Top Things to See and Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai | © Michelle Maria/Pixabay
Chiang Mai | © Michelle Maria/Pixabay
Welcome to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s “rose of the North.” Check out our list of the top things to see and do while you are in this enchanting and ancient Lanna capital.

Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located at the top of Doi Suthep Mountain among lush jungle surrounds. This temple is not only an important temple for Lanna culture and northern Thailand, but it is revered throughout Thailand with families coming to visit the sacred site from every corner of the country. Climb the 308 steps up the mythical naga serpent staircase to the temple where you will be rewarded with a wholesome cultural experience and breathtaking views of the city below. Our top tip is to visit the temple early in the morning before the crowds start to gather; a lift is available for those unable or unwilling to make the climb on a hot day. There are plenty of options for refreshing drinks, snacks and even the chance to pick up some authentic souvenirs.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Suthep Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand, +66 53 295 002

Buddha statues at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep © Beam Borwonputtikun/Flickr

Take a cooking class

Chiang Mai is the perfect place to further explore your love for Thai cuisine with some of the best food the country has to offer and an array of brilliant cooking classes where you can roll up your sleeves and learn how to create those tasty dishes yourself. Thai Farm Cooking School has earned itself a brilliant reputation and for good reason; here, the staff is fun, helpful and informative. The full-day class takes you to a local market to learn about local ingredients and then on to their tranquil organic farm in the Chiang Mai countryside. You can pick and choose which dishes you want to learn how to make, and you’ll even leave with leftovers!

Fun at Thai Farm Cooking School © Wedstock 2011/Flickr

Be pampered

Exploring a new city is fun yet also exhausting; take a much-needed rest as you opt for a relaxing foot massage, or try the famous Thai massage (warning: this massage is not for those who dislike being contorted into different positions). Chiang Mai has plenty of spas to choose from, ranging from super luxurious to cheap and cheerful. Why not try something a little different with a blind massage, where visually impaired and blind people put their brilliant sense of touch to good work? Alternatively, you could get a massage at the Women’s Correctional Facility vocational training programme spa, where you will help soon-to-be-released inmates adapt and prepare for the “outside” world.

Huay Tung Tao Lake

Chill like the locals do at Huay Tung Tao Lake! Located only a short 20-minute drive from the Old City at the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain, an afternoon at Huay Tung Tao is the ideal way to relax and unwind. Set up camp in one of the bamboo huts on the lake shores, order a few refreshing beverages, some delicious Thai food and dangle your feet in the water — what more could you want?

You too can enjoy this view! © garycycles/Flickr

Sunday Walking Street Market

The Sunday Walking Street Market is by far the most memorable and beautiful market in Chiang Mai. Stretching from Thapae Gate all the way to Wat Pra Singh and spilling down the side streets, this market is bustling with hill tribe crafts, homemade wares and delicious local food. This magical market is the ideal spot to pick up souvenirs or a few local keepsakes and runs every Sunday from around 4.30 pm until midnight. It is advised to come early to escape the crowds.

The famous Sunday Walking Street Market © Filipe Fortes/Flickr


Gain a unique perspective as you swing through the jungle canopy like a monkey. Thailand is world-famous for its zip-lining adventures, which offer nature lovers and adrenaline seekers the opportunity to get up close and personal with the jungle by literally hurtling through lush canopies at high speeds. It pays to do your research and choose a reputable company such as Flight of the Gibbon.

Fun in the jungle © ann p/Flickr

Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls

Thailand boasts a wide range of stunning waterfalls, but Bua Tong (or Sticky Waterfalls) has yet to find its equal. True to its name, Bua Tong sticky waterfalls lacks the dangers of slippery stones, allowing you to climb its steep slopes in a Spider-Man-like fashion. Nestled into the tropical jungle, its five levels are just waiting to be explored. It is located just over an hour outside of Chiang Mai and represents the perfect destination for a scooter trip. There is no charge, but make note of the donation box and fees for littering in an attempt to keep it spotless.

Great place to cool off on a hot day © Brian Jeffery Beggerly/Flickr

Visit Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park is one of the most respected and famous elephant conservation projects in the country. Elephant Nature Park is home to more than 35 free-roaming elephants, many of which have been rescued from the logging and tourism industries. A day out at Elephant Nature Park is both informative and fun. Longer volunteer placements are also available. This ethical camp encourages you to get to know these gentle giants by feeding, bathing and walking with the elephants; there is a strict “no riding” policy.

Elephant Nature Park, 209/2 Sridom Chai Road, Kuet Chang, Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand, +66 53 272 855

A kiss for you? © Beyond Neon/Flickr

This article was originally written by Lena Blos and has since been updated.