10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai You Can’t Possibly Miss in 2024

10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai You Can't Possibly Miss in 2024 może cover 6

As it is one of the most visited cities in Thailand, you can imagine there are loads of things to do in Chiang Mai. And not only tourists love it – Thai people do too. Many of them would like to live there. Chiang Mai is beautifully located in the northern part of the country between mountains and national parks.

It is much calmer than crazy capital. After many things to do in Bangkok, you can take a deep breath and relax there. I spent a few days in Chiang Mai during my travel around Thailand and another week during my volunteering as an English teacher. And I would gladly go back there anytime 🙂

So what to do in Chiang Mai and its surroundings?

Things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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1. Ploen Ruedee Night Market and dance shows

things to do in Chiang Mai - night market

The most famous night market in Chiang Mai takes place every Sunday and is located along Rachadamnoen street from the main city gate Tha Phae. You can buy everything there – traditional Thai food, fruits, spices, souvenirs, clothes. You will meet a ladyboy ready to take a photo with you, street artists and musicians.

things to do in Chiang Mai - night market

But should you regret if your plan doesn’t include a Sunday in Chiang Mai? In my opinion – not at all.

things to do in Chiang Mai - night market

On all other days the night market in Chiang Mai takes place outside of the very center, east of the main “square” – and in my opinion, it is much better than the terribly crowded Sunday market.

Ploen Ruedee Night Market is a perfect place for an evening beer, traditional Thai dinner and some relaxing time with music. Every day around 7:30 pm you can see Thai dance shows. If you are looking for the best hostels in Chiang Mai, I’d recommend one fairly close to this market. It definitely is my favorite thing to do in Chiang Mai and it’s great for all travelers. Single, couples or families with kids will love Chiang Mai and the market.

2. Temples in the city

things to do in Chiang Mai - temples

You will see many Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai – more and less impressive, famous ones and the ones surprising you when you go around the corner.

Which ones are worth seeing? My recommendation is – the ones you like at the first glance 😉 Personally, I liked Wat Chedi Luang – it’s ruined but interesting stupa differs from other temples in the city. And it dates back to the XIVth century! In many temples you can also meet a monk. They are happy to answer the questions you may have about Buddhism, which is a great opportunity to learn.

If you want to have a guided tour around the city, check out TakeMeTour – I’ve recently discovered them and I love the tours they offer!

3. Elephant Sanctuary

things to do in Chiang Mai - elephant sanctuary

Elephants are amazing animals and seeing them is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai and the whole South East Asia.

 If you don’t know it yet, remember – do not ride elephants.

If you do your research you will find many reasons – I will just say that the animals are tortured to let people ride them. Also carrying something (or someone) on their back affects their health and causes an early death. Don’t support this.

things to do in Chiang Mai - elephant sanctuary

Luckily, in Thailand you can see more and more places which take good care of elephants. They promote ethical interactions with them. The most popular place is Elephant Nature Park (here you can check a review of Elephant Nature Park). Make sure to book your visit before – in high season they are booked even a few months in advance! I was late unfortunately and all days which could work for me were already booked in ENP.

things to do in Chiang Mai - elephant sanctuary

As an alternative, I found Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and that’s where we went. My visit was great but a few days after it a storm started on the EJS Facebook page. Someone claimed to see the elephants chained for the night without food and water.

EJS reacted immediately explaining that yes, the animals have to be chained because the terrain isn’t surrounded by a fence. The elephants could escape, endanger the inhabitants of nearby villages and risk being attacked by people too. They said animals never lack food and water and such a claim is a lie.

things to do in Chiang Mai - elephant sanctuary

I am not an elephant behavior specialist – but they seemed taken care of, happy and in good shape. I didn’t notice any of the symptoms of a stressed elephant (swaying from left to right, constant ear movements).

We spent the whole day in the sanctuary. We met a few elephant families, we could feed the animals, take a “mud bath” with them and wash them in the river. They were not chained, they walked on a big terrain and we didn’t notice any violence. I hope this was really a good place and that elephants are well taken care of. It seemed so – and I loved my time there, it is among the best things to do in Chiang Mai.

Seeing an elephant from close by is amazing. I always thought an elephant’s skin is rough and unpleasant to touch – but actually, it’s soft. And what is more – elephants have hair! I was shocked!

things to do in Chiang Mai - elephant sanctuary

The trunk is agile and the elephant – seemingly clumsy, is actually a graceful animal! I recommend you to visit one of the elephant sanctuaries. Just check opinions before and try to make sure it is an ethical one.

4. Doi Suthep Temple and Hmong hill tribe village Doi Pui.

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most famous and impressive temples around Chiang Mai. Everybody calls it Doi Suthep – even though it’s actually the name of the mountain. It’s a holy place for Buddhists and they come here to pray, despite the crowds of tourists. You can see a great view over the city from the temple.

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi suthep

You can get to Doi Suthep with red cars songtaew from many places in the city center – you will spot them easily or you can ask at your hotel’s reception desk for the closest place to catch one.

After seeing Doi Suthep we took another songtaew to go higher – to Hmong hill tribe village, Doi Pui.

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi pui

Before going to Thailand I read a lot about hill tribes. About their life being adjusted to tourists, completely non-authentic. Seeing them wasn’t on my list of things to do in Chiang Mai – but curiosity won. And good it did!

Life indeed spins around tourists – but you can buy many local handmade products, and eat in a tiny restaurant with just one dish on the menu. That’s where a waiter taught me how to use chopsticks 🙂

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi pui

If you go a little outside of the main streets you will see awesome mountain views – and a bit of the village’s real life.

You can either get to Doi Suthep on your own or you can make your life easier by booking an organized tour 🙂 Click the button below to check availability and prices.

5. Doi Inthanon National Park

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

Doi Inthanon is the highest peak in Thailand located in a national park with the same name. It’s one of 14 Thailand’s national parks. You can see outstanding mountain views there… if you know where to go 🙂

I visited Doi Inthanon twice – once on a tour organized by one of the tour operators in Chiang Mai and then again during my volunteering time with my host. My impressions are completely different.

The first tour disappointed me a bit. Not because it was bad but because it didn’t meet my expectations. What I hoped for the most was at least a short hike with lovely views of surrounding mountains. The trip was full of attractions – but it lacked this one. The trip included:

Wachirathan Waterfall

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

A bus ride to the highest spot in Thailand (unfortunately you can’t see anything from the very top of Doi Inthanon 😉 )

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

A short walk in the jungle along Ang Ka Luang Nature Trail

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

King and Queen Pagodas

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

A local market full of tasty fruits, lunch

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

A visit to Karen hill tribe village

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

On the other trip with my host and other volunteers we went for a hike along Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail – and it was exactly what I missed during the first trip! The trail of almost 3 kilometers leads you through the forest to open fields offering the best mountain views I saw in Thailand.

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

I know that some tour operators from Chiang Mai include this trail in their itinerary – so if you plan to book one, make sure what the program includes. If you want to book the tour in advance, click the button below – this tour does include the Kew Mae Pan Nature trail 🙂

If you plan to hike this trail on your own, you’ll need to hire a guide at the trailhead. It costs 200 THB per group (from 1 to 10 people). Keep in mind that the trail is closed from June to October.

How to get to Doi Inthanon?

things to do in Chiang Mai - doi inthanon

The easiest way is to rent a car or a scooter and get to Doi Inthanon on your own. Then you will be able to see all the above points – the waterfall, Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, and the pagodas.

Another option is an organized tour from Chiang Mai. Just double-check what it includes so as not to have wrong expectations like I did 😉

You can also take a yellow songtaew from Chiang Mai with a change in Chom Thong. Check this description on the Thai National Parks website.

6. Bike trip and bamboo rafting

things to do in Chiang Mai - bike tour

Many tour operators in Chiang Mai offer bike trips around rural areas, kayaking trips and bamboo rafting. We chose a trip combining bike and a kayak.

The cycling tour was amazing. We were lucky enough to be the only ones in the group 🙂 The guide took us on a trip around villages, he showed us local farms and plants, we stopped by tiny stands by the road and it seemed like tourists don’t get here often.

Kayaking along the peaceful river was interesting too – it lets you experience Thai nature untouched by humans. However, it was less interesting than I hoped and I had enough after 15 minutes.

Instead, I’d recommend you go bamboo rafting. I did that
during my volunteering time and it was great fun! Especially if you try to steer the raft yourself having no idea how… 😉

7. Trekking in the jungle

things to do in Chiang Mai - trekking in the jungle

Even though my trekking in the jungle was from Chiang Rai (Bamboo Tours), the Chiang Mai area offers such tours as well.

Trekking through the jungle and bamboo cooking was one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai and in Thailand in general. If you’re not planning to go to the Chiang Rai area, don’t miss it in Chiang Mai! You can book the tour in the city at any tour operator’s office.

8. Grand Canyon in Chiang Mai

things to do in Chiang Mai - grand canyon

Did you know that Thailand has its own Grand Canyon? 🙂 It’s a little different from the Grand Canyon in the USA – but it’s worth seeing anyway! It is an old quarry, currently filled up with water. A part of it is now a water park full of inflatable slides and obstacles. It’s great fun which can also raise your adrenaline level – the water is over 20 meters deep and some attractions include a jump from 10 meters tower 😉 But don’t freak out – everybody needs to wear a life jacket while using the park. It’s a perfect place for a hot day of Thai summer.

In the other part of the quarry you can sunbathe, swim and jump from cliffs on your own. If you wonder what to do in Chiang Mai when you need a chill-out day – that’s the place 🙂

The easiest way to get there is to rent a car or a scooter. You can also ask in your hotel what’s the best way to get there, they might also be able to help you organize the transportation or book an organized cycling tour to the Grand Canyon.

9. Tiger Kingdom (or not?)

things to do in Chiang Mai - tiger kingdom

Just like with elephants, there are not too many wild tigers anymore. Their natural habitat is being destroyed, people kill tigers out of fear whenever they appear close. That’s why such places like Tiger Kingdom try to develop the population of tigers in captivity.

Before going to Thailand I heard gossip that Tiger Kingdom and other similar places give drugs to the tigers so that they are calm and let people take pictures with them. That’s why I didn’t include it on my list of things to do in Chiang Mai – I didn’t want to support such a procedure.

I explored the topic more after coming back and trying to separate gossip from fact. I read some articles written by volunteers who worked there and it seemed to be a place taking good care of the animals. However, we will never know for sure. You need to make this decision by yourself – if you choose to go, let me know how it was and what you think.

10. Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls

things to do in Chiang Mai - sticky waterfall

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to go to Bua Thong Waterfall – but I couldn’t skip it from this list because it sounds fantastic! It’s a waterfall falling on limestone rocks – and the structure of it doesn’t let you slip so you can easily climb it. That’s why it’s called Sticky Waterfall near Chiang Mai. It will be on top of my list for my next trip to Thailand!

Again, it’s best to get there with a rented car or a scooter. You can also arrange the tour at a local tour operator or book a tour in advance – click the button below to check out the Sticky Waterfall tour. It is also connected with Doi Suthep mentioned above and it will be a great day 🙂 

Jimmy and Jeng Homestay – we lived in this place for all our stay in Chiang Mai. The rooms are basic but the owners are the nicest people on Earth. Right after we entered, they told us “Hi. You can relax now. You’re home” 🙂 They can make you feel like you really are. It’s cheap and in a great location close to the night market and the center. And I still miss their pineapple pancakes… Highly recommended! 

Ma Guesthouse – it’s a guest house located within the main “square” of Chiang Mai. It has outstanding reviews and the price is great too. Breakfast is included. 

Villa Thai Orchid – if you feel like having a little more comfort, this is the place to be 🙂 Perfect location in the very heart of Chiang Mai, you will get everywhere on foot. Great rooms, breakfast included – check it out! 

I hope I helped you decide on what to see in Chiang Mai – a lovely place surrounded by mountains and national parks. I’m sure you will relax, take a deep breath and love it – as much as I and most Thai people do.

Check out other posts which can help you organize your trip to Thailand: 

And if you’d like to volunteer in Thailand like I did, check out what it’s like to teach English in Asia 🙂 Trust me – it’s a great experience!

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6 thoughts on “10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai You Can’t Possibly Miss in 2024

  • Reply Christina June 2, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Chiang Mai is my dream destination in Thailand…
    I will visit that awesome place soon.

    Thanks for your amazing content and mind-blowing photos.

    • Reply Dorota June 2, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      Thank you and I hope you’ll enjoy Chiang Mai! 🙂

  • Reply Ryan - Panumart Tattoo Chiang Mai October 3, 2019 at 11:34 am

    I’d stay away from Tiger Kingdom, it’s hard to believe that the tigers there are being treated well. Even a cat, which has been domesticated for thousands of years, is prone to lashing out at its owner. I don’t believe a tiger can be trained to never do such a thing.

    • Reply Dorota October 4, 2019 at 9:14 am

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. Yes, taking part in any attraction that uses animals is controversial and we can never be sure if the animal has been treated well.

  • Reply Sarika Amy January 4, 2020 at 7:23 pm

    Grand Canyon in Chiang Mai ?
    Grand Canyon in Thai? Wow i have never heard that.
    Thanks For This Information.
    And Yeah….These Photos Are Really Awesome.

    • Reply Dorota January 10, 2020 at 9:57 pm

      It is amazing indeed! I’m glad it was useful for you 🙂

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