The Top 9 Things To Do In Chiang Mai

Tammy standing in front of wat Chedi Luang

Are you planning on travelling through Chiang Mai? Are you looking for the best things to do and see? Don’t worry, we have you covered.

Let us warn you though, Chiang Mai will entice you and pull you in by your heartstrings! After our first visit, we almost didn’t want to leave. Instead, we visited twice!

The city makes you feel alive, adventurous, full, creative and inspired!

A complete must in our opinion.


​Why Should You Visit Chiang Mai?

Tammy standing in front of the entrance to Royal Park Rajapruek

Let us lay down some interesting facts.

  • Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand; capital of the Chiang Mai province.
  • It is a vibrant city with amazing people, bursting with pride for their culture and religion.
  • It was part of the Lanna Kingdom which means it has ruins and historical artefacts dating back to the 13th century.
  • There are over 300 Buddhist temples throughout Chiang Mai!
  • There are also 10 different hill tribes – the Karen Long Neck Tribe being the most famous.
  • Not to mention that it’s shoppers paradise! AND THE COFFEE SHOPS! Don’t get us started!

It is also the perfect province to experience Loy Krathong and Yi Peng, the festivals that take place in November to honour the gods of water and to welcome the full moon. You know that festival with the amazing floating lanterns? Yip, you’ve seen it. Well Chiang Mai is the perfect place to come and experience the festival and take part in the cultural festivities.


Chiang Mai’s Top 9 Things To Do

Byron and Tammy amidst the white Chedis at Wat Suan Dok

First of all, you need to prioritise what is most important to you. Do you want to know the city’s history? Does adventure and adrenaline call your name? Or would you rather lay about the pool, grab a coffee and shop?

This itinerary touches on a little bit of everything.

I’m a healthy mix between a history geek and a lay by the pool, grab a coffee kind of girl. Byron, on the other hand, pushes me out of my comfort zone as he drags me along to the more unexplored paths.


Craving An Adrenaline Rush?

1. The Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

A view of the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon, filled with water

Be sure to search the Grand Canyon Gamnanboon. You park across the road and enter through the righthand side gate.

The Grand Canyon is a waterpark built in an abandoned limestone quarry. It has some really fun activities like zip lining, wall climbing and cliff jumping. We even did the 7-meter jump! (There is a 14m jump, but it wasn’t open during our visit, but I totally would have done it… I wasn’t scared…)

It is important to note that there are two different options you can purchase. One is more expensive than the other. We did the cheaper one and had access to the jumping platforms, kayaking, paddle boats, wall climbing and the option to just relax in the water.

The more expensive ticket (650 baht) grants you access to the inflatable obstacle course and is more of a whole day activity! That’s the next one on our list; we just need to bring a few friends along too.

Tammy sitting on a floral chair
Hours:
9 am to 6 pm
Cost:
100 THB p.p.
Location:
Grand Canyon Gamnanboon (cheaper)
Grand Canyon Water Park (expensive option)

2. Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall

How would you fancy climbing up a waterfall? Normally when you think of a waterfall, you picture gushing water and slippery rocks.

Well, for some reason, you are able to easily climb up this waterfall just as if you were Spiderman himself. I’m no scientist but I’ve read that it has something to do with calcium being deposited onto the rocks and I think that also means that algae cannot grow onto the rocks. Correct me if I’m wrong.

However, tragedy can still strike without warning, so be careful. No broken arms allowed!

P.S. If you have extra bags that you don’t want to carry around with you in the water, you can ask the security guard to take care of them for you for ±20 baht.

Hours:
8 am to 5 pm 
Cost:
Free. Yay! 
Location
Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall

3. Flight of the Gibbon Zipline

​Spend a day soaring though the trees of an ancient Thai Rainforest and get the chance to interact with some gibbons in their natural habitat.

Flight of the Gibbon is something we couldn’t do at the time because it is a little pricy but we would love to come back and give it a go. This is still on our Bucket list of things to do.

Hours:
6 am to 11 pm 
Cost:
4299 THB p.p.
Location:
Flight Of The Gibbon Chaing Mai

More Of A History Major?

4. Visit Some Thai Temples

Experience some of Thailand’s most impressive temples, like Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Umong, Wat Suan Dok, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and more.

There are so many incredible temples with such rich history in Chiang Mai. It’s so rare to find such diversity, in such close proximity. Both Byron and my favourite temples are in Chiang Mai (and yes, they’re quite different!)

We compiled a list of the best temples that you have to visit in Chiang Mai!

Chiang Mai’s Must-See Temples


5. The Phae Gate or Old City Wall

Tammy standing against the old city wall

Years and years ago, walls were built around the old city as a defence against attacks from the outside. The walls used to have 5 different gates. the Tha Phae Gate is one of them.

Over the years the walls have slowly faded away, been restored and replaced. Today you can come and take a picture near the modern Tha Phae Gate. This more-modern restoration has been loosely based on an old photograph of the original.

It is a good place to sit and reflect on what was and how something that was once so useful is now merely a tourist attraction.

Hours:
Always open
Cost:
Free. Yay! 
Location
The Tha Phae Gate

6. The Royal Park Rajapruek

Tammy in front of the steps to the pavilion in the royal park rajapruek

Spend some time waltzing about Royal Park Rajapruek, a gorgeous botanical garden. There is a pavilion built here to honour His Majesty King Bhumibol, which also happens to be Byron’s favourite temple in Thailand.

Tammy sitting on the steps to the pavilion in the royal park rajapruek

The park itself is filled with themed gardens, fun walkways, a butterfly garden and an insect exhibition. It is named after Thailand’s national flower, the ratchapruek, which blossoms a shower of bright yellow flowers.

Furthermore, yellow is the colour associated with Monday in Thailand, which corresponds with King Bhumibol’s birthday on Monday the 5th of December, 1927.

The park closes at 6pm, which should be sufficient to at least enjoy the beginnings of sunset.

Tammy walking through a tunnel of plants at the Royal Park Rajapruek
Hours:
9 am to 6 pm
Best time to visit:
December to February
Cost:
200 THB for foreigners
Location:
The Royal Park Rajapruek
Byron and Tammy sitting under a palm tree lined road in the Royal Park Rajapruek

7. Visit the Karen Hill Tribe

Go and visit the Karen Long Neck Tribe. This is something we really wanted to do, but sadly we ran out of time. This tribe is famous for the woman who wear long brass coils around their necks – we were excited to chat a little and get to know them, perhaps share a few of their stories. You can organise to do a tour or you can venture out by yourselves.

Although we have included this in our “Things To Do In Chiang Mai Guide”, this is actually in Chiang Rai. However, that just means it’s a great moment to transition from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai!

The Perfect Chiang Rai Guide For 24 Hours

Location:
Karen Long Neck Tribe

Relax Or Shop Until You Drop

8. Receive A Massage From An Ex-Prisoner

The Women’s Massage Center By Ex-Prisoners has been running since 2014. It is a rehabilitation program where female ex-prisoners are taught the art of Thai massage so that they can use these skills to earn some money. It is difficult to get a job with a record, so it is a haven financially as well as being a safe and supportive environment for each other.

This great initiative started out with one branch and now has five! Also, Thai Massages are just so darn good!

Hours:
9:30 am to 9:30 pm
Cost:
250 to 550 baht an hour
Location:
Women's Massage Center By Ex-Prisoners

9. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

This is a must-do if you are coming to Chiang Mai. It is a huge shopping centre/market.

They start setting up at about 6 pm and it runs until late. It is filled with rows and rows of shopping stalls and food stalls spilling over into the streets and packed next to each other like sardines.

You will be able to find almost anything at this market and there will be plenty of time to find the perfect souvenir for you or your family and friends.

Hours:
6:00 pm to 10:30 pm
Location
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai’s Top 4 Places To Eat

We don’t know about you, but most times our stomachs tend to lead the way to discover new paths!

We seem to always be hungry.

So, what’s on offer today?

1. Rustic and Blue – The Farm Shop

Tammy sitting at Rustic and Blue for breakfast

We loved the food and atmosphere created at Rustic and Blue. It is a great spot for digital nomads looking for a place to do some work! They have the best smoothie bowls, I recommend the Mango Summer Bowl and Byron recommends the Lemon and Lime Bitter Soda.

Our breakfast smoothie bowl and egg at Rustic and Blue
Hours:
8:30am to 9:30pm 
Location
Rustic and Blue

2. Ristr8to Lab Coffee

Coffee in a skull glass and Ristr8to Lab

Okay, so maybe it’s not a place to eat per se, but Ristr8to Lab serves amazing, strong coffee with Brilliant Latte Art! They have even collected some awards at the world latte art championship. How cool is that!?

Update: It also seems that they have changed their name to Roast8ry. We aren’t sure what spurred on the change, but watching their amazing growth is awesome!

Hours:
8:30am to 7:00pm
Location:
Ristr8to Lab
Mocha at Ristr8to Lab

3. Phufinn In The Lake

Phufinn in the Lake lit up at night

This was honestly one of my favourite places to visit! Not only was the local Thai food amazing, but the atmosphere was great and the view breathtaking. Their seating design is also really fun! 

Phufinn In The Lake is also a lesser-known spot for the tourist community, so if you’re looking for a more local-immersed outing – this is it.

Hours:
10 am to 9 pm
Location:
Phufinn In The Lake

4. Chom Café And Restaurant

The Mystical Lagoon at Chom Café

I am obsessed with Peter Pan! It was not so much my favourite Disney cartoon film but I was absolutely in love with P.J. Hogan’s live action version, with Jeremey Sumpter as Peter Pan. That film awakened my imagination as a kid and it’s probably one of the reasons I ended up studying film.

So, when you get the chance to go and visit a restaurant that resembles Peter Pan’s Mermaid Lagoon, you take the opportunity!

Chom Café was beautiful and the food was scrumptious. The only downside being that it is extremely popular and you might even have to book a table or wait in a line outside.

Hours:
10 am to 7 pm
Location
Chom Café and Restaurant
Tammy standing in front of the small waterfall at Chom Café

Where To Stay In Chiang Mai

Honestly, there are so many lovely places to stay in Chiang Mai, you could never even touch base!

Booking Your Stay

If you’re looking for your own accommodation, we’d recommend Airbnb. If you haven’t already signed up, you can get up to 1000 baht off of your first booking and 400 baht towards and experience!

Simply sign-up with our code.

Back to where we stayed:

1. Pause and Play Hotel

Byron and Tammy on the roof of the Pause and Play Hotel

It is a lovely hotel not too far from the old city or Nimmanhaeminda Road (a major city hub).

Pause and Play has amazing, friendly staff who are always willing to help. This is also a great place to stay if you are on a budget, you will get a lot of bang for your buck.

There’s free water & coffee on offer 24/7, they serve breakfast every morning, have a swimming pool and they can help you rent a bike or you can even take out one of their bicycles for free.

The first night our room’s hot water wasn’t working, we told them about it and then we went out. When we got back they had moved us into a new room, our bags, clothes, toiletries everything! Looking exactly the same as it did in our previous room.

Location
Pause and Play Hotel

2. Ratchiangsaen Flora House

Tammy enjoying a healthy breakfast at the Bloom Café and Alfresco

Ratchiangsaen Flora House has a grand total of three or four rooms, so you really get the sense of a personal touch. It feels like a family-run house that welcomes you into the family when you arrive.

The staff were very willing to go above and beyond, helping us out with personal errands and assisting us wherever they could. They were polite, friendly and always up for a little chat.

Bloom Cafe & Alfresco is attached and provides you with breakfast, which we can assure you, you will not regret!

There is a slight hint of old fashioned Victorian styling, with the inherent floral theme. Definitely a place to consider when heading to Chiang Mai!

Location:
Ratchiangsaen Flora House

Vital Visitor’s Information

The Best Time To Visit Chiang Mai

The pavilion in the Royal Park Rajapruek

If you are concerned about the weather, you should visit anytime between November until mid-February. This is during the dry season (less majestic waterfalls and rivers), however, it is a lot cooler.

If you are concerned about budget, we suggest going out of peak season. Between late April to late October.

Getting A Visa

South Africans, along with many other countries’ nationals, get a free visa on arrival which will last you 30 days.

A Basic Budget

ItemPerBahtRandUS Dollar
Roomnight125058040
Meal & Drinkperson30014010
Rental Carday120056038
Rental Bikeday30014010
Entrance Feeperson200926
Prices and conversions accurate as of April 2019

Now if you’d like to make your money go further, you can always eat at local markets instead of high-end restaurants, sleep at a hostel instead of a hotel and rent a motorcycle instead a car.

We have experienced both sides of Chiang Mai and loved them both!

Other Transport Options

Throughout all of our Thailand and Southeast Asia travels, we completely relied on 12Go Asia.

That way we could have all of our tickets already booked and printed before we’ve even set foot out the door!

Check your options below!

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Where To Go After Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai remains within the top five busiest cities in Thailand, so there’s lots to do and many places to go. Once you’ve completed your Chiang Mai travels, here are your next two stops:

Pai: The Sleepy City In The Mountains

Chiang Rai: The Beautiful City

After your travels in the north, you could always explore the visited city on Earth…

Complete Bangkok Travel Guide

A Video Of Chiang Mai

Our first visit to Chiang Mai was spectacular, however, it didn’t start out that way.

Take a look at our story of Chiang Mai!

P.S. If you like it, please consider subscribing!

Are you planning on visiting Chiang Mai? What are you most excited about? Or have you been already? What was your favourite? Let’s chat below!


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