Chiang Mai is the capital of Chiang Mai Province and the largest city in Northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is a place to relax after the chaos of Bangkok. You can find fabulous food and real Thai atmosphere here will wandering around the backstreets of the city.
The Old City of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 and became the new capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Traditional Lanna Thai culture can still be experienced here. The old city of Chiang Mai is a very scenic place to visit as it is full of impressive ancient temples and is surrounded by ancient walls and a lovely moat.
Sightseeing in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas are full of stunning ancient temples and a number of them are still in use by the Buddhist monks. The most impressive temples of Chiang Mai are:
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most famous and important temples in Chiang Mai and it’s a must see on your trip to Chiang Mai.
Wat Chedi Luang
Chiang Mai’s largest Buddhist chedi housing Wat Chedi Luang is another must see temple in Chiang Mai.
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh is an important temple and a major monastery in Chiang Mai.
Other temples that you should visit while traveling around Chiang Mai you can find in our TOP 10 temples in Chiang Mai.
Museums in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has such a long and significant history, which is well presented in the museums of the city. Museums best presenting the history of the city and the Kingdom of Lanna are:
Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center
Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center is the right place to visit for those who want to discover arts and culture of Chiang Mai and Thailand.
Chiang Mai Historical Centre
Chiang Mai Historical Centre is a museum just behind the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre which presents the history of Chiang Mai Province in a new and exciting way.
Lanna Folklife Museum
Lanna Folklife Museum is an interesting museum presenting the history and culture of the Lanna people of Northern Thailand.
Shopping in Chiang Mai
Most famous shopping spots in Chiang Mai are the two walking streets. Make sure you stay in Chiang Mai on weekend if you want to experience the real northern Thailand shopping adventure. Another popular and perhaps the most chaotic shopping place is the Night Bazzar which is open every night.
Chiang Mai is known for its handicrafts. Woodcarvings, tribal arts and crafts, handmade textiles, jewellery, real handmade Thai silk, pottery, lacquerware and knock-off designer goods (shirts, shoes, bags, sunglasses, and everything else you can think of can be found) can be found here. And like everywhere in Thailand, shopping comes with a huge variety of local foods.
Sunday Walking Street Market
One kilometre long Sunday Walking Street Market is the most popular shopping experience in Chiang Mai. It starts at ThaPae Gate and runs all along Ratchadamnoen Road. Sunday Walking Street Market takes place every Sunday from 4 pm until around midnight and the road is closed to traffic during this time.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Another popular and perhaps the most chaotic shopping place in Chiang Mai is the Night Bazzar. The market can be found on Chang Klan Road. The actual market is modern building, but most of the shops extend outward from it and shopping can be starting on the pavements even before turning to the road. Night Bazzar starts at around 5 pm and closes at around 11 pm every night. It’s a good choice if your stay in Chiang Mai is not on weekend.
Saturday Night Market Walking Street
Saturday Night Market Walking Street is one more shopping spot in Chiang Mai which is very popular between locals and tourists. The market is taking place at Wualai Road starting just southwest of Chiang Mai Gate. Saturday Night Market Walking Street takes place every Saturday from 5 pm until around midnight and the road is turned into a huge pedestrian zone during this time.
Relaxing in Chiang Mai
The city of Chiang Mai is relaxed by itself, if compared to Bangkok, but the best way to recharge your batteries is to get out outside the city where Chiang Mai’s green countryside and misty mountains offer limitless possibilities for nature explorations. For relaxing you might consider visiting:
Doi Inthanon National Park and its Wachirathan Waterfall
Doi Inthanon National Park is a national park in mountainous Chiang Mai province of Northern Thailand. The highest peak at Doi Inthanon is 2565 meters and it’s is the highest mountain in Thailand, also known as "The Roof of Thailand". The main attractions of the park are the summit of Doi Inthanon for its spectacular views, waterfalls and the two chedis dedicated to the king and the queen.
Bhubing Palace is the royal winter residence in Chiang Mai where the Royal family stays during seasonal visits. The palace is located in the mountains outside Chiang Mai. It comprises of a number of buildings, a large reservoir with scenic fountain and flower gardens famous of a wide variety of roses.
Chiang Mai Zoo
Chiang Mai Zoo houses over 200 types of Asian and African mammals in this striking landscape. Even Chinese Panda Family can be found here. There’s also an aquarium collecting 250 species of freshwater and sea fish and one of the world longest underwater tunnels (133 meters long) in Chiang Mai Zoo.
Chiang Mai’s surroundings have much more to offer as here you can find natural perfection in national parks, awe-inspiring animals in places like elephant camps, and unique communities deep into the mountains, making the area the perfect place for trekking experience.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
The best area to stay in Chiang Mai is the Old City surrounded by moat. The atmosphere of this area is special and all main attractions are nearby. The best places to stay in Chiang Mai Old City can be find here: 15 Best Hotels in Chiang Mai Old City.
How to Get to Chiang Mai?
You have few options for reaching Chiang Mai from Bangkok, including traveling by air, by train and by bus.
Flights to Chiang Mai
There are many direct flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX). Flight deals can be found here:
Train to Chiang Mai
Taking northern line train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a popular choice between travelers. Trains depart from Hua Lamphong Railway Station. Due to the popularity and high demand of this train route you are advised to purchase tickets well ahead of time and no later than 2 weeks in advance.
Train tickets can be booked here:
Bus to Chiang Mai
Long-distance buses of various companies connect Chiang Mai with Bangkok and all major cities in Thailand. Buses to Chiang Mai leave from Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok. Bus schedule can be found and tickets can be booked here:
More transportation options for a trip to Chiang Mai can be found by this search form.
Weather in Chiang Mai
Between November and May the weather is mostly dry with little rain expected for much of this time. The dry season in Chiang Mai is broken up into the periods of cool season (November to February) and hot season (March to May), when it is not unusual for the temperature to reach up to 40°C.
The wet season in Chiang Mai is from May to October. The rain usually comes in the form of short showers, lasting an hour or two. As the rainy season progresses, the rain can become heavier and more constant, traditionally reaching peak levels in August and September.
For the best time to visit Chiang Mai check our Chiang Mai weather ratings chart.
Chiang Mai isn't the last spot of your Thailand trip? Check when is the best time to visit Thailand's other destinations.