The first time we visited Chiang Mai we planned to stay three days, four days tops. Two weeks later we were still there! This city is truly awesome; we love it. The relaxing atmosphere almost makes you forget you’re in a city and there are so many fun things to do. Get ready for our 10 highlights of Chiang Mai.
1. Sunday Walking Street
Don’t leave Chiang Mai without visiting Sunday Walking Street! It’s a really cool market where you can buy all kinds of authentic, handmade souvenirs, like embroidered handbags and sarongs. I literally had to drag Mariska away from the handmade teapots; which she still hasn’t forgiven me for. The majority of the people walking and shopping around are locals, which makes it extra special. Visit the market before sunset, when it’s still relatively quiet.
Location: Chiang Mai old town, Tha Pae Gate
Opening hours: Every Sunday from 4:00 PM to midnight
2. Elephant Nature Park
The Elephant Nature Park does fantastic work. They take care of elephants that have been traumatized because of maltreatment. You can come and help out by feeding and washing them. Highlight of the day is when the elephants go bathing in the nearby river, where they can experience feeling completely weightless, something they thoroughly enjoy. These days a reservation is required as it’s really popular.
Location: Head office – 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Price: 1 day – lunch and transport included – adults 2,500 Thai Baht/children 1,750 Thai Baht
3. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Yes, it’s very touristy, but if you’re in Chiang Mai you should visit Doi Suthep mountain and it’s temple. This mountain temple provides a sweeping view across the city. The gorgeous and twisty road, 16 kilometers from Chiang Mai, will lead you to the foot of the temple. After that you’ll have to climb another 306 steps to reach the temple grounds. It can get pretty busy in the afternoon (best avoided), but in the evening you can still walk around outside the temple walls and watch the night fall over Chiang Mai. Magical!
Location: Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Opening hours: from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM (inside)
Price: 30 Thai Baht
4. Bua Thong Waterfalls
The Bua Thong Waterfalls are very special and particularly popular among the locals. The reason they’re so special is because you can climb them, which is why they’re also called the Sticky Waterfalls or Spiderman Waterfalls. It’s a great day out for the entire family. You can go for a walk among nature and enjoy the peace and quiet. The red songtaew will take you there directly!
Location: Mae Ho Phra, Mae Taeng District
Opening hours: 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
5. The Riverside Bar & Restaurant
There are lots of great restaurants in Chiang Mai. But if we had to choose just one, we’d choose The Riverside Bar & Restaurant. It has live music, a great atmosphere, excellent food and a beautiful view over the River Ping. We visited three times and every time it was really busy. They always managed to find us a table, but it’s a good idea to call ahead to secure a table right next to the river. The best thing to order here is the Thai food!
Location: 9-11 Charoenrat Road Watgate Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
Opening hours: from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Price: Main course 100 – 450 Thai Baht
6. Go on a Jungle Trek
Go on a multiple-day trek through Chiang Mai’s jungle. We like Pooh Eco Trekking where you’ll be exploring small jungle villages with local guides, the jungle itself and the Karen people’s paddy fields. Expect fair tourism with small groups and authentic tours. Some tours last more than a day, including a basic overnight stay in jungle – which requires a good fitness level (and good shoes).
Location: 59 Rajchapakinai Road, Chiang Mai
Opening hours: from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Price: see website
7. Ziplining through the jungle
Want to fly through and above the jungle? It’s possible in Chiang Mai. You choose between different types of adventures, some of which last for two hours straight! It’s not just the adrenaline rush that makes this an unforgettable experience, but also the beautiful natural surroundings. In Chiang Mai there are many ziplining companies to choose from. We did the Eagle Track Zipline, and it was a-ma-zing!
Address: Head office – 29/4-5 Kachasarn Road, Chang Klan, Chiang Mai 50000
Opening hours: Full day tour, 1 hour drive from Chiang Mai
Price: 2000 – 2400 Thai Baht
8. Wat Chedi Luang
This hidden gem is located in Chiang Mai old town. You practically pass it during Sunday Walking Street. Take some time and have a walk around this gigantic temple that’s partly in ruins. Over the last several hundred years it has endured many earthquakes, causing the partial crumbling of its stone walls. It was always restored afterwards so luckily, there are still a few pretty looking elephant statues visible on the structure. With Buddha statues scattered around here and there and several beautiful, ancient trees, this is a truly awesome sight.
Location: 103 Road King Prajadhipok Phra Singh, Muang District, Chiang Mai, 50200
Opening hours: accessible 24 hours (outside)
Price: 40 Thai Baht
9. Ladyboy Cabaret
Well then, should we recite the whole story again?! No, let’s keep it short. At first you might think: why would anyone want to go here? Yeah, we really don’t have an answer for that. Just go, have a couple of beers and enjoy the show. It’s truly hilarious. The Ladyboy Cabaret starts every evening at 9:30 PM in a bar at the Anusan Market. The entrance fee is 200 Thai Baht per person and includes a free drink. A small tip for the waitresses is expected, so be sure to have a few 20 Thai Baht notes on you!
Location: Anusan Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai
Opening hours: 9:30 PM – 11:00 PM
Price: 290 Thai Baht including 1 drink
10. Catmosphere Cat Café
Catmosphere is a cat café that serves cakes, tea and fruit shakes. Really! Imagine dozens of roaming cats and guests running around playing, petting and taking pictures. In between, have some cake and a cup of coffee. A great place to visit for any cat lover! Catmosphere is located just outside the center of town, but is easily accessible by taxi or motorbike.
Location: Huaykaew Road, Chang Phueak, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300
Opening hours: From Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Price: Drinks: 80 Thai Baht, cake: 100 Thai Baht