Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand is an amazing city full of culture and history. It has many sights, including some beautiful ancient temples that should be on your must-see list. We’ve chosen 4 temples in Chiang Mai that are our personal favorites; we think you will really enjoy them when you’re in Chiang Mai!
1. Doi Suthep: Legendary Mountain Temple
One of Chiang Mai’s most popular sights is Doi Suthep. The road to this temple alone is worth the trip. When you drive out of town, you’re already at the foot of ‘Doi Suthep Mountain’. After another kilometer, you’ll find the ‘Huay Kaew Waterfall’ on your left. Here you’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of the jungle, far away from the city. It really is that beautiful. Locals, in particular, like to come here to escape the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai and enjoy time with their families.
You can hear the splashing of the waterfall from a distance. Try a short climb up until the signs indicate you can’t go any further. You’re nearly standing inside the waterfall now and get a lovely view of the jungle in all its glory.
The remaining 15 kilometers up to the temple are pure joy. The roads are well maintained and wide. All the pretty bends in the road and waterfalls along the way are spectacular, not to mention the views you get here and there. There are various viewpoints along the way for a peaceful break and even a few places to buy a drink.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at the – rather – touristy entrance to the temple of the same name, ‘Doi Suthep’. After you pass a lot of tourist stands, the 309-step climb to the temple begins. Thankfully, there’s plenty of shade, but it’s guaranteed you’ll be out of breath by the time you get to the top!
The temple itself is pretty, but not all that special. Maybe we’ve become a bit spoiled lately. But it’s the location that’s so appealing to us and many other tourists. Despite the crowds, there’s a good atmosphere and things are lively with all kinds of different people, ranging from tourists to monks and everything in between.
Entry is 30 baht per person. Make sure you wear clothing that covers your body when you’re inside the temple walls. You can also rent a pair of pants or a skirt for 10 baht. We visited Doi Suthep on a motorbike, which we can definitely recommend if you’re brave enough (and only if it’s not raining).
2. Wat Chedi Luang: Chiang Mai’s Pride
This temple is truly fantastic. It’s located in the old part of the city that’s buzzing with restaurants, hotels, shops, travel agencies, taxis, tuk tuks and temples. Loads and loads of temples. We walked straight past this temple several times because it’s not fully visible from the street. There’s a – very beautiful – modern temple located in front of it.
Once inside the temple walls, you quickly get an astonishing view of this partly restored, well-maintained ruin. Unfortunately, many of the beautiful elephants statues are no longer there, but about six of them remain on the corner of the old temple’s middle section. You can’t climb the temple, but you can walk around it silently. There are golden Buddha’s in the openings on the second floor. The uppermost tower was partly destroyed by earthquakes during the temple’s age-old existence. The temple is said to be at its most beautiful first thing in the morning.
Entry is 40 baht for adults and 20 baht for children.
3. Wat Umong: Underground Forest Temple
This magical temple shouldn’t be overlooked.
I can only think that many tourists miss out on it because it’s a bit remote. The temple is incredibly varied and very different from all the other temples we’ve seen. It roughly consists of three parts. First, there are the tunnels. There are three entrances that all connect to each other eventually. There are a few illuminated openings inside the tunnel containing several small Buddha statues. This creates a very mysterious atmosphere that is continued on the outside.
The adjacent garden has dozens of partly damaged Buddha statues lying around in a strange, yet beautiful forest setting. It’s particularly spectacular when the sun gets a chance to peek through the trees. Lastly, there’s an enormous, lotus shaped, stone Chedi (Buddhist stupa) on top of the tunnels, where you’ll regularly see monks dressed in orange robes walking around or meditating. Definitely go and visit when you’re in Chiang Mai!
Entry for adults is 40 baht, for children 20 baht.
4. Wat Sri Suphan: The Silver Temple
We discovered this really beautiful temple by accident while trying to escape the crowds at the Sunday Walking Street (a popular market). We were charmed by an array of bright colors on a side street, contrasted with a black, dark sky, as it was already 9:00 PM. We could see a silver temple that looked a bit like Chiang Rai’s White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). The light changed from bright pink to light green by the second; an interesting sight.
There’s a large golden Buddha inside the temple and the rest of the interior is silver. An interesting detail is that women aren’t allowed to enter the main ordination hall, due to the Lanna belief that entering may deteriorate the holy objects that are buried underneath the temple. Someone Thai also explained to us that it’s because women could be having their period – which isn’t ‘pure’.
A nice detail worth mentioning is that there’s a Monk Chat every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday between 5:30 AM and 8:00 AM. This means tourists and others can ask questions and chat with the monks in English. This allows the monks to practice their English and the tourists to learn about Buddhism and the temple.
Entry to the temple is free.
Grab a red taxi!
The easiest way to visit all these temples is to take a ‘songthaew’, also known as the red taxi. They’re all over Chiang Mai and you can get one any time of day, at any place you want. Tell them where you want to go, don’t mention the price and just hop on.
A trip within Chiang Mai will cost 20-30 baht per person. You’ll pay slightly more outside of Chiang Mai, but it’s still affordable if not cheap. Drivers sometimes will try to offer you a tour, but 90% of the time they won’t be pushy about it.