Top 20 BEST Things to do in Chiang Mai

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If you're looking for the top things to do in Chiang Mai, here are the top attractions and must-not-miss activities in this amazing Northern Thailand city!

Surrounded by magnificent architectures, Chiang Mai earned the title “Rose of the North” because of its similarities to Thailand’s capital, Bangkok.

Since it’s the second-largest city in Thailand, next to Bangkok, it offers a wide variety of attractions and things to do in Chiang Mai – from historical and religious temples to a fusion of nature and modernity through the buildings and pulsating night markets.

The thing about Chiang Mai is even if it’s located in a tropical country, the climate here is cooler than anywhere in Thailand. The highest peak in Thailand is also located in Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon, which sits at an astounding 8,415 feet.

Combining the malls and national parks, there are simply lots of places to see in Chiang Mai. Whether you’re an outdoor activity lover or a food enthusiast, Chiang Mai mesmerizes travelers easily.

What to do in Chiang Mai? We’ve wrapped up the top 15 things you can enjoy in this Northern Thai Capital!

Top 20 BEST Things to do in Chiang Mai

Northern Thailand Cuisine
via Wikimedia Commons|Takeaway

Try Northern Thailand Dishes

Did we say that this list is all about Chiang Mai attractions? Nothing can be more attractive than a plate bursting with the authentic flavors of the local Northern Thailand dishes!

What to do in Chiang Mai? Taste their bestsellers such as Naam Phrik Ong (chilly dips), Sai Oua (sausage), Khao Soi (curry soup with noodles and coconut), Laab (chilly salad), and the Kaeng Hang Lei (pork curry).

They say the best way to a city’s heart is through the stomach – or did we already mess the adage because of the mouthwatering dishes we just mentioned?

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monk in thailand
via Piqsels|

Go to a Monk Chat

One of the most exciting things to do in Chiang Mai – among the Chiang Mai activities in this list is how you can immerse with the locals – especially the monks!

Pull a conversation with a monk and gain a deeper connection with Chiang Mai’s local culture! Whether you believe it or not, monk chats are a thing in Thailand. Here, you will sit down with a monk and have an informal conversation—this an excellent opportunity to connect with the locals as well as getting to know the culture firsthand.

Through this, remember that it’s not just you who is benefitting but also the monks. The conversations they are having with the tourists help them practice their English and introduce their culture directly to visitors.

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Khan Tok Dinner

Experience Khan Tok

Chiang Mai is well known for its rich Lanna culture. So, do not miss a Khantoke dinner if you are getting there. Khantok or Khantoke is actually a pedestal-dining tray used as a small table in Northern Thailand by Lanna people “Laothians” and by Isan people in Northeastern Thailand. It is a circular table with several legs that are made of wood. It has around 35cm of diameter.

When dinner is ready, you will sit on the floor at a token table, and you will be served with traditional northern Thai food. You will also be treated with traditional Lanna dance. You can also enjoy some classical orchestral Thai music.

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Mu Kratha
via Wikimedia Commons|Takeaway

Experience local Mu Kratha

Mu Kratha is a cooking approach like a fusion of Chinese hot pot and Korean barbecue. Mu Kratha is a term refers to ‘pan pork’ in Thai (mu refers to ‘pork’ and kratha is ‘skillet’ or ‘pan’). It is believed to have come from the Korean barbecue grill. Charcoal is used in the Thai version, and the dining concept is stretched over Thailand and into Singapore and Malaysia.

Usually, the local traditional mu kratha is served with a well-known dipping sauce, named ‘nam chim suki.’ It is well regarded for using the main ingredient, i.e., chili sauce. In some restaurants, Nam chim is served with seafood.

Thailand has no lack of restaurants serving mu kratha as it suites different foods and easy to prepare. It lost its fame over the decades because of concerns related to hygiene. Later on, it had a comeback in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.

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Mai Buatong Sticky Waterfall Thailand
via Wikimedia Commons|chootrong

Go to the Sticky Waterfalls

In this list of places to go in Chiang Mai, the sticky waterfalls located in northern Thailand is the hidden but real charmer.

Bua Tong, also known as “the sticky waterfalls,” is a famous destination for hikers. Curious as to how it got its nickname? It’s because of its rocks where you can find mineral deposits that are very grippy, making it possible for anyone to hike through the falls.

If you don’t want to try stepping on the sponge-like stones in Bua Tong, then you can just marvel in the beauty of its sight or enjoy a delicious snack as you start a picnic nearby.

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Mae Ya Waterfall
via Wikimedia Commons| BerryJ

Go Chasing Waterfalls

Aside from stunning beaches, what else should you try in a tropical city like Chiang Mai? Discover nature and chase waterfalls!

This is probably one of the most difficult places to visit in Chiang Mai because if you wouldn’t be renting a scooter or hiring a local to drive you up to the waterfalls, the only way to get to the waterfalls is to hike. This isn’t bad at all, especially if you’re an adventurous traveler.

No matter how difficult the travel is, it would be rewarded once you get splashed by the cool waters from the falls in this tropical destination.

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Chiang Mai

Doi Suthep

Have you stared at this picture and thought – is this some sort of a fairytale scenery? You’re not wrong and not exactly right, but it’s what Doi Suthep is: a fairytale carved in the real world.

They say you never really went to Chiang Mai if you haven’t been to any of its temples. With that, you should visit Chiang Mai and pay homage to Doi Suthep, one of the most prominent temples located near the city. Legends say that this temple was built to serve as a storage to a piece of bone from the Buddha’s shoulder.

When you get to Doi Suthep, you’ll notice how serene it is! Don’t rush and try every bit of activity that it offers.

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WatPhra Singh Chiang Mai

Temple Hopping

With approximately 300 temples in this city alone, temple hopping is a great way to discover several places to see in Chiang Mai.

This way, you get to dissect Thailand in a historical and religious aspect. Some of the temples that you might want to try are Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Lok Molee.

If you think temples are boring, then you might want to reevaluate your views because this city is surrounded by nature and filled with delectable cuisines, which will add spice to your Chiang Mai experience!

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Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
via Flickr|ckmck

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

If you have asked about the famous activities to do in Chiang Mai, you might have already heard about the Sunday Night Market.

How can a market be so famous? Because it literally has everything you’re looking for! From authentic Thai foods, flowers, buddhas, pieces of jewelry, and other ornaments! It’s no wonder why large crowds always flock the area.

Exploring the Sunday Night Market will make your Chiang Mai Trip refreshing because, aside from purchasing the souvenirs that you love, the market also transforms itself into a local gallery showcasing the craftsmanship of the locals.

Most prices are displayed with the items already, so there is less chance of getting deceived into paying a higher price. Just a friendly tip: the closer the stall to the corners, the cheaper the goods are.

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Enjoy Yoga

Go on a Meditation and Yoga retreat

Where to go in Chiang Mai? Consider going to Chiang Mai tourist attractions that offer a place for meditation and a yoga retreat!

Aside from spots in Chiang Mai that offers meditation and yoga, you can also try roaming around the temples, and you’ll find that there are lots of locals that offer these. Although these activities can also be found elsewhere in the world, it’s a different experience when you try it in a city filled with opulence like Chiang Mai.

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Hike the Pilgrim’s Path to Wat Pha Lat Temple

If you’re looking for Chiang Mai points of interest that are not crowded but still offer a lot about the local culture, then you must hike the Pilgrim’s Path that will lead you to the Wat Pha Lat Temple.

What’s great about following this path is that you also get closer to another Chiang Mai attraction – the Doi Suthep. This temple gives off a hundred percent of serenity – sitting behind a tree canopy and next to a waterfall.

Prepare yourself when you get there! While there are lesser distractions, it also means you will have to bring your food since there are only a few food stalls around.

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things to do in chiang mai mon cham 2

Visit Mon Cham

Searching for the best location for Chiang Mai sightseeing? Mon Cham is the perfect spot for you.

Nestled on top of a mountain, Mon Cham is the home of Aggie – a farming community. Due to its location, you can find unique crops such as cabbage, strawberries, and lettuce. This location is also known for its magnificent view making it a destination for dining while in the sky.

Traveling from Chiang Mai to Mon Cham is easy, especially if you’re in groups since you’ll just ride the songthaew. If not, riding a taxi is also a great option.

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Phra Maha Dhatu Naphamethinidon
via Wikimedia Commons|JJ Harrison

See the Sunrise at Doi Inthanon

What to see in Chiang Mai? Witness the sunrise at Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon.

There is no better place to get that picturesque view than Doi Inthanon. Sitting at 8,415 feet tall, this destination will give you a refreshing morning due to the cold weather.

Aside from enjoying your cup of coffee here, there is also a national park bearing the place’s name – you get to start the day fresh as you watch the sunrise and end it with an adventurous bang as you explore the national park.

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things to do in chiang mai mae hong son

Do the Mae Hong Son

Situated in the north of Thailand, Mae Hong Son offers a range of destinations that you can easily reach from Chiang Mai tourist spots. Its location allows visitors to indulge in the colorful history and culture of Thailand. In this place, they will meet different hill tribes, including the Hmong and Shan. Another great thing about this place is its proximity to Burma, so you get the best of both cultures!

Once you get there, make sure to check out the caves and see the carvings that have witnessed the long history of Thailand.

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Experience Muay Thai Boxing

Go on a Muay Thai Class

What to do in Chiang Mai? Not many people seek this, but getting fierce and fit during your travel is one – if not the best, an experience that you’ll ever have.

Muay Thai is Thailand’s version of boxing, which earned the nickname “art of eight limbs.” There are several gyms in Chiang Mai, modern and large enough to accommodate almost everyone, that you can try.

Cast your fears away! These gyms also cater to beginners, so don’t worry about that first punch in your Muay Thai experience!

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Go to a Cabaret Show at RAM Bar

There are lots of things to see in Chiang Mai and among the most interesting is the Cabaret Show at RAM Bar – a glimpse of the nightlife in this tranquil city!

A destination where ballads of classic divas to modern upbeat music are played, the shows in RAM Bar knows no gender, age, and even nationality. This will give you a splash of entertainment while remaining to be a place that welcomes travelers and the LGBTQIA+ community.

When you get there, forget that you’re a foreign visitor and just mingle with literally everyone!

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Doi Suthep–Pui National Park
via Wikimedia Commons| Apisit Wilaijit

Go Hiking and Explore the Mountains

Hiking and Exploring the mountains are the best things to do in Chiang Mai. This is mainly because this old city is blanketed with greens and fresh air brought by nature. There are lots of hiking trail and mountains that you can explore, such as getting from Wat Doi Suthep to Wat Pha Lat or following the nature trail of Doi Inthanon. 

If you aren’t sure which track to take, you can browse online or ask a local, and you’ll find the trail which will suit you the best.

The only thing that you must put in your mind when you hike is to appreciate the beauty of nature and the diverse culture that lives in Chiang Mai. After all, it’s how we spend our time in these destinations that make it truly remarkable.

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Som Tam
via Flickr|WordRidden

Som Tam

Som Tam is a spicy salad made of unripe and shredded papaya. It might be originated from Lao ethnic people and is enjoyed across Southeast Asia.

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Khao Soi
via Needpix.com |huahommag

Khao Soi

Khao soy or Khao soi is a Chin Haw cuisine served in Northern Thailand, which refers to ‘cut rice’. Lao Khao soi is still made with noodles, and some vendors in Chiang Mai still cut noodles. These noodles are available in several places.

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Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiaw

Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiaw is a noodle curry or soup and has become a very popular Thai dish. It is known for a tangy and spicy taste. It is made of noodles, and Khanom chin are the most common type. Pork or beef is another ingredient along with diced pork or chicken. It gets a sour flavor with chopped tomatoes.

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Sai Oua
via Wikimedia Commons|Takeaway

Sai Oua

Sai Oua is a Chiang Mai sausage or Northern Thai sausage made of grilled pork from northeastern Burma and northern Thailand. It is a common staple in the Northern provinces, and it has been popular across the country.

The main ingredients are herbs, minced pork meat, and red curry paste ‘Kaeng khua’. Usually, it is eaten grilled with different dishes like sticky rice or served as a starter or snack. It is easily available in the markets.

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Mango sticky rice
Dennis Wong from Hong Kong, Hong Kong / CC BY

Mango sticky rice

It is a traditional Thai dessert made with fresh mango, glutinous rice, and coconut milk and eaten with spoon, fork, or even hands. It is usually eaten in peak mango season. Mangoes are sliced and peeled. Rice is scooped on the plate to serve the dish. Sticky rice is often topped with crisp mung beans.

FIND HOTEL DEALS: Best hotels in Chiang Mai

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