Chiang Mai, located in the northern region of Thailand, is a city that offers a unique blend of ancient traditions and modernity. Known for its historic temples, vibrant night markets, and picturesque natural surroundings, Chiang Mai has become a popular destination for tourists seeking to experience authentic Thai culture. The city is surrounded by lush green forests and mountains, providing a serene escape from bustling city life. Chiang Mai’s rich cultural heritage, diverse cuisine, and friendly locals make it a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Thailand.
The best time to visit Chiang Mai, Thailand is from November to February, which is the peak tourist season due to the dry weather and cooler temperatures ranging from 15°C to 30°C, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the city’s cultural and historical landmarks. Expect higher hotel rates and larger crowds at popular attractions.
March to May is the shoulder season, with hot and humid weather up to 40°C, making it less busy but still a popular time to visit for those seeking to escape the winter chill or attending the Songkran Festival. The rainy season from June to October is considered the low season, with heavy rainfall and high humidity, making it less ideal for outdoor activities but a good option for those seeking authentic cultural experiences.
- The city is home to over 300 temples, including the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which sits atop a mountain overlooking the city.
- The city is famous for its annual Yi Peng Festival, where thousands of paper lanterns are released into the sky to symbolize the release of negative energy and to bring good luck.
- The traditional Thai massage originated in Chiang Mai, and visitors can experience this therapeutic practice at numerous spas and massage parlours throughout the city.
- Chiang Mai is home to a thriving elephant conservation industry, with several sanctuaries offering visitors the opportunity to interact with these majestic animals in a responsible and sustainable way.
If you only have one day in Chiang Mai, Thailand, you’re in for a treat. This vibrant city in the northern region of Thailand offers a plethora of cultural and natural attractions to explore, from ancient temples to bustling markets and picturesque mountains. Here is what to do in Chiang Mai in 24 hours:
To kickstart your day in Chiang Mai, check in to your hotel and begin with a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the most revered and iconic temples in northern Thailand. Perched atop a hill overlooking the city, the temple offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and countryside. To reach the temple, you can hire a songthaew, a popular mode of transport in Chiang Mai.
The journey from the city centre takes about 30 minutes and winds through scenic countryside roads. Upon arrival, climb the 309 steps that lead up to the main pagoda to witness the stunning golden spire and elaborate architecture up close. Admire the intricate carvings and the vibrant colours of the temple’s murals, which depict Buddhist tales and teachings. Don’t forget to take in the sweeping vistas from the temple grounds before heading back down the hill.
After soaking in the spiritual and cultural richness of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, it’s time to explore the tranquil and serene surroundings of Bhubing Palace, located just a short distance away from the temple. Built in 1961, the palace serves as the winter residence of the Thai royal family and features a fusion of contemporary and traditional architectural styles.
The palace is surrounded by immaculately landscaped gardens, which showcase a vast array of colourful flora and fauna, including rare orchids and ferns. Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens and marvel at the intricate water fountains, charming pavilions, and winding pathways. Take a moment to rest in the peaceful atmosphere and enjoy the stunning mountain views before heading back down the hill towards the city centre. Make sure to take a taxi!
The zoo covers an area of over 200 acres and is home to a diverse collection of animals, including over 400 different species. Observe and interact with a variety of creatures, from majestic elephants and playful pandas to exotic birds and reptiles! One of the main highlights of the zoo is the Panda House, which is home to two giant pandas on loan from China.
The zoo also features several exciting animal shows, such as the thrilling Crocodile Show and the entertaining Penguin Parade. In addition to animal encounters, you can also take a scenic monorail ride through the park, providing a bird’s-eye view of the lush surroundings. The zoo is dedicated to promoting conservation efforts and educating visitors about the importance of wildlife preservation.
This bustling market is a feast for the senses, with vendors selling everything from fresh produce and spices to handicrafts and clothing.
Take a break from the crowds and head to the food section of the market, where you can sample a variety of mouthwatering dishes from the street food stalls. One of the must-try dishes is khao soi, a delicious noodle soup that’s a staple of Northern Thai cuisine.
After satisfying your taste buds, it’s time to delve deeper into the rich cultural heritage of Chiang Mai at the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center. The museum showcases the city’s history and culture through interactive exhibits and displays, offering visitors a fascinating insight into the region’s art, music, dance, and festivals. The exhibits are thoughtfully curated, and the museum’s knowledgeable guides are always on hand to answer any questions and offer insights into the exhibits. Take your time to explore the museum’s diverse galleries, and be sure to catch a traditional dance or music performance if there’s one scheduled.
Continue your exploration of Chiang Mai by visiting Tha Phae Gate, a historic landmark that serves as a gateway to the city’s old town. The gate dates back to the 13th century and is one of the four original gates that formed part of the city’s defensive walls.
Stroll along the moat that surrounds the old town and take in the charming atmosphere of the surrounding area. The streets around Tha Phae Gate are lined with numerous shops, cafes, and markets, offering visitors an opportunity to browse through a variety of local handicrafts, souvenirs, and other items. Exploring the area around Tha Phae Gate is an excellent way to experience the rich history and culture of Chiang Mai while also indulging in some retail therapy and culinary delights!
The temple was built in the 14th century and has been a prominent site of religious significance ever since. The temple’s grounds are an impressive display of traditional Lanna-style architecture and feature a combination of Buddhist and Hindu elements. The centrepiece of the temple is the towering chedi, or stupa, which is adorned with intricate carvings and dates back to the 15th century. At the time of its construction, the chedi was the tallest structure in Chiang Mai and is considered a remarkable feat of engineering.
As you explore the temple’s grounds, you’ll come across various shrines, statues, and pagodas, all of which add to the temple’s serene and mystical atmosphere. Be sure to stop and pay your respects at the temple’s main Buddha image, which is believed to be over 700 years old. The temple is also home to a monastery, which offers visitors a chance to learn more about the teachings and practices of Buddhism.
As the sun sets in Chiang Mai, the city’s Night Bazaar comes alive with a vibrant energy that’s hard to resist. This bustling market is a hub of activity, with an endless array of stalls selling everything from handmade jewelry and textiles to electronics and souvenirs.
Stroll through the colourful maze of vendors, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of this bustling marketplace. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind keepsake to take home, this is the place to find it. The Night Bazaar is also a hub of street performers, with musicians, dancers, and acrobats showcasing their talents to crowds of visitors. Take a break from shopping and enjoy a cold beer or cocktail at one of the many bars or cafes dotted around the market.
Chiang Mai’s nightlife is primarily concentrated around three main areas, each offering a unique experience. In the Old City, you can find a mix of famous nightclubs, laid-back bars, and live music venues. For those seeking high-end, expat-oriented bars and nighttime restaurants with a view of the Ping River, the Riverside area is the go-to destination.
Nimmanhaemin Road, also known as Nimman, is a popular area among students and casual late-night diners, offering a vibrant atmosphere with a variety of dining options. Whether you’re in the mood for a night of dancing or a relaxed evening out, Chiang Mai’s nightlife scene has something to offer for every taste. Some of our recommended spots include Babylon Bistro, The Simple, HardCocktail bar, and My Bar.
Where to Stay In Chiang Mai, Thailand
DE LUXE BOUTIQUE & rooftop
2/7 singharat alley 1, Si Phum, 50200 Chiang Mai
De Luxe Hostel & Rooftop Bar is a modern and trendy hostel located in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. The hostel offers a variety of accommodation options, including dormitory-style rooms and private rooms. The rooms are clean and comfortable and feature modern amenities such as air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and personal lockers. One of the highlights of De Luxe Hostel & Rooftop Bar is the rooftop bar, which offers stunning views of the city skyline. Guests can relax with a drink or a snack while enjoying the views of Chiang Mai. The hostel also features a communal lounge area, where guests can socialize and meet other travellers. De Luxe Hostel & Rooftop Bar is a great choice for budget-conscious travellers who want to experience the best of Chiang Mai while staying in comfortable and stylish accommodations.
THEE Vijit Lanna by TH District, SHA Extra Plus
82/1 Chaiyapoom 2 Road, Chang Moi, Chiang Mai, Si Phum, 50300 Chiang Mai
The Thee Lanna Hotel is a luxurious and elegant boutique hotel located in the heart of Chiang Mai, Thailand. The hotel offers guests a unique and authentic Thai experience with its traditional Lanna-style architecture, which combines modern amenities with classic design elements. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and exquisitely decorated with handcrafted furniture, local textiles and original art pieces. Guests can indulge in a relaxing spa treatment at the on-site spa, or take a refreshing dip in the outdoor pool. There is also a fitness centre and a tour desk that can assist guests in planning their sightseeing excursions. The Thee Lanna Hotel is situated in a prime location, just a few minutes walk from Chiang Mai’s famous night market, and within easy reach of other popular attractions such as the Old City, Doi Suthep Temple, and the Chiang Mai Zoo.
SYN Boutique Hotel
14/28 Cholprathan Road, Chang Phueak, Muang, 50300 Chiang Mai
Syn Boutique Hotel is a charming and stylish boutique hotel located in the heart of Chiang Mai, Thailand. The hotel features a modern and minimalist design, with an emphasis on natural materials and textures. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed, with comfortable beds, high-quality linens, and modern amenities such as air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. The location of hotel is ideal for exploring Chiang Mai, as it is located within walking distance of several attractions, including the Night Bazaar and the ancient city walls. The area is also known for its vibrant food scene, with plenty of street food vendors and restaurants nearby. Syn Boutique Hotel is a great choice for travellers looking for stylish and comfortable accommodation in Chiang Mai. With its modern design, excellent amenities, and convenient location, this hotel is sure to provide an enjoyable and memorable stay.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Explore the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, which is also known as the “Roof of Thailand.” The trip includes a visit to two pagodas, which offer stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area. You will also get to see the Wachirathan Waterfall and hike through the park’s lush forest. Additionally, the tour provides a unique opportunity to experience the local way of life by visiting a Hmong market and interacting with the friendly hill tribe people. Overall, this tour is a great way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and cultural richness of Chiang Mai while creating unforgettable memories.
White Temple & Golden Triangle
The White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun, is a stunning contemporary temple that showcases intricate designs and beautiful art. You will be awed by the striking white exterior adorned with glittering glass and intricate sculptures. You will also have the opportunity to explore the temple’s interior, which features captivating paintings and murals. The tour also takes you to the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet. Here, you can witness the stunning view of the Mekong River and learn about the history of the opium trade in the region. Additionally, the tour offers a stop at a local market where you can purchase souvenirs and try some of the delicious local cuisines!
Chiang Dao Cave
This full-day tour takes you on a thrilling adventure to Chiang Dao Cave, located just a short drive from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. You will embark on a trek through the lush jungle, passing through scenic landscapes and beautiful rice paddies, before arriving at the entrance of the Chiang Dao Cave. The cave is home to stunning stalactites and stalagmites, and you will have the opportunity to explore the vast chambers and marvel at the breathtaking natural formations. As you journey deeper into the cave, you will be accompanied by an experienced guide who will share fascinating stories and insights about the history and significance of the cave. After your cave exploration, the tour also includes a visit to a local hill tribe village, where you can experience the unique culture and lifestyle of the local people. This day trip is an excellent choice for adventure seekers and nature lovers who want to experience the stunning beauty of northern Thailand!
- Chiang Mai is also home to the world’s largest outdoor art gallery, the “Chiang Mai Street Art” project, featuring over 80 murals and installations by local and international artists.
- If you can, explore the city on a motorbike. With this mode of transportation, you’ll have the freedom to explore all the hidden gems and local hotspots at your own pace.
- Attend a cooking class at Mama Noi’s! This is an excellent opportunity to learn about local cuisine and immerse yourself in the culture.
- If you are really short on time, start your one-day itinerary in Chiang Mai at The Warorot Market and skip our first three suggestions – but if you can, take a taxi or a tuk-tuk and see everything!
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
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Romi is a llama coach from Split, Croatia. This sounds made up but it’s true. She lived in Toronto, Canada for about ten years, give or take, but she wasn’t working with llamas. She was working in PR, restaurants, daycares, one yoga clothing store. She doesn't know how she got that job as she has never done yoga at that point. She taught English in Colombia and Vietnam. Traveled the world for two years. Then she got into writing. Actually, she was always writing, but then someone paid her to write. Then more people paid because they saw she was making them money. Then it became a thing she does for a living. And here we are now. Specializing in travel, real estate, and digital nomad guides, familiar with SEO, and always ready to learn something new so she can branch out and take over the world.