top 5 things you must see in chiang mai

Top 5 Things to Do in Chiang Mai

Whether this is your first time in Chiang Mai or you’re a seasoned visitor, chances are you’ll be seeking out the most memorable things to do while in town. Fortunately, this culturally rich city and its surrounding countryside in the northern region of Thailand can offer you spectacular mountain views, stunning temples, majestic elephants, bustling markets, scenic bamboo river rafting, and more. Read on to learn how to experience the incredible places that many consider to be ‘must do’ in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Activities

Chiang Mai is a lively, centralized hub where you can experience its buzzing city one day and explore the nearby countryside and neighboring towns the next. And while it has become more modernized in recent years, this region still retains a natural beauty and unique culture that undoubtedly continues to captivate people from all over the world.

If there is one thing you must see in Chiang Mai it’s elephants. Most visitors agree that riding an elephant through the local jungle or nearby rice fields is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the highlight of their trip to Chiang Mai. You can also watch an unforgettable performance of these animals playing musical instruments, dancing, and painting pictures in Chiang Mai’s nearby mountains.

Nature lovers can look forward to standing before magnificent waterfalls or dipping their feet in natural hot sulfur springs. Enjoy a peaceful, picturesque afternoon slowly floating down a local river on a traditional Thai bamboo raft or take a short trek along a nature trail on the mountainside.

Chiang Mai Province is rich in cultural experiences, too. It is home to several hundred temples, all of which are stunning works of architecture. Some are even quite famous and attract thousands of visitors each year! This northern region also offers the exclusive opportunity to see firsthand local Thai hill tribe communities and witness their way of life and unique dress.

Thai markets are fascinating. Not only is it possible to purchase skillfully made handicrafts directly from the local hill tribe people, other markets such as those found at the Mae Sai border and at Wat Doi Suthep at offer a fun chance to sample fresh produce and shop for handmade items such as jewelry, wood carvings, paintings, silk clothing, and other memorable souvenirs.

Weather

Chiang Mai is known for its hot and humid climate much of the year, but its coolest months are in December and January. It is also generally cooler in the mountains and lush jungles thanks to the higher altitude and shady trees.

Chiang Mai’s wet season is between the months of June and October. During this time there are daily rain showers that typically last between one and two hours. Although tours may briefly pause during the rain, the schedule will go on as planned.  

What to Wear

Because of its tropical climate, it is recommended that visitors wear breathable and slightly loose fitting clothing to stay cool and comfortable. Cotton short-sleeved shirts and shorts are perfect for day tours.

Wear a pair of shoes that won’t cause blisters and are safe to walk in on uneven surfaces. If you partake in more adventurous activities such as elephant camps or bamboo rafting, be sure to wear shoes that are able to get wet and are easily cleaned. Flip flops or thongs are acceptable to wear.

If you’re going on a tour that includes a visit to a temple, be sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Women are asked to wear shirts with a neckline that comes up close to the collarbone. An easy way to be properly covered is to pack a light sarong or scarf and cover areas of your body as needed. Also be mindful to take off your shoes before entering a temple as it is Thai custom to do so.  

Provided on the Tour

  • English speaking guide
  • Driver and transportation
  • Local Thai meal
  • All entrance ticket fees
  • Hotel transfer (within 3 km of the Chiang Mai City Moat)
  • Accident insurance

Guests will receive a meal on full day tours that will feature local Thai cuisine. Visitors who have signed up for a half day tour will receive light snacks and refreshments only.

Please inform us prior to your trip if you have any special dietary requirements such as eating vegetarian or halal meals or have food restrictions or allergies. We will also provide bottled water will also be provided.

1. Chiang Rai Golden Triangle and Long Neck Karen Tribe

Chiang Mai White Temple

Highlights of the trip to Chiang Rai include:

  • Popping into the Hot Springs
  • Visiting the White Temple
  • Overlooking the Golden Triangle landmark
  • Wandering through the Mae Sai border market
  • Touring a Akha Hill Tribe Village and Long Neck Karen Hill Tribe Village

Chiang Rai is a neighboring province north of Chiang Mai. This extended full day tour begins with a scenic drive through the countryside and a brief stop at a natural sulfur hot spring. There visitors can relax and soak their feet in the mineral-rich pools or watch as geysers shoot water into the air. There are also vendors selling eggs to boil in the hot spring with the help of tiny hand-woven baskets.

The tour continues with a trip to the famous White Temple. This entirely white temple is one of the most recognized structures throughout all of Thailand and is adorned with glittering mirrors and symbolic structures.

Next you will embark on a ride to the Golden Triangle. This area was once the center of Thailand’s opium trade, but traders have since been forced out or have converted to growing legal crops. The highlight of the area is the overlook at Sop Ruak. This viewpoint is renowned for the coming together of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers and overlooks the border tripoint of Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Continue on to the Mae Sai Border Market situated at the Thailand-Myanmar border and very near to the most northern point of Thailand. This bustling market is a shopper’s heaven and has items such as silk clothing, handmade bags, jewelry, carvings, as well as snacks of many kinds.

Lastly, visitors can look forward to a trip to two different northern Thai hill tribe villages: the Akha and the Long Neck Karen. The Akha hill tribe people are best recognized by their dark attire decorated with bright embroidery and elaborate headdresses. The Long Neck Karen hill tribe people are famously known for the brass rings that adorn the women’s necks, giving the illusion of an elongated neck. Both tribes are known for their intricate weaving and cloth work, which can be purchased directly from the tribes.

You’ll experience a little bit of everything on the Chiang Rai Golden Triangle and Long Neck Karen Tribe Tour. Learn more or book a spot now by clicking the link.

2. Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon

Highlights of the tour of Doi Inthanon include:

  • Exploring two waterfalls
  • Visiting a hill tribe village
  • Touring the King’s Royal Projects
  • Exploring the King and Queen Pagodas
  • Walking a short nature trail to the highest point in Thailand

Doi Inthanon National Park is one of Thailand’s most beautiful parks and is home to Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. Within this mountain’s unique jungle you can find an incredible variety of trees, flowers, and bird species along with stunning manmade structures. Roughly 60 km southwest from Chiang Mai City, the drive will take you through the country and up the mountainside.

This full day tour begins with a visit to two of the many waterfalls within the Doi Inthanon National Park. Next you will meet a hill tribe villages and learn about how they once produced opium on the mountainside. Thanks to the opportunity provided by the King’s Royal Projects, nowadays these local hill tribe people make a living growing rice, fruits and vegetables, flowers, and coffee.

Walk among climate controlled plant and flower gardens and explore the endless stretches of coffee plantations, strawberry patches, and rice terraces along the mountainside. Sample some of the freshly picked organic fruits and vegetables while you’re there and a cup of special Thai brewed coffee.

Next you will see the Twin Chedis, two incredible symmetrical structures built in honor of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand. After reaching either base of the King and Queen Pagodas, you can wander around their perfectly manicured gardens and gaze down at the stunning view of the valley below.

During a trip to Thailand’s tallest mountain, it would be a shame not to visit its absolute highest point, which is situated 2,565 meters above sea level. The perfect way to get there is to take a peaceful walk along a short nature trail that pops out at a sign announcing you’ve reached the highest spot in Thailand. Don’t forget to take a picture!

Sign up now for the Doi Inthanon National Park Tour for stunning views of mountains and temples.

3. Doi Suthep Temple and Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village

Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Touring Wat Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple atop a mountain
  • Visiting a Hmong Village, a local hill tribe

This half-day tour offers both morning (8am to 8:30am) and afternoon departures (1pm to 1:30pm) and is perfect for travelers who have limited time or would prefer a short but culturally memorable experience.

A typical day begins with a trip to one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chiang Mai: the magnificent Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. What makes this temple sacred is the Lord Buddha relic housed within, which attracts countless devout Buddhists on a pilgrimage to the temple throughout the year.

This temple sits near the top of Chiang Mai City’s closest neighboring mountain, Doi Suthep. On clear days, visitors can stand on the temple’s wrap-around balcony and gaze down on the old city center below. Try to spot the city’s iconic square moat if you can!

Although many visitors enjoy the challenge of climbing over 300 steps to enter the temple, there is an enclosed cable car for those who cannot or prefer not to walk up the Naga (serpent) flanked stairs. It is worth browsing through the plentiful shops at the base of the stairs selling iced drinks and snacks as well as silk scarves, temple bells, hill tribe attire, and wooden elephant carvings.

The outside area of the temple, which is on the lower terrace level, features gardens and rows of large hanging prayer bells. Once inside the temple on the upper terrace, there are beautiful gold-leafed Buddha statues and the dazzling Golden Chedi.

The tour continues to the local Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village not far from Doi Suthep. Hmong people are recognized for their elaborately embroidered outfits with headdresses adorned with beads. Here you can grab a fresh brew made from locally grown coffee beans or shop at rows of handicraft stalls. It is also worth taking a quick tour at the village’s museum and walk through a small poppy flower garden.

Book the Suthep Temple and Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village Tour if you’re looking for something short and sweet.

4. Elephant Safari and Long Neck Hill Tribe Village

Elephant Camp Chiang Mai

Highlights of this tour include:

  • Watching an elephant show and riding elephants
  • Visiting Lisu Hill Tribe Village Handicraft Center
  • Riding an oxen drawn cart
  • River rafting on bamboo rafts
  • Visiting an orchid and butterfly farm
  • Choosing additional optional tours

This full day tour will give you the ultimate cultural experience during your trip to Thailand by featuring several classic Thai pastimes. The order of the day’s activities will depend on your group’s size and arrival time, so your guide will adjust the schedule as necessary to allow you to participate in all activities.

During the elephant show, these amazing animals show off their strength and intelligence by performing a series of tricks and games. From hauling logs and dancing to playing football and painting a picture, they will put on an unforgettable performance for you and your family. Following the show, you will get to feed them their favorite treats and then take a peaceful ride on an elephant through the jungle.

After getting close with the elephants, you’re group will visit a local Lisu hill tribe community handicraft center. This tribe is notable for their bright, multicolored outfits. The handicraft center has beautiful handmade arts and crafts such as intricate beaded jewelry, elaborate clothing featuring traditional hill tribe patterns, hand-woven baskets, and more. Afterward your group will take a ride on the back of an old-fashioned oxen cart.

For a different perspective of the jungle, slowly drift down the river on a Thai bamboo raft. It’s very strong and flexible and is made almost entirely from long stalks of bamboo fitted together. Relax as the you hear the gentle lapping of the water and rustle of the grasses and trees along the shoreline.

The tour finished with trip to an orchid and butterfly farm. Here you can explore rows and rows of rare, indigenous species of orchids that thrive in Thailand’s tropical climate. There is also a butterfly enclosure that you can sit inside and enjoy a close-up view of these delicate insects as they flutter around you.

Find out more or book this amazing Elephant Safari and Long Neck Hill Tribe Village Tour now.   

5. White Temple and Black House

White Temple and Black House Chiang Rai

This tour includes visits to:

  • Hot Springs
  • The White Temple
  • Touring the Black House

On this extended day tour to Chiang Rai, your group will visit two exquisite yet utterly contrasting pieces of architecture.

After departing from Chiang Mai, enjoy a scenic drive through Thailand’s countryside and then take a short stop at a natural hot water spring. Here you can dip your feet in the mineral-rich pools, watch as water shoots high into the air from the springs, and even boil eggs in the hot water.  

The first building along the tour is locally known as Wat Rong Khun, but to many visitors it is famously known as the White Temple. This is quite fitting because the buildings are entirely white and decorated with pieces of mirrored glass, which make them sparkle and glint as the sun’s rays shine down on them. Even the shallow pools that adorn the manicured lawn are filled with albino Koi fish to stay true to the all-white theme.

The second equally interesting yet strikingly foreboding attraction is a set of buildings known as Baan Dam or Black House. They are constructed out of dark metal and wood and decorated inside with animal bones and skins and chilling devices and furniture. It cannot be more different than the ethereal White Temple.

Are you ready to visit the out-of-this-world White Temple and Black House? Book now!

What Are Your Favorite Things You Must Do in Chiang Mai?

Given the incredible variety, it’s hard to choose just one thing to do while visiting Chiang Mai. Let us make it easy for you – sit back and relax while we take you to the best sites in the area and make your trip unforgettable.