Locating in the northern region of Thailand, the mountainous province of Chiang Mai is known for its laid-back vibe, rich culture, and lush greeneries that beckon visitors back again and again.
This article hopes to give travelers a wide range of things to do and places to visit in Chiang Mai that are not exclusive to foreigners, but hidden gems that are adorned by Thai locals as well.
If you are planning to visit Chiang Mai, this blog will serve as your guide to exploring the many ways you can enjoy Chiang Mai.
i. Explore things to do in Chiang Mai
What to do in Chiang Mai in the nature
With that said, we have compiled a list of activities that cater to all three of the seasons and help you get the best out of Chiang Mai during your visit
Doi Inthanon, part of the Himalayan mountain range, is located in Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand. It's the highest mountain in Thailand, standing at 2,565 meters above sea level. The mountain has a rather cooler temperature that supports a range of flora and fauna that are not typically found in other parts of Thailand.
- Wachirathan waterfall
- Hiking trails
- Twin chedis
How to get there
The best option to get to Doi Inthanon is by hiring a driver for the day or renting your scooter. The drive is about 1 hour and a half and going with a tour or own transportation allows you to see every attraction on the mountain.
Doi Suthep is also located in Chiang Mai Province only a few kilometers west of Chiang Mai. It's most famous for the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a sacred temple that dates back to the 14th century.
- Phra That Doi Suthep temple - golden glistening temple
- The Phuping Palace - vacation home of the royal family
- A steep 5km steps up to the peak
- Huay Kaew Waterfall, Monthathan Waterfall, Mae Sa Waterfall (a popular waterfall)
How to get there
From Chiang Mai old town, the most popular mode of transportation is to take a red songthaew from Huay Kaew road near the zoo where many red cars line the street and will take you up Doi Suthep for 40 baht. If you reside in town, consider chartering a red songthaew, rent a scooter or join a Doi Suthep half-day tour.
Explore the beauty of Doi Suthep on a half-day tour
Chiang Mai is home to some of the most ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. The elephants are rescued from circuses, and logging sites and are being taken great care of at the sanctuaries. Below are These sanctuaries are unique to their own, each one offering different activities to do with elephants without riding or entertaining.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a great place to experience Thai elephants up close. There are various things you can do: feeding, bathing, mud spa, and a popular option walking with elephants through canopies of trees in a truly tranquilizing experience.
- Experience Thai elephants up close
- Partake in various activities to care for elephants' well-being such as feeding, bathing, mud spa, and walking with elephants.
How to get there
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai conveniently offers Pickup and dropoff between your accommodations in Chiang Mai's old town to the sanctuary.
Book a ticket to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.
This two-in-one Elephant Sanctuary and Doi Inthanon tour is a great way to experience Chiang Mai. After spending a fun day with the elephants, you will visit the Doi Inthanon, walk among the lush greeneries, take a dip in the waterfall, and visit temples, and coffee plantations.
- Feeding and bathing elephants at Living Green Elephant Sanctuary
- Explore nature at Pha Dok Siao Waterfall.
- Pay homage to the famous Twin pagodas.
- A refreshing trip to Doi Inthanon
How to get there
Visitors to the tour need not worry about commuting, you will be picked up from your hotels in Chiang Mai town and conveniently returned once the tour is finished.
Book a ticket to elephant sanctuaries and the Doi Inthanon tour
Another fun way to experience elephant sanctuaries is to end it floating on a bamboo raft and taking a splash in the waterfall. On the elephant sanctuary and bamboo rafting tour, you will get to fully take in the fauna and flora along the Wang River and visit the Karen hill tribe’s village.
- Float down a narrow river comfortably seated on a 25-foot-long bamboo raft crafted with care.
- Take in the stunning scenery and keep an eye out for glimpses of majestic elephants.
- At the elephant camp, indulge in quality time with these gentle creatures.
- Feed and bathe the elephants, creating unforgettable memories and fostering a deeper connection with these magnificent animals.
How to get there
Similarly, if you choose to go on this adventure, your transportation will also be taken care of with pickup and dropoff to and from your hotel in Chiang Mai old town.
Book a ticket to bamboo rafting and visit the elephant sanctuary.
5. Blossom trees at Khun Chang Khian
Due to Chiang Mai’s unique cool water, the province is home to cherry blossom trees that are not found elsewhere in Thailand. Visitors to Chiang Mai, mainly the locals love to visit the Khun Chang Khian located 3 kilometers from Doi Suthep.
- Spectacular view of Himalayan blossom trees that bloom from January to the end of February.
- There is a long dirt path with blossom trees alongside, and a coffee plantation.
- See the local's way of living especially the Hmong Tribal people who are friendly and welcoming.
How to get there
The Khun Chang Khian is on the way to Doi Suthep, so if you are visiting Doi Suthep on a chartered red Songthaew or scooter, make sure you give this place a visit.
6. Flower fields at Mon Jam
Another spot to watch the flora of Chiang Mai is the Mon Jam flower fields. This area serves as an important research of plants in cold weather under the government’s project. It is 40 minutes away from Chiang Mai city and has rows and rows of flowers as well as strawberries.
- A diverse showcase of flowers, vegetables, and herbs cultivated by local hill tribes.
- Rai Dok Lom Nao Farm sits atop the hill and gives a panoramic view of the mountain and laddered rice fields.
- Explore the strawberries farm and Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden while you're there.
How to get there
There are 3 ways to reach Mon Jam, take a taxi, drive a scooter, or take a songthaew. The taxi can cost 1000 THB each way so your best option to go with many friends is to charter a Songthaew. If you drive a scooter, the last 100 meters of the journey can be a little tough because of the road's zig-zaggy pattern.
7. Bua Thong waterfall
You probably have seen the photo of the famous sticky waterfall of Chiang Mai. It is located 1 hour and a half drive north of Chiang Mai old city. The waterfall is called Bua Thong and is renowned for its sticky rocks that allow you to climb the waterfall and not slip. The water comes from a natural spring and is crystal clear.
- Bulbous and sticky rocks that are climbable with multiple tiers
- Vendors of drinks and foods near the waterfall can whip up some delicious meals.
How to get there
- Similarly, to get to the Bua Thong Waterfalls, consider renting a driver for the day or driving there on a scooter if you want to take in the scenery.
8. Hot Springs at San Khamphaeng
Enjoy a relaxing day by soaking your feet (or your entire body) in the warm water of San Khamphaeng hot spring. The spring is 36 kilometers from town and is amidst green forest. There is a mineral swimming pool and a hot spring is so hot you can boil eggs in it and eat them with soy sauce (you can purchase the eggs on-site!)
- Spreading across 40 acres of land, the area is surrounded by lush greeneries
- There are various bathing options. You can have private hot spring taps and, bath in the communal pool or a private cabin.
How to get there
Taking public transport, you can get a bus from Chang-Puak bus station to the San Kamphaeng district followed by a songthaew to the hot spring.
9. Mae Kampong Village, a hidden gem.
A peaceful and laid-back village that is the local’s best-kept secret is the Mae Kampong Village nestled in between the mountain’s valley with the trickling sound of streams and teak houses up the mountain’s slope. There are indie shops, cafes, restaurants, and arts and crafts.
- Experience Thailand's sustainable tourism, how the locals live, the serene environment, and the picturesque lodges.
- Make sure to spot the tea plantations that are the local's produce for decades.
How to get there
Similarly, we recommend getting a taxi or charter a songthaew to get there. An app like Grab can cost around 600 to 750 baht per ride. It's been said that driving a scooter there is not too convenient, especially for beginner drivers. The mountain is quite steep and is full of twists and turns.
10. Chiang Rai
You probably have seen the white temple of Chiang Rai. if you have not, it is a spectacle not to be missed. Chiang Rai is considered the sister of Chiang Mai where you can explore the Blue Temple, White Temple, Black Temple, Mae Kajan hot spring, and explore colorful handcrafted souvenir stores.
- Wat Rong Khun or white temple
- Wat Rong Suea Ten or the Blue temple
- Wat Phra Kaew
- Chiang Rai night bazaar
- Singha park and the hot air balloon
How to get there
Due to its distance from Chiang Mai, we highly recommend embarking on a full-day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.
Cultural things to do in Chiang Mai
11. See the temples in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is the oldest city in Thailand, and with that comes a rich history and culture. Visiting temples is a very tranquilizing experience, especially in Chiang Mai with many beautiful temples, each one dazzlingly decorated. Below is a handful of temples in Chiang Mai that are worth your visit.
- Wat Umong Suan Puttharam: A famous temple in Chiang Mai with an intricate tunnel built for better ambiance for mediation.
- Wat Phra Singh Woramahawiha: The temple houses the Phra Singh statue (Lion Buddha) which is said to originate from Sri Lanka. The beautiful golden tower paired with a teak library makes the temple ground a beautiful sight.
- Wat Jedi Luang: This temple is unique for its ruined Lanna-style architecture with faded paint. As you wander through the temple ground, you can notice the remnant of war on the walls.
Wat Umong Suan Puttharam
If you are looking for what to do in Chiang Mai Old Town, consider going to see a Muay Thai fight. Witness skilled athletes engage in intense combat within the squared Thapae Boxing Stadium in Chiang Mai.
The Thaphae Muay Thai Stadium is a representation of the long-standing combat and is located close to the Thaphae gate. It is where the best fighters in Chiang Mai gather to showcase their kicks and jabs.
Book a ticket to see a Muay Thai fight at Thapae Muay Thai Stadium
A fun way to get closer to the culture of Chiang Mai and Thailand is to dress up in traditional clothing and take photos around the Chiang Mai old town. Wondering what to do in Chiang Mai's old town? Consider this activity.
Sporty activities in Chiang Mai
With its wide and diverse landscape, Chiang Mai’s terrains and water offer the perfect environment to be active. From paramotor to zipline to Bungee jumping, there is an activity for everyone.
Prepare for the adventure of a lifetime. The Chiang Mai Paramotor experience allows you to see the scenes of Chiang Mai in its full glory. These thrilling escapes offer unparalleled 360-degree views of the lush terrains as you take in the morning sun with a nice wind against your face, truly a magnificent interaction.
No experience in flying is needed as you will be accompanied by a professional pilot and a GoPro camera to document your special moment.
Discover the new exciting experience of climbing and flying over the jungle of Mae Rim Chiang Mai at Phoenix Adventure Park. A recommended zipline for those who seek adventure is thrilling, exciting, and suitable for all ages.
We have expert guides to take care of and guarantee safety all the time. Also, you can ride the tiny train passing through the flower field. If you came with family, do not miss this unique photo opportunity.
Book a ticket to ziplining at Phoenix Adventure Park
Soar to New Heights with a Chiang Mai Hot Air Balloon Adventure!
Prepare for an enchanting journey as you embark on a hot air balloon ride in the heart of Chiang Mai. Experience the beauty of Northern Thailand from a unique perspective, as you gently float above the breathtaking landscapes and ancient temples that define this magical region.
Chiang Mai's iconic beauty unfurls beneath you—a tapestry of emerald green fields, mist-covered mountains, and historic temples dotting the landscape. The view is simply mesmerizing, and it's an experience that words cannot do justice.
Book your hot air balloon ride in Chiang Mai now!
An exciting outdoor adventure you should try by rafting through the rapids and lush green jungle of Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai. There are 2 packages to choose from, The first is an 8 km. trip for those looking for an introduction to rafting, families with children, or those who want a quick splash in to cool off from the heat. The second is 10 km. trip for more challenge and fun through the Class III-IV rapid section.
Book your rafting adventure in Chiang Mai
Taking it up a notch, if you are a daredevil, this activity is for you. Bungy jump from 165 feet above the lush green scenery of Mae Rim at the Jungle Bungy Jump. Run under New Zealand standards with an excellent safety record, Chiang Mai’s only bungy offers a great opportunity to test your courage and experience the thrill of a lifetime.
Try this once-in-a-lifetime experience Bungee jumping in Chiang Mai
Pump your adrenaline while riding Thailand's first jungle coaster at Pongyang Adventure Park. The Jungle Coaster is a 2-persons rail car sliding from the hilltop and the rider can use a lever as a break to control speed.
The camp is located in the middle of the jungle and mountain in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai. Moreover, there are other activities to do such as quick Jumps, and roping down from the top of a 15-meter canopy, a giant Swing, and a 12-meter tall swing.
Get a ticket to Pongyang Adventure Park
The Grand Canyon Chiang Mai Waterpark is the most beautiful in Thailand and is a perfect place to go in Chiang Mai for families with children. Located in the middle of the old query, just 30 minutes from Chiang Mai City. Large cliffs surround the stunning atmosphere.
There are lots of activities to play such as Floating Adventure zone, where you have to pass through many obstacles. If you miss it, you will fall into cold water. We challenge you to play a giant slider, 10 meters long that will take you in the air for a while before dipping the water.
An exciting activity to do in Chiang Mai is to drive an ATV tour of the countryside. If you’re not afraid of getting a little dirty, this activity is highly recommended. You get to choose between a half-day and a full-day ATV rental.
Embark on a culinary journey in Chiang Mai
There is no other way to savor Thai culture like eating delicious Thai cuisine. Every region in Thailand has its unique taste and flavor and Northern Thailand’s cuisine is so honest and deep-rooted, it makes you appreciate the culture even more. Here are some ways to cherish the locals' way of living through food:
22. Chiang Mai walking street
A walking street is something you just can’t miss in Thailand. It’s a great way to see the lives of the locals and try delicious Chiang Mai street food. The most popular and accessible is the Tha Phae walking street.
Tha Phae Walking Street
Khum Khantoke is a dining experience that fuses eating traditional Thai food and enjoying a cultural show.
Guests can enjoy delicious dinners from a Khantoke (small wooden rounded table) with some staple dishes like curry, green chili paste, fried chicken, and fresh and stir-fried vegetables. There are interesting shows put on each night ranging from cultural dances to fire performances.
Book a table for Khantoke Dinner at Khum Khantoke
Taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai is a popular activity because it’s a fun learning experience where you also get to see the way of living of the local people.
We can’t recommend a cooking class at Grandma’s home cooking school anymore. What’s special about taking a cooking class at Grandma’s home cooking school is the scenic garden that students will get a tour of as they collect the produce and pick fresh organic vegetables.
There is a market tour before each class where you will learn how to choose the best ingredients and negotiate prices like a local. Booking your place at a cooking class in Chiang Mai
Planning a trip is a bit of a hassle, check out this 3-day 2-night tour of Chiang Mai that includes scenic, cultural, and exciting activities, perfect for your exploration of Chiang Mai.
Arts and Cafes in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is more than just a province. It is a serene community of locals and expats in the mountains. With a rich history and culture, this enchanting and humble city attracts creatives from all over the world who practice art. With that said, visiting aesthetically pleasing cafes and art spaces in Chiang Mai is a must-do.
This petite location is a newly established artist village set a little bit outside Chiang Mai’s old town. There are 10 buildings of independent shops, galleries, brunch places to go in Chiang Mai, and cafes that are tastefully decorated. From ceramic cups to paintings, to books, this small community offers a soothing break from the bustling city.
Locating close to the old town, the Woo Cafe and Art Gallery is a delightful destination to feast your senses upon a unique fusion of art, food, and shopping. The cafe serves delectable desserts and drinks, whereas the gallery is decorated with colorful flowers, paintings, and ceramics sculptures.
Something you’d never expect to see in Chiang Mai is a Japanese teahouse. The Magokoro Japanese Teahouse is a Japanese-styled cafe with wooden floorboards, and a nice tsukiyama (garden). The tea and snacks pair together nicely and are a great way to relax in Chiang Mai.
Locating in the most artistic hub of Chiang Mai, the La Luna Gallery is built into a colonial house and connects artists both locals and internationals. There is always an event or exhibition going on.
Catch a wine and paint night or other artists’ meetup by keeping up with their socials.
Photo credit: La Luna Gallery
The best time to visit Chiang Mai:
Chiang Mai is best to visit all year round, although the month you choose will dictate how the weather is gonna be. Here’s a breakdown:
- November to February (cool season): Adorned by the locals and foreigners, the cool season is best to visit because it is pretty nice in the daytime with temperatures around 24 degrees Celsius. There is lower humidity than in other months and the sky is clear and blue. Sweaters are advised for evening outings as it can get quite cold at night.
- March to May (hot season): Temperature can get pretty high during the hot season making the air dry and leaves dusty. This season is infamous for the Chiang Mai agricultural burning that makes the air quality quite bad. If you plan on visiting during this season, we recommend bringing N95 face masks with you and sheer clothing to beat the heat.
- June to October (rainy season): The rainy season in Chiang Mai is not as bad as it sounds. The rain lasts about 1-2 hours and many people prefer to visit Chiang Mai in this season. The trees and mountains are as green as can be and there are not as many tourists as in the other seasons.
How to travel to Chiang Mai
There are several ways to get to Chiang Mai from other places. Air travel is, first and foremost, the most convenient option. Numerous airlines provide more than 45 daily flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
The flight lasts for around one hour and fifteen minutes. The starting price for an ordinary airplane ticket is 1,300 Baht (return). To learn more, visit the websites listed below:
Taking a bus is the second way. We recommend Mo Chit Station as a bus supplier; they have over ten daily trips from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The typical bus ticket costs 500 Baht for a one-way ticket. The bus ride takes nine or ten hours to complete.
Taking an overnight train is another well-liked option. Every day, Hua Lamphong Bangkok Station is the departure point for five trains. We advise using the No. 9 train, which departs at 6:10 p.m. if you'd want a brand-new, comfortable sleeper train with air conditioning. It takes approximately eleven to twelve hours.
How to travel around Chiang Mai
You can travel around Chiang Mai via a Tuk-tuk or similar local transportation. The cost of a Tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled, non-air-conditioned taxi (private transportation), starts at 60 Baht and goes up to 200 Baht at night. Most drivers of tuk-tuks are fluent in English.
The red pick-up truck, referred to as "Rot Dang" or Songhtaew in the area, is the mode of transportation used in Chiang Mai. Depending on the distance traveled and the terms agreed upon by the driver and passengers, the typical fare per person is between 20 and 100 Baht.
Most pick-up drivers know basic English and can help you with your travel.
Additionally, the "RTC Chiang Mai City Bus" is the only air-conditioned bus service available in the Chiang Mai City area. Travelers will find it quite useful since the "Via Bus" smartphone application allows them to check the whereabouts of the bus. Each person's fare is 30 Baht.
Another popular method that allows for a lot of freedom is renting a scooter. Note that knowledge of driving one is essential and a helmet should be worn all the time. The scooters cost around 250 baht to rent per day with a 1000 baht deposit.
Map for Where to visit in Chiang Mai