Top 10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai

You’re never going to be short of things to do in Chiang Mai. With over 300 temples to explore, this Northern Thailand center for culture has so much to offer, and the temples are just for starters. Don’t forget that there are plenty of other things to keep you occupied in the city, from museums to markets, and an abundance of natural beauty just outside the city. If you need more inspiration here’s our list of 10 top Chiang Mai attractions.

10. Huay Tung Tao Lake

Huay-Tong-Tao-Chiang-Mai

One of the best things about Huay Tung Tao Lake is the view. The water of the lake is calm and still, and it’s set against a backdrop of eye catching mountains. If you’re wondering what to do in Chiang Mai then a trip to Huay Tung Tao Lake will certainly give you plenty of photo opportunities. You can even explore the lake itself in one of the paddle boats for hire. The lake is also a good place to mix with Thai families who spend time here relaxing, with kids playing in the water. You can just sit back and relax or, if you want to be a little more active, you can walk or cycle along the lakeside path. Many people who visit Huay Tung Tao Lake take a picnic, but you don’t have to take your own food with you. There are around twenty restaurants at the lake where meals are served in surroundings reminiscent of a picnic. If you want to spend a relaxing time amidst stunning scenery, enjoying good food, then Huay Tung Tao Lake is the place to be.

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9. Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders

Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders  © saiko3p / Shutterstock.com
Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders © saiko3p / Shutterstock.com

It’s safe to say that the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders is not for everyone, but it is one of the more quirky and fascinating things to do in Chiang Mai. This museum has its fair share of Insecta exhibits as well as those of Arachnida and Crustacea. If you aren’t a lover of creepy crawlies then you probably can’t see the appeal of this Chiang Mai attraction, but if you love all multi-legged creatures you’ll find the museum an interesting and fun place to visit. It’s not all about insects and other creatures either; you can also see an array of fossils, fish, shells, stones, wood and many other items. A trip to the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders is a trip into the history of nature, some of which is millions of years old. As the name suggests this isn’t just a museum for locals species. The exhibits you can see are about nature the world over, not just in the city of Chiang Mai or the country of Thailand.

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8. Wat Chiang Man

Wat-Chiang-Man2-Chiang-Mai

We couldn’t have a list of things to do in Chiang Mai without mentioning its temples. The temples are certainly not the only attraction in the city, but they are the top things that attract tourists so you should definitely try to visit at least a couple while you’re in Chiang Mai. The oldest temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Chiang Man which was originally founded in the 13th century. There are no records dating back to that time though; the first reference to the temple’s creation can be found in a stone slab which was engraved in 1581 and is located in the ordination hall. It’s not just the temple that’s the oldest in Chang Mai it’s also the Buddha it contains. The figure is the oldest known Buddha to be created at the time of the ancient Lanna kingdom. This temple is also home to the marble Phra Sila Buddha and the Phra Sae Tang Khamani Buddha which is made from crystal. The entire Wat Chiang Man is an incredible sight to see when you’re visiting Chiang Mai.

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7. Bua Thong Waterfalls (Nam Phu Chet Si)

If you head out of Chiang Mai, and travel for around 41 kilometers (26 miles), you can visit Bua Thong Waterfalls. It’s only about a one hour journey and it’s well worth the trip. The falls are located in the Mae Taeng National Forest Reserves and the waterfalls are simply stunning to look at. The base of the falls is white calcium carbonate and it glistens when the sun shines on it. There is a step located at the falls from which you can view the waters and take those all-important photographs. Chiang Mai is an amazing city to visit but you may want to take a break from the buzz of the city and Bua Thong Waterfalls is the perfect place to do just that. You can spend time just staring into the crystal clear waters and simply enjoying life.

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6. Art in Paradise, Chiang Mai 3D Art Museum

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If you want to have fun in Chiang Mai then the Art in Paradise, Chiang Mai 3D Art Museum is an excellent choice from any list of Chiang Mai attractions. This is a museum that isn’t really all about art or all about science; it’s an unusual combination of the two. The works on display are all pieces of illusionary art, created by Korean artists. One of the main things you should remember if you visit this museum is that you’re encouraged to interact with the exhibits. This interaction is really important if you’re going to get the most out of your visit, and this relationship with the exhibits is great fun for visitors of all ages. Adults can enjoy it just as much as much kids. Walking into the museum is almost like walking into a warehouse; it’s that big and it’s located across two vast floors. You’re constantly surprised when you visit, there’s such a huge array of diverse exhibits on view. You could be looking at a version of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or gazing at an interpretation of Angkor Wat. A visit to the Art in Paradise, Chiang Mai 3D Art Museum is all about immersing yourself in fun and giving your imagination a treat.

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5. Wat Chedi Luang

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Wat Chedi Luang is still a tall structure but at one time it is thought to have been the tallest building in the city of Chiang Mai. This was until the chedi, or pagoda, of the temple was partially destroyed. The story of how the damage happened is up for debate. It could have been as the result of an earthquake in the 16th century or as the result of cannon fire when Chiang Mai was recaptured from the Burmese in 1775. More recently the temple has been the subject of much restoration work, to make it an interesting and safe place to visit. Visit the temple today and you can see where the restorations have been carried out. You can see that four of the five elephant sculptures on the base of the stupa are reproductions; the remaining elephant is one of the original sculptures. One of the biggest draws at the temple is the daily routine of the Monk Chat which takes place under a tree in the grounds. This is always a popular attraction with visitors to Wat Chedi Luang.

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4. Royal Park Rajapruek

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The origins of Royal Park Rajapruek lie in the International Horticultural Exposition at the Royal Agricultural Research Centre, Chiang Mai which took place in 2006. The exposition was held in honor of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, to mark both the 60th anniversary of him coming to the throne of the country, and his 80th birthday. The event was a huge success that was visited by more than 3 million people. As a result of this success it was decided to extend the presence of the site, and so it became Royal Park Rajapruek. The park is extremely well maintained and beautiful to look at. It’s also a place where you can really immerse yourself in nature from when you first arrive, and gaze in admiration at the 250 million years old pine tree. You can also take time to admire the tropical garden with its diverse collection of tropical plants from Thailand. Royal Park Rajapruek is a truly beautiful place to visit if you’re trying to decide what to do in Chiang Mai and want a peaceful place to walk a while.

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3. Saturday Night Market Walking Street - Wua Lai Road

Saturday Night Market © 501room / Shutterstock.com
Saturday Night Market © 501room / Shutterstock.com

After you’ve spent some time exploring the temples and museums in Chiang Mai then you may want to pay a visit to the Saturday Night Market Walking Street – Wua Lai Road, for something a little different. It’s a fun experience that starts late in the afternoon and continues until 10:30 at night. The market does not get too crowded, which is always nice. The busiest time is usually around sunset so you may want to avoid this period if you want to have more space to stroll. You can buy many traditional craft items and of course there are also plenty of the less traditional souvenirs for sale too. You’ll probably also be tempted by the delicious snacks you can pick up and savor. Eating a few of these snacks gives you the energy you need to keep going and explore all the stalls on view. If you want to pay a visit to the market you can easily get dropped here by tuk tuk, at its location is close to the old city walls. It should only take an hour or two to stroll around the market, but you can stay as long as you want, soaking up the atmosphere.

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2. Warorot Market (Kad Luang)

Wararot Market © Artit Thongchuea / Shutterstock.com
Wararot Market © Artit Thongchuea / Shutterstock.com

We’ve already featured one market in our list of top things to do in Chiang Mai, but this one is a must for all food lovers. The market is also hugely popular with the locals so it’s a really good place to go if you want to sample some of the Thai lifestyle. You can see why Warorot Market is so popular; there is an array of ready to eat snacks on offer as well as lots of fresh produce. Food is not the only thing being sold at the market; but it is the main attraction for tourists. As we mentioned, this market is very popular with the people of Chiang Mai, and caters mostly to them. For this reason the other items on sale are mostly everyday products and not souvenirs for the tourist market. If you visit Warorot Market you should do so for two reasons; to sample the delicious food on offer and to spend time amidst the local population.

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1. Wat Phra That Doi Kham (Temple of the Golden Mountain)

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The number one Chiang Mai attraction on our list of top 10 things to do in the city is another temple. The most famous thing about Wat Phra That Doi Kham is the Buddha image it contains. This Buddha is more than 55 feet high and it makes for an impressive sight. The temple itself is located on a hill which is just outside the city of Chiang Mai and was first created in the 7th century. Its oldest building is the chedi or pagoda which was built in 687. The chedi is similar to that of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple which is a better known temple, but it’s not as peaceful to visit as Wat Phra That Doi Kham. Aside from there being less people at this temple, making it a pleasant place to visit, there is also plenty to see. You can admire the Naga serpents that guard the stairs of the pagoda or stroll next to the eye catching green pillars in the temple courtyard. While you’re in the courtyard you can have a go at striking one of the large bells or gongs on display. This is a really fun part of a visit to the temple. There is no doubt that Wat Phra That Doi Kham is one of the most beautiful of all the attractions in Chiang Mai.

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I'm Peter, the founder of Thailand-Guide and someone who decided to share my experiences travelling in Thailand. There are so many amazing locations to chose from that you're probably going to want to know a little more about each place before deciding where to go, that's where I come in with travel guides and the top things to do in each destination.

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