Looking for the best things to do in Chiang Mai? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Nestled in the mountains of Northern Thailand, it’s a must-see spot on your tour of Thailand. For those who want a break from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a breath of fresh air.
Between its stunning temples, vibrant street food, and interesting hikes, this city has a lot to offer. I would know, as I’ve been living in Chiang Mai for the past year and a half. It’s a true melting pot of cultures, traditions, and, of course, delicious local food!
For those who are keen to come and visit, here are 25 awesome things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand, along with a few day trips and unique experiences.
- Things To Do In Chiang Mai, Thailand
- 1. Attend A Thai Cooking Class
- 2. Watch A Muay Thai Match
- 3. Take A Muay Thai Class
- 4. Hit Up Some Markets
- 5. Get A Heavenly Massage
- 6. Check Out Live Music
- 7. Chat With A Monk
- 8. Go Cafe Hopping
- 9. Challenge Yourself To A Hike
- 10. Try Delicious Khao Soi
- 11. Take A Pottery Class
- 12. Tour The City On A Tuk Tuk
- 13. Visit The Elephant Nature Park
- 14. Hit Up The Massive Malls
- 15. Check Out The Best Bars
- 16. Take A Drive Through The Mountains
- 17. Go Temple Hopping
- 18. Visit Beautiful Reservoirs
- 19. Pamper Yourself
- 20. Splash Around At Grand Canyon Water Park
- 21. Visit A Park
- 22. Take A Yoga Class
- 23. Go Glamping In The Mountains
- 24. Go On A Day Trip To Chiang Rai
- 25. Go See Doi Inthanon National Park
- Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
Things To Do In Chiang Mai, Thailand
1. Attend A Thai Cooking Class
Attending a Thai cooking class is always my #1 recommended activity for those visiting Chiang Mai. Thai food is so distinctly part of their culture, and learning how to prepare food with locals will give you a better appreciation of the culinary craft.
I took my mom to Thai Farm Cooking School (around $30 / person) when she visited, and we had the best time! We opted for the half-day class at a farm 20 minutes outside the city, which was definitely the right choice. Beautiful rice fields surrounded us as we cooked in the open air. It was wonderful!
We made a total of 5 dishes and left the place absolutely stuffed, our mouths tired from smiling (and eating) so much. I urge you to book today!
2. Watch A Muay Thai Match
If you’re in need of a dose of adrenaline to get your heart pumping, you might consider watching a Muay Thai match. Commonly known as the National Sport of Thailand, watching the iconic event while in Chiang Mai is a must.
As you walk around the streets, you will see people giving away flyers advertising their evening matches. The Kawila Boxing Stadium and Thapae Boxing Stadium are two of the most visited. Fees are usually between 200-300 baht for entry.
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3. Take A Muay Thai Class
If watching Muay Thai isn’t your thing, and you’d rather do it yourself, then take a Muay Thai class while in Chiang Mai! I’ve been to over 15 classes and it’s the best kind of workout. Who knew aggressively punching and kicking things would be so fun?
4. Hit Up Some Markets
Thailand is known for its vibrant street markets, and Chiang Mai has some of the best. Of course, there’s the night bazaar & Sunday Night Walking Street, but my favorite market is called Jing Jai Market.
Located a bit outside the old city, Jing Jai is a carefully curated and upscale market with artisanal handicrafts, stunning jewelry, and delicious food stalls. You really get a sense of the Northern Thai (Lanna) design at Jing Jai. You’ll also often find live music.
They used to only be open on the weekends, but they’ve recently changed their hours to every day. So now you have no excuse not to visit!
5. Get A Heavenly Massage
Incredibly relaxing and insanely cheap, massages in Thailand are a godsend. I try to get an oil massage every week (yes I know, I’m spoiled). Every time I walk out of the parlor, I feel fresh as a daisy and at a 100% relaxation level.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try a Thai massage. They hurt like heck during the appointment, but afterward, you truly feel like a limp noodle. Currently, I’m sticking to my oil massages though!
6. Check Out Live Music
Chiang Mai is an incredibly artistic and musical city, and I’ve found some epic live music spots over this past year and a half. Let me list a few of my favorites, with insider tips, of course.
- North Gate Jazz Bar -get there early if you want a seat
- Paapu House – the live music nights on Thursdays are my favorite
- Mahoree City Of Music – cool aesthetic with a rocking live music space
- Roots Rock Reggae – the bands that play are always good and it’s also a great place for a drink
7. Chat With A Monk
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a fascination with monks. You’ll often see them wandering around Chiang Mai, and you’ll soon learn that they are an important part of Thai culture.
If you’re as curious as me, I have good news for you! While you visit the many temples in Chiang Mai (I think they have over 300), you also have a chance to take part in the Monk Chat program.
Here, you can interact with them and ask them questions about their chosen path in life. Wat Chedi Luang, a temple located right in the middle of the city, allows you to get one-on-one time with monks who are part of the program. Apart from that, you can also make buddies with the monks in Wat Suan Dok.
8. Go Cafe Hopping
Delicious coffee and cool cafes are in abundance in Chiang Mai, as you’ll see as soon as you step outside. My picks have a stunning aesthetic while also serving sublime coffee. There must be hundreds of cafes around the city, but here are my favorites:
9. Challenge Yourself To A Hike
If you love to hike or want to see some beautiful sights, try hiking the Monk’s Trail. It’s around 4.5 miles (7.2 km), but you don’t have to do the whole thing if you get tired.
At the top is the famous Doi Suthep temple in all its glory. Hiking to the temple will make its beautiful views even more worth it!
Perhaps my favorite part of the hike is the midway point, Wat Pha Lat Temple. This temple is tucked away in the jungle and is a stunning display of beauty. In fact, it’s one of the best hikes to do in Thailand.
Beware, the second half of the hike is super steep! If you get too tired you can always take a red songthaew truck the rest of the way up to Doi Suthep. Good luck!
10. Try Delicious Khao Soi
I think Thai cuisine is the best in Asia! The aroma, the delicate mixture of flavors, and the ever so subtle (or not subtle) spice that you will find lingering in every bite.
The best local food in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi, a traditional Northern Thailand noodle curry. It’s made of flat wheat noodles, mixed with fried crispy noodles, and simmered in a spicy coconut curry soup. Accompanying the curry are lime wedges, red onions, and chili paste.
It is absolutely DELICIOUS. The big question is….where is the best Khao Soi?
Read: What to Eat in Thailand
11. Take A Pottery Class
I recently took a pottery class at Inclay Studio and loved every minute. Located just outside the old city nestled in lush greenery and trees, you feel like you’re in the middle of the mountains!
I took the half-day hand-building class ($27) since I’m a beginner, and it was a wonderful release of creative energy. The instructors were funny, supportive, and helpful, which made my experience even better.
Included in the cost are your own pottery creations, which I have proudly displayed in my apartment. If you’ve always wanted to take a pottery class, now is your chance!
12. Tour The City On A Tuk Tuk
Speeding around Chiang Mai on a Tuk Tuk is a great way to see the city and surrounding areas! Check out Paul from Best Tuk Tuk Tours for an all-day epic activity.
Paul can customize each tour so when I asked him to do an “off-the-beaten-path” tour, he gladly obliged. Each tour is different which is why it is so special! You can go temple hopping, or even visit the Bua Thong Waterfalls.
13. Visit The Elephant Nature Park
If you love elephants, the only way to see them is through ethical companies that operate around Thailand. My top choice is the Elephant Nature Park.
Their nature park is home to over 70 rescued elephants. They have various day programs, volunteering opportunities, or even a day trip to the jungle! Costs are anywhere from $70-$160 depending on the type of your visit.
14. Hit Up The Massive Malls
Thai mall culture is a huge deal. The three main malls in Chiang Mai are MAYA, Central Festival, and Central Airport. Choose the one closest to where you’re staying and get ready to have an EXPERIENCE.
15. Check Out The Best Bars
Though not as rowdy as Bangkok, there are some fun bars in Chiang Mai. Here are my top picks.
- Off The Wall CNX – expat bar with karaoke most nights!
- CMBC Chiang Mai – chill Thai bar with a good vibe
- Level 9 – cool rooftop bar
- Zoe in Yellow – if you want to dance the night away this is the place to go!
- ReD CNX – cool kids vibe, great for a late-night spot
- Deep Green @ Deejay Garden – an awesome, chill spot with good drinks and a treehouse!
16. Take A Drive Through The Mountains
Driving through the windy mountainous roads on a motorbike is one of the most freeing feelings I’ve had in my life! The wind in your hair, the epic mountain peaks, the feeling of freedom. There’s nothing quite like it!
Rent a motorbike (only if you’re comfortable driving) and head up to Mae Rim, 45 minutes from Chiang Mai. You can also drive up to Doi Suthep and get the same windy roads.
Trust me, driving a motorbike through the mountains makes you feel like a little kid again!
Wondering what to wear? Then check out this complete packing list for Thailand.
17. Go Temple Hopping
Chiang Mai has hundreds of temples in and around the historic old city. Even just wandering through the old city will grant you views of ornate temples. But if you want to see all the best ones, here are my top 5:
- Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan
- Wat Suan Dok
- Wat Doi Suthep
- Wat Chedi Luang
- Wat Chiang Man
18. Visit Beautiful Reservoirs
The Ang Kaeo Reservoir near Chiang Mai University is a wonderful (and free) place to go for sunset. Take a stroll along the beautiful water and through the green forests.
A hidden gem is the Huay Tueng Thao Reservoir which is 30 minutes from Chiang Mai. This is a great attraction for families, too!
It’s a much bigger reservoir where you can rent bicycles, eat in a floating hut, and be awed by the nature surrounding you. The entrance fee is 50 baht.
19. Pamper Yourself
My mom and I took a day to fully pamper ourselves at Fah Lanna Spa. We found a wonderful 4-hour spa package with an herbal steam, body scrub, 2-hour oil massage, and facial. I mean, does it get any better than this?
It’s a bit more expensive at $100, but worth it if you want to really treat yourself. Alternatively, you can check out one of the best yoga retreats in Thailand.
20. Splash Around At Grand Canyon Water Park
Grand Canyon Water Park is perfect for exploring Chiang Mai with families. It features a super fun (and massive) inflatable obstacle course, slides, a zip line, and even wakeboarding. I went this year and truly had a blast!
21. Visit A Park
Nong Buak Haad public park is a great daytime activity to explore. It’s small but free to enter and a great spot to watch locals play sports or do dancing lessons. There’s ice cream and tons of benches to rest your legs.
22. Take A Yoga Class
Chiang Mai has excellent yoga studios, and usually for an inexpensive fee. Try Wild Rose Yoga Studio or Freedom Yoga Studio to get your zen on. Between yoga, massages, and glamping, you’ll be extremely relaxed on your trip to Chiang Mai!
23. Go Glamping In The Mountains
Glamping has officially come to Chiang Mai, and I couldn’t be happier! Head to Mae Rim or Doi Pui for a cozy glamping spot that will make you feel at peace in the mountains. Both are 1 hour from the old city and a truly spiritual break from reality!
If you search ‘Glamping Spots’ on Agoda or Airbnb you’ll find gems hidden within the mountains, and usually for less than $30 a night!
24. Go On A Day Trip To Chiang Rai
Due to Chiang Mai’s prime location, there are loads of places to visit for a day. If you are tired of seeing the regular-looking temples, head on over to Chiang Rai (either by organized tours or by motorbike) and see the famed white temple. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to see!
25. Go See Doi Inthanon National Park
Another area that we recommend visiting is Doi Inthanon National Park which is home to the highest peak in Thailand. I spent a weekend camping there and I cannot recommend it enough.
Recommended Trips From Chiang Mai:
- Doi Inthanon (1 hour from Chiang Mai)
- Doi Pui (1 hour from Chiang Mai)
- Chiang Rai (3 hours from Chiang Mai)
- Pai (3 hours from Chiang Mai – better for a weekend)
- Chiang Dao (1 hour from Chiang Mai – better for a weekend)
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
Similar to most places in Thailand, the range of accommodation varies from budget to high-end. You can get dorm beds for as cheap as $5 at luxury hotels. Now that Chiang Mai is a place we call home, here are a few of our personal recommendations on where to stay in Chiang Mai:
I hope you enjoyed this epic list of 25 things to do in Chiang Mai province. Even if you hit just a few of the things on this list, you’re sure to enjoy your time in this gem of Northern Thailand!
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