• Travel

Best Places to Visit in Chiang Mai

Article by GVI


Posted: April 24, 2023

Discover the fascinating history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking natural beauty of Chiang Mai, Thailand – from ancient temples and Lanna Kingdom legacy to vibrant markets and outdoor adventures. Get ready for a journey you won’t forget!

The Rich History of Chiang Mai

The history of Chiang Mai is a compelling tapestry of cultures and time periods, providing a fascinating backdrop for any visit. From ancient temples to remnants of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai has managed to preserve its historic treasures while incorporating modern-day charm.

Ancient Temples and Monuments

Chiang Mai is home to over 300 ancient temples, or “wats”, each with their own unique architectural style and cultural significance. The most famous of these is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, located on the mountain overlooking the city. Other notable temples include Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh, both boasting stunning examples of Lanna-style architecture.

Beyond temples, Chiang Mai has a number of other important historical monuments, such as the Tha Phae Gate, the remnants of the ancient city wall, and the Three Kings Monument, all providing insight into the city’s colourful past.

The Lanna Kingdom Legacy

For centuries, the Lanna Kingdom ruled the northern regions of Thailand, leaving behind a rich history and cultural heritage that is still alive today. The legacy of the Lanna Kingdom can be observed in the architectural styles of many temples, as well as in the traditional arts and crafts available at local markets.

Chiang Mai’s Old City is the perfect place to explore the Lanna heritage, with its narrow streets, ancient landmarks and lively atmosphere that give visitors a glimpse into the past.

Chiang Mai’s Old City

At the heart of Chiang Mai lies the Old City, a square area enclosed by a moat and ancient walls. Stepping into the Old City, visitors are immediately transported back in time, surrounded by charming streets, historic temples, and cosy cafes. Each corner of the Old City offers a unique atmosphere, making it a great place to get lost and wander for hours at a time.

Exploring the northern region of the Old City, visitors will find Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chiang Man, two of the most illustrious temples in the area. To the south, the bustling Sunday Walking Street Market comes alive with vendors, performances, and delicious local cuisine.

Must-Visit Natural Attractions

Chiang Mai is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, from lush mountains and verdant national parks to unique waterfalls that are sure to captivate any nature enthusiast.

Doi Suthep-Pui National Park

Just a short drive from the city, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park offers stunning mountain views, lush forests, and numerous hiking trails, including the popular trail leading to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Visitors can also explore the Hmong hill tribe village of Doi Pui, where traditional customs and crafts are on display.

For those seeking a more relaxing experience, the park’s Huay Kaew Waterfall is a perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the picturesque surroundings.

Doi Inthanon National Park

As the highest peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. The national park is home to dense forests, magnificent waterfalls such as Mae Ya and Wachirathan, and the famous Twin Royal Pagodas. With a variety of trails catering to different fitness levels, visitors can enjoy hiking, bird watching, and spectacular views from multiple viewpoints, including the peak itself.

The Sticky Waterfalls

A unique gem located just outside Chiang Mai, the “Sticky Waterfalls” (Bua Thong) offer a one-of-a-kind experience. The limestone rocks of the waterfall create a naturally grippy surface, allowing visitors to easily climb the cascading waters. Surrounded by jungle and tranquil swimming spots, the Sticky Waterfalls are an ideal destination to escape the city and connect with nature.

Exploring Chiang Mai’s Vibrant Markets

No visit to Chiang Mai would be complete without strolling through its bustling markets, offering everything from fresh produce and local street food to souvenirs and handmade crafts.

Warorot Market

Often referred to as the city’s largest market, Warorot Market (Kad Luang) is a lively, multistory building filled with a variety of goods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, street food, and an assortment of textiles and souvenirs. Frequented by locals and tourists alike, the market offers a genuine Thai shopping experience at affordable prices.

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

When the sun sets, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar comes alive with vibrant colours, enticing smells, and bustling energy. Stretching along a busy street, the bazaar features a mix of local handicrafts, clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. Interspersed between the shopping stalls are food vendors serving up delicious Thai dishes, making it a great place to sample local cuisine while shopping for unique gifts.

Sunday Walking Street Market

One of Chiang Mai’s most popular attractions, the Sunday Walking Street Market fills the streets of the Old City with a myriad of stalls selling a wide array of artisan crafts, clothing, and collectibles. Visitors can indulge in mouth-watering street food and enjoy live music, dance performances, and local artists showcasing their talents. This weekly event is the perfect way to spend a Sunday evening immersed in the vibrant culture of Chiang Mai.

Cultural Experiences in Chiang Mai

From cooking classes to elephant sanctuaries, Chiang Mai offers ample opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in Thai culture and unique experiences.

Traditional Thai Cooking Classes

Chiang Mai is an ideal place to learn the art of traditional Thai cooking. Numerous cooking schools offer hands-on classes where guests can prepare iconic dishes such as pad thai, green curry and mango sticky rice. Most classes also include a visit to a local market, offering insight into the ingredients and culinary techniques employed in Thai cuisine.

Thai Massage and Wellness Retreats

Renowned for its healing properties and relaxation benefits, Thai massage is a must-try experience during any visit to Chiang Mai. With countless spas and wellness retreats in the city, there is no shortage of options for rejuvenating the body and mind amid serene settings.

Unique and Unforgettable Activities

Chiang Mai offers an array of activities that cater to the adventurous spirit and those seeking a unique experience.

Ziplining Through the Jungle

For thrill-seekers, ziplining through the lush jungles surrounding Chiang Mai provides an exhilarating and unforgettable experience. With several companies offering various packages, visitors can soar through the treetops, take in panoramic views of the landscape, and even spot wildlife in its natural habitat.

Hot Air Balloon Rides

One of the most unique ways to experience Chiang Mai’s breathtaking scenery is by soaring above it in a hot air balloon. From high above, sweeping vistas of the city, countryside, and mountains create an unforgettable memory that will last a lifetime.

Volunteer with Elephants

Travel into the mountains of Chiang Mai to stay with the traditional elephant keeping community. Here you can volunteer with GVI to observe and help conserve the beautiful forest elephant herd. Here you’ll meet friends who become family and make a lasting impact.

With its rich history, captivating natural beauty, vibrant markets, and unique experiences, Chiang Mai will never cease to amaze. Regardless of the length of your stay, this vibrant city promises to leave a lasting impression.

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