Immersive 4 Day Itinerary for Chiang Mai, Thailand

Published Categorized as Travel Blog, Destinations, Thailand Travel
Doi Suthep - Chiang Mai, Thailand
Doi Suthep - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Deciding on an itinerary for Chiang Mai, Thailand is a difficult task as there are so many options to suit every discerning traveller. It is a land of misty mountains and colourful hill tribes, a playground for seasoned travellers, a paradise for shoppers and a delight for adventurers.

Whilst we spent 1 month in Chiang Mai, most fellow travellers we met had an average of 4 days in the city. As such, we decided to provide a detailed outline of a 4 day itinerary for Chiang Mai, with a few additional suggestions to extend your stay if you have the time.


“I wanted to see Thailand. So I went. And I had a good time.”

– F. Murray Abraham –

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Introduction to Chiang Mai

Where is Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai, sometime written as Chiengmai or Chiangmai, is the largest city in northern Thailand, and the third largest city in the nation after Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. Founded in 1296, it was the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its old city area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious centre.


Map of Chiang Mai

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Map of Chiang Mai

Why Visit Chiang Mai?

  1. The Weather – due to the northern location and higher altitude, the temperature is cooler and far more pleasant than other places in Thailand
  2. Budget Friendly – Chiang Mai is one of the most budget friendly cities in all of Thailand.
  3. Temples – With over 300 temples, 30 of which are in the Old City alone, this alone is reason to visit some of these incredible structures.
  4. Northern Thailand Food – Northern Thailand food is heavily influenced by Laos and Myanmar cuisine, and the different climate also enables different herbs and vegetables to grow. Khao soi (egg noodles in a coconut curry with deep-fried noodles on top) and Sai Oi (Northern Thai sausage) are must eats!

When Should I Visit?

November to February: This is a good time to visit Chiang Mai because the weather is perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities.  While it does not get too cold, you should carry a jacket and long pants with you.  January is usually considered the best month and sees a huge increase in tourists. If you plan a trip in November, you will catch the Loi Krathong festivities and in February, you will see the Chiang Mai Flower Festival.

March to May: While summer starts to set in from the end of March, tourists still visit Chiang Mai and it is a good time to look for deals on hotels and flights. Even if the temperature during the day is high, you can spend the afternoon in the pool and head out after sunset.  Temperatures rise up to 40°C between April and May.  Carry light cottons, sunglasses and hats to beat the heat.

June to October: The temperature during rainy season cools down although the humidity rises. While it rains less than southern Thailand, monsoons are still heavy in Chiang Mai as well. You will have to be prepared with umbrellas, raincoats and sturdy shoes. Not many tourists visit Chiang Mai during the monsoon so if you are looking for a quieter (and cheaper) holiday in this ancient town, then this is the time for you.

February and November are the best times to visit Chiang Mai, Thailand. These months are before and after peak tourist season when the weather is cooler and at its best. During these months you’ll find fewer crowds and cheaper accommodation.


Cheapest Time to Visit Chiang Mai

Late April until late October draws the least amount of tourists, so accommodation and flight prices drop. However, these are the months when temperatures peak without the reprieve of a sea breeze like the tourist hotspots in Southern Thailand. 


Ideal Time to Visit Chiang Mai

The ideal time to visit Chiang Mai is between October and April. Weather during this period is mostly cool and pleasant with a light breeze, which is also why it is peak tourist season. Another good time to visit Chiang Mai is during the festivals when the city is at its vibrant best (see below).

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Relaxing in the park near Thae Pae Gate and chatting with some students practicing their English

Festivals / Events Calendar

JANUARYJULY
Bo Sang Umbrella Festival
Chinese New Year
Cherry Blossom Viewing
Sunflower Blooming Season – Mae Chaem
Chiang Mai Red Cross and Winter Fair
Chiang Mai Jazz Festival
Wai Sa Phaya Mengrai
Khao Phansa Day
FEBRUARYAUGUST
Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Bann Tawai Village Woodcarving Fair
Makha Bucha Day
 
MARCHSEPTEMBER
  
APRILOCTOBER
Songkran (Thai New Year)
Chakri Memorial Day
Wan Awk Phansa
Chulalongkorn Memorial Day
MAYNOVEMBER
Inthakhin Festival
Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival
Visakha Bucha Day
Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai
Yee Peng
Sunflower Blooming Season – Mae Chaem
JUNEDECEMBER
Inthakhin City Pillar Festival Cherry Blossom Viewing
Nimmanhemin Arts and Crafts Fair
Sunflower Blooming Season – Mae Chaem
Chiang Mai Design Week
Chiang Mai Festivals / Events Calendar

READ MORE: CHIANG MAI LANTERN FESTIVAL AND OTHER 2021 FESTIVAL


Where to Stay / Location in the City?

Old Town – Where to Stay in Chiang Mai for the First Time

The most popular and best area to stay in Chiang Mai the first time you visit is definitely in the Old Town and around it.The Old Town is easily spottable because it’s an (almost) perfect square, surrounded by a beautiful moat. This is where most of things are, from ancient temples, museums and countless restaurants and cafes, as well as markets. We enjoy staying in the Old Town due to the convenience and walking distance to countless fantastic restaurants and bars.

Some of the best attractions in the Old Town include Wat Phra Temple, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang and other unmissable sights.


If you would like to stay in the Old Town, here are the hotels we recommend:

Luxury (US$100 and Up)
Mid-Range (US$30 to US$100)
Budget (Up to $US30)

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN CHIANG MAI OLD TOWN AND MAKE A RESERVATION!


Night Bazaar Area

The Night Bazaar is another one of the better places for tourists travelling to Chiang Mai. It’s located very close to the Old City and it’s the perfect place if you’re looking to shop! Also, there are many of the more upscale hotels in this area (but you’ll find options for all budgets here) and it’s a great place for party people looking for nightlife as well.

If you would like to stay in the area near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, here are the hotels we recommend:

Luxury (US$100 and Up)
Mid-Range (US$30 to US$100)
Budget (Up to $US30)

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN CHIANG MAI NIGHT BAZAAR AREA AND MAKE A RESERVATION!


Riverside – Where to Stay in Chiang Mai with a Family

If you’re looking for a more relaxed stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the Riverside area is your perfect choice. This area is located right next to Ping River (you can expect a beautiful view from your window) and it’s a great choice for laid-back travellers, as well as families.

Here you’ll find beautiful streets full of old, authentic charm, a calm atmosphere, and tons of hotel options!

If you would like to stay in the Riverside area, here are the hotels we recommend:

Luxury (US$100 and Up)
Mid-Range (US$30 to US$100)
Budget (Up to $US30)

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN CHIANG MAI RIVERSIDE AREA AND MAKE A RESERVATION!


Nimman (Nimmanhemin) – Where to Stay in Chiang Mai for Nightlife

The Nimman area is a popular area for expats. You’ll find great restaurants and coffee places everywhere you look, it’s trendy, modern and you’ll find plenty of malls and boutique shops here too. If you’re looking for a hip area perfect for youngsters, Nimmanhemin (or Nimman Road) is THE place to be!

If you would like to stay in the Nimman area, here are the hotels we recommend:

Luxury (US$100 and Up)
Mid-Range (US$30 to US$100)
Budget (Up to $US30)

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN CHIANG MAI NIMMAN AREA AND MAKE A RESERVATION!

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Chiang Mai Temple Roofline Against a Clear Blue Sky

Transport / How to Get Around

Transport To / From Airport

Bus

The Chiang Mai City Bus, recognised by their blue colour, is the cheapest and most convenient option for getting to the city. Travel time to the centre is 25-30 minutes and offers air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi.

To catch the bus, download the CM Transit by RTC app to see bus times and routes, and then head outside arrivals by exiting the terminal via ‘Door 1 Exit’, and look for the white bus stop sign.

From Chiang Mai airport there are 2 routes to choose from:

  • Route R3 Red – Chiang Mai Airport to Nimman and then via Tha Phae Gate 1 in the Old City back to the airport
  • Route R3 Yellow – Chiang Mai Airport to the Tha Phae Gate 1 in the Old City and then via Nimman back to the airport

Bus tickets cost 20baht for a single trip and you can pay using coins or Rabbit Card.

Between the hours of 6:00am – 11:30pm, buses leave every 20-30 minutes Monday to Sunday.


Songthaew (Shared Taxi)

To get the best price (not the tourist price) for a songthaew, turn right outside arrivals and head towards departures. Wave down a songthaew that has just dropped off passengers and you won’t get offered a higher tourist rate.

As songthaews have no fixed route, you simply tell the driver where you are going, then go round the back and hop in. Make sure you pay your 40 baht to the driver once you arrive at your destination, not before.

The cost of a songthaew to the city from the airport will be 40 baht per person.


Airport Taxi

We often opt for the convenience of the airport taxi service the first time we arrive in a new city. In most cities, airport taxis are notorious for overcharging, but you don’t have to worry at Chiang Mai Airport.

These taxis have fixed prices per car, rather than per person, depending on where your hotel is located.

To book a taxi, head to the far left-hand side of arrivals. Look for a lady with a clipboard who will give you a fixed price based on your hotel’s address.

The cost of a taxi to the city will be between 100 – 150 baht.


Grab App

Grab is the common ride-hailing app in Chiang Mai and is a convenient way to get around. However, Grab taxis are not officially allowed into the airport itself, so this isn’t the best option.

Additionally, Grab adds an additional 100 baht surcharge to anywhere close to the airport. So, contrary to other countries, it is cheaper to get an airport taxi rather than Grab when you first arrive in Chiang Mai.


By Road / Bus

Tuk-Tuk

Everyone knows about Thailand’s tuk-tuks. They are quick, noisy, they go everywhere, and depending on your bargaining skills, they are inexpensive. Tuk-tuks, after songthaews, are the second most common mode of transport in Chiang Mai, however, compared to a songthaew, tuk-tuks are more expensive.

Tuk-tuks are one of the most common means of transport in Chiang Mai. You’ll find plenty of tuk-tuks waiting around the Tha Phae Gate area and all major tourist sites. They will often beep and slow down when driving past to see if you want a ride. Many times, the tuk-tuk drivers will see you before you see them! They offer a private door-to-door service around the city.

Rates start at 60 baht for a short trip and 100 to 150 baht for longer distances.

Top Tip: Always negotiate the price before starting getting into the tuk-tuk. It also helps to have a rough idea of the cost beforehand (ask in your hotel for an idea of normal prices).


Songthaew

It is very easy to find songthaews (converted pickup trucks with two benches in the back) in Chiang Mai either day or night all over the city. Simply wave one down on the street (or approach a waiting driver), and tell the driver where you want to go. If it is along the general route or the driver is going in that direction, ask the price and hop on. The fare is by person. Simply buzz when you want to get off.

For only 30 baht during day time (after dark you may need to negotiate a little), you can get a songthaew going to anywhere and everywhere in the city, as long as you don’t mind sharing your ride with other passengers and pick up and drop off as they go.

Some songthaew can provide taxi service (your own private ride) if you ask the driver, and you may sit next to the driver’s seat with air-conditioning on, going to any location you decide. The fare is, of course, higher but still cheaper than a taxi (usually 150 baht or less for a one-way ride in the city).

Top Tip: Many major shopping centres operate free shuttle services by songthaew, transporting people from tourist areas and major hotels to the malls. If you wanted a mall trip anyway, they’re ideal.

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One of many songthaews in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Motorbike Taxi

For solo travellers, motorbike taxis can be a great way to move around Chiang Mai. As with tuk-tuks you should always agree on the price before taking a ride. They are a faster way to travel during rush hour and on congested roads.

Groups of motorbike taxis usually congregate on strategic corners and close to major sites; you’ll recognise them from their pink vests. Fares normally start from 50 baht (always negotiable) and it’s cheaper than a normal taxi or tuk-tuk.

Top Tip: If a motorbike taxi driver doesn’t offer a helmet, find another one that does, no matter how short a journey you’ll be taking.


Taxi

Taxis in Chiang Mai are available but their numbers are small and they are not easy to wave down. Taxis do not cruise the streets – they are waiting at the airport, railway station, bus station, malls, and hotels. If you see a taxi with a light in the window, it means it is vacant.

It is a good idea to ask your hotel to call a taxi for you and ask the driver for his phone number. Get one or two more taxi numbers in case he is not available. Taxi fares are by the meter and it costs around 100 to 200 baht per ride in the city. Most tourists will take a taxi to their hotel on arrival at Chiang Mai airport.

Top Tip: Ask your driver to use the meter. If a taxi driver refuses to turn the meter on, ask for another driver. If you are met with several refusals, negotiate a rate for your trip. While drivers should use the meter, they often flat out refuse.


Grab / Uber

Mobile ride-sharing app, Grab and Uber is probably the most convenient way to travel around Chiang Mai. In fact, the fare is often cheaper than a regular taxi service if you follow the latest COUPON code (which is frequently available).

Top Tip: Grab is Southeast Asia’s own version of Uber! If you are planning a long vacation in Southeast Asia, download this app onto your mobile phone as it will be extremely useful for your travelling experience in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and The Philippines.


Self- Drive – Motorbike (Scooter)

If you know how to ride a small and speedy motorbike (scooter), this could be the best and cheapest way to get around Chiang Mai and to the towns nearby.

Renting a motorbike will cost you approximately 150 to 200 baht per day (24 hours) for a 125cc motorbike with automatic transmission capable of carrying two people, plus 2 helmets.

A valid Thai or international motorbike license is a legal requirement when riding a motorbike in Chiang Mai.  Police frequently fine drivers (200 baht) without a valid driving license and for not wearing a helmet. Normally there will be a small payment counter whenever a roadblock is conducted and a receipt (fine ticket) will be given upon payment. Remember to keep the ticket and show it in case you encounter another roadblock on the same day (you won’t be punished twice for the same offence).

Top Tip: Most rental agencies will ask for your passport as security against the motorbike. If you aren’t comfortable with this (we aren’t), make a photocopy of your passport and give that to them instead.


By Rail

Chiang Mai Train Station is located two kilometres (1.2 miles) outside of the city centre, on the opposite side of the Ping River. Chiang Mai is the last stop on the Northern Line, with several trains per day to Bangkok via Lampang, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Sawan, and Ayutthaya.

It is better to buy tickets at least a couple of days in advance of travel to avoid disappointment and secure a bunk or seat in the class that you want. There are rapid, express, and special express services, and classes include first, second, and third.

Top Tip: The bottom bunk in sleeper carriages on night services may be a little more expensive than the top bunk, but it offers a lot more space. The night train also saves you on accommodation costs.

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By Air

Chiang Mai Airport (CNX) has two inter-connected terminals within one building. One terminal serves international routes while the other is for domestic departures. The most popular domestic destinations from Chiang Mai are Bangkok and Phuket, though there are also direct flights to other Thai cities. Major carriers with domestic routes include Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, Thai Lion Air, Thai Smile, Bangkok Airways, and Thai Airways.

Top Tip: Domestic flights can be inexpensive (especially if booked in advance) and hassle free.


4 Day Itinerary for Chiang Mai

We decided to provide an outline of an ideal 4 day itinerary for Chiang Mai as this seems to be the ‘sweet spot’ for most visiting this city.  Additional full-day and half-day suggestions have also been detailed which would allow you to modify this itinerary to suit the holiday length of your choosing.


Day 1 – Explore the Old City

Morning

On your first day, wander around the Old City of Chiang Mai and get an introduction to its rich history. The best and easiest way to do this is by a walking tour (either self-guided like the one below or organised). Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing to visit the temples i.e. clothes that cover your knees, cleavage, midriff and shoulders.

Wat Phan Tao

Dating back to the 14th century, Wat Phan Tao is one of the older temples found in the walled city of Chiang Mai. Originally a throne room for the kings of Chiang Mai, it was later torn down and its wooden panels were used to construct the hall of Wat Pan Tao.

  • Visit Duration: 30-60 minutes
  • Where: Phra Pokklao Road, Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai
  • Hours: 5:00am – 6:00pm
  • Cost: Free
  • How to get from Wat Phan Tao to Wat Phan On: 5 minute walk
Wat Phan On

Founded in 1501 by the king Mueang Kaeo, the Wat Phan On is one of the more modest sized temples in the already culturally rich city of Chiang Mai. Sights to be seen include a golden shrine, larger hall or viharn as denoted colloquially and the living quarters of the monks. This temple is claimed to have the most beautiful chedi in all of Chiang Mai.

The market is open from 4pm until midnight.

  • Visit Duration: 30-60 minutes
  • Where: Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District
  • Hours: 6:00am – 6:00pm
  • Cost: Free
  • How to get from Wat Phan On to Lanna Folklife Museum: 7 minute walk
Lanna Folklife Museum

The Lanna Folklife Museum is an interesting museum full of exhibitions about the lives, history and culture of the Lanna people of northern Thailand. The museum (also called the Lanna Heritage Centre) is located opposite the three Kings Monument in the middle of the old city, and sits inside the old municipal court of Chiang Mai. The building has been renovated and now looks like a white colonial-style building, and despite the exterior the museum offers a lot of information about the city’s history.

  • Visit Duration: 30-60 minutes
  • Where: Ratvithi, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chaing Mai
  • Hours: 8:30am – 5:00pm, Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday)
  • Cost: Adults 90 baht, Children 40 baht
  • How to get from Lanna Folklife Museum to Three Kings Monument: 2 minute walk
Three Kings Monument

In roughly the center of the walled city, in the district where the former rulers of Chiang Mai built their palaces, stands the monument to the ‘Three Kings’ — King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai; his contemporary and reportedly good friend King Ramkamhaeng of Sukothai; and King Ngam Muang of Payao.

  • Visit Duration: 5-10 minutes
  • Where: Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai 
  • Hours: Anytime
  • Cost: Free
  • How to get from Three Kings Monument to Wat Lok Moli: approx. 12 minute walk
Wat Lok Moli

Wat Lok Moli is one of the oldest and largest chedis in northern Thailand. A chedi is a former Buddhist temple that was used by monks as a residence and study place for fostering the spread of Buddhism. The temple can be found just outside Chiang Mai’s walled city center, and is considered a landmark attraction of great cultural importance. 

  • Visit Duration: 30-60 minutes
  • Where: 298/1 Manee Nopparat Road,  Si Phum, Chaing Mai
  • Hours: 6:0am – 5:00pm, Monday to Sunday
  • Cost: Free
  • How to get from Wat Lok Moli to Khao Soi Khun Yai Restaurant: 2 minute walk
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A brand new motorbike being blessed by a monk at Wat Lok Moli – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Khao Soi Khun Yai Restaurant

No matter who you ask on where to go to get the best khao soi, they will tell you Khao Soi Khun Yai Restaurant. And, it did not disappoint!

At Khao Soi Khun Yai you get your bowl of beef (35 baht) or chicken (30 baht) curry noodles and a side plate with the normal garnishing goodness of pickled mustard green, chopped red onions, a wedge of lime, and a petri dish of fragrantly roasted chili flakes.

This was without a doubt the best khao soi we had in our time in Chiang Mai. Highly recommended!

  • Visit Duration: 30-60 minutes (depends on the line-up)
  • Where: Sri Poom Road Just after Sri Poom 8 Alley, Chaing Mai
  • Hours: 10:00am – 2:00pm, Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday)
  • Cost: 30 baht (chicken) and 35 baht (beef)
  • How to get from Khao Soi Khun Yai Restaurant to Wat Phra Singh: approx. 12 minute walk

Top Tip: We were told to get there before 12pm to ensure they hadn’t run out.  We were glad we did because they did run out just as were finishing our meals just before 1pm.


Afternoon

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh dates back to the 14th Century and is considered one of the most beautiful and revered temples in the walled city. The temple houses a couple of medieval Buddha statues that attract thousands of visitors every year. This is a major monastery in Chiang Mai and over 700 monks stay here.

  • Visit Duration: 45-90 minutes
  • Where: Thanon Samlarn Lane 1, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai
  • Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm, Monday to Sunday
  • Cost: Free (50 baht to visit the main viham)
  • How to get from Wat Phra Singh to Wat Chedi Luang: 2 minute walk
Wat Chedi Luang

You may miss out some of the Buddhist temples in and around the historic city of Chiang Mai while exploring North Thailand, but do not miss out on the magnificent Wat Chedi Luang. The name denotes Temple of the big stupa. Located at the heart of the city, this grandiose ruined temple was set up possibly in the 14th Century.

  • Visit Duration: 30-60 minutes
  • Where: 141/6 Soi Thanon Rachadamnoen, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai
  • Hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm, Monday to Sunday
  • Cost: Adults 40 baht, Children 20 baht

Top Tip: This temple is beautiful at night when it is lit up and is very easy to do if you visit the night markets.


Evening

Head to Zoe in Yellow Bar and Nightclub, the Old City’s nightlife melting spot. It is a bar with a dance floor, surrounded by seven other bars, each offering slightly different music, ranging from dance, pop, hip hop to drum’n’bass, techno and reggae. Drinks are very reasonable in all the bars, with a beer at Zoe in Yellow costing around 60 baht and a cocktail 100 baht.

  • Where: 40/12 Ratvithi Road, Chiang Mai
  • Hours: Sunset – Midnight, Monday to Sunday
  • Cost: Free Entry

Day 2 – Doi Suthep and Wat Pha Lat

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing to visit the temples i.e. clothes that cover your knees, cleavage, midriff and shoulders. Also, if you plan on doing the hike at Wat Pha Lat, bring insect repellent as there are a lot of mosquitos there.

Morning – Doi Suthep

Spend the morning visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is deemed as one of the most significant and popular religious tourist spots. Also noted for its use of northern Thai architecture, the temple is placed atop a mountain, Mount Suthep, which overlooks the city. To reach the hilltop Buddhist temple, you have to climb a 306-step staircase (or you can use the tourist elevator).

Doi Suthep is located 15 kilometres from the city center and due to traffic, the drive can take up to one hour each way. You can take a songthaew to the Chiang Mai Zoo for 20 baht and then another shared taxi from there for about 40 baht to the temple. Often the drivers want to take you directly to the temple, which of course increases the price significantly. If you negotiate well, a return trip with your own rented shared taxi should not cost you more than 400 baht.

  • Visit Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Where: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Road Srivijaya Suthep Mueang Chiang Mai District 
  • Hours: 6:00am – 5:00pm, Monday to Sunday
  • Cost: 30 baht (+ 50 baht for the lift)
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Doi Suthep – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Afternoon – Wat Pha Lat

Wat Phat Lat is a very famous Buddhist temple in Thailand. Though in terms of beauty, grandeur and opulence Doi Suthep may be the most famous, but in terms of serenity, natural essence and simplicity, Wat Phat Lat beats others hands down. Nestled within a lush, exotic forest and situated by the side of a waterfall, this temple has been designed as a perfect refuge for the weary monks out on religious tours in ancient times.


Soon after you start trekking on The Monks’ Trail (read here for more information on Wat Pha Lat Monks’ Trail) to the temple from the end of Suthep Road you are greeted by a picturesque scene of a lush exotic jungle. Trek your way up through the path indicated by the customary orange cloth worn by Buddhist monks, and you will be greeted by the exotic sounds of birds, insects, streams and waterfalls. After about 40 minutes you can behold the mesmerizing sight of the temple shrouded in a magical veil of history. Apart from the temple you can also get an exciting view of Chiang Mai from the top.

  • Visit Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Where: Highway 1004, Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang Chaing Mai 
  • Hours: 6:00am – 5:00pm, Monday to Sunday
  • Cost: Free Entry

Evening – Massage

After your hike today, treat yourself to a massage! Massages in Thailand are offered all over the place and in general, are super cheap. You might be tempted to enter the first 200 baht massage place you see, but be wary, as not all Thai massages are created equal.  Here are some of our recommendations:

Perception Blind Massage

Support a social enterprise whilst getting on of the best massages in the city. The eyes are useless when the mind is blind, at least according to these masseuses.

  • Where: 278 Thapae Road, Chiang Mai
  • Hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm, Daily
  • Cost: Thai Massage / Foot Massage from 450 baht for 1 hour
Temple Massages at Wat Pan Whaen and Wat Sum Pao

In addition to admiring incredible Buddhist architecture, you can also get massages at a handful of temples that double as massage parlours. Both the temples of Wat Pan Whaen and Wat Sum Pao have massage studios on site and are some of the cheapest in town. What these parlours lack in air-conditioning, they make up for in skill.

  • Where: Wat Pan Whaen – Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai, Wat Sum Pao – 158/2 Ratchapakhinai Road, Si Phum, Mueang Chaing Mai
  • Hours: 9:00am – 7:00pm, Daily
  • Cost: Thai Massage 150 baht for 1 hour

Day 3 – Elephant Nature Park and Night Bazaar

All Day – Elephant Nature Park

Enjoy a full day tour to the Elephant Nature Park, a tranquil and serene camp where you can interact with the majestic elephants in their own habitat. The Elephant Nature Park was founded in 1995 by a humanitarian and animal lover-Sangduen “Lek” Chailert. The park is an initiative to provide a home to abused elephants that have spent the majority of their lives in the illegal logging industry.

Elephant Nature Park is home to over 35 elephants that have been saved from not just illegal logging industries but also the tourist industry. Guests are allowed to feed, bathe and play with rescued elephants whilst learning more about them. 

  • Where: 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai
  • Hours: 7:00am – 5:00pm, Monday to Sunday
  • Cost: Full Day Tour from 2500 baht (adult), child 7-11 years is 50%

Evening – Night Bazaar

We thoroughly enjoyed the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. There were countless food stands and plenty of places to sit, watch live music and grab a drink.

A good way to check out the whole thing is to start at Tha Phae Road and work your way south towards Loi Khro. Once you reach the end of the market, cross the street and work your way back along the other side. Don’t forget to peek down the little sois (alleyways) and arcades along the way. If you see something you like you might want to be patient-there are hundreds of vendors and an absolute flood of products for sale.

  • Where: Tha Phae Road, Chiang Mai
  • Hours: 6:00pm – 10:30pm, Monday to Sunday
  • Cost: Free
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Sai Oua (North Thailand Sausage) at the Night Bazaar – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Day 4 – Thai Cooking Class and Nimman Area

All Day – Thai Farm Cooking School

The Thai Farm Cooking School is currently the number one cooking class in Chiang Mai based on TripAdvisor reviews. On this tour, you will go to a local market to shop for fresh ingredients before heading to their farm for the day. Upon arrival you will pick fresh ingredients at their organic farm and learn how to cook traditional Thai national dishes. You will also be introduced to traditional Thai flavours and learn the best way to cook authentic Thai food.

You can choose to cook a variety of dishes including green, red or yellow curry paste and curry, Tom Yam or Tom Kha, Spring Rolls, Pad Thai Fried Noodles, Chicken with Basil, Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Papaya Salad, Mango Sticky Rice, and Bananas in Coconut Milk.

There are plenty of tours offered online, so make sure to read reviews first before you make your reservation. 

  • Where: 38 Mun Mueang Road, Si Phum, Chiang Mai
  • Hours: 9:00pm – 5:00pm, Daily
  • Cost: 1500 baht per person

Evening – Nimman Area

Nimmanhaemin Road (otherwise known as Coffee Street) is popular with the trendy, younger crowd and expats. It is well known for its restaurants, art galleries, shops (antiques, apparel, handicrafts and silks), cafes and nightlife.

Spend the evening wandering the streets aimlessly and soaking up the atmosphere.

  • Where: Nimmanhaemin Road, Chiang Mai
  • Hours: Anytime
  • Cost: Free

Other Suggestions of Things to Do in Chiang Mai

We were lucky enough to spend 1 month in Chiang Mai so we were really able to explore the city and experience some of the top things to do both in and around Chiang Mai.  Below we have listed some of our recommendations for those of you planning to stay longer than 4 days.

Full Day

Bua Tong Waterfalls (Sticky Waterfalls)

Bua Tong Waterfall, also known as Sticky Waterfall in Chiang Mai, is a multi-tiered, limestone waterfall flowing through lush jungle just a short trip from the city. These waterfalls are made of limestone deposits and the gentle slope mean you can hike up and down the multiple levels safely.

Sticky Waterfall is located approximately 60km north of Chiang Mai and can be reached by motorbike, organised tour or a privately booked songthaew (expect to pay 1000 baht for a half day including a return trip). There is no entrance fee.


Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

Originally known as Hang Dong Quarry, Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon is an old stone quarry site that has been filled with water roughly 45 minutes from the city. The canyon is very deep and the water filling it is collected rain water that is now estimated to be forty meters deep.

Lifejackets and tubes can be rented on site, and there are cafes and sun umbrellas. Opening hours are 8:30am – 6:00pm meaning you can spend all day swimming, cliff jumping, sunbathing and exploring the area for just 100 baht per person.

Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon is one of the few places where cliff jumping is considered safe because of the extreme deep water and smooth rock walls. Jumping also happens to be the easiest way to get in the water, although they do have ladders for the less daring of us.


Chiang Mai Zoo

I know everyone has their own opinions about zoos, however, the Chiang Mai Zoo is surprisingly interesting. Set in the foothills of Doi Suthep, this 200 acre compound provides excellent views of the city in addition to its fascinating wildlife exhibits of more than 400 different species of animals.

The zoo emphasizes education, conservation, and providing the animals with a natural environment in which to live. Species of animals include hippopotami, rhinoceroses, giraffes and zebras from Africa, alpacas from South America, kangaroos and dingoes from Australia.

We have visited zoos all over the world but at Chiang Mai Zoo, we really enjoyed seeing animals we had never heard of before. Our highlight was the two young pandas, Chuang and Lin Hui, who were sent as goodwill ambassadors from China in 2003. The Nakornping Walk Through Aviary was also very special, as were the hippopotami. 

Opening hours are form 8-6pm and entrance is 150 baht from adults, 70 baht for children.  Some exhibits such as the Panda Pavilion do cost extra.


Chiang Rai and Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple)

Approximately 3 hours north of Chiang Mai is Chiang Rai, a gorgeous city and most famous for The White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun. This all-white temple is an unconventional combination of Buddhist temple and art exhibit. 

Wat Rong Khun is a unique temple that stands out through its white colour and the use of pieces of glass in the plaster which sparkles in the sun. The white colour signifies the purity of the Buddha, while the glass symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and the Dhamma, the Buddhist teachings.

The temple is open daily from 8-6pm daily. Ensure you dress respectfully. Admission is 50 baht.


Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand, rises 2,565 metres above sea level. Known as a sanctuary for a wide range of animal species and perhaps the best place in Thailand for bird-watching, the park has approximately 362 different species, many of which are not found anywhere else in Thailand.

Doi Inthanon is a popular destination, not only for its natural beauty, but also for its historical significance. Explore the park for the day and go on hikes, search out waterfalls, or just relax and have a picnic.


Huay Tung Tao Lake

Located only about 20 minutes northwest from the Old City, Huay Tung Tao Lake is surrounded by bamboo huts with gorgeous views of the mountains. This is the perfect spot for hiking, biking and swimming, or just relaxing by the water and enjoying a meal at one of the many lakeside restaurants.

The best way to get there is either by motorbike, a privately rented songthaew or a Grab Taxi. The entrance fee is 50 baht per person.


Half Day or Less

Chiang Mai Night Safari

Modeled after a similar attraction in Singapore, Chiang Mai Night Safari features three animal zones – Savanna Safari, Predator Prowl, Jaguar Trail – which you can tour via an open-sided tram or on foot. Enjoy a range of activities designed to keep you entertained throughout your visit, from hand-feeding wild animals and petting tiger cubs to a laser light show and ‘dancing’ fountain. 


Chiang Mai University

The grounds of a university aren’t usually considered to be a tourist attraction, but Chiang Mai University is an exception. The campus features exotic gardens, an artificial lake, and traditional Thai architecture. Bicycle rentals are available to tour the campus at your leisure.

While visiting Chiang Mai University, spend some time at the Huay Kaew Arboretum, a tranquil green space with hundreds of tropical trees. Lush flowers flourish in the shade of the mountains and waterfalls tumble down the rocks. The arboretum is open each day at 9 am.


Mae Ping River Boat Trip

A two hour boat trip along the Mae Ping River is an excellent way to spend an afternoon. Watch as the scenery along the river changes, and you will also get to see many beautiful traditional teak houses as well as a lot of rural greenery.

There are a number of tour companies that carry out the boat trips and they sail for about 45 minutes before stopping off at a local farmer’s house for lunch. Whilst at the house you will see how jasmine rice is produced whilst relaxing in the luscious gardens.


Ob Khan National Park

Ob Khan National Park is approximately 45 minutes from the city centre and is perfect for a hike (approximately 2 km easy hike), waterfall picnic, or just to cool off on a scorching and humid day.

The best way to get there is either by motorbike or a privately rented songthaew (approx.1000 baht).


Relax by the Pool at Your Hotel

Some days, you just need to relax with a drink and a good book by the pool. If you’re staying at a hotel with a pool, take some time to unwind.


Shopping in Any of the Numerous Shopping Malls

Chiang Mai has plenty of shopping malls to fill your heart’s content, but there are also adorable boutique shops full of handcraft goods all over the town, especially in Nimman. So wander the streets and find some unique keepsakes to bring home.

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Nimman Area – Great for shopping, restaurants, galleries and cafes.

Sunday Walking Street

Also known as the Walking Market, this is probably the most famous of all the markets in Chiang Mai. It runs every Sunday afternoon from about 4pm starting at Thapae Gate and running along the entire length of the Ratchadamnoen Road. On display is a vibrant spectrum of arts, crafts, music and food, and most of the stalls sell handmade quality and souvenirs that echo the spirit of Northern Thailand.

Dotted along Ratchadamnoen Road are several Buddhist temples which become food courts where you can sample everything from fried rice to deep-fried crickets.

If that isn’t enough, in between the stalls you will see a plethora of street artists singing, dancing and performing.


Warorot Market

Right next to the Ping River is the Warorot Market. Most of the other markets in this city are night markets but Warorot opens early in the morning and closes when darkness descends. This is the market where the locals shop so the prices are low and not inflated like so many of the tourist markets.

You can find just about everything at the market such as vegetables, fruit, meat, clothing, jewellery, souvenirs, fireworks and many other things. When you exit the market and venture into the side streets, you will find a lot of Thai handicraft goods made by the local Hill Tribe and again, at much cheaper prices than anywhere else.


Wiang Kum Kam, the Underground Ancient City

Located in attractive countryside about 5 km south of Chiang Mai along the Ping River, Wiang Kum Kam is an ancient city dating back to the 8th Century – Haripunchai Kingdom. Expect to see many interesting items and structures such as stone tablets with Mon inscriptions, Buddhist sculptures and architecture, earthenware and pottery. Taking a horse-led carriage is a popular way to enjoy the ruins. 


Reflections on Our Trip

Chiang Mai is a wonderful place, so full of culture, history and amazing people. Our 4 day itinerary covers what we think are absolute must do’s, however all the things listed in our additional suggestions are also highly recommended. It is best to swap and change your itinerary based on how long you have in the city, and what your interests are. No matter what you choose to do, you will be sure to have memorable holiday!

Have you been to Chiang Mai? What was your favourite thing to do there? Leave a reply in the comments section below.


Exit 45 Rating

The Exit45 Rating scale runs from a low of 1 to a high of 5 in each of the 9 categories.  As such, the higher the score out of 45, the better the Exit45 Rating.  N.B. These scores are our own personal opinions and are based on our experiences, budget constraints and what we love doing i.e. adventure seeking foodies who love snorkelling and water related activities.

Value for Money4.5
Cuisine5
Friendliness of Locals5
Ease of Language Barrier4
Climate5
Activities and Tours4
Ease of Travel4
Culture Barrier4
Safety5
TOTAL EXIT45 RATING45.5/ 45

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IMMERSIVE 4 DAY ITINERARY FOR CHIANG MAI

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By Peta Wenzel

We are Peta (Australian) and Jonas (Swedish/Australian), a couple in our mid 40’s / early 50’s who have been travelling the world fulltime since January 2018. We met and lived on the Gold Coast, Australia and spent many evenings researching and watching YouTube vlogs about travel and dreaming of the day we would retire and be able to enjoy a lot more travel ourselves. Over the years, a number of events happened to family and friends and an opportunity arose which made us decide to not wait but to instead take a “Gap Year”. We are now in our 3rd year of travel and still hunger for new adventures and embrace the uncertainty that comes with full-time travel. If you want to know more about who we are, why we choose this lifestyle and how we do it, please follow our adventures and see how you can do it too.

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