Things to do in
Chiang Mai

Whether you're a backpacker or a seasoned traveler, the 300 temples and lush mountains here won't fail to inspire.

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Our most recommended things to do in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai: Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park

1. Chiang Mai: Elephant Care at Elephant Retirement Park

Start your journey in the morning with a hotel pick-up from Chiang Mai city center. Take the 1-hour ride to the countryside of Mae Tang district. Get changed into the local clothes and be ready for the fun activities. The experienced guide will provide information about the elephants' behavior and how to provide proper care for them. Then, you will get to prepare food and healthy treats for the elephants and feed them afterwards. After that, you and the elephants will walk to play in the mud and sand spa. During this time, you will have a chance to observe their behavior. You can also enjoy the beautiful scenery as well. After your time with the elephants, change your clothes, shower and then enjoy a delicious traditional Thai buffet lunch, which is suitable for vegetarians. After lunch, you will take the 1-hour journey back to the city and will be transferred back to your hotel in Chiang Mai city center.

Doi Inthanon National Park Small Group Full Day Tour

2. Doi Inthanon National Park Small Group Full Day Tour

Get picked up from your hotel in Chiang Mai city center for a day to explore one of Thailand’s original national parks and highest mountain, Doi Inthanon. Perfect for adventurers and culture enthusiasts alike, this tour will feature picturesque landscapes, remote villages, and incredible viewpoints. The first stop is one of the largest and the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, the Wachirathan Waterfall. Over 80 meters high, the power of this waterfall creates a refreshing mist that feeds the surrounding vegetation. The next stop is the stunning 50-meter cascade, Sirithan Waterfall fed by the Mae Klong River.  Next, you’ll stop at the famous twin pagodas: the Napamatanee Don and Napaphon Bhumisiri. Built for the Royal King and Queen, they are located at the highest point in Thailand. The last stop is a visit to the Karen Tribe locale. Learn a bit about the hill tribes people’s culture and way of life in their village of Sobhad.

From Chiang Mai: Chiang Rai Famous Temples Small Group Tour

3. From Chiang Mai: Chiang Rai Famous Temples Small Group Tour

Visit Chiang Mai’s sister city, Chiang Rai, on a 12-hour journey to visit 3 very different temples. Quirky, charming, and creative are words that could describe Chiang Rai. At the very least, this city is quite different from Chiang Mai, so join this trip to experience something quite new. Select the private option to have this experience with your friends and family only. Before you begin your tour, you’ll break up the long drive at the Mae Khachan Hot Springs to relax, dip your feet into steaming mineral water, have a snack, or walk around the gardens. Your first stop is the main attraction of the day: the White Temple. If you were expecting ancient ruins, then you might be surprised to find a modern architectural masterpiece designed and built by a local artist, Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. People say he spent over $40 million of his own money to create this unconventional art exhibit and through it, gain immortal life.   After exploring this Temple, head to the next stop, the Blue Wonder. Locally known as Wat Rong Seua Ten, this translates to “temple of the dancing tiger”, because it was built on a site where tigers were said jump over the river.   If the White Temple could be called the stairway to heaven, the Black House has been called a “dark, mysterious, and almost sadistic” place, complete with preserved animals and a collection of bones. Built by national artist Thawan Duchanee, the Black House (also called the Baan Dam Museum) is a cluster of nearly 40 shadowy structures exhibiting art dating back to the Ayutthaya period. After fully admiring these 3 very different structures, you'll be taken back to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary Small Group Ethical Tour

4. Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary Small Group Ethical Tour

Depart Chiang Mai and journey into the mountains of northern Thailand to visit the ethical Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary (approximately 1-hour drive from the city center). Upon arrival, learn about the elephant conservation program and benefit from an introductory talk and the chance to interact with the rescued animals. Get the chance to give them a hug and discover how to prepare a healthy meal to feed them. Go for a walk around the sanctuary with the elephants and stop to give them a mud bath to keep their body temperature down and protect them from parasites. Feed them before enjoying a homemade lunch at a restaurant inside the sanctuary.

Chiang Mai: Authentic Thai Cooking Class and Farm Visit

5. Chiang Mai: Authentic Thai Cooking Class and Farm Visit

Learn how to make authentic Thai dishes with this fun, small-group cooking class in Chiang Mai as you prepare classic dishes using ingredients from a local market. Choose between a half-day class during the morning or the evening and cook five dishes, or go for the full-day class to cook an extra two courses! Get picked up at your hotel within Chiang Mai, then meet up with the rest of your group and choose what you want to cook from the menu. Visit a local market and buy the necessary ingredients, and tour an organic farm filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Once you're done, head to the classroom and prepare your individual cooking stations for the lesson. Follow the instructions of your professional English-speaking guide as you cook a variety of authentic Thai dishes such as mango sticky rice, pad thai, and curry, and make curry paste with your own two hands! Enjoy the fruits of your labor by sharing a meal with your group. Exchange stories as you sample each others' cooking before you head back to your accommodation.

Ethical Elephant Caretaker & Doi Suthep Temple Private Tour

6. Ethical Elephant Caretaker & Doi Suthep Temple Private Tour

Begin your private experience with a pick-up from your hotel in Chiang Mai city and take a scenic journey to a private elephant estate where you will be their caretaker for half a day. Upon arrival, Walk to the main base camp, located up the hill, get changed into an elephant caretaker outfit and prepare yourself for a day of fun. Learn about Asian Elephants' long and fascinating history as you learn to cook healthy herbal treats for them to eat for a snack. Afterward, feed the handmade treats to them and walk along their side through the beautiful lush forest. Continue with elephant bathing in the river and say a farewell to your new, big friends as you set off on the next part of your tour. Take some time out of your day to enjoy a delicious Tha lunch, eating dishes with rice and finishing off your meal with a selection of fresh tropical fruits. Then, visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the temple that is situated on the top of a mountain. You can reach the top by walking up or using the elevator. At the very top, there is a golden chedi and terrace adorned with small shrines, breadfruit trees, rock gardens and, an Emerald Buddha statue. From the mountain top you will be treated to breathtaking views of the lush greenery below.

Chiang Mai: Ping River Night Kayaking Trip

7. Chiang Mai: Ping River Night Kayaking Trip

Set off on a nighttime kayaking tour of Chiang Mai. Start at dusk and see the city as its lights turn on for the evening. Journey on an easy-to-navigate river past restaurants, homes, and Mai Yai trees. Discover the romance of the Ping river as you set out on a 6 kilometer kayaking trip. Paddle through the city center and take in views of the sights from the water. Drift slowly with the river. Float by massive native Mai Yai trees. Go under brightly lit bridges and listen to the music spilling out of riverside restaurants. Admire charming waterside homes. Enjoy the colors of the Chiang Mai skyline at night.

From Chiang Mai: White Temple & Golden Triangle Day Trip

8. From Chiang Mai: White Temple & Golden Triangle Day Trip

After a 07:00 AM pick-up in central Chiang Mai, depart for Chiang Rai, stopping for a short break at Mae Kachan hot springs. Visit Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple, before continuing to the Golden Triangle area. Go to Wat Phra That Chedi Luang (limited access). See the Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar borders from the Golden Triangle viewpoint. Stop for lunch before spending time at House of Opium. Enjoy a long-tail boat trip on the mighty Mekong River. On the way back to Chiang Mai take a break to stretch your legs in Mae Suay or Wiang Pa Pao district and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. The estimated arrival time in Chiang Mai city is 8:30 PM. The arrival time in Chiang Mai City depends on the traffic conditions, amount of passengers, and any other unforeseen circumstances.

4-Hour Doi Suthep & Hmong Hill Tribe Village from Chiang Mai

9. 4-Hour Doi Suthep & Hmong Hill Tribe Village from Chiang Mai

Depart Chiang Mai and travel to the temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on Doi Suthep mountain. Follow in the footsteps of the pilgrims who climb up 309 steps to the stupa on the hilltop. Get spectacular views of Chiang Mai city and its surroundings. Then, visit a village and museum of the ethnic Hmong hill tribe, located inside the boundaries of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Learn more about the life of the tribe, known for their colorful costumes and handicraft traditions. Return to Chiang Mai and get dropped off at your hotel.

Doi Suthep, Wat Umong & Wat Pha Lat Sunrise Small-Group Tour

10. Doi Suthep, Wat Umong & Wat Pha Lat Sunrise Small-Group Tour

Begin your morning tour by climbing the 306 steps up to Doi Suthep Temple with your local guide. Bask in the golden rays of sunrise after conquering the staircase and take photos of the unrivaled view of the city of Chiang Mai.  Then, stand in the shadow of the golden Kruba Srivichai Monument, named after the Thai Buddhist monk and engineer of many temples and roads. Gain an insight into how the monks live and choose to make a merit (offering) with them.  Head to Wat Pha Lat, a hidden temple in the lush jungle. Admire the serene statues, shrines, and surrounding nature.  Wrap up your half-day tour with a stop at Wat Umong, a 700-year old temple built back in 1297. Explore the forest and underground tunnels. Marvel at the architecture of the chedi.

Frequently asked questions about Chiang Mai

What top attractions are a must-see in Chiang Mai?

Planning Your Visit

  • When to visit?

    March, April, and May are Chiang Mai's hottest months, with November to January seeing the city's coolest temperatures. May to September is the rainy season, but despite its threatening name, is considered by some to be the best time to visit. If you can handle the odd, refreshing shower, you'll be rewarded with smaller crowds, greener countryside, and more active wildlife.

  • How many days?

    Chiang Mai is cheap to visit and boasts plenty to do. You'll want to spend at least four or five full days there.

Good to know

  • Language
    Thai
  • Currency
    Thai baht (฿)
  • Time Zone
    UTC (+07:00)
  • Country Code
    +66
  • Best time to visit
    It depends how you feel about rain! If you don't mind a refreshing shower here and there, May to September is an absolutely wonderful time to visit Chiang Mai.

Other Sightseeing Options in Chiang Mai

Want to discover all there is to do in Chiang Mai? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Chiang Mai

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 3,942 reviews

Such a lovely experience! We first changed clothes, then gave bananas to elephants (they eat A LOT). After that, we went for a walk with them but stopped a lot because elephants were eating plants. Then we played with elephants in the mud and bath them right after. Lunch was also super good (totally vegetarian). We could there take a shower and finally they drove us back to hotel. No sign of something wrong with the place, it does really seem elephants are being taken care.

Being over 60 and not super fit I was worried that it would be too much for me. But I had a great ride down the mountain. However, one person did not have the fitness level or the required skills and balance to ride the bike down the sometimes steep and slippery section. They had to be picked up by 4WD. I would suggest, consider you limits, but be willing to push them. Do this trip and be rewarded with a great ride down the mountain.

Yee Yee was an amazing guide. She was super enthusiastic and energetic and she made sure we all had plenty of photos. She also explained everything and helped us get involved with the traditions at the temple. The view from Doi Suthep was great.

This tour was incredible. The highlight of my trip to Chiang Mai for sure. The views are stunning and it's a fun day out. Banana was a great guide. Thank you! Don't miss out on this one! It's worth every penny.

Ended up just being me and the tour guide, a lovely private tour down the river! highly recommend