The 12 Best Things To Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

things to do in chiang mai temple hopping

Considered the spiritual capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai is a rollercoaster of experiences. Here are some of the best things to do in Chiang Mai!

After the big capital Bangkok and after the bit of island hopping in the south of the country, Chiang Mai is the most popular destination for travellers visiting Thailand.

The contrast couldn’t be bigger. Because of its laid-back vibe, less suffocating temperatures, friendly people and great value-for-money in food and shopping, it was the place I enjoyed the most. Not to mention the huge variety of things you can do and experience.

I’ve compiled some – just a taste! – of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.

Top Things To Do In Chiang Mai

1Hang Out With Elephants

things to do in chiang mai elephant sanctuary
Judging by this borderline crazy look, I feel this little one gets too excited with bananas.

Before coming to Thailand, I knew to get up and close with elephants was one of my top bucket list activities. While there are hundreds of elephant tours in Thailand and in Chiang Mai in particular, the challenge is to find one that does NOT include riding.

Fortunately, there are a couple of elephant sanctuaries and conservations projects to pick from in Chiang Mai.
I went with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, but another valid option is the Elephant Nature Park (book well in advance). The prices are not cheap, but the money goes into the welfare of animals and also into the rescue of new elephants.

In both, you can feed the elephants, bathe them, and hang out with them for a few hours. The hyperactive baby one was the star of the day! Trust me, there’s no need to jump onto their backs.

🐘 Why shouldn’t we ride elephants in Thailand?

Elephant’s spines are not prepared anatomically to carry people all day and animals in most tours are often subject to a violent process known as Phajaan. This is intended to mentally “break” them and become completely submissive to exhaustive days of work and humans in general.

Unfortunately, due to poor regulation and criminalization laws, most of the elephant tours in Thailand still practice riding. By choosing an elephant tour that includes riding the animals you’re supporting this kind of businesses who make money through the directly imposing pain and suffering into these majestic creatures.

best Chiang Mai things to do best Hotels

The best places to stay in Chiang Mai
 
Pre-selected hotels in Chiang Mai Old Town, with a rating of 9 or more. Can’t go wrong with these.

2Temples: Do Your Bit Of Temple-Hopping

things to do in chiang mai temples
Wat Phan Tao.

There are over 200 ancient wats (temples) scattered along Chiang Mai, which makes it the right place to start a journey to your inner self and keep you in the path for enlightenment.

Remember that these are active worship locations, so make sure you have the utmost respect for locals. You are expected to wear modest clothing and keep quiet during your visit.

Best Temples In Chiang Mai

Some of the temples not to be missed are Wat Chiang Man, the oldest in the city, Wat Chedi Luang, in the heart of the walled old town, and Wat Phan Tao, my personal favorite.

Outside of the old town, make sure you also pay a visit to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. It’s the city’s jewel and apart from the stunning temple complex, it also has a commanding view of the entire Chiang Mai valley.

Booking.com

3Sunday Night Market – Go on a shopping spree!

things to do in chiang mai sunday night market food
A bit of everything, please.

I’ve been to a lot of street markets in many different places. What happens most of the times is that I eventually find them dull and get bored. This didn’t happen at all in Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Market (also called Night Bazaar). It completely surpassed my expectations.

First of all, it’s huge. It not only extends itself through Rachadamnoen – the main street in the old town – but many other streets were closed to traffic and filled with stalls and vendors. The entire old town is transformed into a giant market.

Then, there is so much to see, eat and do. From inexpensive quality massages available in every corner to clothes, souvenirs, and creative Thai-inspired arts and crafts. If it wasn’t for luggage space, I could easily take four or five paintings from this place. And don’t even get me started on the street food!

I mean, shopping in the markets of Bangkok still has an advantage in terms of quantity, but from what I could see Chiang Mai definitely wins in quality. For some reason, everything that is being sold – specially food – seemed better.

If you happen to be on a Sunday in town, this market is a must-do, don’t miss it!

Sunday Night Market pro tip

Get there early to avoid crowds. Don’t worry about dinner, just grab some bites throughout the night. This way you can try out many different specialties!

Most of the food stalls are to be found near or within the properties of the wats. You’ll find hundreds of choices for low-cost quality food. As usual, pick the most popular stalls amongst locals.

4Zip-Lining Through The Jungle

Being afraid of heights – as you can judge by my terrified face on the photo above – my first time zip-lining in Chiang Mai was the most memorable Thai experience.

Contrarily to many other places where all you get is a go in a single zip line, in Chiang Mai you can try a complete course of zip lining and Indiana-Joning through the jungle.

The whole ride was a 2-hour adrenaline-packed adventure. I can’t believe I got to literally fly at 70 meters of height or ride an 800-meter (!) single zip line. Highly recommended!

ℹWhich company to go zip lining with in Chiang Mai?

There are many companies offering zip lining tours, but unfortunately some of them don’t quite comply with safety standards. Some tourists got seriously hurt in the past.

Flight Of The Gibbon is slightly more expensive than the competition, but they don’t mess around with safety in the treetops and neither should you. The equipment is all new and secure and the guides were flawless in making us comfortable and feel safe. Plus, in the Mae Kampong forest you get to see wild gibbons!

5Indulge On A Thai Cooking Class

things to do in chiang mai cooking class curry
Our made-from-scratch curry paste. It’s a total bitch to get to this consistency, so prepare for an intense arm workout!

Thai food is a true delight for your taste buds. It’s hard to find such an incredible balance of sweet, spicy and salty in the same dish.

But what most surprised me in Thai cuisine is how easy it is. Most dishes can be conveniently prepared without much hassle or preparation. My creations looked and tasted like delicious with much less effort then western cuisine. We did several different dishes, including a traditional spicy soup, curry paste and a spring roll, all delicious!

In the end, we even got a very detailed recipe book which was great to recreate the dishes back at home. Overall, I feel this is an experience worth having not only for foodies like myself. Even the most novice of cooks can prepare yummy Thai dishes!

ℹWhich cooking class to do in Chiang Mai?

To say the least, the competition in cooking classes is fierce in Chiang Mai. There are DOZENS of schools available. In some of them you can cook an extra dish, in others there’s a market or organic farm tour included, or any other catchy feature to stand out amongst the competitors.

Quite frankly, I’ve heard great things from many different companies so I guess it’s hard to go wrong here. The company I went with, Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School, absolutely nailed it. The instructor was knowledgeable and VERY funny – loved how the level of spiciness was determined by how sexy you want to be. Also, their prices seem to be slightly cheaper than the competition.

6Visit Doi Inthanon National Park

things to do in chiang mai doi inthaton park
Out of a painting!

When you’re looking to cool down from the humid heat, Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand seems like a good option, doesn’t it? Who knew that just at about 1h30 drive away from Chiang Mai, there would be a mountain rising at an altitude of 2,565m, that experiences below-zero temperatures quite often.

The surrounding Doi Inthanon Natural Park covers a land area of almost 50,000 hectares and is home to an incredible variety of trails, remote villages, and charming mountain farms, and even waterfalls. Make sure you visit Sriphum Waterfall, the most photogenic of them all.

Tip: don’t go by scooter there as the road can be very tricky. The best way get from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon is to either hire a driver or join a tour.

7Go for a swim at Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon

Hang Dong Quarry, better known as the Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon, is another great option to escape the heat and see a rather unusual Thai landscape. Located at about 45 minutes from Chiang Mai center by songthaew, this old quarry with red soil is quite an unusual sight for Thai standards.

While the cliff jumping continues to be the most popular thing to do here, there’s also inner tubes, bamboo rafts and a water park with inflatable obstacles, rafts, and even a zip-line!

ℹGrand Canyon Chiang Mai

Open daily from 8.30 am to 6 pm.
Admission is 50 Thai Baht per person. Lifejackets and tubes can be rented on site.

To get there, the best way is to rent a songthaew: make sure you arrange a return trip with your driver.

8Do a massage. Or many.

things to do in chiang mai massage
This is life.

Yes, I know you can get a Thai massage pretty much anywhere in Thailand. The question here is value for money and Chiang Mai is hard to beat.

We did a one-hour full-body Thai massage for around 200-400 baht, which is ridiculously cheap. The masseur even massaged my fingers (!) which felt surprisingly reinvigorating.

There are many types of massages you can get in Chiang Mai:

  • Massage by an ex-con: do this at the rehabilitation program of the Womens Correctional Institution
  • Foot massage at the Sunday Night Market: I did an AMAZING foot massage for 50 (!) baht. Hard to beat this.
  • Blind massage: Blind therapists with an allegedly enhanced tact sense are awaiting for you at the Association Massage of Blind People

Do as many massages as you can. My only regret was not getting more while I was there!

best Chiang Mai things to do best Hotels

The best places to stay in Chiang Mai
 
Pre-selected hotels in Chiang Mai Old Town, with a rating of 9 or more. Can’t go wrong with these.

9Explore Doi Suthep

Perhaps the most iconic sight in Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep is a mountain which houses Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a 13th-century gleaming temple. It’s one of the most historically and spiritually significant places in Thailand. Hard to decide what’s more impressive: if the golden chedi, if the stunning views over the city.

Plan to spend a couple of hours exploring the temple and surrounding area, that has various trails and even waterfalls!

Doi Suthep is located 12km outside of Chiang Mai, so you’ll need to get your own wheels or take a songthaew. If you’re reasonably fit and have roughly 3 hours to spare, start a hike up near Chiang Mai University and do the Monk’s Walk up to the temple, which can really add to the experience. Aim to visit as early as possible during the day for fewer crowds.

ℹDoi Suthep

Opening hours for Wat Phra That Doi Suthep are 6am-6pm every day.
To get there, the best way is to rent a songthaew: make sure you arrange a return trip with your driver. Choosing a clear day can help bring out the amazing views!

10Chat With A Monk

things to do in chiang mai monk chat
Monk chat site @ Wat Chedi Luang.

Exploring the amazing wats of Chiang Mai is amazing experience by itself, but you can enrich it even more.

A few of the temples in the city have a “Monk Chat” program, where you can speak freely to monks about their beliefs or simply mundane aspects of their lifestyle. In exchange, they get to practice their English.

We’ve done this with two monks. While one of the monks was extremely shy, the other one was extremely talkative and friendly. Putting face-to-face such different perspectives in life is very enriching and really gives you food for thought.

Monk chat programs in Chiang Mai

These are some of the most popular places to chat with monks in Chiang Mai.

  • Wat Chedi Luang: Monk chat available daily from 9am to 6pm. Look for the tables under the shady trees.
  • Wat Suan Dok: Has a room dedicated for the monk chat programme. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 7pm.
  • Wat Sisuphan: Daily, from 5:30pm to 7pm.
  • 11Try Khao Soi

    best things to do in chiang mai khao soi

    There are plenty of tasty dishes to try in Thailand and food, in general, is not a problem in Chiang Mai. There are plenty of great value places to eat.

    That said, if one has to be picked to represent Chiang Mai, it would have to be Khao Soi. This noodle curry is a soup with chicken, egg noodles, and coconut which gives it a delicious range of textures. Usually, it’s served with a small side dish of lime, pickled green mustard, and red onions. Yum!

    12Celebrate Songkran!

    best things to do in chiang mai songkran

    An important event on the Buddhist calendar, Songkran is the Thailand traditional New Year celebrations. It’s also called the water festival as it’s believed that throwing water will cleanse your sins and get you fresh and ready for the new year.

    In Chiang Mai, this festival is taken to a whole different level. Not only it can last longer – up to six days! – but people will literally stand at the side of the road ready to soak every one passing by with water guns, buckets, and balloons. It’s also a time where people visit the local temples and bring food to the monks.

    It’s definitely an unusual and fun time to experience Chiang Mai!

    Booking.com

    Extra things to do in Chiang Mai

    The list doesn’t stop here. Although I personally didn’t had the chance to do the things below, they can serve as suggestions of more unusual things for you to experience in Chiang Mai:

    • Do a meditation course at Doi Suthep Vipassana Meditation Centre – there’s no better place to get in touch with your inner self
    • Get a sak yant tatoo from a monk – make sure you get a clean and hygienic place to do it!
    • Go for a shopping spree at Warorot Market – more local and authentic
    • Make a wish at Yi Peng Chiang Mai, or Loi Krathong – the lantern festivals!
    • Visit the Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm – tourist trap or amazing experience? Only one way to find out.

    Things NOT to do in Chiang Mai

    You may have noticed I have skipped some very touristy things to do from this list. On purpose. Tiger Temple is one of them. I don’t see any reason why I would give money to a place that holds drugged animals just for the stake of a cute selfie or a new Facebook profile picture.

    Same thing applies for the Karen Village. In this one, humans are the main attraction, just because women are culturally encouraged to grow extremely long necks. If zoos are not my thing to start with, human zoos are much worse.

    things to do in chiang mai temple

    Getting to Chiang Mai

    I got to Chiang Mai via overnight train from Bangkok. If you’re the planner type and want to have tickets pre-booked, 12Go Asia is a reliable company to book buses, trains, and ferries in Thailand.

    Powered by 12Go Asia system

    You can also fly directly to Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX).

    Where to stay in Chiang Mai

    Areas to stay in Chiang Mai

    If you want to be in the center of the action and be in walking distance to most of the restaurants, temples, and shops in town, definitely look for a place to stay in the Old Town. This is the area inside the walled square and is definitely the most charming.

    Also look into Nimmanhaemin area, which has a great array of shops, restaurants, and cafés.
    This is the area many expats and digital nomads choose to stay in.

    Note that quality higher-end hotels are usually outside of the old town walls. Staying a bit further out the center is not really a problem. Tuk-tuks, motorbikes, and songthaews make it easy to get around.

    Places to stay in Chiang Mai

    Below are my top two choices when I was looking – both are cheap, have WiFi and are conveniently located in the Old Town. Both are great value, but in the end, I went with the second option.

    Mid-range hotel

    best things to do in Chiang Mai thailand - best hotel to stay old town
    Rich Lanna House
     
    Stylish and charming, this hotel has breakfast included and a salt-water (!) swimming pool.

    Budget guesthouse

    best things to do in Chiang Mai thailand - best hotel to stay old town
    Yindee Stylish Guesthouse
     
    With an excellent location, friendly staff and clean minimal rooms, this guesthouse is suited for the more budget-conscious.

    Or… find your own accommodation!

    Booking.com

    Chiang Mai, the place to feel alive!

    Overall I left Chiang Mai with the feeling is that kind of place for years live in your imagination and all of a sudden it came true.

    Once you get there, you are exposed to so many different experiences and activities that it’s overwhelming. It’s a paradise to tick off things off your bucket list and indulge on authentic and inexpensive Thai activities. The way Chiang Mai makes you feel alive is incomparable.

    Have you been to Chiang Mai?
    What are the things to do in Chiang Mai that you’d add to this list?

    Share your thoughts 💬

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    57 comments 💬

    1. Firstly, it’s nice to see you accepting criticism in the manner it’s meant to be taken.
      Secondly we’re going to Chiang Mai next June firstly to a fishing lake and lodge, then staying in a hotel for the following week. It’s our first trip to Thailand and we’re really excited so reading your blog, the replies and such is a great help! We’ll use some ideas and make some up as we go! Thanks for your info!

    2. I love what you talking about Chiangmai and things people should Experience.. However, I dislike about the way you talking about elephant. You only visit Thailand just short time, I don’t think you know enough. I live here my whole i know the truth is different than what you said. My tribe is the native people who has worked with elephant for many generations. Represent to my tribe and my country I would say thai people we love and care for elephants like everyone in this world.
      You need to come stay for many years than you will understand more about elephant.

      Regards
      Sun

    3. Thank you for the Khao soi recommendation! I always want to try the food but don’t know what to order and the English here isn’t always that good, it was delicious! And will be my go-to the rest of the trip!!

    4. I’ve taken a tour to the villages. It’s uncomfortable because it feels invasive. But the tour guides are bringing tourists there to bring awareness to the refugee camps of these tribes.

      The tourists are these tribes only means for survival and making money.

      You’re not doing your research. You’re slamming these tours. But these people need tourism to survive. You’re discouraging these refugees supply for income. Their only means of income. The government needs some help but the tribes need us.

      I agree the tourism can be done better. But they need awareness and they need a way to make money. They can’t get jobs like regular Thai people.

      Don’t discourage they means of an income. Work towards a better way.

      When you go to these places. As questions, see it for yourself. Educate yourself. If you’re seeing something unethical. In the reality of it you’ll see what you’re made up and hopefully yocan be a person to do something about it. Not just listen to rumors, spread lies, oversimplify a complicated problem.

      1. Thanks for sharing your opinion.
        I don’t appreciate your tone when you say to “educate myself”. I’ve seen things for myself, talked to people, and reached my own opinion which I am entitled to have and to share.

        With all due respect, your opinion seems to be the one oversimplified and founded on one thing: “they make money out of this”. Well, of course they do. The problem is the majority of the money goes to private tour companies, not them; and like you said yourself, there are much better ways to make this a tourism business than to market them like animals in a zoo.

    5. The tiger kingdom doesn’t drug animals. Tigers are lazy sleepy creatures with sprints of energy. During the day they are sleepy. Before tigers are mature they can be socialized with people. After they reach maturity they become antisocial and will become territorial where they will kill each other.

      Tiger kingdom is a really important place because the species is on the brink of extinction. I’m this country they can’t let the tigers be out there in the wild. There isn’t enough to breed, treat differently and free them into the wild. With only 104 tigers in the wild in this country the poachers will get them.

      Places like tiger kingdom is important because they bring awareness and grow love for the this endangered species. It costs money to breed them and keep them alive. They have 2 very good educational programs to teach the threat, behavior of the animal and how to take care.

      With humans expanding and taking over all the viable land along with poachers. Before condemning the places and spreading rumors that they are being drugged how do you propose we solve the problems with coexistence when our species is causing the problems?

      Bloggers aren’t reporters. I’ve done the volunteering. They give each tiger special dietary directions based on their stool, behavior and other data. They contribute to the survival of this species.

      When you interact with the tigers here you will be interacting with baby and children tigers before they reach maturity and can retire from cuddling.

      My only gripe is that having children doin something as boring as pose for photos probably does suck for the tigers. I don’t encourage the tiger encounter program. But I recommend keeper for a day and tiger trail. These are very important programs to educate and contribute to the survival of their existence.

      Do your own research. See it for yourself, ask questions, call or seek others who have seen these programs for themselves. The keepers really do love their tigers and believe I. What they do. I’ve spoken with them. Tiger keeper for a day is a tiger lovers dream. Drugging and mistreating the tigersis am old rumor. There’s too many bloggers spreading the rumors without actually doing the research and you’re doing bad by perpetuating lies.

      1. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

        First of all, my review was targeted to Tiger Temple, not Tiger Kingdom (two different places). There is clear evidence the tigers are drugged and chained up in Tiger Temple by the time I visited.

        In any case. Without doubting the love and care the keepers have for the animals, this doesn’t mean they aren’t drugged in some kind of way in both places.

        Plus: regardless if they are drugged or not, this place breeds in captivity for profit and as such, it’s not a place I would personally visit.

    6. I’m curious how much research you did before slamming certain “touristy things”. I admit, I also initially refused to patronize “Tiger Kingdom” because of what I read online by other bloggers. (BTW, Tiger Temple isn’t in Chiang Mai, and its poor reputation is actually deserved from what I can tell). However, the more I researched, the more apparent it became that rumors about Tiger Kingdom were simply spread by bloggers who wanted to highlight their “ethical wokeness”. Insider accounts of volunteers and field professionals posting VERY detailed explanations debunking such rumors hold far more weight than people with zero zoological or veterinary background trashing a practice because it’s become the “en vogue” thing to do in travel blogging. The same goes for visiting “hill tribes”. First of all, you’re basing your very simple post on the Karen tribe specifically. At least do justice to the tribes in the area and acknowledge that the diversity here far exceeds one specific tribe of people that maintain (many of which by choice mind you) to sustain a specific cultural practice because – in addition to other reasons – it sustains their livelihood. You make zero mention or hint at the other peoples who exist in northern Thailand. What about the Hmong? The Akha? The Mien? The Lahu? the Lisu? The Lawa? Visiting a group of people to learn about their history and their customs is NOT unethical. Treating them as an exhibit that exists simply for your pleasure and potential for a photo shoot to prove to your friends and family that you live such a “cool life” is DEFINITELY unethical. A person’s motivation speaks volumes and guides their actions into a more appropriate lane. By your logic, and the logic of many so-called “ethical” travel bloggers, no one should visit villages in any country in the world, even their home country, as it’s mere exploitation of local peoples and their customs. The world exists in all its beautiful diversity. It is a world that all of us can learn from and grow from. Please research the advancements in “hill tribe tourism” before condemning activities in a country that is not yours. As with anything in life, due diligence is the responsibility of the person undertaking that specific action. If you want to “ethically” (this word is so played out in the travel “blogosphere” and is now teetering on triteness) learn about something outside of your own realm of existence and previous exposure, then find the proper channels to do it respectfully. Don’t just shut yourself off to the experience completely because a group of people from the other side of the world decided to type into a computer that it isn’t okay to do.

      1. I just reread your post and noticed you specified “Karen tribe” and didn’t generalize all “hill tribes”, so I apologize for that. But I still stand behind my sentiment that you’ve completely neglected the value, knowledge, and experience to be gained by spending time with the various minority ethnic groups in the region because you needed to put the short little blurb about how horrible visiting the Karen tribe is. That same blurb is in almost every travel blog about Chiang Mai, so maybe you thought it was necessary for publication. I don’t know. But to ignore the existence of so much ethnic diversity in the area is an injustice in and of itself.

      2. Thanks for sharing your opinion, even though you completely took it the wrong way and attacked me for no reason. I feel we agree in more points than we disagree 😉

        First of all, I’m writing about the Karen tribe only and not others because 1) it’s the most touristy and were most problems arise 2) there are other tribes in the area.

        And I think you took it wrongly and are making a judgement which does not correspond to the message I want to convey. To be clear, I’m not against the curiosity of knowing more about them – I’m also curious and would love to see and interact with them – the issue is the business around going there just like you go to an amusement park. It DOES NOT MATTER if your behaviour is invasive or not, just by going there, paying the ticket, you’re supporting that kind of business. There are no rules or ethical guidelines to such a company and hence I’m not supporting it.

        Fortunately, there seem to be good examples of sustainable and ethical ways of connecting and seeing these fascinating group of people.

    7. How in the world going to see the tribe with long necks should be like going to a human zoo?
      The curiosity is what makes people travelling. I really don’t understand your words.
      The right ethic is in the attitude and behavior not in the place we choose to see.
      If I visit that village and I start shooting photos to everyone without asking any permit or annoying the people, than there is a problem. If I go there without bothering anyone then to stay there or to go in Paris is the same thing. Means that you go there to satisfy your curiosity.
      I will go to see the people with the long neck because I am curious and I want to see them with my eyes.
      There is nothing bad on this. Change the words you use. Instead of showing a good travel ethic you show a pretty ignorant extremism without any shade. To write “Human zoo” without any particular explanation is definitely a wrong choise.

      Besides this thank you for the suggestions

      1. Just because it’s out there to see, do you think is ethical to pay a business that makes money out of them? I don’t.

        Just like I don’t support zoos or other tours that hide animal abuse on the backstage, I don’t support the idea or the business behind a place that puts people as attractions for others to take photos. Do I have curiosity to see the place and how they live? Yes. Would I PAY a business like this to see it that has no rules or conduct for interaction? No.

        It does not matter if you’re taking photos or not, just by being there you are supporting that money cycle when there are far better options to feed your curiosity – as a reader suggested below.

    8. Totally agree about what NOT to do in Chiang Mai, humans and animals alike deserve respect!

      But what I would totally recommend for openminded travellers is to live in a (hill tribe) village for a few days. We stayed through Duara Travels in 2 different villages 3 nights each, first being a Thai farmer village with the most amazing vegetarian food. And the second was a Karen village on the slopes of Doi Inthanon – but no longnecks for display, only warm-hearted hosts. The idea is to really to connect with the locals and participate in their daily lives, far from the tourist scene.

      1. This is something I would like to do. How do you connect with the locals to do that?

    9. Personally I enjoyed the Night Bazaar which takes place from Monday till Saturday much more than I enjoyed the Sunday market. The crowds at the Sunday market overwhelmed me, it was hardly possible to move around, forget about stopping to see some things to buy! I was there in February and March and while it was a bit better in March, I still remember it as a place to avoid – but maybe that’s my personal uneasiness around such huge crowds of people 😉 The calmer night bazaar was great and there were Thai dance shows every evening which I enjoyed watching over and over again! Anyway, Chiang Mai is a great place and I hope to go back there one day and take one of the cooking classes you mention… 🙂 Cheers!

      1. I’ve been to that one as well. Less choices but definitely less overwhelming.
        Quite frankly, if it was today, I’d probably like the less crowded option too. Thanks Dorota!

    10. For the more adventuristic travellers coming here to CM, there’s also, quad biking, shooting or rent a scooter and go to Samoeng, a small village to the north west. One you get off the main road (45-60 mins) you will be headed up into the mountains. Yes, there is a 7-11 there but a nice area to “get lost in”. If you still want to ride some more, just beyond Doi Suthep is Queen Sirikit botanical gardens and beyond that is a Hmong village. Of course you can rent a car and driver if you got the cash. In town is Warrorot market where you will pay a stupid tourist tax so bargain a little but not too hard, it’s cheap as chips here and smile while you do it ! Don’t go there if you get hot and bothered easily !
      I love it here, but come and find your own places, foods and things to do, but it’s the people… smile and you will be made most welcome

    11. Who wouldn’t love Chiang Mai? If you want to get close to nature and know more about Thai culture and get to try the activities as well, Chiang Mai is indeed the perfect place to visit. What I like about this place is that they have sanctuaries for elephants where you can take care and bathe with them.

    12. Good afternoon…after haveing been fortunate enought to now be in Chiang Mai for over a month…i appreciate your prospective on things to do, but i do want to correct you so that people are not misled on a few things you stated. Tiger Kingdom does not drug its tigers, i have volunteered there and can assure you of this and believing bloggers that have never even been to Thailand is not correct. Regarding bartering…it is a sad thing visitors now feel they can and should do, prices in Thailand are amazingly cheap and to try to push locals to go lower is not only unfair, but in my opinion very disrespectful. I know as a foreigner, the Long Neck villagers as qell as others seem cruel and exploitative, but this is how they feed there families and continue to excist after they escapes from their terrible homelands. As far as my favorite…elephants, please add Patara Elephant Farm, they do allow you a short ride bareback on the elephants, which after much investigation amd inquirees with numerous vets through out the world, the short unsaddlwd rides actually help in the rehabilitation of their backs amd help to control the overgrowth of thwir toenails…which is how theybpwrspire. They also aid in nursing, and proliferation of the species and eventually for re- insertion into their natural habitat. I am so glad you enjoyed your visit and have given almost a perfect list of things to do when visiting, but please do it with respect and a full understanding before making such definitive comments. Most of your suggestions are great i agree!! Keep up the great work and learn everything you can about every place you visit.

      1. Thanks for sharing your input John.
        On the other side of things, and with all due respect, that sounds like someone that works at Tiger Kingdom would say 🙂 I had friends visiting who shared their experience and said the tigers were drugged or anesthetized somehow, hence my opinion. HOWEVER we might be both right as things might have changed since then (I sincerely hope they did!).

        I understand the Long Neck villagers make a living out of this but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s acceptable. I’m not against them obviously, I’m against the whole scheme in place to generate money.

        I don’t see how riding an elephant would help the toenail growth, but I’m not a vet so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. In any case, I rather keep endorsing companies who have a no-riding policy.

        Again, thank you for sharing your insider feedback on this!

    13. first off… I love your blog’s layout! these are really helpful… I’m planning on going to Chiang Mai but don’t have an Idea what to do there 🙂

    14. The article mentions that you ‘barter’ at the night markets in Chiang Mai. This isn’t true. I don’t think the author of the article understands the meaning of the word barter, which means to exchange goods for other goods. You can only exchange money for goods at the markets.

      1. My mistake! This comment was meant for another list of things to do in Chiang Mai that I had open in another tab. Apparently I don’t know what I’m doing 🙂

    15. Planning my first ever visit to Thailand and this guide is incredibly helpful. I especially appreciate your values when it comes animal rights. Thank you for highlighting this often overlooked aspect in backpacking/tourism. and thanks for great info :)!

    16. Surely, you cannot leave Chiang Mai without having explored all the temples and the night markets with all the food are INCREDIBLE! Missing the food so much, hope to go back next year!

      1. It’s probably my favorite market ever. Handicrafts & art are actually interesting and the food is indeed delicious!

    17. Love this. I’m actually staying in the Yindee Guesthouse right now and think it’s great! I loved the Sunday market and will be looking to do a cooking class before we leave 🙂

    18. Hello my wife and i are headed to thailand. we are going to bangkok, Chang Mai, Kuala Lumpar for 3 nights, singapore for 2 nights would love any info this will be our first time!! we are so looking forward to this.

      regards
      Mike

      1. Never been to Singapore sadly but you can find tips for the other places on this blog, just search for it on the top right bar!

    19. Thanks dude, just booked the Yindee for our 1st trip to Thailand.We go for the month of Feb and are gonna do 10days in Chaing Mai then Chaing Rai for another 10 and after that , who knows ??? I am in my early 60’s and my wife is mid 40’s so maybe the zip lining might be the only suggestion of yours that we don’t follow.We had 2months in India 10yrs ago, which was a shock, so we are hoping a month in a Buddhist country will have a more chilled out vibe to it?!

      1. That sounds like a great plan, I’m envious now! If you don’t do the zip lining but are into hiking, there are many trekking tours which I haven’t done but other people there highly recommended it to me. It can be a busy city, but you’ll always find very chilled spots. Happy travels!

    20. Buddy u have narrated changmai so lively & in true sense that i remembered u on every destination i visited there. Very calm & nice place to relax for as many days u can. I will visit again & again.

      1. Sorry for the late response, hard to keep track of all the comments.

        Thank you so much, Chiang Mai is definitely a place that remains in your mind for a long time, it’s different from anything I’ve seen really!

    21. Hi Bruno – this is a great list. I did the Sunday Night market yesterday and it is as you have described (and more) – the smells and colours were just great. One thing I’d add to your list is to seek out a local coffee shop. They have an awesome coffee culture in Chiang Mai using beans grown and roasted locally. I found some really cool places using an app called “Bean Hunter”!

      Thanks again and keep on blogging!

      1. Very well pointed out. You’re absolutely right – the coffee scene in Chiang Mai is thriving. I did want to keep it as unique and Thai as possible, that’s why they didn’t make it to the list.

    22. Awesome Post.

      I’ll be in Chiang Mai between 25th December and 28th December. Evem booked the place suggested below! 🙂

      Just 2 questions:

      1. Anything interesting to recommend for Christmas? Will definitely be going to the Sunday night market…

      2. Any interesting trails – Mountains – Rafting – Waterfalls that you would recommend?

      Cheers

      1. 1. I’m not sure there’s something going on for Christmas, as they don’t usually celebrate it. I’m guessing if there’s something, it will be organized by expats.

        2. I suggest taking the trail from Doi Suthep to Huay Tung Tao!

    23. On my last day in Chiang Mai, I noticed that I had had an uncomfortable amount of feet deep massages, but had not participated in a conventional Chinese massage.The Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue .

    24. Hello,

      I’m making a trip to chiang mai myself and I have no idea what to make of the city. I have some questions if you wouldn’t mind..

      1.) Is chiang mai really big and difficult to get around?

      2.) Any specific street food I should be at least trying?

      1. 1. Chiang Mai old quarter is not big at all, you can rent a bike to get around if you like.

        2. Food in Chiang Mai is great and on the Sunday Night Market there LOADS of delicious street food, local and international (even sushi!). I’d look for Pad Thai (touristy but good) and Khao Soi specially, but nothing better than a cooking class to get you introduced!

    25. THANK YOU for excluding activities like Tiger Kingdom and places that don’t treat elephants with respect!

      It drove me nuts whenever people said “oh you should take photos with tigers and watch an elephant paint”. It’s as if they believe that elephants paint in the nature and tigers love taking photos with humans without trying to bite their heads off.

      Great list, love it!

      1. Don’t need to thank me. I think anyone with minimum intelligence should see these attractions don’t respect animals at all. Same with dolphin shows.

        Glad you liked the list, cheers!

    26. I would love to try playing and feeding the elephant but will skip bathing them because I’m might end up soaking wet.

    27. Really pleased you’ve mentioned not riding elephants, it seems like the tide is finally turning. These poor gentle giants definitely deserve a break!

    28. Good list here Bruno. I especially enjoyed the elephants while I was there in the forest, zipline next time for sure.

      Here is my recommendation for you on islands around Thailand if you get the chance 🙂

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