Let your senses be your guide in Thailand’s exotic north. A thirteenth-century city that retains its original moat and corner bastions, Chiang Mai is capital of a mountainous province 70% covered by forest. The mild climate makes it a perfect destination to explore Thai arts and culture, its natural beauty, or to simply unwind.
Charming Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is packed with history and cultural attractions. Mountaintop Wat Prathat Doi Suthep is the most famous of city’s 300 Buddhist temples. Climb the 306 steps or take a lift to visit its famous chedi (stupas) and its expansive terrace that overlooks the city. Described by some as the region’s most atmospheric temple, Wat Phan Tao is built from local teak and houses an exquisite gold statue of the Buddha. Wat Phra Singh, the Lion Buddha temple is a major site of reverence for Thais and features fantastically ornate carvings.
Take advantage of the vast selection of outdoor activities and mountain and jungle tours in the surrounding province. With Lanna Kingdom Tours you can befriend elephants, zipline through the forest canopy, or go white water rafting on a one-day adventure tour. Other popular activities include bamboo rafting, jungle and waterfall hikes, and visits to hill tribe villages. Back in town, enjoy some downtime with an invigorating Thai massage.
Shopping in Chiang Mai is another uniquely Thai experience, with traditional crafts and textiles a specialty. The city’s markets are great spots to haggle with local vendors for handicrafts and souvenirs. Choose from Chiang Mai night bazaar, Saturday Walking Street near the Southern entrance to the old city, and a lively Sunday Walking Street. Talat Ton Phayom and Talat Warorot are markets where the Thais themselves shop. Also look out for the Fair Trade stores selling authentic hill tribe crafts.
Otherwise, be in the city for one of its many festivals. Mid-April, the Songkran Festival celebrates the Thai New Year. Around November, Thais make floating offerings and beautiful sky lanterns for the colourful Loi Krathong festival.
Chiang Mai travel facts
Read our Thailand traveller information guide for info on visas.
There are no direct flights from Australia to Chiang Mai International Airport, but plenty that fly via stops in Asia. Chiang Mai is a one hour flight from Bangkok or a twelve-hour train journey. Sleeper carriages are available for overnight train trips. Get around town by tuk-tuk.
The best times to visit are July to February. March to June are the hottest months and the air can be dusty, however, there are fewer tourists. July to September are the wettest months, while October to February is the driest and most popular months to visit. October to February are also coolest. Daytime temperatures stay in the low to mid-twenties, and you may need a jacket at night.