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Things to do in
Chiang Mai

Whether you're a backpacker or a seasoned traveler, the 300 temples and lush mountains here won't fail to inspire.

Our most recommended things to do in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai: Waterfall, Elephant Sanctuary and Bamboo Rafting

1. Chiang Mai: Waterfall, Elephant Sanctuary and Bamboo Rafting

Embark on a one-of-a-kind experience and visit an ethical rescued elephant facility in the jungle outside Chiang Mai. Cool off in a waterfall, savor a traditional Thai lunch, and become a caretaker for the day as you interact, feed, and observe the gentle giants in their natural environment.  Begin with a pickup from your hotel or accommodation in downtown Chiang Mai. Take a scenic drive southwest of Chiang Mai and see local farms, hill tribe villages, and rice fields along the way.  Journey to the Mae Wang Waterfalls, where you'll relax and take a dip in the water. Arrive at the Pon Elephant Thailand located deep in the jungle. You'll be welcomed to the sanctuary by a guide who will lead you through the experience. Next, get a briefing on Asian elephants and the background of the sanctuary. Come and meet the friendly rescued elephants and feed them bananas. Walk up the hill with elephants through the forest and watch the elephants forage for food in the wilderness. Observe elephants interacting between families in their natural environment. Head down to the river and enjoy bathing with the elephants. Walk with the elephants back to the sanatorium and embrace the memories and have time to say goodbye to these marvelous creatures. Finish off with a scenic bamboo rafting trip along the Mae Wang River before you get dropped off at your hotel in Chiang Mai.

From Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park Day Trip

2. From Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park Day Trip

Get picked up from your hotel in Chiang Mai city center for a day to explore one of Thailand’s original national parks and highest mountain, Doi Inthanon. This tour will feature picturesque landscapes, remote villages, and incredible viewpoints. After getting picked up from your hotel in Chiang Mai, head to your first stop, one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in the country, Wachirathan Waterfall. Over 80 meters high, the power of this waterfall creates a refreshing mist that feeds the surrounding vegetation. Next, stop at the stunning 50-meter cascade, Sirithan Waterfall, which is fed by the Mae Klang River.  Take a leisurely stroll along this short boardwalk and take in the scenic surrounds of Angka Nature Trail. Read the placards that point out some of Thailand's local fauna and admire the beauty and tranquility of Mother Nature. Then, stop at the famous twin pagodas: the Napamatanee Don and Napaphon Bhumisiri. Built for the Royal King and Queen, they are located at the highest point in Thailand. Round out the tour with a visit to the Karen Tribe locale. Learn a bit about the hill tribes people’s culture and way of life in their village of Sobhad. The road trip to Doi Inthanon will have you spending a lot of time on the road. You can choose to upgrade your transportation to a premium and more spacious Alphard. This ensures bigger and more comfortable seats, less people in one van (maximum of 6 people), and free snacks, cool towels, and soft drinks. Enjoy a low-impact way of exploring. On this tour, you explore sustainable experiences that prioritize providing water in glass bottles and offsetting carbon emissions in every tour, reducing your environmental impact and carbon footprint.

From Chiang Mai: Chiang Rai Temples Small Group/Private Tour

3. From Chiang Mai: Chiang Rai Temples Small Group/Private Tour

Quirky, charming, and creative are the words used to describe Chiang Rai by travelers and locals alike. The sights to be found here are by no means anything like the ones you’ll see in Chiang Mai, the city’s more popular sister. Before we begin temple sightseeing, we’ll break up the long three-hour drive at the Mae Khachan Hot Spring to relax, dip our feet in the steaming mineral water, maybe eat a snack, or walk around the surrounding gardens. We’ll then move on to the main attraction: the White Temple. If you’re looking for ancient ruins, you might be surprised to find a modern architectural masterpiece designed and built by local artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. He was rumored to have spent over THB 40 million of his own money to create this unconventional art exhibit to gain immortal life! After exploring this local wonder, we’ll have a quick lunch before heading to our next stop... The Blue Temple or Wat Rong Seua Ten literally translates to ‘temple of the dancing tiger.’ It was built on a site where tigers were said to have jumped over the river. If the White Temple was meant to be a stairway to heaven, the Black House has been called a “dark, mysterious, and almost sadistic” representation of hell, complete with preserved animals and a collection of bones. Built by Thailand national artist Thawan Duchanee (who incidentally was the mentor of Chaloemchai, the White Temple guy), the Baan Dam Museum (Black House) is a cluster of nearly 40 small shadowy structures exhibiting art dating back to the Ayutthaya period. This is truly something the likes of which we’ll never see anywhere else! Looking to make your road trip to Chiang Rai even more comfortable? You can choose to upgrade your transportation to a premium and more spacious vehicle. This ensures bigger and more comfortable seats, less people in one van (maximum of 6 people), and free snacks, cool towels, and soft drinks. You can opt for a private tour option to visit the White Temple and Golden Triangle (instead of the Blue Temple and Black House). The Golden Triangle is a triangular piece of land in which the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar all meet. The nickname was coined by the CIA in reference to this region, whose trading posts’ top product was opium. Dive deep into the wild history of this area and learn how it became one of the most notorious narcotrafficking spots in the world. This itinerary option also includes a cruise down the Mekong River. (The distance from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is approximately 172 km one-way. Kindly be prepared for a long drive (roughly 3 hours one-way).) Enjoy a low-impact way of exploring. On this tour, you explore sustainable experiences that prioritize providing water in glass bottles and offsetting carbon emissions in every tour, reducing your environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Chiang Mai: Elephant Sanctuary & Waterfall Group Tour

4. Chiang Mai: Elephant Sanctuary & Waterfall Group Tour

Take a visit to the Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai. Start with a convenient pick-up from your hotel in the city center of Chiang Mai and take a drive to Pon Elephant Thailand. Learn how to make healthy snacks for elephants and see the rescued animals. Go for a swim at Mae Wang Waterfall. Relax as you are picked up from your city center accommodation in Chiang Mai. Sit back as you are driven southwest of the city on a scenic 1.5-hour drive. Encounter local farms, hill tribe villages, and rice fields. Receive a warm welcome when you arrive at the Pon Elephant Thailand. Listen to a briefing on Asian elephants and the background of the sanctuary. Gain new knowledge as you are taught how to make healthy snacks for the elephants. Feed the rescued elephants as you walk up a hill in the deep jungle. Watch the elephants foraging for food and see elephant families interacting with one another. Bathe in the river with the elephants and walk them back to the sanctuary, where you will be taught how to make elephant medicine balls. Take a shower and pack up your belongings. Eat a traditional Thai lunch and fresh fruits. Leave Pon Elephant Thailand and stop at the Mae Wang waterfall for a quick swim before transferring back starting point after the tour.

Thailand: eSIM Roaming Mobile Data Plan

5. Thailand: eSIM Roaming Mobile Data Plan

Make your trip to Thailand hassle-free with an iPhone and Android supported eSIM. Stay connected with high-speed coverage anywhere in Thailand, or upgrade for coverage in eight additional countries, including Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Hong Kong.  Purchase and install your eSIM anytime and anywhere, and choose from a variety of data packages, validity options, and coverage in additional countries. Simply scan the eSIM QR code to access all your essential apps on your trip. Choose between 3 to 30 days of coverage, ranging from 1GB to 30GB options to use over your chosen duration. Alternatively, enjoy the option to receive 500MB renewed daily for 7, 14, or 30 days. Avoid the trouble of managing multiple SIMs with a zero-waste solution. Get one eSIM per device and easily purchase and activate additional eSIM plans as you go. Once activated, your coverage will begin according to your selected duration. All iPhone models launched after iPhone XS can support eSIM. For Androids, if you are unsure, please check with the guideline photos for eligibility.

Chiang Mai: Authentic Thai Cooking Class and Farm Visit

6. Chiang Mai: Authentic Thai Cooking Class and Farm Visit

Learn how to make authentic Thai dishes with this fun, small-group cooking class in Chiang Mai as you prepare classic dishes using ingredients from a local market. Choose between a half-day class during the morning or the evening and cook three or four dishes, or go for the full-day class to cook an extra two courses! Get picked up at your hotel in Chiang Mai, then meet up with the rest of your group and choose what you want to cook from the menu. Visit a local market and buy the necessary ingredients. The highlight of this trip is the organic farm tour. Our instructor will take you to walk through the farm to get to know Thai herbs and vegetables, pick some fresh vegetables and collect eggs for your dishes, feeding the chicken. Once you're done, head to the classroom and prepare your individual cooking stations for the lesson. Follow the instructions of your professional English-speaking guide as you cook a variety of authentic Thai dishes such as mango sticky rice, pad thai, and curry, and make curry paste with your own two hands! For full day class, you will have a chance to experience a traditional Thai way of life by using a coconut grater to make coconut milk for your own curry or Mango Sticky Rice. Enjoy the fruits of your labor by sharing a meal with your group. Exchange stories as you sample each others' cooking before you head back to your accommodation.

Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park & Elephant Sanctuary

7. Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park & Elephant Sanctuary

Discover the beauty of the Doi Inthanon National Park, see the Wachirathan Waterfall, and feed elephants at an elephant sanctuary. Choose from a tour with a centrally-located meeting point in Chiang Mai or a tour with convenient pickup and drop-off directly at your accommodation in Chiang Mai.  Hop aboard a comfortable van or bus and relax the drive to the southwest of Chiang Mai. Stop at one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in the country, Wachirathan Waterfall. This waterfall is more than 80 meters high, creating a refreshing mist that nourishes the surrounding vegetation.  Continue your journey to admire the stunning Twin Royal Pagodas. Take in gorgeous panoramic views with a terraced flower garden and the summit of Doi Inthanon Mountain. Walk on an ancient fern forest trail and have a delicious lunch at at local restaurant. Drive through the mountains and hill tribe village to the Elephant Village. Once you arrive, put on a traditional Karen tribe t-shirt and get ready for your jungle adventure. Pickup some fruits to feed the elephants. Learn about Asian elephants and the village's background. Find out how to approach elephants and the correct ways to feed them. Go on a forest hike with the friendly elephants through the lush vegetation and breathtaking mountains. Observe elephants roaming and foraging for food freely in the wild.  Swim with the elephants at the hidden waterfall where you can take some amazing picture. Have free time for a cool shower, to dry off, and to change back into your own clothes. Leave the Elephant Village and travel about 1.5 hours back to Chiang Mai City. 

Chiang Mai: Elephant Sanctuary and Sticky Waterfall Tour

8. Chiang Mai: Elephant Sanctuary and Sticky Waterfall Tour

Begin your private experience with pickup from your hotel in Chiang Mai. From there, take a scenic journey to a private elephant estate where you will be their caretaker for half a day. Upon arrival, walk to the main base camp to get changed into an elephant caretaker outfit and prepare yourself for a day of fun. Hear about Asian elephants' long and fascinating history as you learn to cook healthy herbal treats for them to eat for a snack. Afterward, feed the handmade treats to them and walk along their side through the beautiful lush forest. Following that, your tour continues with elephant bathing in the river before you say farewell to your new friends and set off on the next part of your tour. Following the sanctuary, take some time out of your day to enjoy a delicious Thai lunch. Savor local dishes accompanied by rice, and finish off your meal with a selection of fresh tropical fruit. After lunch, continue to the Buatong Sticky Waterfall. Whilst there, enjoy some walking and climbing from down below the falls to all the way up to the very top. As the waterfall is constructed from natural limestone, you can walk and climb easily to the top, enjoying the clear water to cool down. As your tour concludes, depart from the waterfall to return back to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai: Doi Suthep and Wat Umong Enchanting Evening Tour

9. Chiang Mai: Doi Suthep and Wat Umong Enchanting Evening Tour

Be picked up from your hotel in Chiang Mai city center and go on a short drive to Wat Umong temple in the late afternoon. At this time of day, the crowds are few and views are prime. Upon arrival, explore the underground tunnels, bask in the beauty of the temple, and enjoy the forest surroundings. It is said that the trees in this forest have words of wisdom for those who pass by. After Wat Umong, the next stop is Doi Suthep temple. At this ornate structure, which is reached by a 309-step staircase, enjoy the spectacular views of Chiang Mai at night from the summit of the mountain. Join a traditional ceremony performed by the temple's monks at the Golden Pagoda. After an afternoon spent exploring Chiang Mai’s temples and enjoying the sunset over the city, be returned to your hotel. Enjoy a low-impact way of exploring. On this tour, you explore sustainable experiences that prioritize providing water in glass bottles and offsetting carbon emissions in every tour, reducing your environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park Visit and Guided Hike

10. Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park Visit and Guided Hike

Explore Doi Intanon National Park, home to Thailand’s highest peak, on this full-day tour from Chiang Mai. A member of the local Karen hill tribe will be your guide during the hike. Walk through the jungle and spot exotic birds and butterflies. Reach the hill tribe village after about 2 hours of hiking. Drive through Baan Khun Klaang, the largest karen community in the park, and then see the beautiful Wachirathan Waterfall. Take a break for lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch, drive to the summit of the mountain and explore the Ang-Kha Nature Trail. Continue to the twin pagodas built in honor of the King and Queen of Thailand. Admire the royal flower garden surrounding the site.

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Top sights in Chiang Mai

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Frequently asked questions about Chiang Mai

What top attractions are a must-see in Chiang Mai?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Chiang Mai?

The best day trips and excursions from Chiang Mai are:

Chiang Rai

Insider Tips: Planning a trip to Chiang Mai

Martina and Jürgen, the authors of PlacesofJuma, share their travel experiences from around the globe. With a passion for photography, they are constantly in search of the most stunning destinations and places.

What should I do on my first trip to Chiang Mai?

When traveling to Chiang Mai for the first time, be sure to explore the Old City. This historic area is rich in impressive temples, such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, which house intricate architecture and spiritual treasures. Moreover, the Old City offers excellent markets for shopping. An absolute highlight and one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai is visiting the Doi Suthep National Park with the renowned Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a breathtaking temple complex perched high on a mountain. From there, you'll enjoy a magnificent view of the city and the surrounding landscape.

What are some hidden gems to see in Chiang Mai?

If you're looking for hidden gems in Chiang Mai, consider visiting the Sticky Waterfall and Royal Park Rajapruek. The Sticky Waterfall stands out due to its unique feature: the water and rocks are so mineral-rich that you can climb and ascend the rocks barefoot without slipping — a one-of-a-kind experience. The Royal Park Rajapruek is a beautiful park that receives fewer visitors compared to some well-known tourist attractions. It boasts exquisite botanical gardens and tranquil pathways, making it the perfect spot for relaxation and picnics.

How much time should I spend in Chiang Mai?

I recommend staying there for a minimum of 4 daysto give you ample opportunity to explore the fascinating city and its surroundings. You can spend the initial days in the Old City, visiting the impressive temples. A highlight near the city is Doi Suthep National Park, with Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and its breathtaking views. Moreover, in Chiang Mai, you can engage in various activities such as cooking classes, elephant encounters, or yoga retreats. There are also numerous markets where you can sample local delicacies and buy handcrafted souvenirs. A day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park or a visit to the waterfalls in the vicinity is also highly recommended.

What food is Chiang Mai known for?

Chiang Mai is a food lover's paradise, said to have the finest cuisine in all of Thailand. Two of the standout specialties are khao soi, a creamy and flavorful noodle soup with various types of meat, and a khan toke platter, a traditional meal that serves various Thai delicacies like grilled chicken, sticky rice, vegetables, and spicy sauces, traditionally on a low table.

What is the best way to get around in Chiang Mai?

The best way to get around in Chiang Mai is on foot, especially in the historic center. The old town offers most of the attractions, temples, and markets within easy reach of each other. If you want to cover longer distances, there are Songthaews and tuk-tuks available, cost-effective shared taxis for getting around the city and its surroundings.

What are the best months to visit Chiang Mai?

The best months to visit Chiang Mai are during the dry season, November to January, with mild temperatures providing optimal conditions for sightseeing and outdoor activities. However, it's also the peak tourist season, so you may encounter larger crowds of tourists, and prices for accommodations and activities could be higher.

What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Chiang Mai?

The best neighborhoods to visit in Chiang Mai are the Old City and the Night Bazaar Shopping District. Chiang Mai's Old City is the historical core of the city, offering an abundance of impressive temples, cultural attractions, and historic buildings, making it perfect for sightseeing. The Night Bazaar neighborhood is a paradise for shopaholics, providing a vast array of shops, markets, and stalls selling everything from clothing and handicrafts to souvenirs and culinary delights.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

You can enjoy great food in Chiang Mai in many areas, but the Night Bazaar neighborhood in Chiang Mai is one of the best districts for culinary delights. You'll find numerous street stalls, food vendors, and restaurants offering a wide range of Thai and international dishes here. You can savor authentic Thai dishes like pad thai, green curry, papaya salad, and grilled chicken. There are also plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available. Additionally, you can explore a variety of snacks and treats, including spring rolls, fresh fruits, fried insects, and sweet desserts.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Chiang Mai?

A stay in Chiang Mai's Old City is an excellent choice. Here, you'll find a wealth of top-notch accommodations, including particularly charming boutique hotels. Additionally, the Old City serves as the city's cultural heart and hosts many of the most important sights and temples, all within convenient walking distance. The picturesque streets and relaxed atmosphere make it an ideal place to soak up Thai culture and city life.

What are your top 5 GetYourGuide experiences in Chang Mai?

• Chiang Mai: Authentic Thai Cooking Class and Farm Visit

• From Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon National Park Day Trip

• From Chiang Mai: Chiang Rai Temples Small Group/Private Tour

• Chiang Mai: Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park

• Chiang Mai: Old City and Temples Guided Walking Tour

What is one thing that surprised you about Chiang Mai?

One thing that surprised me about Chiang Mai is the sheer number of temples in the city. There are literally hundreds of them, each with its own unique architecture and history. What's really amazing are the meditation courses and monk chat sessions offered in many temples in the Old City.

Other Sightseeing Options in Chiang Mai

Want to discover all there is to do in Chiang Mai? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Chiang Mai

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 8,286 reviews

Jumped straight into this trip after the Bangkok to Chiang Mai sleeper train arrived at 7:15. Everything we expected and more, Mr B (our driver) was phenomenal!! Very funny inviting chap who kept us laughing and well kept all day long. The transport was clean and comfortable. T.K was amazing too and very knowledgeable. Was great to see and understand what these sanctuaries are trying to achieve. Food was superb took us to a local restaurant en route between the waterfalls and sanctuary. Accommodations were made for my partner and I as we are both vegetarian. Well worth the money and a dreamy experience!

The trip was awesome! The guide Noi really made the day special as he was very informative, easy to understand and shared his own personal stories as well as jokes. We loved the elephant park, it seemed ethical and they treat the elephants very well. The temple was also nice, with a good view on the city. I would really recommend the trip it is a really good value for money and we had a lovely time.

Our guide was really kind, informative and enthusiastic throughout the tour. He made a real effort to capture our experience by taking plenty of pictures which we appreciated, later sending them to us all over Whatsapp. Would definitely recommend :)

Very nice! Beautiful locations, lovely people, fun lessons and delicious cooking!

Wonderful experience! We had a beautiful day, beyond expectations.