Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.
Chiang Mai is both a natural and cultural destination. The city centre retains a ‘small-town’ intimate feel and houses numerous historical temples and attractions within walking distances of each other. Just under half an hour’s drive, Chiang Mai’s verdant countryside and mountains offer limitless possibilities for nature explorations as well as visits to many fascinating ethnic hill-tribe villages. In fact, there are so many places to see in and surrounding the city that you’ll have to plan well to fit them all in, and this is where these Top 10 Chiang Mai.
Top things to do in Chiang Mai.
1. Doi Suthep
Gleaming like a northern star from the heights of Doi Suthep (the regal mountain overlooking the city from the northwest) is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It is one of the most historically and spiritually significant places in Thailand and is an impressive embodiment of the Lanna culture, with its origins dating back almost 700 years. As such, large numbers of Thais and foreigners come to experience the special magic of this holy place.
2. Chiang Mai Night Safari
Modeled after a similar attraction in Singapore, Chiang Mai Night Safari features three animal zones – Savanna Safari, Predator Prowl, Jaguar Trail – which you can tour via an open-sided tram or on foot. Enjoy a range of activities designed to keep you entertained throughout your visit, from hand-feeding wild animals and petting tiger cubs to a laser light show and ‘dancing’ fountain
3. Wat Chedi Luang
Built sometime between 1385 and 1402, during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma, 7th ruler of the Mengrai dynasty, Wat Chedi Luang’s massive chedi (pagoda) is a distinctive feature of the Chiang Mai skyline. At its peak, the chedi measured 60 metres across at the square base and 80 metres tall and was once the home of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most sacred religious relic
4. Wiang Kum Kam the Underground Ancient City
Located in attractive countryside about five kilometres south of Chiang Mai along the Ping River, Wiang Kum Kam is an ancient city dating back to the eighth-century Haripunchai Kingdom. Expect to see many interesting items and structures such as stone tablets with Mon inscriptions, Buddhist sculptures and architecture, earthenware and pottery. Taking a horse-led carriage is a popular way to enjoy the ruins
5. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai was among the first of the new breed of elephant attractions in Thailand which prioritise the welfare of the animals. Often acting as retirement and care homes for elephants previously employed in the logging or tourism industries, they provide as natural an environment for them as possible. While you can still interact with the elephants – bathing them being an especially popular activity – riding on them is strictly out of the question.
6. Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand, rises 2,565 metres above sea level. Known as a sanctuary for a wide range of animal species and perhaps the best place in Thailand for bird-watching, the park has approximately 362 different species, many of which are not found anywhere else in Thailand. Doi Inthanon is a popular destination, not only for its natural beauty, but also for its historical significance
7. Karen Long Neck Tribe & Chiang Dao Cave
At Chiang Dao cave, the caverns stretch many kilometres into the mountain yet only a small part of the complex is possible to explore. Two of the caves, Tham Phra Nawn and Tham Seua Dao, are illuminated by electric lights, but the upper caves are pitch-black and requires a local lantern-carrying guides to lead the way. There are some spectacular limestone formations and Buddhist shrines in these caves
8. Doi Pui Tribal Village and National Park
Doi Pui, at 1,685 metres above sea level, is the highest peak in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. It is famous for its beautiful waterfalls which are easily reached from the main road. But one of the hottest attractions for Doi Pui must be Hmong Tribal Village situated less than five kilometres from the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. A visit to this village is an eye-opener into the tribal villagers’ private life
9. Bo Sang Handicraft Village
The handcrafting of umbrellas and parasols in Bo Sang Village is known throughout the country and even abroad – so much so that the umbrella has become one of the symbols of Chiang Mai. Here, you’ll find plenty of hand-painted umbrellas, tiny cocktail umbrellas, large parasols for gardens or patios and other handmade products – all made from sa paper in various designs and at reasonable prices
10. Chiang Mai Zoo
Covering 200 acres of land in the foothills of Doi Suthep and providing excellent views of the city in addition to fascinating wildlife exhibits, Chiang Mai Zoo is certainly worth a visit. Nearly 400 species of animal are kept here, including the two ‘cultural ambassador’ or pandas from China. The zoo also features outstanding special attractions such as the walk through the aviary and a fascinating freshwater aquarium.