Top 10 Best Things to Do in Chiang Mai: A Comprehensive Guide

Chiang Mai, located in Northern Thailand, is a city that offers a unique blend of ancient culture and modern amenities. Known for its stunning temples, delicious food, and rich history, Chiang Mai is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Thailand.

One of the best things to do in Chiang Mai is to explore the city’s many temples. From the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep to the lesser-known Wat Chedi Luang, each temple offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and culture. Visitors can also participate in traditional Buddhist ceremonies and learn more about the religion and its practices.

Aside from the temples, Chiang Mai is also famous for its delicious food. From street vendors to high-end restaurants, the city offers a wide range of culinary experiences. Visitors can try traditional dishes like khao soi and pad Thai, or explore the city’s vibrant night markets for unique street food. With so much to offer, Chiang Mai is a destination that should not be missed.

Top Attractions

Chiang Mai is a city full of attractions that cater to a variety of interests. From ancient temples to national parks, from bustling night markets to tranquil river views, there is something for everyone in this charming city.


Chiang Mai is known for its beautiful and historic temples, many of which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. One of the most famous is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, located on a mountain overlooking the city. The temple is a must-visit for anyone coming to Chiang Mai and offers stunning views of the city. Another popular temple is Wat Chedi Luang, which was built in the 14th century and was once the home of the Emerald Buddha. Finally, Wat Phra Singh is a beautiful temple located in the heart of the city and is home to some of the most impressive Lanna-style architecture in Thailand.

National Parks

Doi Inthanon National Park is a must-visit for anyone who loves nature and hiking. The park is home to Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can also explore the park’s waterfalls, forests, and wildlife.

Night Markets

Chiang Mai is famous for its night markets, which offer a wide variety of goods, from handmade crafts to street food. The Night Bazaar is one of the most popular markets and is open every night from 6 pm to midnight. Warorot Market is another popular market that offers a wide variety of goods, including fresh produce, flowers, and clothing. Finally, the Sunday Walking Street is a must-visit for anyone who loves street food and handmade crafts.

Other Attractions

The Ping River is a great place to relax and take in the scenery. Visitors can take a boat ride along the river and enjoy the views of the city from a different perspective. Chiang Mai is also home to many landmarks, including the Three Kings Monument, which commemorates the founding of the city. Finally, for those looking for luxury accommodations, there are many high-end hotels in Chiang Mai that offer top-notch amenities and service.

Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient temples, hiking in national parks, or shopping at night markets, Chiang Mai has something for everyone. With so many attractions to choose from, it’s no wonder why Chiang Mai is such a popular destination for travelers from all over the world.

Local Food

When visiting Chiang Mai, one of the best things you can do is indulge in the local food. The city is known for its delicious and affordable street food, as well as its more upscale restaurants. Here are some of the must-try dishes and places to eat in Chiang Mai.

Street Food

Chiang Mai is famous for its street food scene, and for good reason. You can find everything from grilled meats to fresh fruit smoothies, all for a fraction of the price you would pay in a restaurant. Some popular street food dishes to try include:

  • Sai Oua: a spicy pork sausage made with herbs and spices
  • Khao Kha Moo: stewed pork leg served over rice
  • Moo Ping: grilled pork skewers
  • Kanom Krok: sweet coconut-rice pancakes

You can find street food vendors all over the city, but some of the best places to go are the Night Bazaar and the Saturday and Sunday Walking Streets.


If you’re looking for a sit-down meal, Chiang Mai has plenty of restaurants to choose from. Here are a few popular options:

  • Huen Phen: a traditional Northern Thai restaurant that serves dishes like Khao Soi and Nam Prik Ong.
  • SP Chicken: a casual restaurant that specializes in roasted chicken.
  • Rustic and Blue: a trendy cafe that serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch dishes.


Soup is a staple in Northern Thai cuisine, and there are a few different types you should try while in Chiang Mai.

  • Khao Soi: a rich and creamy curry noodle soup that is a must-try dish in Chiang Mai.
  • Tom Kha Gai: a coconut milk soup with chicken, lemongrass, and galangal.
  • Tom Yum: a spicy and sour soup with shrimp or chicken.

Khao Soi

Khao Soi is the most famous dish in Chiang Mai, and for good reason. It’s a rich and creamy curry noodle soup that is usually made with chicken or beef. The dish is topped with crispy noodles, pickled mustard greens, and lime. Some popular places to try Khao Soi include Huen Phen and Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham.


Curry is another staple in Northern Thai cuisine, and there are a few different types to try.

  • Gaeng Hang Lay: a pork curry with ginger, tamarind, and Indian spices.
  • Massaman Curry: a mild curry with potatoes, peanuts, and coconut milk.
  • Green Curry: a spicy curry with chicken or beef, eggplant, and bamboo shoots.


Chiang Mai has a thriving coffee scene, and there are plenty of cafes to choose from. Some popular options include Ristr8to, Akha Ama Coffee, and Graph Cafe. You can also find coffee shops in the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood and around the Old City.

In conclusion, Chiang Mai is a food lover’s paradise. Whether you’re looking for street food or a sit-down meal, there are plenty of options to choose from. Make sure to try some of the local specialties, like Khao Soi and Sai Oua, and don’t forget to indulge in the city’s coffee culture.

Activities and Tours

Chiang Mai is a city that offers a plethora of activities and tours for visitors to choose from. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature lover, a foodie, or a culture enthusiast, there’s something for everyone.


For adventure seekers, Chiang Mai has plenty to offer. From ziplining through the jungle to white water rafting, there are many exciting activities to choose from. One popular option is the Flight of the Gibbon zipline tour, which takes you through the treetops of the lush jungle. Another option is white water rafting on the Mae Taeng River, which offers a thrilling ride through the rapids.

Elephant Nature Park

Visiting the Elephant Nature Park is a must-do activity in Chiang Mai. This sanctuary is home to rescued elephants that have been mistreated or neglected in the past. Visitors can spend a day here learning about these magnificent creatures and even feeding and bathing them.

Cooking Class

Thai cuisine is renowned worldwide for its bold flavors and unique combinations of ingredients. Taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai is a great way to learn how to recreate these dishes at home. Many cooking classes include a trip to the local market to buy ingredients and offer hands-on instruction in preparing traditional Thai dishes.

Thai Massage

Thai massage is a traditional healing art that has been practiced in Thailand for centuries. It involves stretching and pressing the body to relieve tension and improve circulation. Chiang Mai is home to many massage parlors where visitors can experience this rejuvenating therapy.


Chiang Mai is known for its handicrafts, including pottery, woodcarving, and silverware. Visitors can take a tour of local workshops to see these artisans at work and purchase unique souvenirs to take home.


Chiang Mai has a thriving shopping scene, with everything from street markets to high-end boutiques. The Night Bazaar is a popular destination for visitors, offering a wide variety of goods including clothing, jewelry, and handicrafts.


Chiang Mai is home to many beautiful waterfalls, including the popular Mae Sa Waterfall and the stunning Huay Kaew Waterfall. Visitors can take a dip in the refreshing pools or simply enjoy the natural beauty of these cascading falls.


The mountains surrounding Chiang Mai offer many hiking opportunities for visitors. Doi Inthanon National Park is a popular destination for hiking, with trails ranging from easy to challenging.

Jungle Trekking

For a more adventurous hiking experience, jungle trekking is a popular option in Chiang Mai. Visitors can explore the lush jungle on foot, with the chance to spot exotic birds and other wildlife.

Day Trips

Chiang Mai is surrounded by many interesting destinations that make for great day trips. Pai and Mae Hong Son are two popular options, offering stunning scenery and a glimpse into the traditional hill tribe culture of Northern Thailand.

Chiang Mai’s rich history as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom has left a lasting legacy of art, culture, and tradition. Visitors to this city can experience this unique heritage through a variety of activities and tours, from pottery workshops to visits to hill tribe villages. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, Chiang Mai has something for everyone to enjoy.

Culture and History

Chiang Mai is a city steeped in culture and history, with a rich heritage that is reflected in its architecture, art, and way of life. Here are some of the top cultural and historical attractions to visit in Chiang Mai.

Local Markets

Chiang Mai is famous for its vibrant street markets, which are a great place to experience the local culture and pick up some unique souvenirs. The Sunday Walking Street Market is a must-visit, with its colorful stalls selling everything from hill-tribe crafts to delicious local food. Another popular market is the Night Bazaar, which is open every evening and offers a wide range of goods, including clothing, jewelry, and handicrafts.


Music is an integral part of the culture in Chiang Mai, and there are many opportunities to experience traditional Thai music and dance performances. The North Gate Jazz Co-op Bar is a popular spot for live music, offering a mix of jazz, blues, and rock. The Lanna Folklife Museum also hosts regular performances of traditional music and dance.


Chiang Mai is home to many beautiful Buddhist temples, and a visit to one of these temples is a must for anyone interested in the local culture and history. Wat Umong is a unique temple, set in a forested area and featuring underground tunnels and meditation rooms. Another popular temple is Wat Chedi Luang, which dates back to the 14th century and features a towering pagoda and intricate carvings.

14th Century

Chiang Mai has a rich history that dates back centuries, and there are many historical sites to explore. The Chiang Mai City Walls are a great place to start, with their impressive gates and ramparts that date back to the 14th century. The Chiang Mai National Museum is also worth a visit, offering a fascinating insight into the city’s history and culture.


Chiang Mai is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, including mountains, forests, and waterfalls. Doi Inthanon National Park is a popular destination, with its towering peak and beautiful scenery. Another great spot is the Chiang Rai province, which is home to the famous White Temple and many other beautiful temples and natural attractions.

In conclusion, Chiang Mai is a city that is rich in culture and history, with many attractions that offer a unique insight into the local way of life. Whether you’re interested in exploring the local markets, experiencing traditional music and dance, or learning about the city’s fascinating history, Chiang Mai has something to offer everyone.

Accommodation and Transportation

Where to Stay

Chiang Mai has a variety of accommodation options to choose from, ranging from budget hostels to luxury resorts. If you’re on a budget, you can find cheap guesthouses and hostels in the Old City and Nimmanhaemin Road areas. For mid-range options, you can look for hotels in the Night Bazaar area or around the Tha Phae Gate. If you’re looking for a more luxurious stay, there are many high-end resorts and hotels located outside of the city center.


Chiang Mai is generally a safe city, but it’s always a good idea to take precautions when traveling. When choosing accommodation, opt for places that have secure locks and 24-hour reception. It’s also advisable to keep your valuables in a safe deposit box. When using public transportation, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings.


Chiang Mai has two bus terminals: Arcade Bus Station and Chang Phueak Bus Station. Buses are a cheap and convenient way to travel around Northern Thailand. You can take a bus to Chiang Rai, Pai, and other nearby cities. You can also take an overnight bus to Bangkok or other major cities in Thailand.


Renting a car is a great option if you want to explore Northern Thailand at your own pace. You can rent a car from various rental companies located at Chiang Mai International Airport or in the city center. However, be aware that driving in Thailand can be challenging, especially if you’re not used to driving on the left side of the road.


Chiang Mai Railway Station is located in the city center, and you can take a train to Bangkok or other major cities in Thailand. Train travel is a comfortable and scenic way to travel, and you can choose from different classes of travel depending on your budget.


If you’re not comfortable driving in Thailand, you can hire a driver to take you around. Many hotels and tour operators offer this service, and it’s a convenient way to explore Northern Thailand without having to worry about directions or traffic.

In summary, Chiang Mai has a variety of accommodation options to choose from, ranging from budget hostels to luxury resorts. Buses, cars, trains, and drivers are all available for transportation. When traveling, take precautions to stay safe and be aware of your surroundings.