If the hustle and bustle of big South East Asian capitals such as Bangkok is a little too crowded for you then you should certainly consider a city break in Chiang Mai. This Northern Thai city is walkable and full of interesting sites and temples. It’s also popular for longer breaks or even as a destination to base yourself as an ex-pat or digital nomad.
Getting to Chiang Mai
There is an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai which is cheap and comfortable. However, you can fly there from Bangkok in just over an hour and it’s still quite cheap even to fly. Air Asia and Vietjet Air are two good and reliable airlines for this route.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai
It’s a good idea to stay within the city walls if you can – then you will be close to the main temples and attractions. If you have a healthy budget then I would recommend staying at the Chiang Mai Shangri-La. If you are on a more conservative budget you can go for something like the Rainforest Boutique Hotel. If you are on a student or backpacker’s budget you can get very cheap dorm rooms in Chiang Mai. Some of the most popular hostels are Hostel Lullaby and 248 Street Hostel.
Activities in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a lively city with good shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. There is a fantastic night market that you shouldn’t miss – where you can get a nice Pad Thai for around $1!
Yoga and meditation are popular activities for tourists and digital nomads in this city. Follow this link if you are interested in a Yoga retreat Chiang Mai.
It’s also a fantastic area for hiking, cycling and zip lining. Explore the local countryside and combine it with fun and adventure. The best ziplining experiences in Chiang Mai are the Dragonflight zipline and Eagle track zipline.
If you love wildlife then you should definitely visit the Elephant Nature Park. This is the most ethical Elephant park in the area and they rescue elephants from abusive situations and elephant riding camps. It’s home to over 4000 animals and you can have an interactive experience helping to look after them.
Temples in Chiang Mai
One of my favorite things about the City of Chiang Mai is its religious and cultural center. Within the city, itself don’t miss Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, and Wat Phra Singh. But actually, there are around 117 Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai and so you can spend days, if not weeks exploring them.
You must make the trip outside of the city to Wat Doi Suthep. This is the most famous and sacred temple in Chiang Mai – the one that you often see in pictures with the large golden Chedi. Be prepared for quite a few steps walking up to it!
Day trips and weekend trips from Chiang Mai
If you are lucky enough to be staying in Chiang Mai longer term say for a few weeks or months, you will be able to make some trips out of Chiang Mai to see some of the amazing surrounding areas.
Chiang Rai is doable as a day trip, but best enjoyed in a full weekend. It’s a sleepy Northern Thai town with relaxing bars, an authentic night market and once again – amazing temples. You will be able to explore the Blue Temple, the White temple and the Bandaam Museum.
Another trip from Chiang Mai that comes highly recommended is a weekend trip to see Sukhothai Historical Park. It will take you around 6 hours on a bus to get to Sukhothai Historical Park. If you can go on a Friday and stay through untl the Sunday this will allow you to see all the sites and really appreciate the park. Sukhothai Historical Park is a beautiful park full of ancient temples and Budhha figures. It was one of the most beautoful places I visited in Thailand.
In summary, although Chiang Mai is doable in 3-4 days, I would recommend a week there to truly enjoy the sites on offer. Spend longer if you would like to visit surrounding areas such as Chaing Rai and SUkhothai.
Have you visited Chaing Mai? I’d love to hear your feedback. Please comment on our blog below.