What to See In Chiang Mai

Located in the North of Thailand and surrounded by lush, green hills and misty mountains, lies Chiang Mai. This bustling city is a haven for travellers who come from all parts of the globe to sample traditional Thai cuisine, visit the historic temples and experience the adventures that this part of the country has in store.

Chiang Mai appeals to backpackers, groups, families and solo travellers. Regardless of your age or interests there are sights to enjoy in this lively city. Chiang Mai’s history dates back to the 13th century and you’ll feel the culture oozing from every corner of the city. Through its sights and attractions, Chiang Mai has a story to tell, and you can’t help but listen.

 

Things to See in Chiang Mai

There is so much to see in Chiang Mai:

  • Temples
  • National Parks & Gardens
  • Elephant Interactions & Sanctuaries
  • Museums
  • Monuments & Historic Buildings
  • Arts & Culture
  • Markets & Shopping
  • Activities

We have also created a map for each Chiang Mai experience.

 

What to See Chiang Mai - akyra Manor Chiang Mai Hotel

 

Temples in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was built towards the end of the 13th century as the capital of the Lan Na kingdom, which it remained for close to 500 years. This period yielded many Buddhist temples which are a popular draw card for tourists who come to soak up the religious culture of the area, and view the magnificent architecture.

 

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Overlooking the city from its perch on the regal Doi Suthep Mountain is the What Phra That Doi Suthep. 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.

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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.

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Wat Phra Singh

This Buddhist temple was built in the 14th century and is housed within the walls of the old city. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wat Phra That Doi Kham

Otherwise known as the Golden Temple, Wat Phra That Doi Kham is located on the Doi Kham Hill that lies to the south-west of Chiang Mai. The temple is popular with Thais who come from all over the area to see the large gold-decorated, sitting Buddha image. The image is an impressive 17m tall, and so prominent that visitors can see it from the bottom of the hill.

The temple’s chedi dates back to the year 687 and enshrines the Buddha’s sacred hair relic. The courtyard surrounding the chedi contains several smaller Buddha images, gongs, and statues of warriors, lions and serpents, all with religious significance.

You can access the temple either by climbing a flight of 300 stairs, or by catching a ride on the funicular. Walking up the stairs may be strenuous but will provide you with breath-taking views of the surrounding area.

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Wat Chet Yot

A short distance northeast of Chiang Mai is the Wat Chet Yot, or seven-spired temple. The design of the temple has Indian influences, built as it was as a replica of the Mahabodhi Temple in Northern India. The temple gets its name from seven spires that perch on top of the main chedi, a large rectangular building with no windows and a flat roof.

The temple compound is large with a number of other buildings and statues of historical value. You’ll see numerous Buddha images in varying poses, as well as chedi and other ruins scattered around the temple grounds. This temple is lesser-known and more popular with Thai residents. It is also a centre of pilgrimage for people born in the Year of the Snake.

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Wat Lok Moli

This is one of the oldest Wats in Chiang Mai, having been built sometime in the 14th century. It contains one of the area’s largest chedis, regally perched on a square base. The chedi is plain, displaying none of the stucco decoration so prominent at other Buddhist temples. It’s not without historical importance though as it contains the ashes of a few members of the Mangrai Dynasty. Although the chedi has undergone some restoration over the years, it is one of the only original structures in the complex.

Two impressive stone elephants stand guard at the gateway to the temple grounds. Inside the compound, you’ll find a large prayer hall, numerous Buddha images, statues and intricate mosaic designs. Wat Lok Moli is one of the only Buddhist Wats that doesn’t face in an easterly direction.

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Wat Buppharam

Wat Buppharam is located outside the old city wall. The initial structure was built in the late 15th century, and has renovated over the years with further buildings and structures added to the complex. As it stands now, the temple complex consists of an ordination hall or ubosot, two viharns, a dhamma hall and a white chedi with a golden spire.

The cross-shaped Dhamma hall is possibly one of the main features of Wat Buppharam and contains several not-to-be-missed murals. It’s also home to the largest teak Buddha image in Thailand, called Phra Buddha Narit.

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Wat Phan Tao

Wat Phan Tao lies next to the more famous Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai town. It’s often missed by tourists who visit the better-known adjacent temple, but it's definitely worth a visit. The beautiful ordination hall is constructed entirely out of teak wood, which in those days was an offering to the Buddha.

The entrance is overhung by a gilded pelmet containing carvings of mythological figures inlaid with coloured glass. Inside the hall, you’ll find a large golden Buddha which is the main Buddha images in this temple complex. You can also view the wooden throne that enshrines important Buddha images.

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Wat Pha Lat

This secluded jungle temple is one of the hidden gems of Chiang Mai. It lies in the lush mountains and was previously a resting place for monks making the arduous pilgrimage to the larger Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. A road was laid in 1935 and Wat Pha Lat is now a place of relaxation and meditation for monks.

The temple complex blends in with the beauty of the natural surroundings. There are steps all around leading you to the viharn, pagodas and other areas of interest. A series of caves built into the mountainside hold robes statues and other historical artefacts.

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Wat Chedi Liam

Loosely translated the name of this temple is Temple of the Square Pagoda, a reference to the square base of the chedi. The temple was built in the 13th century and this chedi is the only structure that dates back to that time.

The chedi is made up of five tiers, each one smaller than the last. Each tier has three niches on either side in which you’ll find a standing Buddha robed in yellow. There are 60 Buddha images in total around the five tiers. The niches are embellished with Naga serpents and flower motifs, very popular in Lanna-style temples.

The temple grounds also house a viharn and ordination hall, both more recent additions to the temple complex having been built in the early 20th century. The temple’s main Buddha image is in the ornately decorated viharn, while the ubosot or ordination hall is kept separate for prayer and ordination rituals.

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Wat Ket Karam

Wat Ket Karam lies close to the Ping River and houses the relics of the Buddha “Chedi Kade Kaew Chula Manee”, which is lucky for those born in the year of the dog. According to legend, if you were born in the year of the dog and you pay your respects to these relics, you will be successful and happy for the rest of your life.

The temple complex used to be a commercial district, primarily due to the proximity of the river, but became a more residential area towards the end of the 19th century. Among the buildings in the area is a museum with artefacts from those commercial days.

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Wat Pa Dara Phirom

Visitors interested in Buddhist culture will love Wat Pa Dara Phirom. This temple is located in the Mae Rim district, less than an hour from Chiang Mai. The temple complex is a working monastery with Buddhist monks roaming the grounds. Some of the complex is inaccessible to visitors for this reason.

The principal Buddha image is a sitting Buddha in a meditative pose and fashioned in Sukhothai style. There are a number of Buddha images, sculptures, waxworks and other historical works of art in the main temple and various outlying buildings. The gardens are tranquil and as the temple is less busy than other better-known ones, you can take your time and enjoy the beauty in peace.

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Wat Ku Tao

Formerly known as Wat Veru Vanaram, this Buddhist temple was built in the early 17th century during Burma’s reign of the area. One of the noteworthy architectural structures in the compound is the chedi which resembles five monks’ bowls, or gourds, stacked on top of each other in descending size. Each gourd is a separate floor in which a Buddha image is enshrined.

The Burmese arts are strongly represented in the general architecture and decorations. Visitors to the temple in late March will be treated to fun and entertainment at Poi Sang Long, an ordination festival in Burmese-style.

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Wat Inthakin Sadue Muang

Although not a popular tourist attraction in Chiang Mai, the Wat Inthakin Sadue Muang is certainly worth visiting. It’s centrally located inside the old walled town, and has a free museum depicting what life was like in the Lanna Kingdom of old.

In the late 13th century, the king of the Lanna Kingdom at the time, King Mengrai, placed the city pillar in the temple grounds, giving the temple great spiritual significance. It remained there for centuries, until it was finally relocated to the grounds of the nearby Wat Chedi Luang.

In the temple grounds, you’ll find monk’s quarters, two brick chedis, as well as an ornate, Lanna-style viharn. This viharn contains the temple’s Buddha images, including that of the principle Buddha, Luang Pho Kao.

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Wat Loi Khro

Wat Loi Khro doesn’t draw the tourists like some of the better-known temples, yet has a very interesting history. It dates back to the 15th century and was constructed during the reign of the sixth king of the Mengrai Dynasty. In those times, the temple was called Wat Hoi Khor.

The Wat, and indeed the city, was deserted many years later, after the fall of the Mengrai Dynasty and remained this way for about twenty years until the reconstruction of Chiang Mai began under King Kawila. The ruined temple was rebuilt in a Lanna style and renamed Wat Loi Khro.

The temple consists of large viharn with intricate carvings depicting everyday life in those ancient times. Included in the artwork are Buddha images, mythical creatures and Naga figures.

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Wat Mahawan

Situated outside the old walled city of Chiang Mai is Wat Mahawan, a Buddhist temple that combines the best of both Burmese and Lanna style architecture.

The Lanna-style main viharn is the focal point of the complex, with two large white lion statues guarding the entrance. Inside, the viharn is decorated with intricate carvings of water serpents, Buddhist Gods and other symbols. The principal Buddha image sits at the back of the hall.

The large white-painted Burmese-style chedi also has large lion guards, one at each corner of the base. Each side of the chedi has a niche in which you’ll find a statue of a standing Buddha.

Other buildings in the complex are the ordination hall, a scripture library, and a Burmese-style viharn that enshrines a seated Buddha image, also constructed in Burmese style.

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Wat Jet Lin

Wat Jet Lin is named after the seven water channels that the Lanna Royal family used to bathe in. Although the construction date of the temple is unclear, there is speculation that it dates back to the early 16th century, and it’s likely that some buildings were restored at a later stage.

The main building in the temple complex is the prayer hall, inside which you’ll find a number of Buddha statues including a large, golden Buddha and a smaller jade statue.

The Lanna-style chedi is possibly the oldest structure in the complex. The middle part of the chedi has an empty niche on each of the four sides. Although the base of the chedi is plain with no guardians or other images, you will see a number of large stone balls called luk nimit. These stones are traditionally buried under the eight sema stones that demarcate the ordination hall’s boundary wall.

Other structures are scattered around the temple grounds, including open-sided pavilions housing different images. A unique feature at this temple is a large lily pond with a bamboo bridge and coffee shop where visitors can take in the beauty of their surroundings.

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Temples Map

 

 

 

National Parks and Gardens in Chiang Mai

Nature abounds in the lush mountainous surroundings of Chiang Mai, giving rise to many open spaces, parks and natural features that shouldn’t be left unexplored. Heading out of the city into the countryside, you’ll experience the effect that the warm savannah climate has on the landscape. Your senses will open the sights, sounds and smells of nature in all its glory.

 

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.

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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.

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Royal Park Rajapruek

About 20 minutes from Chiang Mai is the Royal Park Rajapruek, a sprawling botanical park of more than 800m². The area is broken up into smaller themed gardens, comprising both international and Thai flora.

The Ho Kham Royal Pavilion stands regally in the garden as a centrepiece for all to see. Built in the traditional Lanna-style, the pavilion has a multi-tiered roof and high ceiling, and the interior is decorated with paintings and other works of art.

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Huay Kaew Waterfall

Huay Kaew Waterfall is a natural waterfall, about 10m high and located just outside Chiang Mai. Water flows throughout the year, although the level is at its lowest at the end of the dry season, just before the rainy season kicks in around April.

The lush vegetation around the waterfall attracts picnickers and families with small children who can play in the small rock pools. More energetic visitors can enjoy the hiking trail from the waterfall up to the Wang Bua Ban viewpoint.

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Nong Buak Haad Public Park

This popular park in the corner of the old walled city is a great place to sit and relax, taking in the sights and sounds of authentic Thai life. There are three large ponds in the centre of the park, and the surrounding paths and bridges create a lovely track for walkers.

A children’s playground, basketball courts and a coffee shop are some of the other features of this natural green space which is the only one of its kind within the old city walls.

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Mae Sa Waterfall

The Mae Sa Waterfall is a large waterfall consisting of about eight levels, all at different heights and some more impressive than others. It’s a popular location for both Thai locals and tourists, and one can easily spend a day, exploring the area and picnicking. The walks are well laid out along the river, affording you stunning views of the cascades.

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National Parks and Gardens Map

 

 

 

Elephant Interactions & Sanctuaries in Chiang Mai

The elephant is the national animal of Thailand and is a very important symbol in Thai culture. The relationship between man and animal goes back centuries, and elephants have played a significant role in all aspects of Thai life.

With the Asian elephant on Thailand’s endangered list, and animal rights very much in the forefront of conservation, we’ve seen an increasing number of elephant parks move from elephant riding and shows, to more basic interactions with these gigantic creatures. Tourists can now feed, bathe and groom the animals while gaining a more in depth knowledge of their way of life.

 

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.

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Maesa Elephant Camp

Maesa Elephant Camp promotes a natural environment for the elephants it houses, where they are free from chains and there is no riding or tourist shows. The camp has been operating since 1976, although originally started as a tourist attraction with elephant riding and shows.

These days, Maesa accommodates upwards of 70 elephants, of various ages and in varying stages of health. Elderly and poorly elephants are housed in a section of the park called The Chang, and here they alive out their days roaming free, bathing or just resting. Visitors can prepare food and feed the elephants, and walk with them to either bathe in the stream or the mud bath.

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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 beasts can live out their days in peace, with space to roam and no riding, circus tricks or other gimmicks expected of them.

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Elephant Rescue Park

At this haven for abandoned, elderly and mistreated elephants, visitors can choose from four packages for their interactions. Each tour, whether half day, full day, private or group, provides unique opportunities to experience and learn about the largest land mammals in the world.

The park started in 2015, borne out of passion, with the aim to provide a safe and loving environment for previously mistreated elephants. There are currently a small number of elephants cared for by the team at Elephant Rescue Park.

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Into The Wild Elephant Camp

After years spent supporting the logging and tourism industries, elephants come to Into the Wild Elephant Camp to relax and roam freely. Previously mistreated elephants from these industries are given the care and attention they require and deserve.

The camp offers a half day morning package and a full day option, where visitors can learn about the history and behaviour of elephants in Thailand before feeding and interacting with them in their natural habitat.

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Elephant Interactions & Sanctuaries Map

 

 

Museums in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a rich mixture of ancient and modern day lifestyles, and different museums provide insight into how the two work hand in hand. History buffs have many options to learn about ancient life in the Lanna Kingdom, the art and culture of the area.

 

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.

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Chiang Mai National Museum

The Chiang Mai National Museum, to the northwest of the city, is where you’ll find exhibitions about the history of Chiang Mai city and the Lanna Kingdom, which ruled over North Thailand until merging with Siam in 1775. The architecture of the museum is very traditional, with a tiered roof indicative of the Lanna-style of days gone by.

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Lanna Traditional House Museum

If you want a real peek into life in the Lanna times, visit the Lanna Traditional House Museum. There are twelve houses in this outdoor museum, each affording you a glimpse into how people lived in those days.

The most elaborate house in the museum is a colonial style dwelling that was built in 1932 and belonged to a teak merchant. It stands in its original location, while the other houses were transported to and rebuilt on the museum site. Information about each property is displayed at its entrance.

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Lanna Folklife Museum

The Lanna Folklife Museum is located opposite the Three Kings Monument in the old city, in a colonial style building that was previously the Provincial Court. The museum tells the story of life in the Lanna Kingdom in days gone by, through a series of displays and scenes depicting how the Lanna people lived.

There are few artefacts in the museum, but visitors gain insight into the lifestyle, traditions and occupations in villages in the Lanna Kingdom.

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Chiang Mai Historical Centre

The Chiang Mai Historical Centre is housed in a Lanna-style building a stone’s throw from the Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai’s Old City. The museum provides a rich history of traditional life in the area, with interactive displays and models and explanations in various languages.

In the basement visitors can see ruins of an ancient temple that were uncovered when construction on the museum began. These have been preserved and included in the centre’s historical displays. The grounds around the museum are beautifully maintained, and include a traditional Thai shrine.

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Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre

The old Provincial Hall of Chiang Mai, close to the Three Kings Monument, is the location for the Chiang Mai Arts & Cultural Centre. This centre combines exhibitions, dioramas, artefacts and audio-visual displays to illustrate Chiang Mai’s rich history leading up to modern times. The centre also has a replica of a traditional wooden village built in Lanna-style.

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Dara Pirom Palace Museum

The Dara Pirom Palace Museum is a two storey wooden building with traditional rooms maintained in their original condition. The museum shows the history of the royal family in the north of Thailand, and more specifically the relationship between Princess Dara Rasmi and King Rama V.

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Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders

A visit to the Museum of Word Insects and Natural Wonders is a welcome break from learning about the history and culture of Chiang Mai. There are examples of more than 10,000 species to view, including specimen from all 459 known mosquito species in Thailand.

The museum is located adjacent to the Green Palace Hotel, between Chiang Mai Old City and Nimmanhaemin Road. The exhibition is a personal collection belonging to Dr Rampa Rattanarithikul, a world leader in mosquito research, and her husband, Manop who is an expert in the field of Malaria.

 

Museums Map

 

 

 

Monuments and Historic Buildings in Chiang Mai

 

Bhubing Palace

Also known as the Winter Palace, this is the royal residence for the family’s seasonal visits to the north of the country. The palace is open to the public apart from when the royal family are in residence.

The Palace is on stilts and consists of two floors; the ground floor is for the royal entourage while the first floor is the royal residence. The royal guesthouse nearby on the property houses royal visitors and senior palace aides, as well as those invited to attend royal banquets. The palace grounds are well cared for, and visitors to the property can view the teak pavilion, fern garden, water reservoir with its musical fountain and the beautiful rose garden.

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Three Kings Monument

The Three Kings Monument is a bronze statue of the three founders of Chiang Mai, King Mengrai, King Ramkhamhaeng, and King Ngam Muang, who all ruled different regions of Thailand. It stands on a large square in the Old City, in front of the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre. Many local residents view it as a shrine and leave offerings at the base of the monument.

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Suan Dok Gate

The Suan Dok Gate is the west gate of the four historic gates allowing entrance into the Old City. The gate dates back to the 13th century and the name originates from the Thai for “flower garden”. The gate is bordered by the moat that flows around the Old City walls.

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Tha Phae Gate

The Tha Phae Gate is on the eastern side of the Old City’s wall, and is the best-known of the four gates. It dates back to the 13th century and was the main gate into the city. Although the gate has undergone restoration work over the years, it maintains its authentic look. The area around the gate is vibey with ad hoc musicians and food stalls creating an upbeat atmosphere for locals and visitors.

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Grand Pavilion (Ho Kham Luang)

The Grand Pavilion is one of the must-see attractions in the Royal Park Rajapruek, a botanical garden about 12km southwest of Chiang Mai. The pavilion is built in traditional Lanna-style and stands majestically at the end of a statue-lined walkway, surrounded by trees and gardens. The interior of the pavilion is intricately decorated and houses exhibitions honouring the King.

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Kruba Srivichai Monument

This monument was built to honour a Buddhist saint, Kruba Srivichai. He was born in 1878 in Lamphun, a town about 35 minutes south of Chiang Mai. He led a very simple life, serving the Lanna people and doing good for others. He is best known for building the road leading up to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, without the help of any government funds. The monument is located about 6km northwest of Chiang Mai, on the outskirts of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.

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Monuments and Historic Buildings Map

 

 

 

Arts & Culture in Chiang Mai

 

Hmong Tribal Village

Just a few kilometres from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is a tribal village of the Hmong hill tribe. While there are many Hmong hill tribe villages throughout Thailand, this one is probably the closest to a town, making it easier for tourists to visit and learn about these ethnic people.

A small museum in the village provides a glimpse into the different hill tribes, their customs and way of life. There are many souvenir stalls where tourists can purchase trinkets, and in doing so, help to support the livelihood of this quiet tribe.

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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.

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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. 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.

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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 crafted by the locals.

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MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum

The museum celebrates the many skilled artisans and craftsmen that Chiang Mai is famous for. The museum’s founders, the Bunnag-Beurdeley family, transformed an old warehouse into a contemporary space where they could share their private collection that had taken thirty years to accumulate. Simple architecture and a clever use of both natural and reflected light showcase the artwork in an understated way, allowing visitors to focus on the pieces rather than the surroundings.

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Chiang Mai University Art Museum

The Chiang Mai University Art Museum is a great space for art lovers to enjoy exhibitions of modern art by the University’s Fine Arts students. These exhibitions are temporary, allowing for a revolving showcase of work. The museum also exhibits art by some of Thailand’s contemporary artists.

In addition to the art exhibitions, the museum has a theatre where it screens foreign films, and a centre focusing on the preservation of Thai art and culture.

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Lanna Architecture Centre

Part of Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Architecture, the Lanna Architecture Centre stores and displays a collection of drawings and models illustrating how Lanna architecture has developed over the centuries. It’s housed in a historic Lanna-style mansion in Ratchadamnoen Road, dating back to the late 19th century. As well as learning about Lanna architecture and design, visitors gain insight into the life of the previous owner of the building and its history. The exhibitions and information is spread over two floors, and after your visit you can relax with a beverage at the café on the property.

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Markets and Shopping in Chiang Mai

Thailand is known for its vibey markets where you can haggle with the overly attentive traders for the best price on their wares. Whether you’re a serious shopper, a casual observer or out and about for some traditional Thai street food, Chiang Mai has a market for you.

 

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. 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.

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Tha Phae Sunday Walking Street

Sunday Walking Street is another popular market and a highlight on the weekly calendar. It starts at Tha Phae Gate and runs the length of Ratchadamnoen road, which is closed to traffic for the duration of the market, from 16h00 until midnight. The market is a hub for handcrafted products rather than the knock-off designer labels you find at other markets, although you can pick up some tourist memorabilia. There are plenty of food vendors serving up delicious Thai street food.

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Warorot Market

Known locally as Kad Luang, meaning “Big Market”, Warorot Market is open daily and is the best-known market in the north of Thailand. It’s housed in a three storey building on Wichayanon Road in the Chang Moi, a sub-district of Chang Mai. The focus of the market is traditional read-to-eat Thai food and ingredients; however you can also purchase clothing, fabric and everyday merchandise. The market is popular with locals and Thai tourists, meaning that the prices are somewhat cheaper than you’ll find at other markets that target international travellers.

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Nimmanahaeminda Road

Nimmanahaeminda Road is at 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. The area is definitely where the trendy go to play, and offers an alternate view of what Chiang Mai is all about.

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Tha Pae Road

Tha Pae Road stretches from the Tha Pae Gate of the Old City to the Nawarat Bridge. It’s a hive of food stalls and street vendors who cater to the many backpackers frequenting the area, as well as many upmarket restaurants, bars and boutiques. In amongst the constant activity, are four of the many temples, attracting tourists with their glittering viharns and historical chedis.

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Wualai Walking Street (Saturday Night Market)

Wua Lai Road, to the south of the Old City, comes alive on Saturday nights as traders and food vendors line both sides of the road with their stalls. The market runs from around 16h00 until 22h30. The area was once known for its silverware, and silver products are still very much available at the market. There’s a real variety in what you can purchase here, including the usual touristy keepsakes, artworks and handcrafts.

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Anusarn Market

Anusarn Market is housed in a large warehouse-style building, and forms part of the popular Night Bazaar. The space is empty of vendors during the day; however the shops that line the interior of the market are open. The building comes alive later in the afternoon when the vendors set up their stalls and visitors begin flocking in. The usual array of goods and foods are available, and you can also treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage for the ultimate in relaxation.

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Siri-Wattana Market (Thanin Market)

The Siri Wattana or Thanin Market is a local food market, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and dairy products. It’s aimed mostly at the local residents, and is a great place to soak up some of the local atmosphere. You can also pick up some ready-cooked meals and street food, or snack in one of the little canteen areas while people-watching.

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Kalare Night Bazaar

Kalare Night Bazaar is a market in the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, and is also along the Chang Khlan Road. It’s set apart from the main hub of the night bazaar, meaning less hustle and bustle for shoppers. The covered market consists of a number of shops set around a food court and entertainment area. There’s some form of entertainment every evening, and this varies from traditional Thai dance performances to puppet shows.

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Chiang Mai Gate Market (Pratu Market)

There are two parts to the Chiang Mai Gate Market which, as the name suggests, is located close to the Chiang Mai Gate on the south side of the Old City. From 04h00 until 07h00, this is primarily a fresh food market where vendors sell fresh meats and produce to the locals. In the evening, it becomes more of a tourist hotspot with street food carts selling a range of local Thai meals and delicacies through until midnight.

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Markets & Shopping Map

 

 

 

Activities in Chiang Mai

 

Chiang Mai Zoo

Chiang Mai Zoo was the first zoo in Northern Thailand, and is located in the foothills of the Doi Suthep Mountains. It spans over 200 acres of land, and is home to more than 400 animal species, including elephants and tigers. The Zoo features attractions like the African Zone, with ostrich, giraffe and zebra; the Nakornping Bird Park, with over 1,500 birds; two pandas on loan from China; and Chiang Mai Aquarium, with its underwater tunnel providing unique views of the sea life. To make it easier for visitors to get around, the zoo has a shuttle bus service that stops at each attraction.

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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.

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Grand Canyon Water Park

The water park is the only one of its kind in Northern Thailand and is about 18km from the Old City. It opened in 2016, in an abandoned quarry that had filled with water due to monsoon rains. There are many features to enjoy at Grand Canyon Water Park. Among them are a floating, inflatable obstacle course, a water trampoline, a 10m giant slide, and a kids’ zone. Adrenaline junkies can get their hit from the zipline, cable-system wakeboard or aquaskipper. For a more chilled water experience, hire one of the kayaks and enjoy the quarry at your leisure. The park is monitored by qualified lifeguards.

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Mae Ping River Cruise

A cruise down the Ping River is the perfect way to escape the high-energy of Chiang Mai and its many markets. The cruise boats have open sides allowing for a fresh flow of air and wondrous views from every seat.

The two hour standard cruise trundles upriver, following the twists and turns into rural Chiang Mai. Your destination is the Thai Farmer’s House, with its organic herb garden and glimpse into Thai agriculture.

A dinner cruise is a great way to combine Thai cuisine with night-time sightseeing. The beauty of Chiang Mai shines bright in this evening experience, and you get a different perspective of this busy city.

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Monk’s Trail

Monk’s Trail is a hike up Doi Suthep in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. It was traditionally the route monks took to reach Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The trail begins at the end of the Suthep Road, and continues for around 3km until Wat Pha Lat. While not a difficult hike, there are some relatively steep sections that can challenge you. If you’re lucky, you may encounter some monks along the way.

Once you’ve reached Wat Pha Lat you can continue along a narrower, steeper trail to the more popular Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, or you can commence your descent back to Suthep Road.

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Tube Trek Water Park

To the east of Chiang Mai is the Tube Trek Water Park, the area’s largest water park. The park is suitable for children and adults, and is a great place to cool down in the hot, humid Thai weather. There are more than ten slides, a separate area for small children with age-appropriate slides and activities, a wave pool and tube rides. One of the popular features is the Lazy River where you can chill on a tube while meandering along the waterway. The park has various food outlets, and you can hire lockers to keep your valuables safe while you relax and enjoy the day.

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Nawarat Bridge

The Nawarat Bridge is the most prominent bridge in Chiang Mai and crosses the River Ping to the east of the Old City. It was first built in 1906, but has been reconstructed twice since. The first bridge, made out of teak, was destroyed by a fire, and the second bridge was a steel structure that also didn’t stand the test of time. The current bridge is a white-painted concrete construct lined with pretty flower pots. It’s a great spot for taking photos, especially at night when the lights reflect in the calm water beneath.

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Hidden Village

The Hidden Village is a dinosaur park about 10km north of the Old City. It’s an entertaining place for children, but also enjoyed by adults who marvel at the displays and scenery. The park has two main zones. The Statue Zone has an array of large animal statues, as well as some larger than life insects and plants. In the Dinosaur Zone you’ll be confronted by T-Rex, Triceratops, raptors and any other prehistoric creatures you can think of.

The Hidden Village also has some live animals, and you can enjoy the petting zoo, bunny and bird farm, or go on a horse ride. A playground, train and restaurant round out the attractions at the Hidden Village, making a visit here a day well spent.

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Thai Farm Cooking School

Thai Farm Cooking School is located on an organic farm about 17km from Chiang Mai city. Here, you learn to create authentic Thai dishes, using fresh, organic and locally produced ingredients. The experience includes a tour around a local market, a walk through the organic farm, and you’ll have the opportunity to pick some of the fresh ingredients you’ll use in creating your dishes.

The owner and chef explains how the farm came about and what processes are involved in nurturing and managing his crops. The completed dishes are served on an outside terrace, overlooking the farm and the mountains beyond.

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akyra MANOR CHIANG MAI HOTEL

22/2 Nimmana Haeminda Road Soi 9,

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Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

 

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