So as they say, if you want to experience and soak into the culture, cuisines and colours of Thailand, you should skip the beaches of south and head to North Thailand. And we found it completely true after backpacking across North Thailand on a bike for 11 days driving through the interiors. Chiang Mai is the place where our trip to North began and as soon as we reached Chiang Mai, we started getting positive vibes with cool sunny weather and warm welcoming people.
Let us be honest upfront – You can not explore Chiang Mai in a day. It’s because this region of Thailand is not about visiting places but experiencing them. At each place, you will feel like sitting for hours and soaking surroundings into your soul and spirit. Still, for most of us who have paucity of time, we have tailored a one day trip itinerary for Chiang Mai including top places to visit. Please note that this is a well packed itinerary, so you may look to skip a place or another according to your taste.
- Early in Morning: Head to old city for Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang
- Have breakfast at one of the restaurants along canal near Tha Phae Gate
- Drive to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Chiang Mai’s famous Mountain Temple
- Visit Wang Bua Ban Waterfall on your way back from Doi Suthep
- Head to Huay Tung Tao Lake for late lunch in Bamboo Huts
- Experience Chiang Mai Night Bazaar or Weekend Night Markets
- Relax with a beer in a pub/restaurant near Ping River or in Old City
Google Map of all above locations: Click Here
(Go to the Top) Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang are two famous and sacred Buddhist temples within the walls of Chiang Mai old city. These temples open early and a morning visit will not only help you beat day crowd but you will also get a chance to observe some of the morning temple rituals. It will not take you more than 3 hours to visit both temples and their compounds even at leisure.
With Golden Chedi, Wat Phra Singh has an image of Lion Buddha (Phra Singh) and its compound has a mesmerizing impact. This is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in the city of Chiang Mai.
You can read more about our Wat Phra Singh experience here.
Wat Chedi Luang (วัดเจดีย์หลวง), also known as Temple of the Big Stupa, is a 14th Century Buddhist temple right in the heart of old city. Temple is famous for its tall Lanna-style Chedi which is thought to be the largest structure in Chiang Mai till the top of Chedi was destroyed by an earthquake in 16th Century.
You can read more about our Wat Chedi Luang experience here.
(Go to the Top) There are a lot of good restaurants along the canal surrounding old city. You may find one near Tha Phae Gate and enjoy a sumptuous breakfast while having a view of Tha Phae Gate (Location). After breakfast, you can also take a quick walk around in case you want to do some shopping or have Thai massage.
(Go to the Top) Also known as Chiang Mai‘s mountain temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples not only in Chiang Mai but also in North Thailand. Around 15 kilometers west of old city, this famous temple can be reached via a treacherous mountain road that passes across dense forest making you negotiate sharp curves. You can either hire a scooter or take tuk-tuk from Chiang Mai. It will take you around an hour to reach temple, an hour inside and another hour to come back – So reserve at least 3 hours for your trip to Doi Suthep temple.
You can read more about our Doi Suthep experience here.
You may also consider to visit Wat Phra That Doi Kham. This is also a Buddhist temple outside the city. However, visiting both Doi Kham and Doi Suthep in a well-packed day would not be possible, so choose one.
(Go to the Top) On the way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, there are 2 waterfalls en route – i) Montha Than Waterfall (There is an entry fee of 100 Bhats for foreigners and it closes at 4:30 PM) ii) Wang Bua Ban Waterfall (This is just few steps down from the main road and there is no entry fee. It remains open all the time). You can easily see the sign-boards directing you to these waterfalls. While coming back or going up, you can have a quick stop-over at either of these waterfalls.
(Go to the Top) In case you are looking to spend your time in Chiang Mai by a splendid and peaceful place, nothing can be better than an outing to Huay Tung Tao Lake. A bit far from the city, this lake is quite popular with locals and you will find only few tourists around. After your outing to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, you may head straight to Huay Tung Tao Lake for late launch in beautiful bamboo huts on lake-side. Amazing Thai delicacies !! A word of caution – Do eat some snacks on the way as both Doi Suthep and Huay Tung Tao Lake are in the outskirts of the city and you will be damn hungry by the time you will arrive at the lake.
You can read more about our Huay Tung Tao Lake experience here.
Chiang Mai has a daily Night Bazaar that opens till 12 mid night on Chang Khlan Road. On Weekends, you may explore Sunday Night Market at Rachadamnoen Rd or Saturday Night Market at Wua Lai Road. While weekend markets are more about food, Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is more about handicrafts, paintings, souvenirs and clothing. There are plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy your food with live music. And also there are good street food options where you can have tasty freshly prepared dishes be it famous Pad Thai or homemade Coconut ice cream.
You can read more about our Night Bazaar experience here.
(Go to the Top) There are lot of pubs and restaurants along Ping River and in old city. You can head to any of them to grab a quick beer after a hectic day. We specially liked the ambiance around Ping River as you can even sit on the river side or on iron bridge looking at twinkling lights in river water. (Location)
This itinerary is based on our experience. Beyond these, you may also look to explore Chiang Mai Zoo, Night Safari, visit an Elephant Camp or go for hiking/rafting. Chiang Mai has lot to offer and one day certainly would not be enough.
How to get around in Chiang Mai
Best way to explore Chiang Mai is on scooter. It is a fairly big city and most of the attractions are outside the city. Hiring a Scooter will be cheaper and also give you flexibility in terms of exploring all attractions at your own leisure. There are many rental shops and you can easily get a 125 cc scooter in ~200-250 Thia Bahts for 24 hours. Good for two of you!!
Where to stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has ample guesthouse and hotel options in terms of accommodation. We found Booking.com pretty useful both in terms of value and options available. We had stayed at ZZ Hostel and had an awesome stay. Boyd is an awesome guy and did all to make our stay comfortable. He also allowed us to store our luggage for a week as we went for our bike trip across Mae Hong Son Loop. Our recommendation is that when you are booking an accommodation, try to be as close as possible to the old city.
In case, you have an additional day at hand, do visit Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls. Around1.5 hour scooter drive from Chiang Mai, these waterfalls are amazing and unique as you can walk down and climb up the waterfall. These are on the way in case you are headed to either Chiang Dao or Pai.
Hope you have an awesome trip in Chiang Mai. Do drop us a comment in case you like our blog or need any additional information.