Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and the cultural hub of the country. It is not difficult to find things to do in this city, which is incredibly rich in terms of religion and culture. From a visit to the countless temples scattered throughout its streets and surroundings, trekking through the surrounding forest, diving from cliffs or simply strolling through its streets and exploring its many corners and nooks, Chiang Mai offers something interesting for all types of travelers.
Below you’ll find a list of 11 things to do and places to visit in Chiang Mai, to help you enjoy this city to the fullest.
11 Awesome things to do in Chiang Mai
1. Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep is a mountain that rises up to 1676 Mt and is located by the entrance to Chiang Mai. At the top of this mountain is one of the most visited temples in the city: the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, dated back to 1383. To get there you’ll need to climb a very long and wide staircase made of 290 steps, but it is worth it. You’ll be compensated with fantastic views of the forest and Chiang Mai, and the temple itself has magnificent details. It’s a mandatory place on a what to do in Chiang Mai list.
Note: Don’t forget to wear pants, a long skirt or to take a sarong to roll around your legs. If you forget, you can always rent a sarong for 10 baht at the entrance to the temple. (this only applies to women)
Opening Hours: every day, from 06am to 5pm
Entrance: 50 Baht
2. Grand Canyon
Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon is located about 11 km from the city. On very hot days it’s the ideal place to cool off a bit, by swimming in the lake that sits between the red-earthed cliffs, relaxing on top of one of the bamboo rafts that float on the water or, for the more adventurous, to dive into the lake from the cliffs (but be careful if you do go for it, there have been several serious accidents there). It’s a great way to escape the scorching heat of Chiang Mai during the dry season.
Address: Nam Phrae, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai
Opening Hours: 08:30 – 6pm
Entrance: 50 Baht
3. Huay Tung Tao Lake
Not frequently mentioned in the usual tourist guides, Lake Huay Tung Tao is a place essentially frequented by locals, and it’s rare to spot tourists there. There are several restaurants and cafes around the lake featuring small individual cabins right on top of the water, where you can have a meal and enjoy the rest of the day. The view is incredible. It’s worth the visit.
Address: 107, Don Kaeo, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai
Opening Hours: every day, from 07:30am to 6pm
Entrance: 50 Baht
4. Nong Buak Hard Park
The public park Nong Buak Hard is a green oasis in the middle of the city, in the Old town area. Here you’ll see both locals and foreigners relaxing by the lake, lying on straw mats rented by 10 baht on site, at one of the stalls located at the park that also sell water, refreshments and light snacks. It’s a good place to rest for a while after a walk through the city and a good way to experience the local lifestyle.
Address: Arak, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai
Opening Hours: Every day, from 05am to 9pm
5. 3D Art in Paradise Museum
A visit to the Art in Paradise Museum is mandatory for those looking to spend different and fun moments, in Chiang Mai. The ticket may be a little expensive (according to Thai standards) but it’s worth it.
The museum is filled with 3D paintings where, depending on the angle at which the photograph is taken, it makes it seem that you are inside the drawing. You can find yourself trying to balance on a wooden bridge about to fall over a cliff, climbing a bamboo next to a panda or trying to escape a hungry crocodile!
Address: 199/9 Chang Klan Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
Opening Hours: Every day, from 09am to 7pm
Entrance: 400 Baht
6. Visit the various cafes scattered around Chiang Mai
Apart from the temples, one thing that is not lacking in Chiang Mai are cafes of different styles and sizes. They can be traditional, modern, ideal for digital nomads to work for a few hours or just to rest a little before continuing exploring the city.
I especially liked Cerebrum & Friends, a cafe with an alternative atmosphere and good music. Oh and their Iced Thai tea is delicious, by the way.
7. Night Bazaar
The night Bazaar runs every night from 6:30 to 12am. It’s located east of Old Town and extends for about 1 km on Thanon Chang Khlan Street. This is the place to go to work on your negotiation skills and fill up your bag with endless souvernirs for family and friends back home. A mandatory place on a what do in Chiang Mai list.
Address: Thanon Chang Khlan, Chiang Mai
Opening Hours: Every day, from 6:30pm to 12am.
8. Walking Street Night Market
Located right in the heart of the Old Town, the Walking Street Night Market runs every Sunday, and extends for about 1 km along Ratchadamnoen Road. The street is closed to traffic on the days that the market runs, hence the name “Walking Street”. Alongside the Night Bazaar, it is another great place to get bargains and it is particularly rich in local crafts (something that is not in the NIH Bazaar) and delicious food.
Address: Ratchadamnoen Road, Chiang Mai
Opening Hours: Sundays, from 4pm to 12am.
9. Visiting a local market
Something I really like to do on my travels is to visit local markets, so I just had to include it in this “what to do in Chiang Mai” list. This is the ideal place to have a more direct contact with the local population and observe one of their daily routines. Looking at the diverse vegetables, fruits and other products sold at the local markets is also a fascinating activity alone. In Chiang Mai I went several times to the market located at the Old Town, where it was rare to leave without some kind of snack in my hand.
10. Wat Chedi Luang Temple
The Buddhist temple Wat Chedi Luang, dated from 1441, rises to a towering 80 Mt high, right in the center of Chiang Mai. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset and when the lights of the temple are turned on. It was once the highest structure of Chiang Mai, up until the 16th century when it’s top was destroyes by an earthquake. It is unquestionably a must-go-to place with a unique atmosphere.
Address: 103 Road King Prajadhipok Phra Singh, Muang District, Chiang Mai
Opening Hours: Every day, from 06h to 18h
11. Thai Cooking Class
How about taking the flavors of the wonderful Pad Thai or Khao Soi home with you, allowing you to imagine that you are still in Thailand, even if only for a few minutes? Does that sound good? If so, then something you definitely must include your list of what to do in Chiang Mai is a Thai cooking class. There are several different schools in the city, and classes usually include a trip to a local market to learn how to choose the necessary ingredients.