10 of the Best Activities in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was once a sleepy local city in the north of Thailand. Yet it has now become a must-see destination for both tourists and long-term travellers alike. There’s much to do in Chiang Mai, including experiencing the local cuisine, culture and sightseeing. To give you an idea of what the city has to offer, here are 10 of the best activities in Chiang Mai.

Wat Phra Sing in Chiang Mai

Explore the famous temples

Chiang Mai is well-known for its abundance of temples. There are over 300 spread throughout the 4 walls of the city, the suburbs and the surrounding countryside.

The best temples to see in Chiang Mai include Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Located on top of Doi Suthep mountain, there’s a 309 step climb to the top. But the view once you’ve reached it is worth the effort.

Wat Phra Sing is a Buddhist monastery and temple, also known as the Temple of the Lion Buddha. There are two Buddha statues within and over 700 monks live at the monastery. Wat Chedi Luang was formerly the home of the Emerald Buddha and its ruins are also well worth a visit.

Hill tribe in Northern Thailand

Visit the local hill tribes

Several different hill tribes exist in Northern Thailand and the Chiang Mai province. These include the Lahu, Hmong and Lisu tribes, which you can visit as part of an organised day tour.

The Long-Neck Karen tribe also reside in small villages outside of Chiang Mai. This tribe originated from Myanmar but sought refuge in Thailand due to past political unrest. You’re able to visit them to see their daily lives and buy their products. Visit with a tour guide so that you can communicate with the tribe and ask questions.

Khao Soi local food in Thailand

Try Northern Thai Food

While in Chiang Mai be sure to try the unique flavours of northern Thai or Lanna food. This cuisine is different to what you might encounter in other parts of Thailand and the most popular dishes include Khao Soi, a type of curry with egg noodles, and a Northern Thai sausage known as Sai Ua.

Also keep a look out for Kaeng Hang Lei, which is a pork curry. Then when it comes to condiments, Nam Prik is a tasty chilli dip made with pork and tomatoes.

Wiang Kum Kam

Admire Wiang Kum Kam

Wiang Kum Kam is an ancient city, first established in 1286. It’s located a few kilometres south of Chiang Mai along the Ping River. A tour lasts about 45 minutes and covers numerous historic sites including Wat Nan Chang, Wat That Khao and Wat Ku Khao, to name just a few.

During the tour, expect to see interesting structures and earthenware, as well as Buddhist sculptures and architecture. Tours around the site are available by bicycle, tram or horse-drawn carriage. However, some people prefer checking it out on foot.

Walking Street Market in Chiang Mai

Buy souvenirs at the Sunday Walking Street

The Sunday Walking Street is likely the most popular market in all of Chiang Mai. Open every Sunday, it’s located near Thapae Gate and runs along Ratchadamnoen road.

Here you can buy handmade goods and crafts from the stall holders. And if you’re a parent, there’s plenty of wooden puzzles that make great gifts for the kids.

Mae Ping River Cruise
Image Courtesy of Michael Coghlan

Cruise along the Ping River

There’s no better way to connect with the history of Chiang Mai than to cruise peacefully down the Ping River. There are a variety of cruise companies that offer boat rides, with durations lasting up to 2 hours.

Along the way, you’ll see glittering temples, classic architecture and Wiang Kum Kam. And a cruise isn’t complete without a visit to the “farmer’s house” – which features both a restaurant and a fruit and vegetable garden.

Waterfall in Doi Inthanon

Hike At Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon is a national park that covers an area of 482 square kilometres. It’s also known as “the roof of Thailand” due to the country’s highest mountain being located there.

Alongside hiking through the park, bird watching is a popular activity due to Doi Inthanon containing 362 recorded species – the second highest in Thailand after Kaeng Krachan National Park.

Warorot Market in Chiang Mai
Image courtesy of SurLaRoute.fr

Shop at the Warorot Market

Warorot Market, Chiang Mai’s oldest public market, is a must-visit for both shopping enthusiasts and food lovers. A large section of the market features ordinary Thai household items including ceramics, toys, fishing nets, rice steamers and tiny statues for spirit houses.

The market also offers inexpensive items such as fashion accessories, clothing and a variety of traditional Thai foods. It’s set in a three-storey building located at the end of Chang Moi Road, starting early at 6:00 am and closing around 7:00 pm.

Thai Massage

Get a massage

There is an endless supply of massage parlours in Thailand. These range from high-end spas to mid-range treatment centres and budget shops.

Thai massage has been around for over 2,500 years and aims to relieve muscle tension and balance the body’s energy systems. Enjoy a rejuvenating massage after a day of sightseeing and shopping.

Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai
Image Courtesy of David McKelvey

Stroll the Night Bazaar

The night bazaar opens up on Chang Klang Road in Chiang Mai at 6:00 pm. Here you can find various products for sale including handicrafts, faux designer products and beautiful lanterns.

It’s open every single day of the year, come rain or shine. And with the market spread over 1 kilometre, it makes for a great evening stroll and a browse.


If you’re interested in visiting Chiang Mai, why not check out our Thailand group tours?

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