The Most Gorgeous Temples to Visit in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The ornate Wat Sri Suphan in Chiang Mai is known for its silver, hand-crafted decoration
The ornate Wat Sri Suphan in Chiang Mai is known for its silver, hand-crafted decoration | © Aliaksandr Mazurkevich / Alamy Stock Photo
Hannah Smith

Chiang Mai seems to have a temple, or wat, on every street. You could spend your time visiting each one, but, with more than 200 throughout the city, your feet may not thank you. Use this list to help you pick some of the most beautiful, eye-catching and intricate wats in Chiang Mai, if not in Thailand, to visit during your trip.

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1. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep


The gold-painted exterior of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand
© Hugh Mitton / Alamy Stock Photo

As the most famous of all the wats, this temple sits on Doi Suthep, high above all its competition. The location, which gives visitors a bird’s eye view of Chiang Mai, is a peaceful place to spend an hour or two and even has a meditation centre. The wat itself has a unique dragon-shaped staircase leading up 309 steps to a golden stupa surrounded by Buddha statues, burning incense and candles, plus paintings of monks and elephants. Beyond the main stupa, there are gardens, more shrines and prayer flags out among the trees. If you only have time for one wat, this is it. Tip: get the shuttle from Chiang Mai University – just outside the main entrance, to the left – for a shared fare with other passengers.

2. Wat Chedi Luang

Buddhist Temple, Ruins

Remains of the historical Buddhist temple known as Wat Chedi Luang, in Chiang Mai, Thailand
© MehmetO / Alamy Stock Photo
Wat Chedi Luang is one of the easiest wats to find, as it sits right in the middle of Chiang Mai, close to most backpacker hostels and restaurants. Dating back to 1400, Chedi Luang is a massive brick-and-stucco structure – once the tallest in ancient Thailand – that will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to another time. It is adorned with elephant statues but is somewhat damaged due to an earthquake in the 16th century. This wat is worth a stroll around, if only to feel small in the shadow of its impressive history.

3. Wat Umong

Buddhist Temple, Ruins

Woman walking through the tunnels of the Temple Wat Umong
© Cavan Images / Alamy Stock Photo
If you are growing tired of wat after wat while travelling through Thailand, then Umong will be a breath of fresh air, a chance to reset your palate. Set in the forest, a couple of kilometres (1.2mi) outside the city, this temple has an ambience of true connection and spirituality. What really sets it apart, though, are the fascinating tunnels that run beneath the timeworn stupa. Easily accessed, they are full of wall paintings, Buddha statues and monks kneeling in prayer before shrines. In the grounds, there are Buddhist relics and a pond, where you can feed pigeons and catfish.

4. Wat Sri Suphan

Buddhist Temple

Wat Sri Suphan in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Image shot 04/2014. Exact date unknown.
© Horizon Images/Motion / Alamy Stock Photo

Walking through any market in Chiang Mai, you’ll see artistic silverwork being sold, but little do many visitors know that there is an even larger scale of artistic silver at Wat Sri Suphan, a temple made of silver metals and alloys. While many go and see the White Temple, up in Chiang Rai, Sri Suphan is a more relaxed, less touristy option. The only downfall is that women are not allowed in the main hall due to religious impositions. Even without going inside, the craftsmanship of the temple, glimmering in the sun, is a stunning feature to appreciate. There are chances to speak with the monks every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, in which you can ask questions about the Buddhist religion.

5. Wat Lok Molee

Buddhist Temple

Wat Lok Molee, Wat Lok Moli, Viharn and Chedi, temple site, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Asia
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Lok Molee happens to be next to one of the best breakfasts in town, at Free Bird Cafe, so you might find yourself exploring this temple quite a lot. It’s right off a busy main street, outside the gates of the old city, but, once you step onto its grounds, the noise seems to fade away. Wat Lok Molee has a large chedi holding the ashes of several Thai kings and a teak wooden pavilion with a statue of a queen of the Lanna Kingdom. Stained glass is embedded around the front of the main hall, and a golden, metal bodhi tree stands out front. Although not the largest, this temple has many interesting, small oddities to keep you intrigued.

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