5 favourite things to do in Chiang Mai

  • Posted onJuly 4th, 2013

Chiang MaiEvery now and then we all crave an escape from the bright lights (and horrendous traffic) of our beloved Bangkok. While many choose to head to the equally bright lights of Pattaya, or the tropical beach resorts of Phuket, Krabi, and Samui, I’m don’t think I’m alone in longing for the cultured sites and activities of Chiang Mai..

Chiang Mai is the capital of Northern Thailand, hundreds of miles from the nearest white sandy beach, instead sun, sand, and sea, you’ll find stunning nature. Surrounded by a circle of mountains, the city of Chiang Mai is also known as the cultural and artistic capital, rich with customs and traditions, as well as a number of festivals throughout the year.

Here 5 of our favourite things to see/do in Chiang Mai:

CM - Doi SuthepWat Phrathat Doi Suthep

One of the most famous and iconic temples of Bangkok, Doi Suthep dates back to the late 12th Century, perched high up on a mountainside overlooking the entire city. It’s actually quite a climb, both to drive up to the temple entrance, and climb up the steps to the top of the complex, just over 3,500 feet above sea level.

The centre piece of the temple is a large golden chedi (spire), within which you’ll find holy Buddha relics which people come to see from across the globe. There is plenty to see around the very colourful temple grounds, as well as some eating and shopping by the entrance.


With Chiang Mai surrounded by so much nature and wilderness, the best way to explore this part of the country is by trekking. There are various trekking companies offering organised tours and adventures, with lots of additional activities including elephant treks, bamboo rafting, and visits to hillside tribes.

With so many treks and tours available you really can pick and choose how you go. Some offer all action tours with lots of water sports and hiking involved, while there are also more chilled options, with trips to waterfalls, elephant camps, and tours of the national park.

cookingKaohom Thai Culinary Cooking School

While there are a number of good cooking schools in Bangkok, something about the vibe and pace of Chiang Mai makes it perfect for learning and getting more ‘hands-on’ with Thai culture.

There are several good Thai cooking schools in Chiang Mai but Kaohom has been recommended to me more than once. Private classes are small, usually 5 to 7 people, and you’ll be collected and dropped off direct from/to your hotel. Not only do you get to learn the arts of cooking traditional Thai dishes but you also get to eat it after!

IthanonDoi Inthanon National Park

The highest peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon is a monumental national park, and a must visit for nature lovers. Over 2500 meters above sea level, the atmosphere of this park is usually refreshingly cool, even cold during the winter months, as a result it is home to some rather unique and fascinating wildlife.

zooChiang Mai Zoo

I’m not a big fan of zoos, and I wasn’t really looking forward to my trip to Chiang Mai zoo, but I ended up having a pleasant day there. It’s quite a vast space with around 6,000 well cared for animals, and environments including reservoirs, waterfalls, an aquarium, open park with camping, and a popular sub-zero zone. The Pandas are the star of the show here, but the koalas and penguins are also quite unique (considering we are in Thailand). This is also home to Chai-Yo, the elephant who became the symbol of the 1998 Asian Games.

The zoo is  situated on the road to Doi Suthep, so combining it with temple visit will make for a great day out.

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