Chiang Mai – 7 Top Rated Tourist Attractions

Chiang Mai is fundamentally the next town of Thailand–the lower, more relaxed response to Bangkok’s insanity. It was once the Lanna Kingdom’s capital, but it is now a major draw for all kinds of backpackers and travelers, not to mention retiring ex-pats and humanitarians. Many who come here come back over and over again, or stay for years when they only wanted to stay for a few weeks. There’s an energy in town that captivates visitors, whether they’re looking for a trekking adventure or a spiritual awakening as they move from temple to temple.

The city itself offers plenty of cooking classes, temple visits, street food, and culture things to do. But you will discover natural perfection beyond its limits, awe-inspiring animals, and distinctive communities deep in the hills. It’s a unique city with a lot to offer, and some of the most beautiful tourist attractions to explore are as follows.

1. Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

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This mountaineering temple in Chiang Mai is a must-see. The central shrine of Wat Doi Suthep includes a highly revered, seated Buddha and is one of the city’s most popular attractions. You can reach the temple by hiking up the mountain (a sweaty but certainly memorable effort), renting a motorbike, or jumping into a songthaew (red trucks that function mainly as communal cabs). The drive is a short one, so in about two hours you can make this entire trip. You will discover suppliers selling souvenirs, antiques, and snacks at the base of the staircase leading up to the temple.

As the staircase is steep, brace yourself for the climb, but the effort is worth it. Statues of two demons protect the entrance to the temple precinct. Only two of the six gates that lead to the gallery and the chedis are generally open. The gallery is decorated in the styles of Chiang Mai and Sukhothai with Buddha statues. The temple itself is decorated with numerous Buddha depictions, detailed dragon sculptures, and sculptures of elephants. The premises also have a small museum.

On a clear day (and most of them are transparent unless you’re visiting during the rainy or burning seasons), you can look out over the entire city and see the chedis poking out among the clustered buildings on top of other wats. You’ll need to put on a sarong-like wrap to cover your legs if you’re wearing shorts. When visiting any temple, it is advisable to cover your shoulders and legs at least past your knees. Entering the temple complex is a small fee.

2. Doi Pui

thailand-chiang-mai-doi-pui

This mountaineering temple in Chiang Mai is a must-see. The central shrine of Wat Doi Suthep includes a highly revered, seated Buddha and is one of the city’s most popular attractions.

You can reach the temple by hiking up the mountain (a sweaty but certainly memorable effort), renting a motorbike, or jumping into a songthaew (red trucks that function mainly as communal cabs).

The drive is a short one, so in about two hours you can make this entire trip. You will discover suppliers selling souvenirs, antiques, and snacks at the base of the staircase leading up to the temple.

As the staircase is steep, brace yourself for the climb, but the effort is worth it. Statues of two demons protect the entrance to the temple precinct.

Only two of the six gates that lead to the gallery and the chedis are generally open. The gallery in the styles of Chiang Mai and Sukhothai with Buddha statues. The temple itself with numerous Buddha depictions, detailed dragon sculptures, and sculptures of elephants. The premises also have a small museum.

You’ll need to put on a sarong-like wrap to cover your legs if you’re wearing shorts. When visiting any temple, it is advisable to cover your shoulders and legs at least past your knees. Entering the temple complex is a small fee.

3. Doi Inthanon

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This is Thailand’s highest peak, and the surrounding national park is packed with some of the many natural wonders that first make the nation such a draw. Other drawings are several waterfalls and a hill tribe village, along with two pagodas constructed to honor King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. You’ll either want to rent a driver for the day or rent a motorcycle and see the sites on your own as you won’t be able to walk through the whole park. But it’s just about a two-hour drive from town, so if you leave early, you can get on the mountain on a complete and fulfilling day.

4. Wat Chedi Luang

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Ruins, for that matter, are not precisely a rare sight in Chiang Mai, or Thailand in general. But there’s something especially lovely and haunting about Wat Chedi Luang. Built-in 1401, during an earthquake in 1545, the imposing structure was damaged. But today it stays noteworthy, and the substantial elephant sculptures that adorn it can still be seen.

A delightful little temple, the Lak Muang, stands under an enormous gum tree on the left of the entrance to the precinct. Built on the site of a previous wooden construction in 1940, the shrine is the residence of the guardian spirit of Chiang Mai (Lak Muang). Traditionally, if the big tree falls, the catastrophe will overtake the town. At any time of day, the temple is something to behold, but at night, when it’s all lit up, it’s particularly lovely.

5. Wat Prasingh

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This temple is located in the heart of the Old City, where travelers spend a lot of their time. Wat Phra Singh rises at the end of Rachadamnoen Road amid the near sois, or alleys, and heavy motorcycle traffic. It is the city’s biggest wat and dates back to 1345 when it was constructed in honor of his father by an ancient king. The ashes of the father are still buried on the ground – but don’t let the visit spoke to you. The decadent buildings are impressive, and checking out on Sundays is a particularly excellent location.

The most sacred shrine of the wat is a tiny building called the Phra Wiharn Lai Kam, built during King San Muang Ma’s reign (1385-1401) to house the renowned, now sadly headless, Sukhothai-like figure known as the Phra Singh Buddha. According to tradition, the Buddha came from Ceylon to Thailand in the familiar pose of “calling the earth to witness,” finding his way first to Ayutthaya and then to Kamphaeng Phet, Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang and back to Ayutthaya before arriving in Chiang Mai in 1767 where it has been since (but there are doubts about the authenticity of the relic).

Head to Wat Prasingh in the early afternoon, and after visiting the temple, you’ll have the opportunity to browse a market on the grounds, browse creative souvenirs, and sample fresh juices and teas.

Location: End of Rachadamnoen Road

6. Chiang Mai Gate Market

This is the place to find Chiang Mai’s best street food. Sellers set up at the Chiang Mai Gate every night, selling everything from pad kra pow (spicy meat and basil dish) to the ideal dessert of new mango sticky rice with coconut milk. Make yourself a favor and order Mrs. Pa’s smoothie. Her booth is located directly opposite the 7-Eleven and on the sign says Pa’s Smoothies. Your best bet is to allow her to mix up a mixture of her imagination; this way, you can never go wrong. The market takes place seven nights a week, but it’s best to go on weekends because on Saturday and Sunday nights there are fewer sellers.

7. Sunday Walking Street

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If during the weekend you wonder where to get your street grub on, don’t be afraid. For each occasion, Chiang Mai has a market. The Sunday Walking Street is a must for food and shopping, but if you’re not one for crowds, go early. The primary market thoroughfare is Rachadamnoen Road, which starts just behind Thapae Gate, where you will find suppliers selling handmade lamps, dolls, soaps, jewelry, clothes, Christmas decorations, local handicrafts, and just about every other stuff you can imagine. As you reach the end of Rachadamnoen’s first block, two temples will flank you. Both courtyards are packed with food stalls that offer a great combination of Thai pads, Japanese curry, 15 cents a piece of sushi, samosas, fried bananas, and dumplings.

The market extends the length of the highway, and if you’re interested in shopping at all, leave yourself to walk, shop, and eat for several hours. Also, make sure your patience is easily accessible as the crowds can make browsing slow.

The Saturday Walking Street on Wualai Road is a Sunday market version that is slightly tamer and slightly less crowded. Just behind the Chiang Mai Gate, you’ll discover it, and it’s a beautiful place to pick up hand-woven clothes, pillow covers, purses, wallets and other products sold by members of the local hill tribe.

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