Chiang Mai is located in northern Thailand and is the largest city in northern Thailand with a population of over 127,000 people. Chiang Mai is popular as a digital nomad hub mainly due to its low cost of living. It is also popular for visiting elephant sanctuaries. What is there to do in Chiang Mai Thailand?
In Chiang Mai, you can visit elephant sanctuaries. You will need to check the reviews on the elephant sanctuaries you plan to visit just to make sure the elephants are treated properly. You can also go jungle trekking, visit the night markets, try the local food, and more.
In this post, we will go through things to do in Chiang Mai Thailand. So let’s get started!
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Is Chiang Mai Worth Visiting
It’s definitely worth visiting Chiang Mai. Especially, if you are interested in hiking, markets, and elephant sanctuaries. It’s much more relaxed than Bangkok, it’s easy to navigate and there are some great places to eat along the river.
I would recommend spending a day at an elephant sanctuary, visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep up in the mountain, which has great views of Chiang Mai, and learning to cook Thai food.
Things To Do In Chiang Mai Thailand
Chiang Mai is the biggest city in northern Thailand that is surrounded by beautiful scenery. The city is popular as a digital nomad hub but is also popular as a tourist destination.
Here is our list of things to do in Chiang Mai Thailand.
Take A Thai Cooking Class
In between those times, we visited a local market and were taught a seven-course Thai meal.
The menu to cook included a spring roll-type starter, two curry/soup mains, and a mango and sticky coconut rice. The class takes place in a house and was very well set up like a restaurant.
And after each meal is cooked you dine with the other wannabe chefs at a sit-down meal!
But what most surprised me, is how easy Thai cuisine to cook was. Most dishes can be conveniently prepared without much hassle or preparation.
Enjoy The Lantern Festival
If you visit Chiang Mai in the middle of November, mass lanterns are released at the Sansai district’s Mae Jo University. The event, for which the date is not usually confirmed until a month or two in advance, is part of a series of activities put on by an independent Buddhist community to make merit and pay homage to Buddha.
Going along and join the crowds that descend to buy a flame-powered lantern, float it off into the night sky, and then you get to enjoy the beautiful scene it creates.
Visit Elephant Sanctuary
In Chiang Mai, there is a good variety of elephant sanctuaries and conservation projects. The challenge regarding elephants is to find one that does NOT include riding them.
See our post on the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai.
These sanctuaries are outside of Chiang Mai, there is generally a 1 to 2-hour trip to get to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary which was completely worth it.
You can feed them, bathe them and hang out with them for a few hours.
Get A Massaged From A Prisoner
Thailand is not Thailand without a Thai massage but in Chiang Mai, you can do the same with a twist.
There’s rehabilitation at the city’s Women’s Correctional Institute sees female inmates reintegrate into society by learning and doing Thai massages.
The masseuses are those serving short sentences for minor crimes. They take a massage course at the prison. As part of the course, they get to practice on real customers at the spa.
This equips them with skills they can put to use after being fully released. You have to pay but it’s a little cheaper than the regular masseuse.
The prisoner masseuses get a small payment for their work and the rest goes to support the prison’s training initiatives
Enjoy Chiang Mai’s Own Grand Canyon
Simply put this is a huge canyon that is now filled with water and has some absolutely great views. The Canyon is very deep and the water filling it is collected rainwater that is now estimated to be forty meters deep.
At the entrance is a nice restaurant to stop for a drink in before you start off on your adventure.
There is not a lot to do here except for continuously jumping in at every chance you get and of course, there the as stunning sights and you will never get bored with them.
Visit The Night Bazaar
Chang Klan Road is just another road during the day, but at night the whole place lights up as the stallholders drag out their stalls and get set up for the night.
Hundreds of traders line the road selling various goods such as fake designer items, lanterns, and other handcrafted goods. A lot of things will not have a price and bartering is openly encouraged.
The market is open every single day of the year whatever the weather.
Talk To A Monk
In some of these temples, you are allowed to talk to the Monks. To talk to a Monk requires an early start to the day, you will need to get up very early and visit either Wat Chedi Luang, Doi Suthep Temple, Wat Suan Dok, or Wat Umong.
You can talk to the monks about the Buddhist doctrine and even ask for spiritual advice. Don’t forget to dress respectfully.
Visit The Local Temples
Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist temples ( wats ), so there are plenty of temples to check out around the city.
If it’s the case you might be “templed out,” I would suggest checking out two of the more famous ones like Wat Chedi Luang or Wat Phan Tao.
Here’s a list of a few temples in and around Chiang Mai.
- Wat Chiang Man: It’s the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, and it houses the Crystal Buddha.
- Wat Phra Singh: In the heart of the old town.
- Temple Wat Chedi Luang: This temple dates back to 1391 and for years it was the highest building in the Lanna Kingdom.
- Wat Pan Tao: This temple is all made of wood.
- Wat Buppharam: This temple is located outside Chiang Mai’s old town, a few meters from the Tha Phae Gate.
Visit The Chiang Mai Night Safari
The night safari in Chiang Mai is split into two sections. The first is the Predator Prowl Zone which has Tigers, Lions, Wolves, Crocodiles, African Hunting Dogs, and over 200 more animals.
The other is the Savanna Night Safari which is home to Kangaroos, Water Buffalos, White Rhinos, and 300 more animals.
A tram will take you around the park with the tram driver stopping and pointing out the various animals. Each night there is a later light show with accompanying music which is certainly worth waiting around for.
Party At The Songkran festival
Songkran is Thailand’s traditional New Year celebration. It happens normally each year between the 13th and 15th of April. Songkran has a religious meaning with Thai’s belief that the throwing of water will cleanse your sins.
Chiang Mai can often come to a complete standstill during the celebrations with people standing at the side of the roads with buckets of water ready to soak every passer-by.
Shop Till You Drop At The Weekend Market
Also known as the Sunday Market or the Walking Market this is probably the most famous of all the markets in Chiang Mai, it opens every Sunday starting at Thapae Gate and running along the entire length of the Ratchadamnoen Road.
A lot of the stalls on the market sell handmade goods and as you walk through the market it is not uncommon to see the stallholders sitting down and carrying on with their handicraft in-between selling their goods.
Are you brave enough to zipline through the Thailand rain forest properly one of the coolest things to do in Chiang Mai?
It’s a little more expensive than the other providers of the same service. But when it comes to safety in the treetops, they take it fairly series.
ZipLine Through The Jungle
A little less than an hour outside of Chiang Mai, deep inside the rainforest, you get to shoot from one tree platform to another, securely attached to a Zipline of course.
The whole ride was a 2-hour adrenaline-packed adventure. Fly at 70 meters off the ground and ride 800 meters single zip line. Highly recommended a GoPro.
Visit Nimman Road
Nimman road is perfect if you are looking to stand within the city or looking for activities that do not involve extensive travel or leaving the city.
It’s full of Hipster cafes, bars, and restaurants. It’s worth checking it out.
Enjoy The Hike To The Waterfall
Chiang Mai’s Bua Thong waterfalls are a little different. They are an hour or so outside Chiang Mai and invoke a trek in the jungle.
Once there you can not only splash around in the pools but actually climb up the waterfalls. A picnic area is perfect for a break from rock climbing and the whole place makes for a relaxed, rejuvenating, and back-to-nature day out.
Enjoy The Ladyboy Cabaret
With the Chiang Mai Ladyboy, there are a lot of feathers and lipstick among other things. Plus lots of dancing and singing and a lot of laughs to be had.
It’s not raunchy or crazy. It’s on at 9:30 pm, get there at 9:10 pm for good seats and be prepared to tip.
Go To A Muay Thai Boxing Match
Muay Thai Boxing is Thailand’s national sport, there are a few stadiums around Chiang Mai to watch a live Muay Thai Boxing match including Kawila and Thapae stadiums. It’s worth checking out a flight.
What NOT To Do In Chiang Mai?
More to be aware of than telling you what not to do. Just riding elephants is considered ill-treatment of the elephants. This is because elephants have to be broken in when they are babies so humans can ride.
And going to the Tiger Kingdom, where the tigers are drugged. So as tourists, you can vote with your money.
What Is Chiang Mai Burning Season?
The burning season in Chiang Mai is also known as the smoky season. Simply it’s when all the farmers all over northern Thailand not only in Chiang Mai, burn the leftovers from the crops during that time, causing extreme pollution and smog around Chiang Mai.
The Thai government is trying to come up with solutions to reduce the smoke and stop the practice. In reality, at present burning, the leftovers are the cheapest solution for the farmers.
When Is Chiang Mai Burning Season?
Burning Season starts from mid-February to late April. It changes slightly from year to year. It’s recommended not to visit Chiang Mai from February to April for this reason.
Finally, in Chiang Mai, you can visit elephant sanctuaries. Now you will need to check the reviews on the elephant sanctuaries you plan to visit just to make sure the elephants are treated properly. You can also go jungle trekking, visit the night markets, try the local food, and more.
And that’s it for now! I’d love to know if this guide on the things to do in Chiang Mai Thailand has helped you. Let me know if you have any questions and let me know if there is more to add.