Chiang Mai is one of the top and most popular city’s to visit in Thailand. It’s a bustling city filled with history, plenty of activities and nature close by which makes it the perfect destination for all types of traveler’s. I promise you will not struggle with what to do in Chiang Mai whether your stay be merely a few days or week, you’ll probably end up staying for longer. I share the top things to do in Chiang Mai that you simply can’t skip on your Thailand trip!
Play with Elephants
Chiang Mai tours organize group outings to get up close and personal with elephants which can make choosing one difficult. Most offer half and full day tours, some even have overnight stays or week long retreats. You can ride elephants (though I highly discourage this) or just feed them sugar cane and give them a mud bath.
I recommend Elephant Jungle Sanctuary as the animals were treated well and it was very informative. Plus it was a little bit more budget friendly than some other choices that limit the amount of people who are with each elephant. Regardless I still got plenty of time to touch, feed, and bathe a few elephants (including a baby!).
Learn to Cook Thai dishes
Thai food is some of the best in the world with a huge range of flavors for every palate. Chiang Mai is filled with cooking classes that will take you to the market, teach you about the ingredients and then show you how to make some of the delicious dishes from appetizers to dessert.
Half and full day courses are available, but remember to go hungry to which ever one you choose. You probably won’t be able to finish it all. From spring rolls to papaya salad, coconut soup to pad thai, green curry to sticky rice, you’ll learn to make more than you can eat.
I recommend Mama Noi as it was some of the best Thai food that I’ve had and they are extremely entertaining.
READ MORE: What to Eat in Chiang Mai
Asia is filled with markets, but Chiang Mai knows how to do them best. The night bazaar is easily one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai at night. It’s targeted more at tourists, but there is plenty to see from clothes to nick knacks, souvenirs, jewelry, electronics, and more. Not to mention all of the food and live music. It’s open every night and is definitely worth checking out.
If you happen to be in Chiang Mai on a Sunday the Sunday market is famous as being one of the top markets in Thailand. Don’t miss it!
Chiang Mai Grand Canyon
Not far outside the city is one of the top places to visit in Chiang Mai. It’s a quarry for those looking to relax or for a little adventure. Rent a scooter and for 50 baht you can float on bamboo rafts in the water and watch people jump off the relatively high cliff or do it yourself. There’s now even a waterpark filled with inflatable objects to bounce off of or rent a kayak or tube.
If you’re visiting Thailand then at some point you need to see a ladyboy show and see what it’s all about. If you’re looking for what to see in Chiang Mai then look no further. Head to the Chiang Mai Cabaret show and you won’t be disappointed. The price includes your first drink and you may just see Miss Chiang Mai yourself who kissed Anthony Bourdain during one of his episodes of Parts Unknown.
Things to see in Chiang Mai always include temples and eating all the delicious food. Chiang Mai is filled with them and all of them are beautiful. Some are very significant to the Thai people, some will require you to walk up 300 stairs (worth it) and some are small but pretty. Spend half a day exploring the Old City and head up to the temple on the mountain by scooter.
I recommend checking out Wat Phra Singh for its significance, Wat Cheri Luang Worawihan for its beauty, and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which is on top of the mountain with the 300 stair climb.
READ MORE: 5 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai
Though I didn’t get to go to this waterfall myself I know I’ll be going back to see it one day. It’s a unique waterfall that is so sticky you can climb up it. It about an hours drive outside Chiang Mai, but totally worth the drive in my opinion!
Have a Night Out
Chiang Mai was great for nightlife. It was always good fun and if you’re a backpacker then you’ll love Zoe in Yellow. The most popular place in town it’s got good music, an outdoor patio and multiple other bars surround it making it the perfect place to meet other travelers.
Chiang Mai is not short on entertainment. Whether it be exploring the Old City and learning about Thai culture, eating the best food, relaxing, or playing with elephants, there are plenty of things to do in Chiang Mai for any age.
There are many more Chiang Mai activities but these are simply the best things to do in Chiang, if not the best in Thailand and SE Asia. You’ll most likely end up in Bangkok as well so make sure you check out what to do in Bangkok while you’re planning your trip!
Best Places to Stay in Chiang Mai
Check out my detailed guide on where to stay in Chiang Mai on a budget, in hostels!
Travel Insurance Thailand
- Picking travel insurance is an essential part of planning a trip for everyone, including your trip to Thailand
- If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel
- World Nomads is an affordable option that I personally recommend
- I’ve made 2 claims with World Nomads for doctors appointments and antibiotics in the Philippines and Australia
- No idea where to start? Check out my travel insurance guide to help you pick the best option for you
Heading to Thailand? You’ll love these posts.
- Thailand Trip Planning Resources
- 32 Tips for Backpacking Thailand
- How to Create a Backpacking Budget for a Southeast Asia Trip
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