INSIDER CHIANG MAI ITINERARY for (January 2020)

This insider CHIANG MAI ITINERARY is packed with the best things Chiang Mai has to offer, so you can see it all!

Interested? PIN NOW, read later!

Surrounded by lofty mountains hugged by tropical jungle, Chiang Mai is not your typical urban sprawl! Despite its size, the chilled atmosphere and proximity to nature make it one of the most relaxed cities you’ll ever visit. Chiang Mai has a proud past as an independent kingdom and still retains many of its traditional Lanna customs. You’ll be immersed in all of this and more with our in-depth Chiang Mai itinerary!

Chiang Mai’s such an amazing city that we’ve waxed lyrical about it on countless posts and we’re going to do it again: from gorgeous temples to an atmosphere of zen, there are so many reasons to travel to Chiang Mai!

Whether you’re shopping up a storm at the Night Bazaar or up to your knees in mud as you watch elephants bathe in the river, there’s plenty of fun to be had on your visit to Chiang Mai — just hold tight to our Chiang Mai itinerary!

 

Best Time To Visit Chiang Mai

You can generally categorize Chiang Mai’s climate into three seasons. It’s rainy season from May to October. November to February is winter, while March to April is summer. Summer may sound like a good time to travel to Chiang Mai but it’s also burning season. During this time, farmers in the surrounding countryside burn the remainder of their harvest. This causes extensive smog which often obscures the mountain ranges around Chiang Mai and causes pollution in the city.

When to Visit Chiang Mai

These are the best times to visit Chiang Mai!

In terms of planning your trip, when to visit Chiang Mai doesn’t matter too much. With the exception of the burning season, Chiang Mai is generally a great destination year-round as every season brings its advantages. The best time to visit Chiang Mai tends to be in the shoulder season. June and October are both good times to enjoy pleasant Chiang Mai weather. It may a be rainy season but that is also prime time to visit the famous elephants of the area!

 Average TemperatureChance of RainCrowdsOverall Grade
January30°C / 86°FLowBusy😐
February33°C / 91°FLowBusy😐
March35°C / 95°FLowCalm🙁
April37°C / 99°FAverageMedium🙁
May35°C / 95°FHighCalm🙂
June33°C / 91°FAverageCalm😀
July32°C / 90°FHighMedium😐
August32°C / 90°FHighMedium😐
September32°C / 90°FHighCalm🙂
October31°C / 88°FAverageBusy😀
November30°C / 86°FLowBusy🙂
December28°C / 82°FLowBusy😐

 

Where To Stay In Chiang Mai

As relaxed and peaceful as Chiang Mai may seem, the city is actually quite big! That said, the area that most tourists tend to stick to is quite compact in the downtown part of the city. Here, there are various neighborhoods that will appeal to all kinds of travelers!

Knowing where to stay in Chiang Mai is important to making the most out of your Chiang Mai itinerary. Old City has to be the ultimate best place to stay in Chiang Mai. This neighborhood is in the heart of the city and is chock-a-block with the most fascinating Chiang Mai points of interest, such as Wat Chedi Luang!

Where to stay in Chiang mai

These are the best places to stay in Chiang Mai!

It’s also the best area for those on a budget as there are plenty of  the best Chiang Mai hostels located here and you can save costs on transport by walking to the nearby Chiang Mai attractions!

Nimmanhaemin, often called Nimman, is a more alternative, modern part of Chiang Mai. It has a vibrant atmosphere and is the center of the city’s local nightlife! Although the most iconic landmarks on your Chiang Mai itinerary aren’t in the area, there are plenty of things to keep you busy, such as bars, clothing boutiques and the local university!

 

Chiang Mai itinerary

S*Trips The Poshtel is our pick for the best hostel in Chiang Mai!

Best Hostel in Chiang Mai – S*Trips The Poshtel

What’s not to love about an affordable downtown hostel with plenty of quality facilities? You’ll find all this and more at S*Trips The Poshtel! It’s within walking distance to many of the sites on our Chiang Mai itinerary, such as the Night Bazaar. It’s also noted for its impeccable cleanliness and spacious dormitories.

Find a few other AMAZING hostels on our epic post about the coolest hostels in Chiang Mai!

Check on HostelWorld

 

Beautiful Thai Home

Beautiful Thai Home is our pick for the best Airbnb in Chiang Mai!

Best Chiang Mai Airbnb – Beautiful Thai Home

A gorgeous traditional wooden house with all modern comforts and conveniences, this Chiang Mai Airbnb is situated near the moat. There’s one king-sized bedroom, another bedroom with bunk beds and a single bed, and an air bed in the living room if required. Bedrooms have air conditioning. The bathroom is new and there’s an open-air kitchen, living room, and dining area. The home has Wi-Fi. There’s secure parking.

Check on Airbnb

 

Chiang Mai itinerary

Arch39 Minimal Art & Craft is our pick for the best budget hotel in Chiang Main!

Best Budget Hotel in Chiang Mai – Arch39 Minimal Art & Craft

Centrally-located, characterful and sparklingly clean… what else could you ask for from a budget hotel? Arch39 Minimal Art & Craft offers real value for money with its array of spacious rooms, complimentary bicycle hire and delicious breakfasts! The staff are also incredibly friendly and helpful with arranging your Chiang Mai itinerary!

Check on Booking.com    Check on HotelsCombined

 

Chiang Mai itinerary

The Inside House is our pick for the best luxury hotel in Chiang Mai!

Best Luxury Hotel in Chiang Mai –  The Inside House

This elegant and comfortable hotel truly deserves its 5-star rating! It’s situated in a stunning white and green mansion in the city center, with Chiang Mai landmarks like Chiang Mai Gate within walking distance! The hotel’s bathrooms are particularly luxurious, mixing indoor and outdoor living with bathtubs set beside private pools and surrounded by greenery — you’ll have to redefine the notion of bliss after a dip here!

Check on Booking.com    Check on HotelsCombined

 

Chiang Mai Itinerary

If you want to have a great time in Chiang Mai, it doesn’t really matter how many days you spend here but you do need to have an awesome Chiang Mai itinerary — and that’s exactly what we’ve put together right here! From charming temples to vibrant markets, everything you need for an incredible trip to Chiang Mai is on our Chiang Mai itinerary!

Getting around between Chiang Mai attractions isn’t very hard. In fact, there are various methods of transportation for you to pick and choose from!

Walking between sites on your 3 day itinerary in Chiang Mai is probably the best method of transport. Since most Chiang Mai landmarks are located in the Old City or around the markets, the distances aren’t too far. You should, however, take care when walking: the sidewalks aren’t always well-maintained and are often used by motorcyclists!

Chiang Mai itinerary

Welcome to our EPIC Chiang Mai itinerary

The public transport system is centered around tuk-tuks. They’re kind of like taxis as they travel to specific places that you request. Just prepare for a bumpy and very speedy ride!

Song Taews, or Red Taxis, are shared taxis that sometimes have set destinations and other times don’t. For both the Song Taew and the tuk-tuk, you should negotiate prices.

The final option is to hire a motorbike. While many tourists think that getting around on a motorbike is a quintessential part of their vacation in Chiang Mai, it’s worth remembering that Thailand has the second-highest number of road accidents in the world — so make sure you actually know how to drive a motorcycle!

 

Day 1 Itinerary in Chiang Mai

Elephant Nature Park | Wat Phra Singh | Wat Pan Tao | Wat Chedi Luang | Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

If you have one day in Chiang Mai, it’s all about getting to know the key Chiang Mai attractions that you’ll find in Old City! After feeding the famous elephants, there are temples galore in the city to feast your eyes on. To round the day off, you’ll dine on local Thai cuisine while bargaining like a local in the bazaar!

 

Day 1 / Stop 1 – Elephant Nature Park

  • Why it’s awesome: No trip to Chiang Mai would complete without an interaction with the famous elephants, and this is the gentlest way to do so!
  • Cost: Around $81 USD
  • Food nearby: The park has an in-house eatery that serves a vegetarian buffet of Asian cuisine.

Elephants have long called Thailand home but in recent years they have been under threat from tourism, habitat loss, logging and poaching. Elephants may seem strong but riding them can actually harm them. Thanks to Elephant Nature Park, tourists can now interact with the iconic Thai elephants in a more ethical way!

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

The 250-acre grounds are home to around 70 elephants which you can mingle with as they go about their daily lives. This is the perfect way to start your Chiang Mai trip itinerary! The short park visit includes transport to and from your hotel, the opportunity to feed the elephants and to enjoy the sight of them mucking around in the river! Trust us, visiting this park is key to a great time in Chiang Mai!

 

Day 1 / Stop 2 – Wat Phra Singh

  • Why it’s awesome: This is the most venerated temple in Chiang Mai’s city center!
  • Cost: $1 USD
  • Food nearby: Reflect on the vibrancy of OId City in the lush Fern Forest Cafe. It serves a variety of Asian and Western dishes in a lovely garden setting!

Wat Phra Singh is the largest temple in Chiang Mai and an absolute must on your Chiang Mai trip itinerary! There are three main structures in the temple complex that you should visit.

Viharn Lai Kam is the temple’s assembly hall. It was originally constructed all the way back in 1345 and is the epitome of Lanna-style building. Be sure to admire the roof which was designed in the shape of wings! Inside, it’s beautifully decorated with wooden carvings and stucco. The highlight, though, is the statue of Phra Singh, the Lion Buddha. If you’re lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai for the Songkran festival, it is this Buddha that is processed around the city!

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai | source: artpritsadee (shutterstock)

Viharn Luang is the larger assembly hall at the temple, though it’s less ornate than Viharn Lai Kam. It’s home to a magnificent image of Buddha cast in gold during the 15th century!

Finally, Haw Trai is the temple’s library. It’s a beautiful stone structure that houses Buddhist scriptures.

Insider Tip: Most temples have a fairly strict dress code which includes covered shoulders and knees. The feet are considered dirty in Buddhism so make sure to leave your shoes (your material feet, as it were) in the dedicated spot at the temple entrance.

 

Day 1 / Stop 3 – Wat Pan Tao

  • Why it’s awesome: It’s one of only a few completely wooden structures from the period left in Chiang Mai!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Khaow Tom Restaurant is the perfect eatery to complement a visit to this discreet temple! It’s a local favorite that serves up mouth-watering Asian cuisine, with very friendly service.

Once a palace, this pretty structure is now one of the most beautiful sites on any itinerary for Chiang Mai! This unusual temple in Chiang Mai was built of specially-molded teak panels that were fit tightly together, supported by teak pillars. Look up as you enter: the three-tiered roof features gilded snake tails and there’s a spectacular gilt carving of a peacock above the entrance!

Wat Pan Tao

Wat Pan Tao, Chiang Mai | source: Take Photo (shutterstock)

Inside, you’ll find a dhamma, a wooden casket that holds Buddhist scriptures written on palm leaves. Some of these precious documents are on display. You’ll also find a busbok, a tall, ornate box for images of the Buddha. Also, be sure to admire the golden sitting Buddha!

 

The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Bag.

Read our full review!

 

Day 1 / Stop 4 – Wat Chedi Luang

  • Why it’s awesome: Few 700-year-old temples manage to be this atmospheric!
  • Cost: $2 USD
  • Food nearby: With views of Wat Chedi Luang and an array of delicious dishes, Poppy’s Kitchen is your go-to if you get hungry at the temple!

Most of Chiang Mai’s temples are gold and meant to be admired in direct sunlight but not Wat Chedi Luang! This ancient temple is best viewed at night when lanterns and candles breathe magic into the atmosphere, so head here around dinnertime!

Wat Chedi Luang isn’t as majestic as Wat Phra Singh but it has an atmosphere that isn’t easily beaten! It’s a partially ruined, tall and imposing structure that is a testament to Chiang Mai’s long and glorious past. It was built in the 14th and 15th centuries with a pagoda rising 80 meters high! Over time, the height diminished to 60 meters but Wat Chedi Luang remains one of the most impressive Chiang Mai landmarks!

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai | source: Maxim B. (flickr)

The main sanctuary is home to the Phra Chao Attarot who is surrounded by his disciples. At the end of the complex is a large reclining Buddha and an even bigger seated Buddha.

Another highlight of any Chiang Mai itinerary is the Lak Meuang. It’s a decorative pillar that was constructed at the founding of Chiang Mai in 1296. Unfortunately, it can only be viewed by men.

Insider Tip: One of the most original experiences you can have on a weekend in Chiang Mai is talk with a Buddhist monk! Wat Chedi Luang is the perfect spot to do so. Monks congregate on the northern side of the temple grounds so that they can talk about Buddhism with visitors! They’re there between 9:00 and 18:00.

 

Day 1 / Stop 5 – Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

  • Why it’s awesome: For the city’s premier souvenir shops and a colorful atmosphere, don’t miss Chiang Mai Night Bazaar!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: The market itself doesn’t have many food stalls but the surrounding area has plenty of dining options! Try some local street food around the market: the good stalls will be surrounded by customers!

Now that you’ve made some epic memories touring Chiang Mai and have gotten to know more about the city, it’s time to start finding the perfect mementos of your vacation in Chiang Mai! You’ll find a mind-blowing variety of goods on offer at the Night Bazaar and the vibrant ambiance is so infectious that it’s worth a visit even if you’re not buying!

Night Bazaar has many different goods on sale, from knock-offs to antiques, but it’s the ideal place to purchase traditional Thai crafts. Soft Thai silks and carved wooden items are the most popular souvenirs but don’t overlook the bamboo rice boxes, silver jewelry, and handmade soaps and candles!

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai | source: Victoruler (shutterstock)

Bargaining is key to getting a good price and is an expected norm in the market. However, the prices are generally quite low anyway. Negotiate with a friendly smile and have the exact amount you settle on at hand. If you need more help, then check out our Ultimate Haggling guide.

Insider Tip: Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is great but if you’re here on a weekend in Chiang Mai, you may want to switch it for the Saturday or Sunday Night Walking Street. Both of these markets consist of vendors lining the street and crowds of people shopping and eating. It’s quite hectic but it is a famous Chiang Mai attraction!

 

STrips The Poshtel

Check Best Price

S*Trips The Poshtel
What’s not to love about an affordable downtown hostel with plenty of quality facilities?
  • $$
  • Free WiFi
  • Free Breakfast

 

Day 2 Itinerary in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center | Chiang Mai National Museum | San Kamphaeng RoadWat Umong | Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

With 2 days in Chiang Mai, it’s time to look behind the stunning Chiang Mai landmarks and get to know the history and culture that built them!

 

Day 2 / Stop 1 – Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center

  • Why it’s awesome: Get to know more about how Chiang Mai came to be the pretty, self-assured city it is today!
  • Cost: $3 USD or $6 USD for admission to the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center, the Chiang Mai National Museum and the Lanna Folklife Museum.
  • Food nearby: There’s a lovely coffee shop inside the center that overlooks the courtyard. It’s perfect for a mid-morning snack!

Right in the middle of Old City, you’ll find this excellent museum in the old provincial government hall. This beautiful Art Deco building is certainly a great place to start the second day.

Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center

Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center, Chiang Mai | source: Stefan Fussan (Wikimedia commons)

The monument in front of the center is the Three Kings Monument. King Mengra, the founder of Chiang Mai, stands with his friends (also kings) who were involved in the layout of Chiang Mai. It’s quite an iconic image that comes in various forms across the city.

The exhibitions are dedicated to fostering an understanding of Chiang Mai’s history in visitors and a sense of local pride. The front section focuses on Chiang Mai through the ages, using multimedia to tell the city’s rich history. The back section of the museum hosts temporary events and exhibitions in the hope of preserving the area’s culture. There’s a replica of a traditional Lanna village and a Thai temple. You’ll also find a quaint souvenir shop in this area!

 

Day 2 / Stop 2 – Chiang Mai National Museum

  • Why it’s awesome: By now you’ll have heard a lot about Lanna architecture and culture; get to actually know the ancient northern Thai people at this ethnology museum!
  • Cost: $3 USD or $6 USD for the 3 museums’ ticket.
  • Food nearby: Just 300 meters away from the museum, you’ll find Khaosoi Lamduan faham. They specialize in Asian vegetarian cuisine and are a favorite with locals!

There’s no doubt that the Chiang Mai National Museum is one of the most underrated attractions in Chiang Mai: few people wonder what to do in Chiang Mai and think of this little gem! Luckily for you, we can highly recommend it!

The Chiang Mai National Museum is the perfect continuation of the trip down history lane that the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center would’ve started! It’s small and quiet so the exhibitions tend to make quite an impact.

Chiang Mai National Museum

Chiang Mai National Museum, Chiang Mai | source: GONG Jie (Wikimedia commons)

First, you’ll be introduced to the Lua and Hari Phunchai people. The latter founded the first known kingdom in northern Thailand. Then comes the famed Lanna Kingdom. It’s presented through a beautiful selection of archaeological artifacts from everyday objects to magnificent Buddha statues!

Chiang Mai was once part of the independent Kingdom of Chiang Mai. This kingdom’s close relationship with Siam is also presented in an exhibition, with a particular emphasis on their artistic developments.

Many of the artifacts in the museum are also works of art so it’s sure to be one of the most breathtaking experiences on your Chiang Mai itinerary!

 

Day 2 / Stop 3 – San Kamphaeng Road

  • Why it’s awesome: Chiang Mai is home to talented craftspeople, many of whom you’ll find along this 18 kilometer-long highway!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Take a sweet break at Dhara Dhevi Cake Shop and be sure to taste the delicious macaroons! For something more substantial, try Aroy Garden’s menu of Thai and European dishes.

Make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes when you arrive at San Kamphaeng Road because there are loads of villages and factories on this Chiang Mai walking tour!

San Kamphaeng Road is the best place in Chiang Mai to buy Thai silk which is often considered to be the best in the world. Try Shinawatra Thai Silk, the oldest silk factory in Thailand.

San Kamphaeng Road

San Kamphaeng Road, Chiang Mai

Continuing a 600-year-old tradition are the potters of San Kamphaeng. You can visit the ancient Lanna kilns in the area before watching the modern masters. Chiang Mai’s potters are very skilled at Celadon, very fine, greenish ceramics. Baan Celadon is the best place to see the artists at work.

Bo Sang Handicraft Center really deserves its place on your 3 day itinerary in Chiang Mai! Its principal craft is traditional umbrellas. These colorful items can be seen all over Chiang Mai and are made of Bamboo frames and Saa paper (which comes from local tree bark). The artists then hand paint various motifs onto the umbrellas, meaning that each umbrella is a unique, useful product! You can both watch the crafting process and buy the finished product at Bo Sang Handicraft Center.

You can also find brilliant silverwork and woodwork in San Kamphaeng Road. Whether you’re buying or not, don’t miss out on this excellent attraction. Just being able to watch traditional art in the making means San Kamphaeng Road is one of the most unique places to visit in Chiang Mai (in 3 days)!

 

Day 2 / Stop 4 – Wat Umong

  • Why it’s awesome: Tucked away in the local jungle, this little temple has really unusual and awe-inspiring architecture!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Biscotti House’s selection of yummy baked goods are a happy addition to any day!

With 2 days in Chiang Mai, you’ll have time to visit a few more temples. Wat Umong is often known as the Hidden Temple as not many tourists find it in the jungle outside of Chiang Mai.

Wat Umong was founded in 1297, just a year after Chiang Mai was established. Its architecture is characterized by the use of tunnels. At the end of each tunnel is a Buddha or another symbol. The tunnels are designed so that external sounds are minimized, creating a hushed and deeply spiritual atmosphere.

Wat Umong

Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

In the temple grounds is a collection of Buddha statues, many of which are disfigured. It creates an other-worldly environment for a peaceful stroll in the forest. Keep an eye out for wooden plates bearing Buddhist proverbs in English and Thai! On the edge of the grounds is a small lake and you can reach the island by crossing a bridge.

Insider Tip: Combine your visit to Wat Umong with a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. You can take a tuk-tuk or songthaew to reach the site which is about four kilometers outside of Chiang Mai. Get your driver to wait for you as not many vehicles stop here.

If you’re here on a Sunday between 15:00 and 18:00, join one of the talks in the Chinese Pavilion about Buddhism.

 

Day 2 / Stop 5 – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

  • Why it’s awesome: Sitting high in the mountains above Chiang Mai, this sacred site is the temple to visit in Chiang Mai!
  • Cost: $2 USD
  • Food nearby: At the base of the temple complex is a group of stalls, some of which sell food and drinks to snack on!

As your 2 days in Chiang Mai draw to a close, you’ll have seen your fair share of temples and may even be feeling a bit “templed out”. Bear with us, though, because we’ve saved the best for last!

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was founded in 1383 to house a fragment of the historical Buddha’s shoulder bone. The original bone was brought by a monk to Lanna where it broke into two pieces. One was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok, while the other was tied to a sacred white elephant who wandered the jungle. The spot on which the elephant died was the spot chosen to house this bone shard: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Visitors need to ascend 306 steps to get to the temple. The long route is meant to help devotees gain Buddhist merit but if that doesn’t appeal to you, there is a funicular alternative.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai | source: Minto.ong (shutterstock)

On top of the stairs is a statue of the legendary elephant that picked the temple’s location. There are also various shrines and other monuments.

The temple itself is split into an inner and an outer terrace. The inner terrace houses the sacred relic of the Buddha. There’s a walkway around the golden Chedi in which the relic sits.

Try to get here just before sunset. The monks will gather for prayers and the panoramic view of Chiang Mai becomes even prettier in the fading light!

Gardens Neighborhood, Cape Town

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

GET IT HERE

 

Day 3 and Beyond

Lanna Folk life Museum | Mae Ping River | Thai Massage | Terracotta Garden | Bhubing Palace

Wondering how to spend 3 days in Chiang Mai? Don’t worry about extending your trip; we’ve got the perfect itinerary to keep you busy!

 

Lanna Folk life Museum

  • Learn more about the Lanna people in this innovative folk life museum in the center of Old City!
  • It uses 18 different exhibitions with detailed reconstructions to immerse visitors in Lanna tradition.
  • Admission is just $3 USD for adults (or included in the $6 USD museum pass)!

Lanna Folklife Museum doesn’t have as many historical items as the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center or the Chiang Mai National Museum but it does do a splendid job of personalizing the Lanna people’s glorious history!

Lanna Folk life Museum

Lanna Folk life Museum, Chiang Mai | source: Kwanbenz (shutterstock)

Detailed images of daily life are recreated through the use of wax dolls and reconstructions. For example, there’s a trio of wax dolls playing music, while a life-size loom allows you up close to Lanna arts!

 

Mae Ping River

  • The Ping River is the lifeline of Chiang Mai, connecting the city with its breadbasket in the rural areas for centuries.
  • The riverside is also a charming place where you can see locals and tourists mixing!
  • There are several ways to explore the river, from cruises to riverside strolls.

Riverside, as the area on the banks of Mae Ping is known, is considered to be the most relaxed part of Chiang Mai. It’s home to several luxury resorts, shops, markets and stunning views!

We suggest you set aside a few hours for a short Chiang Mai walking tour of the area. You could choose to visit Warorot Market, a fruit market that also hosts stalls selling street food and other goods. Afterward, take a leisurely stroll around the area’s many shops and cafes.

Mae Ping River

Mae Ping River, Chiang Mai | source: Mr.PREECHAPON (shutterstock)

We highly recommend having lunch at one of the riverside restaurants. The Good View Bar & Restaurant is one of the most famed establishments on any Chiang Mai itinerary — and with good reason! Sit down outside, right beside the river, to soak up the eponymous views while dining on classic Thai dishes like deep-fried shrimp.

Of course, you should definitely go on a boat ride along the lovely Ping River. It’s a humbling experience to see how the riverbank changes from bustling city to tranquil farmland.

 

Thai Massage

  • Thai massages are offered all over the world but you’d really miss out if you came to Thailand and didn’t let an experienced local give you one!
  • The Women’s Correctional Institute is a popular massage venue with tourists. It trains inmates in massage to prepare them for life after crime.
  • This is the perfect way to relax after a busy itinerary for Chiang Mai!

Thai massage is unique in that it doesn’t involve oil being massaged onto bare skin. You’re given a set of loose clothes to change into and the treatment revolves around pressing down on your muscles firmly and stretching them gently.

Thai Massage

Thai Massage, Chiang Mai

The Women’s Correctional Institute is a good place to try out a traditional Thai massage. There’s no need to worry about safety as there are guards on duty and all the inmates are trained for 6 months in Thai massage.

If you’d like to support the women but would feel more comfortable with ex-inmates, then try Lila Thai Massage. The company provides jobs to many former prisoners who trained with the Women’s Correctional Institute. It’s not a luxury spa but the services are top-notch!

 

Terracotta Garden

  • It’s an outdoor gallery of amazing pottery surrounded by verdant gardens.
  • This is one of the gems on our Chiang Mai itinerary which is seldom discovered by tourists!

Hidden from the city by a decorative wall, the Terracotta Garden is sort of place you either look for or just happen to stumble upon! Stepping into the walled garden is like reaching an oasis: all around you, you’ll see shamrock-green leaves spilling out between larger-than-life Buddha-style statues.

The collection of ornate pots, wall hangings and statues is breathtaking. We recommend that you pull out a chair and place an order with the small cafe for drinks while you meander leisurely around the garden. Don’t worry if it rains; the cafe is entirely enclosed by glass so you can still feel like you’re in the garden while remaining dry inside!

Terracotta Garden

Terracotta Garden, Chiang Mai | source: Klim Levene (flickr)

The Terracotta Garden is actually a showroom for Baan Phor Liang Muen, a well-established terracotta shop. The items on show are all handmade by local artists, so they are on sale, although that’s not the main reason to visit.

Insider Tip: If you’d like to learn a bit about pottery, why not do so at the Terracotta Garden? Call ahead of time to arrange a pottery workshop in the garden with a local artist!

 

Bhubing Palace

  • As the name suggests, Bhubing Palace is the official residence of the Thai Royal Family during winter when they visit the northern part of their realm!
  • Its cool mountainside location has allowed the royal gardeners to nurture flowers such as roses which are very rare in Thailand!
  • With entrance at just $2 USD, this must be one of the cheapest royal palaces for commoners to visit in the world!

Bhubing Palace is as visited by locals as by tourists due to its spectacular gardens! No visit would be complete without a garden stroll but the buildings themselves are also quite interesting!

Phra Tamnak Bhubing Rajanives is the main building of the palace complex. The upper level is home to the royal family, while the lower level is reserved for their entourage.

Bhubing Palace

Bhubing Palace, Chiang Mai | source: FredTC  (Wikimedia commons)

There are a number of other residences in the palace complex, such as Ruen Peek Ma (Log Cabin) which is inhabited by a royal princess. Ruen Rab Rong is a royal guesthouse built in the modern Thai style.

In the gardens, make sure to admire the palace’s famed rose garden. It’s also worth visiting the water reservoir which doubles as a fountain. The music playing in the background was composed by the former king himself!

Insider Tip: Much like the temples, Bhubing Palace has a strict dress code. Your shoulders should be covered (but not with a scarf) and your bottoms should fall below your mid-calf. You should also keep your voice down!

Don’t forget to pack a good book!

Lonely Planet Thailand (Travel Guide): This is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.

 

Staying Safe in Chiang Mai

While there are certain things to watch out for in the city, worries about safety in Chiang Mai certainly shouldn’t stop you from planning a trip to Chiang Mai!

Avoid drugs when Backpacking Thailand. As chilled out as Chiang Mai is, Thailand is very strict when it comes to drug use and there’s no exception when it comes to foreigners. Stay clear, then, because the lightest sentence is a $2000 USD fine!

A common scam occurs with tuk-tuk drivers who offer tourists free rides, take them to gem stores and forcefully encourage them to buy. If you feel uncomfortable, calling loudly for the tourist police tends to work well.

The biggest danger, however, comes from road accidents. Thailand is notorious for its large number of road accidents and foreigners trying out the seemingly cool motorbike are often involved. Only hire a motorbike if you’re experienced with riding one and always wear a helmet. In fact, many backpackers are killed each year in motor accidents in Thailand. Please be careful.

No matter where you’re traveling, you should always have travel insurance. World Nomads offers comprehensive cover and is an efficient, flexible insurer for your trip to Chiang Mai!

Find more tips on staying safe in Chiang Mai on our AWESOME guide to safety in Thailand!

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers,or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

 

Day Trips From Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a treasure trove in itself but just wait until you go on day trips from Chiang Mai: forests, villages, rivers and adventures galore await! If you have more time then you will be able to take in some of the best places to visit in Thailand.

 

From Chiang Mai: White Temple & Golden Triangle Day Trip

White Temple & Golden Triangle Day Trip

Few day trips from Chiang Mai can pack as much of a punch as this one! It’s a 13-hour all-inclusive trip that allows you to explore nearby tourist attractions, as well as appreciate the stunning natural landscape. 

The White Temple is one of the most awe-inspiring sites in all of Thailand! After a visit to this fairytale-like structure, you can enjoy a dip in the Mae Kachan hot springs.

There’s also a stop at Wat Phra That Chedi Luang in Chiang Saen Ancient City, after which you can spot the Golden Triangle. This is where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet.

You’ll also get the chance to visit the fascinating Opium Museum. Finally, your day trip will finish with a cruise on the Mekong River. This day trip is likely to be a highlight of your vacation in Chiang Mai!

Check Tour Price

 

From Chiang Mai: Inthanon National Park 9-Hour Group Tour

Inthanon National Park 9-Hour Group Tour

If lush green forests and gushing waterfalls are your thing, then this is one unmissable day trip from Chiang Mai!

Doi Inthanon National Park is home to Thailand’s highest mountain peak which you can visit on this day trip for some panoramic pictures! A short walk along the Angkha Natural Trail will take you to the majestic twin stupas that commemorate the birthdays of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit.

The Hmong hill tribe market and the village of Mae Klang Luang provide a unique opportunity to interact positively with indigenous groups in Thailand.  You’ll also visit the Royal Agricultural Research Center and be blown away by Vachiratharn Waterfall!

Check Tour Price

 

Chiang Mai: Full-Day Chiang Dao Caving & Jungle Kayaking

Full-Day Chiang Dao Caving & Jungle Kayaking

For all the adventurers touring Chiang Mai, there aren’t many day trips from Chiang Mai that can beat this one! It’s one action-packed activity to the next as you get deeper into the Northern Thai jungle!

In the Chiang Dao Valley, there’s kayaking on the Mae Ping River. It’s a beautiful journey along the overgrown riverbanks to the sound of fish splashing and birds chirping!

Then, there’s Chiang Dao Cave. You’ll spend an hour exploring the smaller tunnels with a guide before entering the main tunnels and admiring the Buddhist shrines in the cave. Finally, there’s a short kayaking trip in the cave system!

Check Tour Price

 

Chiang Mai Local Village Exploring with Weaving Experience

Local Village Exploring with Weaving Experience

Day trips from Chiang Mai aren’t all about the surrounding landscape (however beautiful it may be)! The villages around Chiang Mai are home to skilled artisans who happily introduce visitors to their craft.

At Sankampang Village, your small group will learn how to weave according to traditional techniques! By the end of the session, you’ll have your own piece of woven fabric!

There’s also a local dessert class that you can partake in. Another local initiative you can support is the Fish Breeding Center. Lunch in a family house is also included!

Check Tour Price

 

Chiang Mai: Cultural Day Trip to Lamphun and Lampang

Cultural Day Trip to Lamphun and Lampang

With this day trip from Chiang Mai, you’ll visit Lamphun and Lampang. These aren’t often on tourists’ Chiang Mai itinerary, but they’re still incredibly beautiful towns with intriguing attractions! 

Lamphun was once the capital of the Hariphunchai Empire. The town’s premier attraction is Wat Phra That Hariphunchai. This Buddhist temple dates from the 9th century!

In Lampang, you’ll find Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, which is widely considered to be the most beautiful wooden temple in northern Thailand! A journey in a horse-drawn carriage will complete your trip to this pretty town!

Finally, on your way back to Chiang Mai, you’ll stop at the ceramic factory and market in Mae Tha.

Check Tour Price

 

Universal Travel AdapterOne of the best investments you can make is a worldwide travel adapter that will work anywhere! The one featured here is tough, reliable and a solid buy – Don’t leave home without one.

GET IT HERE

 

Conclusion

With rivers, mountains and jungle just outside of the city, Chiang Mai offers visitors access to a world of adventure and breathtaking natural landscapes! The city itself, however, isn’t outshone by these natural wonders: colorful markets, intricate artwork and stunning temples can be found on almost every corner in Chiang Mai.

This incredible combination of nature and culture makes Chiang Mai a winning destination that’s best seen with our expert Chiang Mai itinerary! From finding you the best place to stay in Chiang Mai to knowing the nearest quality eatery for an impromptu snack, we’ve got all the practical advice you need to make the most out of sightseeing in Chiang Mai!

There certainly is a lot to see in Chiang Mai: whether it’s gilded Buddhas, royal roses or woven silks, you’ll find it all on our epic Chiang Mai itinerary!

 

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.


Need More Inspiration?

 

Like this post? PIN ME!!!

This insider CHIANG MAI ITINERARY is packed with the best things Chiang Mai has to offer, so you can see it all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *