Though it doesn’t boast the picture perfect beaches like the southern parts of Thailand, Chiang Mai has wonderful charm and lots of activities. With general prices much lower than southern Thailand, it’s also a great destination that will fit in the most modest of budgets. Here’s our list of top things to do!
1. Temples and shrines
Inside the Old City, there are beautiful temples and shrines to visit and most are actually walking distance from each other. Wat Chedi is the most popular and it’s absolutely beautiful. You can try going in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the rush of tourists and make sure to dress appropriately. Be prepared for some amazing shots, especially around sunrise or sunset!
2. Cooking Classes
With Thai food being so savoury and delicious, you won’t want to miss out on developing your cooking skills so you can stir up one of your favourite dishes in those moments of nostalgia! In our opinion, Chiang Mai was the region with the best food and we absolutely loved our cooking class at Zabb-E-Lee Thai Cooking School. They are superbly organized, funny and helpful. We highly recommend!
Don't miss out! These are the 6 foods you MUST try in Thailand!
3. Chat with monks
Students from the monk university are around the main temples most days to speak with tourists (for free!) as a way to practice their English. Discuss anything with them from the meaning of life, to what it’s like where you’re from. We found it to be a very neat, interesting experience that we would recommend to anyone curious at all about the life of monks and even Thai culture in general.
4. Elephant sanctuary
Now we realize that we’ve already mentioned the Elephant Nature Park in other posts and it’s here once again, but it was just so amazing! This is a definite must on your Chiang Mai to do list. Check out their YouTube channel to see what it’s like and what you could experience.
5. Zip lining
Zip line through the jungle to spike up your adrenaline a bit. You’ll get to enjoy the luscious greenery, fabulous wildlife and have a great adventure.
6. Hiking and trekking
There are a lot of possibilities for hiking or trekking. Some tour companies specialize in family fun, while others ensure a great adventure. From waterfalls to hill tribes and villagers, you can choose the type of trek you want.
7. Night Bazaar
The night bazaar was a great place to try street food. It is vibrant and full of energy, and with prices generally cheaper than the southern regions, a great place to do some souvenir shopping!
Hike up your heart rate with some rock climbing! With mountains all around, there are great rock-climbing locations for people of all levels. The tours are made for tourists so they will be used to people of all ages and experience levels. Make sure to check out the reviews to ensure that the equipment is safe and instructors knowledgeable.
You must try massages in Chiang Mai! They were among the cheapest we found around Thailand, running for around $6 to $12 CAD for a one-hour massage. After a full day of walking, trekking or whatever you’ve been up to, their foot massages are to die for!
Get ready to step out of your comfort zone in Thailand! Click here to find out how!
10. The white temple (Wat Rong Khun)
This one is located a bit of a drive outside of Chiang Mai, but is worth mentioning. Unusual and weird, the white temple is a beautiful glass encrusted structure that sparkles like snow in the sun. We were stunned to see hanging (fake) heads of popular movie characters in the trees and hands coming out from each sides of the walkway (like I said, weird!), but with everything white, including the koi fish, it works!
There is a tour promoted everywhere for a day trip to Chiang Rai, which includes the white temple, boat ride to Laos, hot spring and hill tribes – don’t do it!!! Seriously, the only thing on that tour worth seeing was the white temple; the excursion was rushed, uncomfortable and we totally regretted wasting a day on the rest. Book a private car, direct shuttle or rent a motorbike instead if you decide to see the white temple.
As you can see, even without the beaches, Chiang Mai has a great deal to offer! As far as experiencing the culture and learning about Thailand, it was the perfect place for us. The people are very friendly, open, and most importantly willing to help and answer our never-ending questions.
Have you enjoyed anything else in and around Chiang Mai? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear about your experiences too! Happy travels!
Budget conscious? Find out how to enjoy a cheaper trip to Thailand by clicking here!
Budget Travel Blog: Tips and tricks for affordable vacation planning. From cheap hotels to cheap flights and everything in between, prioritizing safety and comfort.
The Dime Travelers
It’s time to ditch your misconceptions about cheap travel and join us on our blog as we show you safe and comfortable ways to travel on a budget. We will guide you through the process of trip planning and share with you what we have learned from our own travels. Our advice and reviews come from personal experience and will offer easy to follow tips and tricks to make your vacation a positive experience you'll want to have again and again.
Let's make your travel dreams come true!