North Thailand Travel Guide: 16 Best Things to Do in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has gained its popularity as one of Southeast Asia's best digital nomad hubs in the past few years. With its affordable cost of living with so many things to do in Chiang Mai, it's a perfect place to visit or even stay if you are looking for a decent work-and-life balance in North Thailand!

So, what makes Chiang Mai so popular both as a tourist destination and a digital nomad hub? For a start, Chiang Mai offers a vibrant, big city life while the city is also surrounded by so many fascinating activities in the more rural areas that you can reach in a couple of hours drive or even less.

In this post, I'm going to share some reasons why you should visit Chiang Mai. In addition, I've also compiled some of the best activities to do in Chiang Mai with the help of some fellow travel bloggers. So, what are the best things to do in Chiang Mai in North Thailand?

Why Visit Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

There's a thing about Indonesians when traveling to another place in Southeast Asia, because we tend to describe it by comparing it to a city or another place in Indonesia with similar characteristics. For instance, when we talk about Sabah in East Malaysia, we'd describe it as “the Malaysian version of Bali” just because it's where people usually go for a honeymoon or holiday in general. 

What drew me to Chiang Mai is the fact that most Indonesian travelers who have been there usually say that Chiang Mai has similar vibes to Bandung, my hometown. Unlike most popular destinations in Thailand that are known for their beautiful beaches, Chiang Mai is located in the highlands so the city is surrounded by greeneries with mild weather that is more bearable than the typical hot weather in other places in the country. 

Chiang Mai offers several countryside areas that are worth visiting, and the neighboring city like Chiang Rai is only a few hours' drive away which makes it a perfect homebase if you want to go there on a day trip to visit some popular landmarks in North Thailand like the White Temple or the Golden Triangle. But unlike the calmer Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai offers a more vibrant life with a lively night scene along with so many coworking spaces around that makes it popular as a digital nomad hub. 

Whether you want to visit some elephant sanctuaries or go on a hike while exploring the charming architecture of some Thai temples in the surroundings, Chiang Mai is an excellent place to experience both natural beauty and unique culture in North Thailand. In addition, as one of the biggest cities in the northern part of the country, Chiang Mai is also a perfect place to go if you want to enjoy authentic delicacies in the region like khao soi (coconut curry soup) or laab (spicy salad). 

How to Travel to Chiang Mai

Whether you travel from the capital city in Bangkok or you plan to cross the border from neighboring countries like Myanmar or Laos, you can choose a few transportation options to reach Chiang Mai. 

By bus

If you want to travel by bus to Chiang Mai, the easiest way is to travel from Bangkok. There are a few bus options you can take from the capital city, whether you want to book a couch or a sleeper bus. The travel time may vary depending on how many stops in between cities, but on average it takes around 10 hours to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by bus

You can also take a combination of a sleeper bus, song taew, and a coach bus if you plan to travel all the way from Luang Prabang in North Laos to Chiang Mai. The journey typically takes around 24 hours, and even more especially since the border service in Indochina can be pretty tedious so I wouldn't recommend this if you want to travel overland from Laos to Thailand. 

If you travel from Myanmar, the best way to do it is to travel to Myawwady, the closest town to the Thailand border. From there, you can take a border service that will get you to Mae Sot in Thailand. There are a few direct bus options that can take you to Chiang Mai from there, which can take around 7 to 8 hours. 

I took the bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai using Greenbus, which can also be an alternative way to travel if you plan to get on a day trip to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai. 

By train

Chiang Mai Train Station.
Chiang Mai Train Station.

Unlike Chiang Rai that doesn't have a railway which makes it impossible to travel by train there, you can travel to Chiang Mai from some other cities in Thailand by train. If you travel from Bangkok, there are a few train options that can get you to Chiang Mai. They accommodate trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from couch to sleeper trains. Even for sleeper trains, they have both first-class and second-class trains by Thai Railway

Although my boyfriend and I traveled to North Thailand by flight to Chiang Rai, we went back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai by train. Initially, we tried to book the train ticket online via the Thai Railway website but we kept getting an error message so I decided to buy it directly from the ticket counter at Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok. 

We got on the first-class sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, but I have to say the train we got on was a bit run down compared to the one I took from Nong Khai to Bangkok a few years ago. 

Not to mention that we experienced some technical problems on the way back, and the journey that was supposed to take around 13 hours ended up getting longer as we had to stop in the middle of nowhere. We had no choice since the train couldn't run then, so we got to continue our trip to Bangkok by the bus provided by Thai Railway due to the problem. 

By flight

The fastest way to travel to Chiang Mai is by flight, as Chiang Mai has an international airport around 30 minutes from the city center. Chiang Mai International Airport can be traced with the 3-letter code CNX, and you can get a flight to get there from pretty much anywhere in Southeast Asia. 

The easiest way to fly to Chiang Mai is probably from Bangkok, since there are more than 40 direct flights from the capital city to Chiang Mai. Whether you want to fly from Don Mueang or Suvarnabhumi International Airport, there are several airlines that have Bangkok-Chiang Mai flight routes. 

Domestic flights in Thailand are the fastest way to travel, and they're quite affordable. While you can always choose a full-serviced airline like Thai Airways, there are plenty of budget airlines like Thai Vietjet Air, Nok Air, Thai AirAsia or Thai Smile for the flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. 

16 Best Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Now that you know why Chiang Mai is worth visiting when traveling to North Thailand, here are some of the best things you can add to your Chiang Mai travel itinerary!

1. Visiting Chiang Mai Light Festival

Chiang Mai Light Festival.

Visiting Chiang Mai Light Festival. Recommended by Lewis of Way to Stay.

The Chiang Mai Light Festival is an annual event held in the heart of Northern Thailand, which celebrates the ancient tradition of Yi Peng, where locals and visitors alike release beautifully crafted paper lanterns into the night sky. 

The Chiang Mai Light Festival is an annual event held in the heart of Northern Thailand, which celebrates the ancient tradition of Yi Peng, where locals and visitors alike release beautifully crafted paper lanterns into the night sky. 

The heart of the festival lies in the release of lanterns known as “khom loi” into the night sky that are illuminated with candles. They are believed to carry away misfortune and bring good luck and blessings and in the days leading up to the festival, there are often workshops held, where visitors can learn the art of lantern-making.

Of course, the festival is not just about the lanterns; there are traditional Thai music and dance performances, cultural displays, and amazing street food which all adds to the festive ambiance.

The festival brings locals and travelers together to enjoy the spectacle, the energy is infectious, and you can expect a truly unforgettable experience that connects you to the local culture, where you will leave with a profound appreciation for the beauty of ancient traditions. It's a must-visit event for anyone seeking a soul-stirring adventure in this charming city. So if the time is right, make sure to add the Light Festival to the list of things to do in Chiang Mai!

2. Getting a Sak Yant Tattoo

Getting a Sak Yant Tattoo in Chiang Mai.

Getting a Sak Yant tattoo in Chiang Mai. Recommended by Hannah & Adam of Getting Stamped. 

If you want to try a super unique experience in Chiang Mai that will be a memory forever, then you can get a Sak Yant Tattoo. To ensure you get a clean and safe Sak Yant tattoo in Chiang Mai, I recommend using Where the Sidewalk Ends. We used this company when getting our Sak Yant tattoos in Chiang Mai.

The Sak Yant tattoo is a commemorative tattoo created using a metal rod instead of a tattoo gun. This tattoo is a great way to learn more about the spiritual and cultural significance of monks in Thailand. 

The Sank Yant tattoo is designed by monks for each individual person as the tattoo is said to be blessed with magical powers and provide protection. The monk creating the tattoo will design it based on what they feel you need protection from, so while my husband and I both got a tattoo on the same day, ours look similar yet different based on the protection the monk decided we needed.

3. Trying Khao Soi

Khao soi, the Northern Thailand delicacy.

Khao soi, the Northern Thailand delicacy. Recommended by Dotti of Explore Travel Oasis.

Hanging out in northern Thailand? Tucking into some khao soi is an absolute must-do activity in Chiang Mai. 

Khao soi is a world-famous northern Thai specialty. It's one part yellow curry and one part noodle soup. Like most Thai curries, it's made with rich coconut milk and local herbs. 

Pickled mustard greens, shallots, fresh lime and ground chillies are the main players here. Unlike many other famous Thai curries, though, it's not served with rice, but with two types of noodles. Soft egg noodles are submerged in the soup, while crispy fried noodles are served on top. Sound delicious? It is! 

Khao soi is found throughout northern Thailand, but there's no better place to give it a try than Chiang Mai. Amazing restaurants serving up the dish abound, but some of the best include Khao Soi Nimman and Khao Soi Mae Sae. 

Khao soi is also an integral part of northern Thai culture, and trying it is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai. So, while you're slurping up those yummy noodles, consider yourself getting a cultural experience too. Why not have a second bowl then? 

4. Exploring the Sticky Waterfalls

Sticky Waterfalls in Chiang Mai.

Exploring Sticky Waterfalls in Chiang Mai. Recommended by Catherine of Nomadicated.

Imagine defying gravity as you climb directly up a waterfall, courtesy of a unique mineral deposit that provides traction for your adventure. That's what it really is like making a trip to the Sticky Waterfalls or Bua Thong Waterfalls. This natural playground is located in the Sri Lanna National Park, just a 60km drive from downtown Chiang Mai.

The most common way to reach the falls is by renting a scooter and getting there yourself. Other options are hiring a songthaew or joining a guided tour from Chiang Mai.

Once you arrive, relax in the serenity of the park's green surroundings. Enjoy a picnic and walk around the hiking trails before playing in the main attraction, the multi-tiered waterfall. 

The best and safest way to experience the Sticky Waterfalls is by descending the stairs to the bottom, then climbing up the tiers. Some areas do have algae growth and can be slippery, but for the most part, you'll be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to climb. The special mineral deposit coating gives you excellent grip and steady footholds.

And if you didn't get enough the first time, feel free to go again. The Sticky Waterfalls are beautiful, fun, and make for a perfect day trip from the city. It's definitely one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai!

5. Getting a Thai Massage at Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Center

Massage at the women's prison in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Get a Thai massage at Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Center.

Visiting Thailand isn't complete without getting a relaxing Thai massage, and you can get a unique experience by booking a Thai massage session at Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Center. It's the vocational training center to rehabilitate inmates for life after prison, and booking a session there is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai!

While many massage and spa parlors hire ex-inmates in Chiang Mai and use it as a part of their branding, you can also go to 100 Rachvithi Road in Chiang Mai to book a session at the training center for the current inmates. Tipping is prohibited, but the money you spend there will go directly to them as the trust fund after their release from prison.

They work on a first-come, first-served basis so you can't book a massage session online at Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Center. Try to come early to get your queuing number; they open every day from 8 AM during the weekdays and 9 AM on the weekend. The closing time is at 4.30 PM, but it sells out fast so the best time to go there is before 10 AM every day!

The rehabilitation center is well-located so even if you have to wait for a couple of hours until your turn, you can use it to visit some popular landmarks in Chiang Mai, such as the Three Kings Monument or Chiang Mai National Museum.

Their packages are limited to a 1-hour foot or traditional Thai massage; both packages cost 250 THB (around $7 USD). If you're lucky and there's still a slot available for the day, you can also choose a 2-hour traditional Thai massage for 500 THB (around $14 USD).

6. Watching the Tak Bat Rituals in the Old City

Tak Bat rituals in the Old City of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tak Bat rituals in the Old City of Chiang Mai. Recommended by Kaitlyn of Carry On Only.

Waking up early in the old city of Chiang Mai is the perfect way to witness an incredible sight. Hundreds of Buddhist Monks in their saffron robes carrying their alms bowls and walking in single file.

Buddhist locals kneel down on the side of the road, lower their heads and donate food to the monks that slowly walk past them every morning. The monks give each person a blessing too. This dawn ritual of alms giving is called “Tak Bat”, is hundreds of years old and increases merit for the afterlife.

To experience this sight, start walking inside the Old City around 6 AM. You will see them! Please don't disrupt them, don't walk in front of them and don't use a flash on your camera.

If you live in a non-Buddhist country, this is an experience of a lifetime that everyone should witness. So set your alarm, get up early, and start your day appreciating this unique ritual in beautiful Chiang Mai.

7. Visiting Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Recommended by Tamara of My Elated Odyssey.

Visiting Doi Inthanon National Park is easily one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai. Known as the “Roof of Thailand,” Doi Inthanon has the highest elevation in the country at 2,565 meters! This famous national park is known for its waterfalls, trails, and landscapes.

Doi Inthanon is located around a 2-hour drive from Chiang Mai's center. Many tours are available if you don't want to rent a car. Tours are the most popular way to visit as you won't only get transportation but learn many interesting facts about the destination.

Undoubtedly, the main highlight of visiting Doi Inthanon is seeing its Royal Twin Pagodas. They were built as a tribute to King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. The remarkable towers offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. 

The national park is an incredible destination for nature enthusiasts. There is plenty to explore between its lush landscape and natural wonders like Tad Khong Yong Waterfall! Doi Inthanon is a treasure that can be experienced at any time of the year.

8. Having Fun at Grand Canyon Water Park

Grand Canyon Water Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Grand Canyon Water Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Recommended by Amy & Dan of The Sunrise Dreamers.

Imagine a water park nestled within the picturesque surroundings of Chiang Mai, providing an escape from the tropical heat. Well, you're in luck, it exists! 

Grand Canyon Water Park is one of the best places to visit in Chiang Mai, and you should add it to your itinerary when visiting the city in North Thailand. From Chiang Mai city center, it's recommended to catch a taxi using a ride-share app such as Grab or Bolt. This way, you will know the price upfront before hopping in. It's roughly 18 kilometers away from Chiang Mai and will take around 25 minutes to drive.

Spread across 35 acres, you'll never run out of fun at Grand Canyon Water Park. A massive inflatable water park floating in the middle of a canyon is every ‘Kidults' dream. The park comprises ziplines, floating trampolines, water slides and the main event – floating adventure

All at the fair price of 800 THB (around $22 USD), this includes the entry for 1 adult, life jacket rental, 1 ride on the zipline and kayaking or canoeing on the water. The use of a locker is available for an additional cost of 100 THB (around $2.8 USD). Swimwear and action camera rental are also available here. 

For those looking to get their hearts racing with adrenaline, it is also possible to wakeboard here! With a cafe onsite, you can spend the entire day here without going hungry.

9. Kayaking on the Ping River

Kayakin on the Ping River in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Kayaking on the Ping River in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Recommended by Iris of Mind of a Hitchhiker.

Whether you've been in a tiny boat before or if it's your first time, kayaking on Chiang Mai's Ping River at sunset is a wonderful activity for those who want to see the city from a different angle. 

The (bi)weekly event starts at Wat Fa Ham Buddhist temple northeast of the city center. Behind the temple is a pier with the kayak club. For 50 THB (around $1.5 USD) per person, you can rent a one or two-person kayak with a paddle and a life jacket. 

The route with the group usually goes at a leisurely pace downstream to the Iron Bridge. Paddle to the beat of the music from the riverfront cafés and restaurants or chat with your fellow paddlers. Enjoy the sky turning dusky colors while you're enjoying the coolest temperatures in the city.

After arriving at the Iron Bridge, everyone turns around and paddles back to the temple upstream. The total distance is 5.4 kilometers and – barring flood conditions in the rainy season – the current isn't too difficult to paddle against. It's also possible to rent a kayak individually or at a different time, but it will not be as pleasantly cool on the water.

10. Visiting Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Chiang Mai Flower Festival.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival. Recommended by Gladis of Happiness on the Way.

Imagine strolling through vibrant streets adorned with a burst of colors and the sweet scent of blossoms filling the air. You've stepped into the dreamy, floral wonderland aka Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Chiang Mai comes alive every February with intricate flower floats parade through town, showcasing the region's rich floral heritage. It's a real-life masterpiece where nature meets art in the most captivating way. Apart from the sheer visual delight, it offers a unique glimpse into the local culture and traditions. It's a chance to connect with the heart of Chiang Mai and its people. Plus, if you're a photography enthusiast, get ready to capture some jaw-dropping shots!

Catch the floral floats parade at Charoen Muang Road, which moves to Nawarat Bridge, the old city, and Tha Phae Road. The parade ends at Suan Buak Haad Public Park, where the main event happens. You'll be surrounded by stunning flower arrangements, live music, street foods, and a festive atmosphere that's hard to beat.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival is not just a feast for the eyes; it's a wholehearted embrace of nature's beauty and a celebration of community spirit. It's definitely one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai if you plan to visit in February!

11. Grabbing a Cocktail at Rise Rooftop Bar

Rise rooftop bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Rise Rooftop Bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Recommended by Devon of Say Yes to the Trip.

No visit to Chiang Mai is complete without watching the sunset at Rise Bar, nestled in the vibrant Nimmanhaemin district. 

Situated on the 8th floor of the boutique hotel, Akyra Manor Chiang Mai, this rooftop bar is the perfect spot to unwind after a day of exploring and enjoy a refreshing cocktail and late-night bites.

The bar can accommodate around 20 people and features cozy sofas for relaxed seating, along with high tops that provide a dreamy view of the picturesque hills of northern Thailand, where the Doi Suthep mountain illuminates at night.

And don't forget one of the main attractions of Rise Bar—the rooftop infinity pool. The pool is open to guests of the hotel and is entirely see-through, so you can sip your cocktail while you wave to those swimming by. It's a truly unique experience!

The bar welcomes guests from 3 PM to 1 AM. If you would like to make a reservation, you can either call +66 (0) 5 321 6219 or email the staff at  

12. Signing Up for a Thai Cooking Class

Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

There's another way to enjoy Thai food, and it's by trying to cook it yourself. One of the most popular things to do in Chiang Mai is to join a Thai cooking class, where you can explore the wet market and learn how to cook some Thai food yourself.

My boyfriend and I got a chance to participate in the Tom Yum Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai, and we booked the session via Klook for $54 USD. Valid for 2 participants, the price includes free pick-up (within Chiang Mai old city area), and we got to learn how to cook 4 menus of our choice.

Since our hotel was located outside the Old City area, we got a notification the day before our scheduled cooking class to meet at Hotel M Chiang Mai. We joined the evening class, and the pick-up time was at 3 PM. We spent around 45 minutes exploring the wet market in the city before starting the cooking class at around 4.30 PM.

The chef who taught us how to cook, Oum, was a brilliant teacher. He mentioned that he spent a few years in South Korea working as a chef before returning to Thailand to start the Thai cooking class business.

The Thai cooking class consists of 4 types of food that you can choose before the class: stir-fried, soup, appetizers, and curry. When we joined the class, these were some menu options that we had to confirm one day before the class:

Stir-Fried DishesSoupAppetizersCurry
Pad ThaiHot & Sour Prawn SoupSpring RollGreen Curry + Curry Paste
Cashew Nut with ChickenChicken in Coconut Milk SoupPapaya SaladPanang Curry + Curry Paste
Pad See EawThai Noodle SoupCucumber SaladKhao Soi + Curry Paste

I don't consider myself a good cook, but it was a fun way to spend the evening. Plus, we got to enjoy dinner during the class as after learning how to cook each menu, we were the one eating them too. The cooking class finished at around 8 PM, and we were stuffed since we ate all four menus of our choice, plus a bonus of mango sticky rice as the dessert!

13. Bungee Jumping at X-Centre Chiang Mai

Bungee jumping in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Bungee jumping in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chiang Mai is heaven if you thrive for some fun outdoor activities, it's a great place to visit if you consider yourself an adventurous wanderer. X-Centre is one of the best places to go if you're looking for these fun, thrilling activities in Chiang Mai.

My boyfriend and I decided to check our bucket list to try bungee jumping for the first time in Chiang Mai. We chose X-Centre for bungee jumping in Chiang Mai for a few reasons: their high safety standards and affordable price compared to other extreme sports centers in Chiang Mai.

We paid $115 USD via Klook for both of us, although we had to arrange the transportation from Chiang Mai city center on our own. We took a Grab car to X-Centre from our hotel in the city, and it took around a 40-minute drive to get to X-Centre.

There was no queue when we arrived, so we were practically the only people who went for bungee jumping that morning. After bungee jumping, we got a certificate of courage with our name and everything so it was really a fun way to spend the day in Chiang Mai!

The bungee jumping itself barely took an hour for both of us, so after bungee jumping we decided to do an ATV as well. We booked it on the spot for 2500 THB (around $70 USD) for a single-seater ATV, and we explored the countryside around the X-Centre area during this ATV trip.

If bungee jumping and outdoor activities aren't really your cup of tea, you can also find some indoor climbing spots in Thailand that are worth visiting for adventure seekers!

14. Exploring the Night Markets in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

Visiting Chiang Mai Night Market. Recommended by Alex & Leah of Alex and Leah on Tour. (Image Source: Canva)

One of the best things to do in Chiang Mai is without a doubt the night markets. Situated at the north, south, east and west bridges going out of the city, night markets are one of the best places to visit to experience true Thai cuisine and culture. 

Cooking everything from Pad Thai to Poh Pia Tod (Spring Rolls) to Kai Jeow (Thai Omelette), your tastebuds will be more than satisfied with the array of culinary options available.

Do bear in mind these markets are not limited to food. Rows upon rows of stalls will be limited to both clothing stalls as well as ornaments and souvenirs. There will be so much to see and do you can easily spend a whole evening and more looking around and just exploring. 

Do remember to always bring cash to the night markets, including the famous Chang Phuak Gate Night Market, and that haggling is allowed when shopping for clothes or any other items!

15. Visiting the Elephant Sanctuary

Visiting the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Visiting an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (Image Source: Canva)

Traveling to Thailand isn't complete without visiting an elephant sanctuary, and Chiang Mai is home to many of them. There are many tour options available to visit an elephant rescue center in Chiang Mai, which includes everything from pick-up, to learning about the story of the elephants and their daily activities in the sanctuary.

Before visiting the elephant sanctuary, make sure to book a reputable tour that won't involve riding elephants or any other unethical activities that involve the rescued elephants.

Most tours to the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai usually take around 4 to 6 hours, since most rescue centers are located outside the city. Alternatively, you can also book a full-day tour with more activities to spend for the day.

Ran-tong Elephant Sanctuary is one of the best options for visiting the rescued elephants in Chiang Mai, as they're devoted to taking care of the abused elephants not only in Chiang Mai, but also across the country. In addition, you'll also get a chance to wear traditional Karen clothes while educating yourself about these majestic yet vulnerable creatures!

16. Giving Back to the Buddhist Community

Giving back to the Buddhist Community.

Buddhist monks. Recommended by Nicholas of The World Overload. (Image Source: Unsplash)

A great reason to visit Thailand is to explore more of your spiritual side and how its represented here in the culture. With a country mostly dedicated to Buddhism, you can find several activities that allow you to participate in that brand of religious teaching without needing to be deeply religious yourself. 

One of these is giving back to Buddhist monks. It's highly recommended to do it in Chiang Mai as it is a lesser populated city. Not only will your contribution to this ritual be more appreciated but you will also feel like one of the locals instead of a tourist. 

It's one of those things that feels deeply gratifying not only afterward but also not as widely known so you will feel like you are connecting to your spiritual side even more.

FAQ About Traveling to Chiang Mai

As usual, I'm going to list some of the most frequently asked about traveling to Chiang Mai to highlight some of the things you need to know before visiting the city!

What to expect from Chiang Mai?

One of my first impressions about Chiang Mai is that it has a bit of Chiang Rai and Bangkok in it. 

Due to its mountainous region, as well as some activities and culture that are pretty much similar to the neighboring city in North Thailand, it's pretty understandable that most people usually travel to Chiang Rai on a day trip since the activities in both cities aren't that different.

However, since it's a bigger city than Chiang Rai, it has some big city problems like Bangkok including the traffic jam. All the chaos, minus the facilities that Bangkok has since Chiang Mai doesn't have a rapid transit system like BTS in the capital city. 

Chiang Mai is big, but you need to rely on other public transport like songthaew or taxi to get around. There is a public bus service called the RTC Chiang Mai Smart City Bus, but unless you stay at a hotel close to a bus stop, you may still need to take another transport to get to the bus stop. 

Which area to stay in Chiang Mai?

The best area to stay in Chiang Mai is around the Old City, because it's close to everything you need to visit in Chiang Mai. From the bustling night market, to museums and temples with some unique experiences you can only visit in Chiang Mai.

We made a mistake by staying in the business district in Chiang Mai instead, and it cost us a little bit more extra than we could should we stay in the Old City of Chiang Mai.

How many days is enough in Chiang Mai?

We stayed in Chiang Mai for 3 days and 2 nights, and I think we could explore more of the city if we stayed there a little bit longer.

3 days and 2 nights may be enough if you want to focus more on exploring the Old City of Chiang Mai, but it may be too short if you want to go to some places to visit in Chiang Mai outside the city like the elephant sanctuary or Doi Inthanon National Park.

If that's the case, I would recommend staying in Chiang Mai for a week if you want to make the best out of your stay in the city in North Thailand.

ATV at X-Centre near Chiang Mai, Thailand.
ATV at X-Centre near Chiang Mai, Thailand.


Chiang Mai is practically the most popular destination in North Thailand, as travelers often go to Chiang Mai as a transit city before exploring other places in the northern part of the country or crossing the border to countries like Laos and Myanmar.

There are so many things to do in Chiang Mai, whether you want to experience the best of North Thailand's culture or explore the flora and fauna in the region. As a city in the Thai highlands, you can also enjoy the natural beauty from Chiang Mai, whether you want to make a day trip to the waterfall or kayaking on the Ping River.

Among all these fantastic things to do in Chiang Mai, which one is your favorite? Share in the comment below, and cheerio!

marya the beautraveler author profile
Marya The BeauTraveler

I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.


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