The Ultimate Guide for Chiang Mai Travel

Chiang Mai has been featured in numerous lists of the world’s top cities to visit. It blends modern living with its deep history without losing its unique heritage and charm. This is a fascinating destination to visit, not only for its rich culture, but also for its cuisine, people, and traditions.

Chiang Mai is widely regarded as the cultural capital of Thailand. If you’re looking to explore Thailand and experience its varied landscapes, Chiang Mai is an ideal base. This city, as well as northern Thailand, is different from bustling Bangkok and the south of the country. It’s a perfect complement to a beach holiday and another example of what makes this country so amazing.

What’s around in Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai has many activities to enjoy while staying. We narrow down activities you should not miss while holidaying in Chiang Mai.

Cultural heritage

There is a local saying which roughly translates to, “You haven’t seen Chiang Mai before you’ve seen Doi Suthep.” The name does not refer to the mountain alone, but also the temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which sits on top.

Wat Phra That Soi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of holiest and the most photogenic temples in Thailand. If you visit Chiang Mai, make sure you set aside some time to head out of the city and trek up the mountain road to this lovely temple. In addition to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, there are countless other temples in Chiang Mai (known as wats). Wat Chedi Luang is a notable one to see in the Old Town, along with Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chiang Man.

Natural attractions and responsible tourism

Chiang Mai offers a lot of natural beauty to explore, including Doi Inthanon’s cool mountain air and scenic views. keen gardeners will appreciate the attention to detail and skill of the green-fingered experts at Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens.

Kew Mae Pan Trail, Doi Inthanon

Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is the most popular trail in Doi Inthanon National Park. The Hmong people maintain and manage the trail. They also work as guides. The trail is clearly marked and easy to find on your own. Taking a guide, however, is compulsory and provides the local Hmong people with some extra income.

Please note that if riding an elephant is on your list of things to do, please reconsider. There are ways to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures without putting the animals in danger. For example, there are a number of ethical sanctuaries in Chiang Mai where you can visit elephants responsibly.

Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai

For a break from city life, head to Baan Mae Kampong. Visit on a day trip, or stay overnight in a homestay and take the time to appreciate lively northern Thai hospitality. Alternatively, take your trip out to Chiang Dao and experience life in rural Chiang Mai province.

Health & Wellness

With so many challenges in today’s society, it can be tough to maintain your mental and physical health. Chiang Mai is one of the best locations in Thailand to enjoy all the benefits of a relaxing spa right here in Chiang Mai. Spend your day being pampered at Makkha Spa, experience the amazing Fah Lanna Spa treatments with organic and natural ingredients sourced from local suppliers or unwind with a simple foot massage at the Walking Street Market.

Read more our tips for best spa and massage in Chiang Mai.

Sport & Adventure

Let us explore the world and push our limits for sports and addventure in Chiang Mai.

Hole 11, par-four, 342 yards. 24 November 2006. Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort, Chiangmai, Thailand. Mandatory credit: Richard Castka/Sportpixgolf.com

Sports lovers will be thrilled with Chiang Mai. The province offers championship golf courses and many of them are within 30 minutes to 1 hour drive from Chiang Mai city. Football fans should contact the local listings to see if Chiang Mai FC or Chiang Mai United are playing at home. You don’t even have to be a sports fan in order to enjoy all the excitement of the annual Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes, which takes place in April at Chiang Mai Gymkhana Club. The event is as much about socialising as it is about sport and is always a lot of fun.

Ever dreamed of driving a tuk-tuk? The Tuk Tuk Club offers the opportunity to do just that – drive this unique Thai form of transportation while on a driving holiday with a difference. Learn how to drive a tuk-tuk safely before embarking on an adventure among the back roads of Northern Thailand.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai offers a wide range of accommodation to suit all styles and budgets from backpacking to luxurious lifestyle. If you are in search of a romantic getaway, retreat or a holiday with family, Chaing Mai has got you covered.

Chala Number 6, Dusit D2, Raya Heritage

Old Town

Many of Chiang Mai’s most historically important temples are located in the Old Town area. The traffic here is light compared to other areas of Chiang Mai making the streets a pleasure to explore on foot or by bicycle.

Suggested hotels:

Tamarind Village

Chala Number 6

Riverside

The Ping River provides another perspective on Chiang Mai while staying nearby.

Suggested hotels:

Anantara Chiang Mai Resort

Ratilanna Riverside Spa Resort

Raya Heritage

137 Pillars House

Night Bazaar

It is within walking distance of the Old Town in one direction and the Ping River in the other if you stay in the Night Bazaar area.

Suggested hotels:

Dusit D2

Meliá

Nimmanhaemin

For those looking for a modern city vibe, the trendy Nimmanhaemin (in short Nimman) district is your option. The neighborhood has boutiques, coffee shops and local nightclubs the younger and trendy crowd gather.

Here is the guide to help you plan your trip around Nimman Road.

Suggested hotels:

Akyra Manor

Kantary Hills

Countryside

For those who are looking for serene mountain views and to simply relax and unwind, head out of town to one of Chiang Mai’s outstanding luxury hotels to make your holiday fill with memory.

Suggested hotels:

Four Seasons

Panviman Resort & Spa

The Bush Camp Chiang Mai

Food and drink in Chiang Mai

Khao Soi

Chiang Mai is a real delight for foodies. The famous local favourite is khao soi, the signature dish of Chiang Mai and the region. This creamy curry broth combines soft and crispy noodles with a choice of chicken, beef or pork. You’ll find khao soi served at various locations around Chiang Mai.

Head to Khao Soi Khun Yai  stall (Grandma’s Khoa Soi) near the Chang Phueak area. But it can be notoriously tricky to find if you walk past too fast; located between the temples Wat Rajamontean and Wat Khuan Khama. You get a bowl of curry noodles and a side plate with the normal garnishing of pickled mustard green, chopped red onions, lime and roasted chilli flakes.

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