Visit Chiang Mai Like Boss – Ultimate List Of What To See And Do
The Bucketlist Of What To See And Do In Chiang Mai
After living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for over two years, you can say we did our share of experiencing some of the best things to do. We took our time looking for the most amazing places to see and fun things to do in during our time in "Thailand's Northern Capital." Although we would never call ourselves local, we weren't exactly tourists either. Our suggestions of what to see and in Chiang Mai include some top tourist attractions as well as more laid back, "off the beaten track" activities and places. Though some of the items on our "Chiang Mai Bucketlist" below may be underrated, don't underestimate how epic of a time you can still have trying them on your visit.
1. Hang Out With Elephants
Notice that I didn't say "ride elephants." Spending some time with elephants would be my number one recommendation (without a doubt one of the top ten) of things to do in Chiang Mai. The best way to experience some time with these lovely creatures is by choosing an ethical elephant camp. These are camps where badly treated elephants are given a chance at a decent life and are not trained to entertain people for profit purposes.
Places like Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary allow visitors to interact with elephants while learning about their backgrounds and behaviors. It is so much fun to feed the elephants and see their personalities. You also get to cover them in mud and give them a bath in the creek, in their natural habitat. There aren't that many places in the world where you can have such a rich experience with these giants, so take advantage of it while you're in Thailand!
Pro-Tip: Here are our top favorite things to do for quick reference:
2. Mae Sa Waterfall Picnic & Swim
If you're looking for a truly local thing to do while in Chiang Mai, head over to Mae Sa Waterfall. You can easily spend half a day here either hiking or splashing around in the water. To make your trip even more memorable, pack a lunch with you and have a picnic there.
There are pic nic tables available but you can also rent a mat from one of the vendors at the bottom of the waterfall. Alternatively, if you happen to have a camping hammock, this would be an awesome place to take it for the day! You can also purchase food for your pic nic from these vendors. Try the grilled chicken with sticky rice and papaya salad for a truly authentic Thai outing!
3. Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Undoubtedly, one of the top ten things to do for visitors in Chiang Mai is a tour of this majestic temple on the mountain-top. This holy Buddhist temple is a dazzling structure, providing a peaceful and spiritual station for prayer and reflection as well as meditation.
After a tour of the temple and surrounding grounds, take a look at the incredible views of the city. Chiang Mai can be seen in it's entirety from the viewpoints up here and should certainly not be missed.
If your travels in Southeast Asia also take you to Myanmar, you might also like to see what we had to say about the temples in Bagan.
4. See Temples In The Old City
The Old City Chiang Mai is itself a famous tourist attraction as well as being the downtown. Walking around this part of town will most likely include a temple sighting, even if unintentional. A lot of famous Buddhist temples are located within the moat that border the Old City. Some of our favorite temples to see include, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Phan Tao which are all within walking distance of each other.
5. Go To The Famous Night Markets
Even if you're not really looking to make any purchases, we highly suggest you still try to catch one of the night markets in town. The weekly Saturday and Sunday night markets are massive. Even in the rainy season they may be packed with both tourists and locals.
Some great street food can be had here. We would suggest trying some Pad Thai here as well as sticky rice with mango. If you do feel like doing some shopping, make sure to haggle and bargain for lower prices. The markets are a great place to purchase souvenirs and gifts, but just fun to walk around in as well. If you're not there on a weekend, you can always stop by at the Night Bazaar any day and get the same experience.
6. Drink Amazing Coffee In The Nimman Neighborhood
We lived in the Nimmanhaeminda area and can tell you that we tried pretty much all of the cafes there. If you're a coffee connoisseur you must stop by at some of the famous cafes here such as Ristr8to, Nine One, and Dolcetto. The coffee here is fantastic!
7. Go For A Motorbike Ride Around Samoeng Loop
The beauty of Norther Thailand is way better on motorbike than from the inside of a car. If you have an international license (and helmet) go for this scenic ride. It takes about 4-5 hours to complete with a couple of rest stops. The best place to stop is once you arrive at the Samoeng Forest Viewpoint.
8. North Gate Jazz
Enjoy a night out with live music and some drinks with friends.
9. Eat Authentic Northern Thai Food
Go with a local guide to try some tasty foods in this area.
Khao Soi and Norther Thai sausage are delicious foods that we loved while living in Chiang Mai.
10. Take A Thai Cooking Class
Every time we had visitors in Chiang Mai, we took them to Thai Cooking classes and they loved it!
Click here to check out a cooking class that we recommend in Chiang Mai.
11. Buad Haad Park
This park is on the outer corner of the Old City and a great place to chill, even get a massage!
12. Chill Out Under A Bungalow at Huay Tung Tao Lake
What a relaxing place this is! Sit back and enjoy this gorgeous reservoir with Doi Suthep mountain in the background! You can spend at entire day here. Take a board game, eat some fantastic Thai food, and take a nap, all under a cool bungalow.
This is one of our favorite day trips to take when we are in Chiang Mai. It's just nice to be able to go a short distance and get away from the hustle and bustle (and tourism) of the city and just hang out where the locals do.
13. Walk Up The Sticky Waterfall
Take a tour there!
14. Have a Night Out By The River
There are some great, underrated places top enjoy a drink or a meal by the Ping River, away from the crowds and with the most romantic views.
15. Eat The Best Street Food
Hit up the North Gate or South Gate food stalls nightly for some of the best street food you can find.
16. Check Out The Street Art
17. Get A Massage
18. Ride The Public Transportation
Ride A SongThaew and a Tuk Tuk. Songthaews are the red trucks that you'll see all around town. A ride should cost around 30 baht just about anywhere you want to go in town. Tuk Tuks are a bit more expensive but fun to experience!
19. Drink Thai Iced Tea
20. Visit One Of A Kind Cafes
Giant Chiang Mai
21. Go On A Night Safari
22. Chiang Mai Zoo
The perfect thing to do in Chiang Mai with kids!
24. Zipline The Forest Canopy
You might even see some wild gibbons! I had a blast with Flight Of The Gibbon Zipline Tours.
25. Soak In The Hot Springs
Visit San Kampaeng hot springs and boil an egg for a snack!
26. Go To The Highest Place in Thailand: Doi Inthanon
See the twin pagodas at the top of the highest peak in the country. This national park also has some stunning waterfalls to see!
27. Sleep In A Treehouse
Just a short distance from Chiang Mai is a resort with some unique accommodations. You can choose from several different treehouse designs and see how it feels to sleep in the forest for a couple of nights.
28. Experience The Lantern Festival
Yee Peng is a once a year festival when you can see thousands of floating lanterns in the night sky.
29. Bo Sang Umbrella Village
Try to catch the Umbrella Festival if you can for the best display of these lovely, colorful parasols.
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!