Chiang Mai: a city in mountainous northern Thailand that’s known for its elaborate Buddhist Temples, Old City walls and lush greenery.
And a bonus? It’s sunny most of the time.
If you’re heading to Thailand sometime soon and are wondering whether to include Chiang Mai on your travel bucket list, I’d say that you definitely should! After all, there are several reasons why fellow travellers say that this city is a must-see.
How to Get to Chiang Mai from the UK
First things first, getting to Chiang Mai from the UK can be tricky. You have to take at least two flights.
If you decide on the latter, the good news is that the Bangkok to Chiang Mai leg is only 1.5 hours and can cost as low as £20 one way. Then from Chiang Mai airport, the city centre is just a 12-minute drive away.
Alternatively, you can fly to Bangkok via Dubai with Emirates and take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. This is the most travelled train route in Thailand and takes anything from 12 to 15 hours.
What about cost, you ask? Well, a one-way fare starts at £12 for a day trip and £18 for a sleeper train.
Either way, Chiang Mai is worth the journey!
Top Things to See and Do in Chiang Mai
Newsflash: Chiang Mai is one of my favourite cities in the world.
Don’t believe me? Just check out these awesome things to see and do.
1. Visit Tha Phae Gate
Firstly, walk the walls that surround the old part of the city. These walls have been in existence since 1296 so they are something to behold!
Plus, the area around Tha Phae Gate is always bustling with tourists due to the abundance of cafes, shops and restaurants. Therefore, you won’t be short on things to check out.
(There’s even a McDonalds if you’re craving a piece of home!)
2. Walk to the Riverfront
Another of the top things to do in Chiang Mai is to head down to the Ping River embankment.
It’s a 30-40 minute walk from Tha Phae Gate, which can be quite pleasant if the sun is shining! There are also cafes along the way if you want to stop off for a refreshing beverage after being in the humidity.
(Chiang Mai is always 30 degrees Celsius plus!)
Pro traveller tip: my sister and I found that we managed to get some great photos from Thanon Charoen Mueang Bridge.
3. Check Out Chinatown
On the way back from Thanon Charoen Mueang Bridge, my sister and I accidentally stumbled across Chinatown.
We didn’t look around extensively, but what we did see certainly interested us. There were clothing, homeware, arts and crafts and gift items aplenty!
Furthermore, because it was Chinese New Year the weekend that we visited Chiang Mai, this part of the city was decorated with Chinese lanterns which was a treat for the eyes!
4. Go to the Sunday Walking Street Market
One of my favourite things to do in Chiang Mai happens on a Sunday night. Why? Well, the city comes alive down the Walking Street!
You can see sellers setting up their stalls from about 5pm onwards and there are all sorts of goods on offer.
From clothing to candles to art to food, the list is endless! You can grab yourself a few bargains as well as enjoy the free music and atmosphere.
5. Visit Buak Hard Public Park
The Buak Hard public park might be a bit of a trek from Tha Phae Gate and the main touristy area; however, it sure is worth the journey.
Unfortunately, there were a few renovations occurring when we were there, but it doesn’t stop the park from being insanely stunning!
It honestly doesn’t feel you’re in Thailand whilst you’re there – you’ve died and gone to heaven!
6. Have a Few Bevvies at Zoe in Yellow
Zoe in Yellow is the main hotspot in an area of bars on the corner of Th Ratchaphakhinai and Th Ratwithi. It is the only bar with a dancefloor and a large, outdoor seating area where it’s nice to just chill with a drink (or two).
As a result, it thrives at night and you’ll find plenty of backpackers in the vicinity wanting to dance, party and have a good time!
7. Have a Natural Elephant Experience
A lot of people come to Chiang Mai for one of its famous animal experiences.
During our time there, my sister and I visited the Mae Rim Elephant Camp as part of a two-day tour. On this tour, we also got stay overnight in Pai (the cutest village in the mountains).
At the elephant camp, we had the most fun morning bathing, feeding and even mucking out (!) two elephants in their natural environment. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life and I loved every minute of it!
8. Do Some Temple Spotting
In America, there’s a Starbucks on every corner. On the island of Koh Phi Phi, there’s a tattoo shop on every corner. When it comes to Chiang Mai, however, there’s a temple on every corner.
Some of them are extremely pretty buildings with impressive shapes, colours and architecture, so keep your eyes peeled!
My sister and I couldn’t help but be in awe of them – and stop and stare.
9. Spend a Night at Loi Kroh Road
Finally, check out Loi Kroh Road at night.
Even though this is something we personally didn’t have the time to do as we were only in Chiang Mai for two nights, it’s apparently famous for its fun nightlife – so fill your boots!
Embracing the Diversity of Chiang Mai
All in all, we really enjoyed Chiang Mai and can certainly understand the hype around it.
My three favourite personal highlights were the Tha Phae Gate area, the Sunday Walking Street market and Mae Rim Elephant Camp.
That said, as Chiang Mai is a place that’s always lovely and sunny, diverse in people, landscapes and activities and has a good vibe – you’re bound to enjoy your time there whatever you do.
What would you say are the best things to do in Chiang Mai? Comment below!