Chiang Mai is one of those magical cities that you truly never want to leave. It’s a nature lover’s paradise with gorgeous nearby jungles and waterfalls. Plus, the city has some of the most delicious (and often very fresh and healthy) places to eat as well. That is why I had to make a Chiang Mai City Guide.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that us travelers should be prepared for anything.
Travel insurance has always been high on my list of things to organize before I travel but now more than ever it’s at the top of my list.
I’m pretty sure we have all had travel plans messed up because of COVID and not all insurers covered this. So you need to find an insurer that covers travel disruption due to COVID-19, World Nomads, Safety Wing, or Travel Insurance Master are the ones to go for.
World Nomads is great for incidents that happen prior to your trip, so if you get sick or are unable to travel due to travel restrictions some of their policies will cover that as cancellation cover.
I also use Travel Insurance Master for some short vacation-type trips as they are cheaper than World Nomads a lot of the time.
If you are doing shorter trips or a longer backpacking trips then WorldNomads or Travel Insurance Master are the best options. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for SafetyWing.
There are plenty of incredible things to do in Chiang Mai for any type of traveler. Whether you want to adventure and explore the natural sights or hang around town for some relaxing yoga and a massage, you will find something great to do while visiting Chiang Mai. Without any further ado, here are the top 10 things to do in Chiang Mai.
This was hands down one of the best things I did in Chiang Mai, and possibly on my whole trip to Thailand. The Bua Tong “sticky” waterfall is in the Thai jungle and the perfect way to escape the heat for a bit. This unique spot lets you walk UP the waterfall due to a mineral deposit that makes the stones grippy.
The waterfall itself and the surrounding area is gorgeous, and it’s fun to climb up and down the falls! Be careful though, some of the areas are more treacherous and can still be slippery, so it might be best to go with a guide that knows which parts of the waterfall “stick” and are safe to climb around on.
The twin pagodas are the most iconic sight in the park and house some historic relics. You can also hike the trails and go waterfall hopping.
There are plenty of places to find a yoga class that suits your abilities and interests. Your hostel or accommodation might host yoga classes, or you can try visiting the Nong Buak Hard Park where free yoga classes are offered daily from 9:00-10:15 am and you can rent a straw mat for 15 baht.
Chiang Mai is teeming with markets just around every corner. Many of them are night markets, though you can check out the Warorot Market next to the Ping River which opens early in the morning and closes when the sunsets.
A lesser-known attraction, the Huay Tung Tao Lake is popular with locals and expats. Try to catch the sunrise over the lake or take a walk or hike around one of the many surrounding trails. Take a hike to the Taab Mook waterfall for a beautiful sight!
This couldn’t be left out of my Chiang Mai City Guide. I took a cooking class at my hostel in Chiang Mai where we made a Thai soup (Tom Kha Gai), but there are plenty of places to do more extensive cooking classes around the city.
A few cooking schools stand out as some of the best places to try your hand at making traditional Thai dishes: Thai Farm Cooking School, Secret Thai Cooking School, and Sammy’s Organic Thai Cooking School.
The Wat Pha Lat Temple is especially incredible because it is hidden in the Thai jungle and can only be reached by hiking to it. The Pilgrim’s Path is an easy 30 to 40-minute hike through the bamboo forests, jungle trees, and past waterfalls to reach the temple.
Enjoy a day on the Mae Ping River and see Chiang Mai from the water. Take a 2-hour river tour or a dinner cruise and enjoy views of the greenery, teak houses, and farmlands.
The Hang Dong Canyon has been called the “Grand Canyon of Thailand” and is incredible to visit. Beyond the magnificent views, it’s the perfect place to cool off and spend the day swimming! Take a jump into the water from the platform on the edge, swim in the lounge area, or take an inner tube or surfboard to float around.
Chiang Mai is a foodie’s paradise. It’s known for having delicious vegan and health foods, plus of course incredible Thai food. Curries, soups, and noodles are some of the staples of Thai food, and northern Thai cuisine has a slightly different palate that is especially delicious.
The most popular Chiang Mai food is Khao Soi, a noodle soup made with coconut curry and served with chicken or beef. You can try Khao Soi in many places such as Khao Soi Khun Yai, but it’s best from the market off Huay Kaew road.
Another dish to try in Chiang Mai is their roast chicken, it’s incredibly flavorful and tastes different than many “typical” roast chicken dishes. Try out Cherng Doi Roast Chicken located in the Mueang Chiang Mai District.
For noodles, try out any number of street vendors in the markets. They will have some of the most delicious dishes to try the popular dishes Pad Thai and Pat See Ew.
Fortunately, traveling through Thailand is very affordable. To save some extra money, stay in the cheaper (and typically still very comfortable) hostels. Street food vendors will be cheaper than dining at a restaurant, or if you stay somewhere you can cook, you can find plenty of fresh produce and groceries.
It’s typically hot in Chiang Mai, so make sure to pack plenty of light, breathable clothing. You will also likely be doing a lot of walking or exploring the surrounding jungle, so bring comfortable shoes and perhaps some that you can get wet if you plan to go through any waterfalls or swimming spots.
If you plan on going inside the temples make sure to pack appropriate clothing. You will want to have your shoulders covered so avoid bringing tank tops, or you can bring a shawl to wear inside the temples. You will want to cover your knees (and ideally ankles as well) on days that you plan to be in the temples.
For a full insight, take a look at this Thailand Packing Guide.
There are plenty of great places to stay all over Chiang Mai. Hostels are popular for younger travelers and budget travelers. I stayed at the Hostel Lullaby and loved it! They offered yoga and cooking classes for free and were very helpful in recommending where to eat and things to do.
The Old City is often the cheapest area to stay in and where you will find most of the popular hostels. Nimmanheamin is the best area to stay in Chiang Mai for nightlife and the remote worker scene. If you want somewhere a bit less touristy and a slower pace, but still near the Old Town and best attractions, try looking in the Santitham area.
This is probably one of the most requested things to talk about when you are traveling to Thailand, that is why I included it in this Chiang Mai City Guide. To get around and to the attractions near Chiang Mai, you will likely take a tuk-tuk or taxi. If you stay within the Old City, it’s fairly easy to walk most places. However, if you want to get across town, you should take a tuk-tuk and if you are leaving town for one of the nearby sites, you will likely take a taxi.
To get to Chiang Mai, there is an airport you can fly into. Or, depending on where you are coming from, train, bus, or renting a car is an option as well.
If you are traveling solo as a woman, Chiang Mai is comparatively a very safe city. If you can, find a group of people to join and try not to walk around alone at night.
Chiang Mai is an incredibly popular location for people looking to work remotely abroad. There’s a strong expat community here, so there are plenty of resources. For workspaces, Punspace is a popular choice that is open 24/7 and has three locations. Or the WAKE-UP franchise is a coffee shop and coworking space that is popular across Thailand.
The best time to visit Chiang Mai is between October and April. These months tend to be a bit cooler and it’s quite pleasant. The hottest months are April and May, and the rainy season lasts from June to October. Though quite honestly there is not necessarily a BAD time to visit Chiang Mai. Even when I was there during July, I found the weather to be decent and the rain was minimal and not bothersome.
Chiang Mai is one of the best cities in Thailand, especially if you are someone who enjoys being out in nature and living a more “earthy” lifestyle. The culture and feel of the town are quite peaceful and very enjoyable. Most people who visit Chiang Mai quickly fall in love with this incredible Thai city!
After traveling to over 25 countries and living in Dublin, Janelle created Make the Trip Matter – a travel blog dedicated to helping budget travelers and remote professionals travel more, live abroad, and discover a more meaningful experience from their travels.
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