Other Top Sights Around Chiang Mai:
If you have more than 3 days in Chiang Mai there are a bunch of attractions on the outskirts of town to fill your extra time. Please refer to our Suggested Itineraries if you are torn on how to divide your time.
Prioritizing Your Time:
Most of the attractions on this list are awesome, but it is important to prioritize your time in Chiang Mai. You’ll want to make sure to visit all the main sights and temples in Old Town before tackling this list. We also suggest getting all of the side trips like Tiger Kingdom and Elephants treks done first. As long as you have 4-5 days you can see everything plus fit in a day trip or two. Please consult our Suggested Itineraries For Chiang Mai for more tips.
In short the best thing we can tell you is don’t get worried about how far from the city center some of these stops are as they are easy to get to. You can take a tuk tuk, car taxi, or truck taxi to any of the stops for only a couple dollars.
Other Top Sights Around Chiang Mai:
1. Flower Garden Temple (Wat Suan Dok): In the 1300’s a monk named Sumanaost found a intriguing relic believed to be part of Buddha’s shoulder bone, which he deemed so precious it needed to be concealed. The Monk believed the relic had special powers and hid it in a series of silver Chinese boxes which he put into a bronze casket. With the relic in safe keeping, Chiang Mai’s King Kuna built Wat Suan Dok, whose name means Flower Garden, to house it. While moving the Relic into Wat Suan Dok in 1383 it miraculously divided itself into two pieces, with each piece growing back to the size of the original. One half of the newly split relic remained here at Wat Suan Dok, but the King felt the second half needed its own temple. The King put the half onto a white elephant and set it loose to pick the location of the new temple for him. After climbing a mountain the Elephant signaled where to build the second Temple which led to Wat Doi Suthep described next.
Almost nothing remains of the the original Wat Suan Dok but it is still impressive starting with the Bot’s 20 foot tall Buddha Statue cast in 1550. The coolest thing at the Temple are the dozens of white stupas containing the ashes of the princes and royal families of Chiang Mai. The stupas were moved here in 1907 and give the Temple an amazing New Orleans cemetery-like feel. The main Sermon Hall is even new, built in 1932, and is the largest Sermon Hall in Northern Thailand. The inside of the Sermon Hall has richly ornamented columns, murals of the life of Buddha, and two large Buddha statues standing back-to-back. Just west of the Temple down Suthep Road is the Payom local market. Monk Chat: free Monday, Wednesday and Friday 5-7pm; you can also do a 2 day meditation retreat weekly on Tuesday & Wednesday
2. Doi Suthep Temple: Continuing from our story of Wat Suan Dok above brings you to Doi Suthep Temple. King Ku Na declared that a new temple needed to be built to honor the miracle but he wanted divine guidance on where to build it. The King placed the second half of the relic onto one of his White Elephants and sent it off into the jungle. The Elephant climbed and climbed until he reached the a peak on Doi Suthep Mountain then trumpeted 3 times, made three counterclockwise circles, and laid down refusing to go any farther. This was the sign the King needed and Doi Suthep Temple was built.
Today 306 snake guarded steps mark the way up to the heavily gold gilded Temple and they say you haven’t truly arrived in Chiang Mai until you’ve been to Doi Suthep. It takes about 40 minutes to get up to the Temple by taxi or tour and only about an hour to see it, but we suggest taking a half of a day and working in the sights around the Temple. The sights include waterfalls, monk caves, and a large hill top Hmong Village. Read more here about the sight around Doi Suthep. Monk Chat: Is available daily at the Temple’s International Buddhism Center from 1-3pm.
3. Wat Umong: A large stone Chedi covered in moss marks the artificial mound filled with a series of crisscrossing tunnels built in the 1300’s. Locals will tell you that the tunnels were crisscrossed so the crazy Monk who lived there would stay at the Temple and couldn’t wander off into the wilderness. The Temple was abandoned for a over 100 years until it and its tunnels reopened in 1940.
During the 100 year abandonment moss and vines grew all over which today lead to a beautiful explosion of green during the early winter months just after the rainy season. Our favorite spot is on the trail leading to the tunnels where a garden of decapitated Buddha statue heads lay, half covered in moss. The largest of these heads dates back to the 1400’s and was brought here from Phayao. The restoration of the tunnels has lead them to look more like underground bunkers than ancient tunnels they once were, but they are still pretty cool. Monk Chat: Available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5:30pm-7:30pm.
4. Temple of the Golden Mountain (Wat Phra That Doi Kham): Legend says Buddha visited this hill where he encountered the cannibal hill tribe called Lawa. Two brothers from the tribe, named Pu Sae and Yaa Sae, tried to eat Buddha, but through kindness he convinced the brothers to stop being cannibals. Before leaving the mountain Buddha gave the brothers a lock of his hair as a gift and asked them to pay homage everyday. later grew that the brothers’ spirits remained in the hill watching over and guarding the valley below. In honor of this legend, a Temple was built here in 687 as possibly the oldest in greater Chiang Mai.
The Temple fell into disrepair over the centuries before finally being restored when heavily rains destroyed what was left of the original Temple in 1996. To start the restoration, Chiang Mai rebuilt the Sermon Hall and added huge white snakes on running up the sides of the steps going to the Temple. The steps seem to go on forever, but don’t worry you’ll be able to skip and drive right to the parking lot. Stepping into the main courtyard of the Temple it’s fun to check out the large number of ceremonial bells and gongs then admire the Yaksha Demon Warriors and Singha White Lions guarding the Temple. The Ubosot or Monks’ Ordination Hall is really cool as well with huge 3-headed snakes guarding its steps and a golden peacock image sits above the door marking the symbol of the King. By far the main attraction at the Temple of the Golden Mountain is the 66-foot-tall sitting Buddha statue looking out of Chiang Mai. While in Chiang 6 miles away you probably noticed the bid Buddha starring down at you from the hills, but up close you really see how huge it is. The Buddha is so big that the Yaksha Demon Warrior statues next to it look tiny even though they are themselves 15-feet-tall. Visiting Hours: 6am-5pm.
5. Bo Sang Handicraft Village: The world famous village is 6 miles East of town and is along a road lined with handicraft-producing factories. In the village, young women make silk, cotton and paper parasol umbrellas which are hand painted with different animal and floral designs. Generations of Bo Sang families have been hand making parasols for more than 200 years. Getting Here: A TukTuk or taxi only takes about 15 minutes and won’t cost very much so a scheduled tour group is not needed.
6. Seven Peaks Temple (Wat Chet Yot): Wat Chet Yot, sometimes spelled Wat Jet Yod, is probably one of the least visited major temples, but is very unique. Chet Yot literally means Seven Peaks and refers to the seven stone Chedis which top the complex’s main building. While only the main building remains, the complex was built in 1455 to host the Eighth World Buddhist Council. Nobody seems to know the results of the council. If you are wondering why Wat Chet Yot looks so different from other Thai Temples it is because it was based on the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India where Buddha gained enlightenment. In the center of the Temple is a small cave-like hall and the based is carved with rows of carved Devatas figures.
7. Night Safari: The Chiang Mai Night Safari is a favorite of visitors with kids and has a unique twist on the typical zoo experience. They have a large walking zoo area there you can see over 50 species of animals and even large areas where you can join a Safari. The Safari is more riding in a crowded tram and hand feeding Giraffes than it is a true Safari but it is still cool. The Safari grounds are made up of North Zone with carnivorous animals and South Zone with animals from the African savanna zone. The main draw is to do the Safari at night which has a cool eerie feel, especially when you see the carnivorous animals and cats eyes shine in the dark.
Hours: 11am-10pm, Day Safari 3-4:30pm, Night Safari 7-10pm Cost: Waling Zone 100 Baht, Day Safari 800 Baht, Night Safari 800 Baht; Kids are half price for each. Day Safari: Leaves every 30 minutes covering both the North and South Zone, trip takes 60 minutes and is mainly narrated in Thai. Night Safari: Leaves for either zone every 15-30 minutes, The South Zone trip take 30 minutes and the North Zone take 25 minutes, both are mainly narrated in Thai but a couple a night are in English. Safari Website: (HERE).
8. Kawila Provincial Boxing Stadium: A great chance to check out of Muay Thai fight while in Thailand. Kawila Boxing Stadium is the most authentic Muay Thai experience and is where the locals and the best fighters go. Other venues with Muay Thai in Chiang Mai are Loi Kroh Entertainment Complex which has pretty low level boxers fighting inside GoGo and Ladyboy bars where you tip the fighters after each fight. Thapae Boxing Stadium is near the Eastern gate, has more professional fighters, lots of tourists, and only costs 500 Baht. Hours: Friday Night starting at 8:30pm with the Title Match at around 11pm. The other lesser venues have fights more often. Cost: 500 Baht for general admission or more for ringside VIP.
9. Weekend Walking Streets: There are really cool local markets that pop up right in the middle of the street on both Saturday and Sunday evenings. On Saturday the stretch of Wualai Rd from the Old Town’s South Gate all the way to the Silver Temple comes alive. On Sunday evenings it’s right in the very center of Old Town where Phrapokkloa Rd and Ratchadamnoen Rd meet and goes in 1-2 blocks in either direction. Overall the everyday Night Market on the Eastside of town is cooler, but the Walking Street Markets are unique, plus you can really barter.
10. Silver Temple (Wat Sri Suphan): The small, but growing, Wat Sri Suphan Temple sits right in the middle of a part of town loaded with Silversmiths which has lead to the Temple’s Ordination Hall being covered in silver metal. The shiny silver exterior and interior mainly comes from aluminum and nickle with a little bit of silver which is quite unique in a culture that mainly uses gold on their Temples. It seems that every nook and cranny are fully filled and covered with silver covered metal. The interior of the Ordination Hall is just as impressive as the outside, but keep in mind that woman are not allowed inside.
Make sure to take some time to visit the stalls with Silversmiths and Monks overlaying metal on very detailed carvings and statues before they are added to the Temple. We really love the carved ornate door and Hindu Ewan Elephant statue. If you are hitting up the Saturday Walking Street Market, the Silver Temple turns it into a great two for one stop. Temple lovers and photographers should realistically move this stop all the way up to #5 on this list.
11. Khum Kantoke Dinner Show: If you want to get some Thai food mixed in with a traditional dinner dancer show we suggest checking out the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center. There are a number of places to get this experience around town and you should try to pick one that has a Khom Loi Sky Lantern release at the end if available. Hours: Shows which typically run from 7pm-9:30 Cost: Booking at tour agency or desk in town is the cheapest and should only cost 500 to 600 Baht per person.
12. Wat Ku Tao & White Elephant Monument: Built in 1613 to hold the ashes of Prince Saravadi who was the first ruler to control Chiang Mai during the Burmese occupation. As you approach Wat Ku Tao it’s easy to see the large golden chedi on its Northside but the coolest part is the skinny oddly shaped tower in the middle with the golden spire on top. Most visitors feel the tower looks like stacked up watermelons which makes sense as the Temple complex name Tao literally means Melon in Thai, however, they told us it is actually a series of 5 monk offering bowls. If you look closely you’re be able to see the lip of each bowl supporting the bowl above it.
13. Wiang Kum Kam Ancient City: most of the ancient city is nothing more than a series of ruined platforms and chedis they are just starting to uncover but there are two active temples from the late 1200’s including Wat Chang Kum. The other temple is a large square chedi tower filled with niches of Buddha images on many levels called Wat Chedi Liem.
14. Chiang Mai Zoo: This zoo may be a little below the standards of a large American or European city zoo, but it makes up for it with soe unique experiences. You can hand feed the Giraffes all day long from a raised platform as long as you buy some feed, which is pretty cheap. You can also feed, hold and take pictures with a cuddly Koala Bear which is always really fun. The coolest program lets you hangout with and volunteer for the Pandas! Signing up can be a confusing and it’s pricy, but the chance to interact with a rare Panda is priceless. Even if you don’t do the program, you’ll still be able to watch the Pandas from a distance in their enclosure. Panda Keeper Program: 5,000 gets you one-on-one time with a Panda; runs Mon-Fri 8:30am-4:30pm, must arrange ahead of time. Panda Webpage. Koala Encounter: 1000 Baht you gets your group 10 minutes of time to feed, hold and take photos; runs Daily 9am-3pm. Contact: [email protected] Zoo Website: (HERE).
15. Scorpion Tailed Boat River Cruises: Typically leave from in front of the Chiang Mai 1st Church. Not anywhere as cool as the river cruises in Bangkok since most of Chiang Mai is further from the river, but you’ll see a number of large fancy houses. Cruise Times: Takes 90 minutes and leaves at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, & 5pm. Cost: 500 Baht person. Cruise Website: (HERE).