Most Visited Attractions in Chiang Mai

Explore these twenty attractions in Chiang Mai that consistently have the highest yearly visitor numbers.


Most Visited Chiang Mai Attractions - akyra Manor Chiang Mai Hotel


Most Visited Chiang Mai Attractions


1. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Overlooking the city from its perch on the regal Doi Suthep Mountain is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. If your trip is limited to just a handful of attractions, make sure that this Wat is top of the list.

This Buddhist temple is a sacred site to many Thai people. It attracts large numbers of Thai and foreign visitors as well as Buddhist pilgrims who come to view the holy Buddhist relics.

The centrepiece of this temple is the exquisite golden chedi, or pagoda. Visitors can reach this by climbing a set of stairs lined with seven-headed Naga. Buddhists believe that these Naga, or serpents fend off evil spirits and offer protection. They are an important emblem of the Buddhist religion, and their value can be seen in the detail of each statue.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep houses many items that are symbolic of the Theravada Buddhists. From the White Elephant shrine to the architecture of the impressive chedi and the murals inside the Wat, you can learn a huge amount about the lives and beliefs of this religion and its followers.


2. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

The Night Bazaar is one of Chiang Mai’s largest markets and a main attraction for tourists. It’s located on the Chang Khlan Road, between the Tha Phae Gate into the Old City and the Ping River. Traders set up from 18h00 and sell their wares late into the night. There are few itineraries that don’t include a visit to the night bazaar.

The market stretches for a few blocks, with hundreds of stalls selling anything from clothing to spices and everything in between. Many of the items are duplicated at a few stalls, so it’s easy to shop for bargain prices.


3. Wat Chedi Luang

The word “luang” means “large” in Thailand’s northern dialect, aptly describing this Wat that has the largest chedi in Chiang Mai. Construction of the initial 98m high chedi was completed in 1481, but an earthquake in 1545 destroyed the upper 30m section.

The chedi was restored in the early 1990s. The base was embellished with elephant statues, and the naga staircases on each side of the chedi were also restored. The height of the structure was never reinstated and today it stands at just over 50m high.

The Wat also houses the city pillar of Chiang Mai which is believed by many to be at the epicentre of Chiang Mai. It’s housed in a shrine as is common with city pillars in Thailand, and dwarfed by three dipterocarp trees which are believed to assist the city pillar in protecting the city.


4. Elephant Nature Park

The Elephant Nature Park is a rescue centre and about 60km from Chiang Mai. While it mainly accommodates elephants, the park also assists with dogs, cats, buffalo and other rescued animals needing love and attention. The elephants roam freely around the park, interacting with each other and playing the river and man-made mud pits.

Visitors to the centre can choose the level of interaction they wish to have with the animals. You may wish to spend a few hours merely observing, or prefer to participate in one of the special projects that take place outside the camp. Here, you can walk with the animals, feed and bathe them, depending on the package that you select.


5. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is an ethical elephant sanctuary located about one and a half hours from Chiang Mai. Visitors have two opportunities during the day to participate in elephant interactions, in the mornings from 06h30 or in the afternoons from 13h30. Each program provides detailed insight into the elephants in the sanctuary’s care, and activities including feeding and bathing with the elephants.

The sanctuary is a place where these great animals can live out their days in peace, with space to roam and no riding, circus tricks or other gimmicks expected of them.


6. Wat Phra Singh

This Buddhist temple was built in the 14th century and is housed within the old city's walls. Its main feature is the assembly hall, Viharn Lai Kam. Inside the hall you’ll find murals depicting life in Thailand as it was hundreds of years ago.

You can also view Phra Singh, the Lion Buddha, which is one of the most respected Buddhas in the North. This statue is paraded through the main streets of Chiang Mai each year at Songkran which is the Thai New Year.

The larger yet less elaborate assembly hall, Viharn Luang, is where you can find a 15th century Buddha made from gold and copper. During renovations in the 1920s, this building was built on the site of the original viharn.

The library, Haw Trai, is also worth seeing and is built in classic Lanna style. Regarded as one of the most beautiful temple libraries in the country, it contains various Buddhist scriptures, and is heavily guarded by a combination of lions and mythical water creatures.


7. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park

Encompassing more than 260 square kilometres, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park lies about 16km northwest of Chiang Mai. The area is a haven for birds and other wildlife, which thrive in the mild climate and combination of deciduous and evergreen forests.

The twin peaks of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui rise majestically from the lush landscape, and are the focal point of the park. They attract walkers, hikers, and mountain bikers who come to the park to enjoy the many mountain trails, either for sport or for some time out from busy city life.

Must-see attractions in the national park include the Buddhist temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Bhubing Palace, a royal residence. Further exploration will lead you to a couple of tribal villages where you can view these local residents at work and play in their natural environment.


8. Bo Sang Umbrella Village

Popular with tourists from all corners of the earth, the Bo Sang Umbrella Village is located about 18km east of the Old City. The brightly coloured umbrellas are hard to miss and this village is a must-see for visitors to the area.

The umbrellas are hand-made by skilled craftsmen and women, and at Bo Sang you have the opportunity to follow each step in the umbrella-making process, watching how they take shape from the smallest part to the final finished product. There are many chances to purchase an umbrella of your preference, or one of the other items, like fans and parasols, crafted by the locals.

The Bo Sang Umbrella Festival takes place annually in the third week of January. This 3-day extravaganza showcases the excellent craftmanship of the local people and promotes the array of handcrafted products.


9. Wat Umong

Wat Umong is the only forest temple in Chiang Mai and is located in a forested area at the foothills of the Suthep Mountains. It’s famous for the meditation tunnels that gave the Wat its name as Umong is the Thai word for tunnel. Sadly due to the large number of tourists visiting this Wat, the temples are rarely used for meditation any more.

The tunnels lie under a large unpainted chedi built in the traditional Lanna style. The complex also houses a working monastery and it’s not uncommon to find monks wandering the scenic grounds and circling the chedi in prayer.


10. Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, with construction having started in the last few years of the 13th century. The temple houses two halls. The largest of these contains Chiang Mai’s oldest Buddha, a standing Buddha holds an alms bowl.

The smaller hall houses two Buddhas of great significance due to their perceived protective powers. The Crystal Buddha is just 10cm tall and is carved out of clear quartz crystal. It’s believed to have protective and healing powers. The second statue is a standing Buddha believed to bring rain for growing rice crops. This Buddha is worshipped every April before Songkran.


11. Wat Sri Suphan

Another must-see temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Sri Suphan, or the Silver Temple. This refurbished temple is covered in silver, with detailed carvings depicting Buddhism legends and history. In its original form, the temple wasn’t as silver-clad as it is today, although repairs to the building were done in silver. The interior carries on with the silver theme, but incorporates mirrors and bright colours in its decoration.

Centuries ago, this was the main temple for the silversmith village. Today, many silversmiths remain in the area. Visitors can view these artists at work in the temple grounds, and even order custom-made pieces from them.


12. Wat Suan Dok

This temple is located outside the old city wall, on the site of a former flower garden. It comprises many buildings of historical importance. The golden chedi is the main pagoda and is said to be where the Buddha’s relics are enshrined. There are ramps on all four sides which lead up to the terrace, and are lined in true Lanna style with traditional sea-creature and serpents.

An open-air assembly hall houses two Buddha images facing in opposite directions. One sits in a meditative position facing east, while the other stands behind it facing west. Other Buddha images surround these two, and one smaller image is placed in front of the sitting Buddha.

In the grounds of the temple you’ll find whitewashed mausoleums containing the ashes of members of the Royal Family of Chiang Mai.


13. Chiang Mai Old City

The Old City lies at the heart of Chiang Mai. It’s surrounded by a wall and moat dating back centuries and built initially to protect the city from enemies. The area is about one and a half square kilometres, and an easy stroll through the Old City will highlight many ancient structures and points of historical interest.

There are plenty of temples and museums to keep you busy, or you can visit one of the popular markets selling authentic Thai goods and food. Other popular activities include Thai massage, cooking demonstrations and classes, and a ride on one of the tuk-tuks that Thailand is famous for.


14. Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre

The Chiang Mai Cultural Centre is a one-stop shop for learning about the history and culture of the Lanna people. Here you can enjoy a traditional meal, dancing and music in a live Khantoke Dinner Show experience. A Khantoke dinner is a traditional Thai meal usually reserved for celebratory occasions. Food is served on a round pedestal-type tray that acts as your dining table, and you partake of the meal while seated on traditional Thai cushions. Guests at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre have the option of sitting at dining tables, if this is preferred.

Visitors to this tourist village can wander through the market, and visit the various exhibitions showcasing the culture and lifestyle of Thailand’s northern people. The Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre has been teaching visitors about the Lanna and hill tribe cultures and since 1971.


15. Nimmanahaeminda Road

Nimmanahaeminda Road, commonly referred to as Nimman Road, is the heart of the trendiest area of Chiang Mai. It’s lined with designer boutiques, eateries, bars and coffee spots, and the side streets hide a myriad of similar not-to-be-missed gems.

If you’ve got time to kill you can learn a new skill and take a traditional Thai cooking class, or treat yourself to a pamper day in one of the popular spas. The area is definitely where the trendy go to play, and offers an alternate perspective of what Chiang Mai is all about.


16. Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon National Park is one of Chiang Mai’s most popular parks, with its entrance located 70km from Chiang Mai city centre. The park is a wealth of natural diversity, with over 500 bird species, and more than 50 species of reptile. It surrounds the highest mountain peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, which is part of the Himalayan mountain range and affords both local and international visitors sweeping views across more than 450 sqm of natural beauty.

Once in the park, there’s a host of activities including birdwatching, walking trails and hiking. The Sirithan Waterfall is a popular attraction, as are the remote villages, and the annual display of Siamese sakura flowers when they blossom in late January.


17. Chiang Mai Night Safari

The Chiang Mai Night Safari enables guests to experience the thrill of being outside among wildlife at night. The park is broken up into three animal zones set around a central lake: Savanna Safari, Predator Prowl and the Jaguar Trail. Both the Savanna Safari and Predator Prowl are explored in open-sided safari trams and you’ll have sightings of giraffes, zebras, elephants, hyenas, lion and numerous other predators and their prey. The Jaguar Trail is a walking trail that is also open during the day, and you can explore this at your leisure. Other activities you can enjoy are the kid’s zone, musical fountain, Tiger World and Digital Zoo.


18. Highland People Discovery Museum

The museum showcases the history and indigenous culture of nine hill tribes of Northern Thailand, including Hmong, Mien and Akha. Visitors can watch a short video on arrival before wandering through the museum at their leisure and browsing the authentic, handmade items in the gift shop.

The Highland People Discovery Museum was formerly called the Tribal Museum, and comprises three floors. The first covers the life, history, culture and traditions of the hill tribes; the second floor concentrates on traditional dress and childhood in the highlands, while the third floor has displays and educational material about the royal duties to and relationships with the hill tribes.


19. Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens

Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens opened in 1992 and is located in the foothills of the Doi Suthep-Pui Mountains north of Chiang Mai. There’s a lot to see in the gardens and you should allow sufficient time to take in as many of the different areas as possible.

Spend time wandering through the flower and fern gardens, trundle along Banana Avenue, or enter one of the eight diverse glass houses. Each of these has a different theme, from orchids to cacti and tropical rainforests.

One of the highlights of the gardens is the Flying Draco Trail, an elevated canopy walkway named after a type of flying lizard found on the Suthep Mountain. This walkway is 400m long and provides a different perspective of the botanical gardens.


20. Mae Sa Waterfall

The Mae Sa Waterfall is a large waterfall consisting of ten tiers, all at different heights and some more impressive than others. Natural pools form in the rock formations, affording visitors the opportunity to escape from the Thai humidity.

One can easily spend a day, exploring the area, picnicking and relaxing among nature. The walks are well laid out along the river, affording you stunning views of the cascades. While Mae Sa is neither the biggest waterfall in the region, nor the most attractive, its proximity to Chiang Mai makes it a popular location for both Thai locals and tourists.




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