located along the Ping River and is open from before sunrise until 6:00 PM. In front of it is Talat Tonlamyai Market, Chiang Mai's main flower market, which is open 24 hours a day.

How to get there?
It is a few minutes walking from Night Bazar.

2

Tha Phae Gate

Chiang Mai Old Town has a square plan and is surrounded by a moat and by the remains of the old brick wall that protected the city, which had access gates. Tha Pae is the best preserved and today it is the most central point in all of Chiang Mai.
How to get there?
From Night Bazar, walking 10-15 minutes or few minutes by tuk tuk.
3

Wat Chedi Luang

It is in the middle of the historic center and is the most famous in Chiang Mai, known for having housed the statue of the Emerald Buddha - today in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Its highlights are a huge central chedi, which in the past was about 80 meters height, and the Lak Muang, pillar where the tutelary spirit of the city resides.

How to get there?
By walking, taxi or tuk tuk.

4

Wat Phra Singh

It is the most important monastery in Chiang Mai and one of the most important temples in all of Thailand, as King Rama VIII added it to the privileged list of 1st class temples in 1935. Its most revered statue is that of the Buddha Phra Singh, which gives the monastery its name and is one of Lanna's most admired works of art.

How to get there?
10 minute walking from Wat Chedi Luang.

5

Wat Sakithaka (Wat Phra Lat)

This monastery is located in the middle of a quiet forest, and used to be used as a resting place for monks during the ascent to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It has a serene atmosphere and a path that leads to a viewpoint with splendid views over Chiang Mai. It is located about 10 km from the old town and about 6-7 km before reaching the top of the hill.
6

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Mount Doi Suthep, 1676 meters high, is to the west of Chiang Mai, crowned by one of the most sacred temple in all of northern Thailand: the beautiful Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. It was built in the 14th century, and it is still a working Buddhist monastery. Chiang Mai residents and tourists alike enjoy climbing the temple. Its golden chedi and the wonderful views of Chiang Mai stand out.
7

Have dinner on a night market

ΒΏIs it Saturday or Sunday? If it is Saturday head to Wua Lai Street and if it is Sunday then go to Ratchadamnoen Street. You are very lucky to get to experience this markets!
If today it's a weekly day then go to the only night market that opens daily: the Night Bazar. The market is located on Chang Klan Street.

✈️ Arriving to Chiang Mai

You can get there by plane, bus or train:

πŸ›« Flight

Fastest and most comfortable option.

πŸ“Β  Chiang Mai Airport (Code: CXN)

➑️ There flights from Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Samui, Phuket and some other big cities.
➑️ There are also international flights from most of South East Asia, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
➑️ Some lowcost airlines are: Airasia, Thai Smile, Nok Air, Thai Lion Air and Viet Jet air.

πŸš– How to get to the city center? Just get a taxi or grab car. It will cost you around 160 THB.

🚊 Train

We have a COMPLETE ARTICLE on the Night Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

πŸ“Β  Chiang Mai Railway Station

➑️ From Bangkok, Hualampong train station, it takes about 12 hours to get Chiang Mai.
➑️ Sleeping train from Bangkok is the most popular option.
➑️ Book your ticket in advance.

πŸš– How to get to the city center? Just get a tuk tuk, a taxi or grab car.

🚍 Bus

There are direct buses from any major Thai city.

πŸ“Β  Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station

➑️ From Bangkok, Mo Chit station, it takes between 10-12 hours to get Chiang Mai.
➑️ Bus are not expensive and good option if you can’t get train.
➑️ Book your ticket in advance.

πŸš– How to get to the city center? Just get a tuk tuk, a taxi or grab car.

πŸš‡ Where to go next?

Most common destinations after Chiang Mai:

Chiang Rai, the Northest City

Take a flight, train or bus to the North

Bangkok, the Capital of Thailand

1h flight

Krabi, the Base of Andaman

A short flight

Phuket, the Most Famous Island

A short flight