Itineraries for Chiang Mai, Thailand can different greatly, but here are the suggestions we’ve come up with which will give you the best experiences. Staying a few days really lets you mix your day around and give you flexibility.
Suggested Stay: 4-5 Full Days
Best Time Of Year To Visit: We prefer January-March when the weather is perfect and the crowds are lower than peak Summer. The rainy season is typically the Fall through early December, but if you are able to able to attend a Lantern Festival in November it is worth the weather risk.
Booking Ahead: If you are looking to join one of the best elephant tours, you need to book ahead as they limit groups sizes and book up sometimes months in advance. You will also want to book your hotel far in advance if you are attending the Thai New Year Celebration (Songkran), in April, or the Lantern Festivals (Yi Peng/Loi Krathong), typically in November.
Related Article: Top 10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai.
One Day In Chiang Mai:
If you only have one full day in Chiang Mai you really should spend it at the Patara Elephant Camp. Depending on how tired you are in the evening you may even want to hit up the Chiang Mai Night Market or Freedom Rasta Bar. While most people come to Chiang Mai for more than a day, if you have a tight schedule, know that you usually have to book the best elephant places far in advance. We suggest the Elephant experience even on a short visit because of how life changing a day with the elephants can, but if you want to be more traditional you should focus your itinerary on Old Town. If a day spent right in town you can see all of the wonderful Old Town temples, spend time chatting with local monks, visit some tiger cubs and still have plenty of time for the night market.
Two Days In Chiang Mai:
With 2 days in Chiang Mai your itinerary can really open up to give you the best of both worlds. You can spend your entire first day with the Elephants, then use your second day with the Monks, Temples, and Tigers. Use the morning to follow our Old Town Temples Walking Tour including some time to join a Mon Chat cultural exchange. If you wake up early enough you can also give the Monks morning alms before starting the walking tour. After a lunch break head up the the Tiger Kingdom and spend 2-3 hours playing with baby tiger cubs and even larger cats. After your visit to the Tiger Kingdom you will have plenty of time to get back to you hotel to relax before going out for the evening. If you make really good time seeing the Old Town sights, or just want to pack a ton in one day, consider also stopping at the nearby the 5 Hill Tribes Exhibition Village near Tiger Kingdom. While the touristy exhibition village isn’t as authentic as a one of more rural stand alone Hill Tribe villages, but you’ll be able to get a peak into the lives of the the Hmong (Meo), Big Earring (Akha) and the Long Necks (Karen) and other tribes.
Three Days In Chiang Mai:
If you have three full days in Chiang Mai it really gives you some flexibility to take in more of the city in your itinerary. The first two days stay about the same in our sample itinerary for Chiang Mai, but the third day has even more options. We’ve gone back on forth on what the best day three is as the two options are so close. If you decide to go with the Golden Triangle on day three you will get a great mix of options during your tour including the White Temple and long neck villages in addition to the Golden Triangle itself. If you decide to visit Wat Doi Suthep instead then you can drop the monk chat on day 2 and do it at Wat Doi Suthep instead. To fill the created space on day 2 you can then visit the tribal tourist village near Tiger Kingdom while you are there.
•Day 1: Elephant Camp Visit. Night time at Freedom Rasta Bar.
Four days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Chiang Mai and our favorite itinerary. You’ll do all the major experiences without feeling like you’ve stayed too long. Chiang Mai is one of our favorite cities in the World and we’ve done this four day itinerary crammed into three long days, so with four to work with your pace should feel perfect. We put the long day trip to the Golden Triangle in the middle of the trip so you can stay closer to town on your last day and can be less burnt out when you leave. When choosing a the Golden Triangle tour, make sure that it actually includes the White Temple, and authentic long neck village and the Golden Triangle itself. There are many variation, but these are the three most important stops.
•Day 1: Elephant Camp Visit & Night Market.
Five Days Chiang Mai:
If 5 days you can pretty much do all of the major things Chiang Mai has to offer in an itinerary without feeling rushed. Five days is perfect for people who want to do all the main things with more flexibility and relaxation. You could easily fill 7-10 days in Chiang Mai, but having a slight feeling of wishing you could stay longer when you’re leaving is usually a sign you have stayed long enough and is an excuse to come back again some day. You never want to stay so long that you leave a vacation feeling like you are sick of a place, especially when it is as cool as Chiang Mai.
•Day 1: Elephant Camp Visit & Night Market.
•Day 5: Get into the Jungle with a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park, make sure to stop by the waterfalls on the way. If you have kids you may even want to hit up the Flight of the Gibbon Zip Lining instead of the National park. Evening Rasta Bars again one last time.
Top 10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai:
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