Chiang Mai is famed for its glorious architecture, picture-perfect greenery, beautiful sunsets and rolling hills. Founded in just 1926, the city of Chiang Mai It is located in the mountainous parts of northern Thailand, around 426 miles from Bangkok.
The city attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year from across the globe. From its rich cultural history to its historical architecture, Chiang Mai is known for its spectacular sights and offers some of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the world.
Here are 9 reasons why you need to visit Chiang Mai and experience the beauty for yourself.
The unmissable Buddhist Temples
One of the most famous attractions in Chiang Mai is the Buddhist temples which are dotted around the city and create a dramatic yet beautiful skyline. In this city, the temples are also known as ‘wats‘ and there are over 300 of them located around Chiang Mai. Many of the temples were constructed as far back as the 13th century and are ‘Lanna’ style, which means they have curved wooden roofs that are pointed at the top.
You will find no other place in the world that is home to as many stunning temples as Chiang Mai. The most famous, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located at the peak of a mountain and overlooks the city. Many of these temples require a lot of traveling however, the journey will take you through the wonders of the city and will be a memory that you never forget.
The temples in Chiang Mai are religious grounds so follow a modest dress code. Visitors must wear clothing that covers their shoulder, stomachs and ankles and is not see-through. Many guests chose to wear long flowy trousers or skirts with long-sleeved t-shirts. Dressing modestly shows respect to the temples when you visit.
Delicious flavors in Chiang Mai
Whether you are looking to experience a stunning restaurant or indulge in delicious street food, Chiang Mai will have the perfect dish for you. Located in South East Asia, food in Chiang Mai takes inspiration from other Asain cuisine and cooks with traditional Thai recipes and techniques. The most popular dish in this region is Khao Soi- a Thai noodle soup made with coconut curry served with two types of noodle and either chicken or beef.
Khao Soi and many other Thai cuisines can be enjoyed as street food in the vibrant streets of the city or at a restaurant. There are many good restaurants to chose from in Chiang Mai, which are happy to accommodate tourists and always welcome new faces. Our personal favorite is Jack Show Restaurant which is 5-star rated and said to provide an exceptional dining experience for all pallets.
Cooking classes in Chiang Mai
If you enjoy indulging in the traditional northern Thai cuisine that is served in Chiang Mai, why not learn to make it yourself? The local people are passionate about home cooking and enjoy sharing their skills with keen tourists through cooking classes that are held regularly in the city. The people of Chiang Mai are incredibly friendly, the city has become known for its various cooking schools that are loved by all who experience them.
In these cooking classes, you will be thrown into the deep end and taught how to make a Thai feast completely from scratch. Classes are usually run in large groups of tourists so it’s also a fantastic opportunity to make friends on your travels throughout Thailand. The cooking schools all offer their own unique set of classes. If you are vegetarian, ‘We Love Green‘ will teach you how to use traditional Thai vegetables in your dishes or, for those who loved home-grown goods, Thai Farm Cooking School is an excellent choice and takes place on an organic farm.
Chiang Mai Night Safari
If you are a lover of wildlife, Chiang Mai Night Safari is not to be missed. The safari is inspired by a similar attraction in Singapore and has three main sections: Savanna Safari, Predator Prowl and Jaguar Trail. This safari aims to give visitors the unique experience of being in the wilderness at night- which looks spectacular when the sun goes down. Beautifully sculpted buildings and large safari trees are illuminated with lights to guide visitors around this wonderful attraction.
The safari is ideal for a nighttime adventure, however, make sure to take safety procedures when doing anything at night in a foreign country. This experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and is definitely worth a slightly later bedtime! At the safari, you can see Bengal tigers, lions, hyenas, puma, wild boar, giraffes and many other rare savanna animals. You are guaranteed to be impressed by the variety of attractions and beautiful displays at this Chiang Mai must-see safari.
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Chiang Mai Grand Canyon
The Chiang Mai grand canyon is as beautiful as its American counterpart and offers a fun day out for all types of travelers. The Grand Canyon is a former quarry that has been turned into a picturesque location ideal for spending days soaking up the sunshine. As well as the spectacular views that are on offer, there are plenty of exciting things to do at the Grand Canyon.
Many people, including locals, visit the Grand Canyon for swimming in the blue waters or relaxing with a book in the sun. The Grand Canyon also has its own water park. The waters of the Grand Canyon are crystal blue, which makes a day out at the park even more special. The park hosts a range of thrilling activities that are fun for all of the family and provide a great escape from the bustling city.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
If one attraction will answer your question: is Chiang Mai worth visiting? it has to be the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. This vibrant market is the main place for shopping in the city and is definitely a stop worth taking on your trip to Thailand. The Night Bazaar offers everything from delicious street food to Buddhist souvenirs and is a cultural experience that will not disappoint.
The market begins at sunset, which is usually around 18:00 pm, making it the perfect night out and opportunity to see the beautiful city of Chiang Mai under the stars! The market spans across two blocks of the city and offers are a wide range of different stalls and southeast asian experiences that you will not get anywhere else in the world. When the market is open, the streets are lit with fairy lights and Thai decoration. The city feels alive as local people and tourists come together to shop!
The views of Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon is the highest peak in Thailand and is the location of a beautiful national park that exhibits all the wild wonders that you must see on your trip to Thailand. As with the rest of Chiang Mai, you can expect to see beautiful Thai architecture and pristine green spaces dotted around this magnificent location. Many people enjoy hiking up this mountain or taking a more leisurely route through the winding paths around the park.
Also located at Doi Inthanon is one of the few traditional hill tribe villages left in Thailand. These villages used to be a common sight around the country however, tourists have modernised Thailand and now these tribes are quite rare. The village at Doi Inthanon is a true image of authentic Thailand. If you want to fully immerse yourself in culture, you could dress in traditional Thai clothing and take photos in the pretty village.
Elephant Nature Park
One thing that needs to be on your list of things to do in Chiang Mai is to visit the Elephant Nature Park. Unfortunately, these marvellous animals are becoming a rare sight in the wild and seeing them up-close is an experience that you will never forget. Unlike a few Elephant camps that Chiang Mai offers, the Elephant Nature park avoids any animal cruelty and treats its animals with complete respect. You can not ride the elephants here. Instead, visitors are welcome to volunteer to feed and wash the animals as part of their care.
Many of the elephants here are rescues and ex-labour animals. They need a large amount of care and love, which is exactly what this park provides them with. To volunteer, you must pay for just transport and lunch. This money goes towards keeping the park and looking after the animals.
Chiang Mai is famously surrounded by tall mountains and dense rainforests. This rocky location means that there are many pretty waterfalls dotted around the city that add to the beauty and serenity of Chiang Mai. Many of the rocks in this part of southeast Asia are made of limestone, which means that they are sticky even when wet! Because of this, they are incredibly easy to climb.
A great way to spend an afternoon in nature is to climb one of these beautiful waterfalls and splash around in the pools that they create. You will find this to be extremely relaxing as the waters are cool and fresh. The numerous waterfalls located in Chiang Mai also mean that crowds arent usually a problem. If it’s busy, simply keep exploring and you are sure to find another waterfall nearby.
How many days should you spend in Chiang Mai?
Five days in Chiang Mai will allow you enough time to visit most of the main attractions and will also leave you with spare time to relax and take in the views. Any less time than this and you may find yourself unable to do many of the amazing activities that Chiang Mai has to offer.
Is Chiang Mai or Phuket better?
Both Chiang Mai and Phuket are vibrant cities that will offer you a great Thai experience. However, Chaing Mai is more relaxed than Phuket as the tourist population is much smaller. Both cities are different, but which one is better for you will entirely depend on the kind of holiday that you want. To get the best of both cities, why not try traveling between the two?
The two cities are just a 2 hour, fairly cheap, flight away from each other so, getting from one to the other is an easy trip. Visiting both cities on your trip to Thailand will allow you to get the best experience of the country without missing out on any of the attractions that both places have to offer.
Does Chiang Mai have beaches?
Chiang Mai city is located in the mainland of Thailand so there are no beaches to be found here. There are however many beautiful waterfalls that are great for bathing in the sun or relaxing by the waters with a book. Just because there is no sand doesn’t mean that you can’t embark on the activities that are popular when visiting a beach.
The city also has a famous water park located in the Grand Canyon which offers watersports as well as exhilarating rides which allow guests to make the most of the blue waters. Although there are no beaches in Chiang Mai you won’t be stuck for things to do!