There is so much to know about Thailand travel as there are many destinations. But this list of the best things to do in Chiang Mai will help you plan the perfect Chiang Mai itinerary as a part of your dream Thailand itinerary. This Chiang Mai travel guide will make sure you have the best time. Click to start planning your Chiang Mai trip! #travel #budgettravel #thailand #thai #elephants />

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!

Thailand Essentials

There are a few things that you will absolutely need while in Thailand.

Reef Safe Sunscreen: Yes, Thailand has coral and yes, you should be wearing coral safe sunscreen. I’m not here to lecture you on saving the earth and plants, you know that already. This is just a friendly reminder that you can keep you and the waters safe.

Adapter: Obvi. But seriously people always forget. I like to use a universal adapter so if you don’t have one already get one stat and never worry about it again!

Reusable Water Bottle: This is an essential for ANY trip but even more important for Thailand because recycling here is not really and thing and when you see the plastic littering this beautiful island you’ll be sad that you’re contributing to the plastic issue. You can fill up your reusable bottle in lots of places.

Mosquito Repelling Bracelets: These are a thing? Totally! Mosquitoes can get nasty in Thailand and unfortunately can carry diseases. This is the healthiest option because they don’t use deet!

Activated Charcoal: When your tummy is not feeling so great and you may need to run to the bathroom at any second you’ll be happen this within arms reach. Food and stomach issues are common in Thailand and these will help you get back to health and enjoying your vacay in no time.

Travel Insurance: Just don’t travel without it, end of story. But if you need more convincing read this and while you’re at it my top travel tips for backpacking Southeast Asia.

READ MORE: Southeast Asia Packing List for Ladies

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!).

READ MORE: How to Take Part in Ethical Elephant Tourism in Southeast Asia

Play with Elephants Chiang Mai www.taylorstracks.com
One of the highlights of my trip

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

Cooking Class Chiang Mai www.taylorstracks.com
Green curry, one of many dishes cooked

Night Bazaar

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.

Grand Canyon CM www.taylorstracks.com
View from the quarry above

Ladyboy Show

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.

Temple Hopping

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

Temple Hopping Chiang Mai www.taylorstracks.com
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (on top of the mountain and 300 steps up!)

Sticky Waterfall

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!

Nature in Chiang Mai www.taylorstracks.com
Waterfall close to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the sticky waterfall would definitely be better

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.

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Taylor,

    We love the Night Bazaar and temple hopping. And love Chiang Mai in general!

    We also found a neat little 90 Baht all you can eat vegetarian buffet down some side street, not too far from the Gate. Methinks I found it online and don’t know if it’s still running. Every Tuesday night, but that was 2 years ago.

    Thanks!

    Ryan

  2. The night markets in Chiang Mai were probably my favorite ones in all of Thailand – the food was incredible and super cheap! The temples in the North are some of the best as well – I fell in love with Chiang Rai as well!
    Laura | eternal-expat.com

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