What to See and Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is one of the most popular cities to visit in Thailand. In fact, it is the largest city in Northern Thailand. Having a much more laidback vibe than Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a great place to explore Thailand’s history, eat delicious cuisine, and of course to shop. Here are the top thing to see and do while in Chiang Mai.

Temple Hopping

Chiang Mai is home to over 300 Buddhist temples. It is almost impossible not to fall in love with these beautiful buildings. You can spend a whole day visiting many of the temples by walking through the old city visiting or you can also rent a scooter to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which is on the mountain.

I recommend checking out:

  • Wat Phan Tao
  • Wat Phra Sighn
  • Wat Chedi Luang

Sunday Night Market

The Sunday night market is one of the best places for shopping and food in Chiang Mai. The market starts at the Tha Phae Gate and extends about 1 km along Ratchadamnoen Rd. You will find both locals and tourists enjoying the hundreds of vendors, restaurants, and live music.

The Sunday night market is a great place to work on your haggling skills. Vendors will often lower their prices if you try to haggle and even more often when you buy multiple pieces. I bought all of my souvenirs for my friends here.

Thai Cooking Class

A cooking class is a great way to experience more of Thailand’s great culture. There are plenty of cooking classes which will take you to the market to buy the ingredients and then teach you to cook classic Thai dishes.

I am not much of a cook at all so I didn’t take a cooking lesson, but I did have a friend who did the full day with Mama Noi and she highly recommended them.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai was one of the absolute best experiences of my life! I did the full day elephant tour which included feeding, bathing, and just general hanging out with the elephants. The best part was that they had a baby elephant too!

Pro Tip: Baby elephants aren’t as cute when they’re standing on your foot. Take it from me, that sh*t hurts!

For more on tours and prices check here.

I recommend visiting EJS, but if you choose to visit with another company, make sure that they do not support riding the elephants! An elephant’s spine is not designed to support weight and riding them causes long term damage.

Grand Canyon

Beat the heat with a dip in the other Grand Canyon, located just outside of Chiang Mai’s old city. The Grand Canyon was previously a quarry but has since been repurposed as a swimming hole. Those feeling adventurous can try cliff jumping from the edges into the deep turquoise waters. There is also a floating waterpark which looks like something from the show WipeOut.


Honestly, I was surprised by Chiang Mai’s nightlife. Zoe in Yellow, located in the old city, is the go to spot for anyone looking to party in Chiang Mai. Zoe in Yellow is a bar with a giant dance floor which is surrounded by about 10 other bars offering different genres of music. Drinks are pretty reasonably priced and start around 60 Baht for a beer. You won’t find many locals here but it is a backpacker’s paradise.

Ladyboy Cabaret

If you’re looking for some out of the ordinary fun, you should definitely check out one of Chiang Mai’s Ladyboy Cabarets. They put on some amazing dance numbers, my favorite being the Rihanna imitator. You can purchase tickets at the door and I do recommend getting their early because it will fill up!

Pro Tip: Absolutely do not sit in the front of the show if you are shy or a guy. They will dance ALL over you and you may even get pulled on stage!

Bua Tong Waterfall

The Bua Tong Waterfall, also known as the sticky waterfall, is made of limestone rocks which aren’t slippery. This allows you to climb all the way to the top with ease! The Bua Tong Waterfall is about an hour’s drive from city so unfortunately I didn’t get to see it during my time in Chiang Mai but it looks beautiful.


Have you visited Chiang Mai? What are some of your must see things to do?


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