Chiang Mai is the largest city in North Thailand and the second largest city in the country behind Bangkok. It is about 700 kilometers north of the country’s capital, Bangkok, surrounded by some of the country’s highest peaks. The tourist visiting Chiang Mai can expect to find a city that offers mostly cultural attractions, away from the hustle and bustle, diversity and sometimes chaos of Bangkok. Although the city itself has 150,000 inhabitants, the entire metropolitan area around it gathers around 700,000.

History of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was founded in 1294 by King Mengrai on the site of another older city called Wiang Nopburi. Chiang Mai means “new city” and is that this city replaced Chiang Rai as the capital of the Lanna kingdom (the people who still live in the area and number about 17,000 people). Mengrai walled Chiang Mai to contain Burmese raids but the city passed into Burmese hands on several occasions until it was again controlled by the Thais in 1774. After a period of depopulation until almost 1800, Chiang Mai re-emerged as a city of remarkable cultural and commercial importance to this day.

Image above: The historic centre of Chiang Mai is surrounded by the moat that protected the ancient city from Burmese invasions. To the right, the river Ping

What to see in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is well known for the high density of Buddhist temples that can be found in the city, there are more than 300 of notable importance. It is also interesting to visit the city during the celebration of some of its many festivals, such as:

  • Loi Kratong or Yi Peng: during the full moon of November, balloons adorned with flowers and illuminated with a candle are thrown into the water and into the air.
  • Loi Kratong or Yi Peng: during the full moon of November, balloons adorned with flowers and illuminated with a candle are thrown into the water and into the air.
  • Songkran: the celebration of the Thai New Year during the month of April
  • Flower Festival: at the end of February the flowering of the first tropical flowers in Thailand is celebrated

If you are visiting for one or more days the most interesting attractions in Chiang Mai are the following.

Old town

The old town of Chiang Mai is still surrounded by the wall and moats that protected the city from raids during the Middle Ages and the city centre still retains much of the essence of Thailand. Also in the historic center of Chiang Mai can be found numerous Buddhist temples and markets , so walking and strolling through the city center is a highly recommended option to soak up the flavor of this part of Thailand.

During the last few years the most pure chill-out café style has become fashionable: places decorated in a very attractive way, where you can have a Starbucks style coffee, with wifi, sun loungers, sofas… They are not the cheapest places to go for coffee but they are small oasis where you can relax and refresh yourself after a walk through the city centre.

Monte Doi Suthep and Wat Phra Temple (and more temples)

Mount Doi Suthep is just a few minutes by motorcycle or taxi from the center of Chiang Mai, northwest of the city. Mount Doi Suthep is an important pilgrimage center for practitioners of Buddhism. From the mountain, if the day is clear and the weather allows it (during the rainy season you may find the sky somewhat overcast or foggy) you will have a general view of the city of Chiang Mai. The biggest attraction on Mount Doi Suthep is the Wat Phra temple, famous throughout Thailand. Wat Phra is a set of buildings dedicated to Buddhist worship among which include a golden pagoda about 25 meters high.

wat phra

In Chiang Mai in addition to Wat Phra we find numerous Buddhist temples, some of them in the same historical center. Among the most beautiful stand out:

  • Wat lok Moli
  • Wat Rajamontean
  • Wat Chiang Man
  • Wat Phra Singh
  • Wat Buppharam

Enjoy a Thai massage

The tranquillity of Chiang Mai city invites you to enjoy a Thai massage in its entirety. In the city you will find numerous spas specializing in massage at the highest level, although you can also enjoy a wonderful foot massage in one of the markets in the city.

spa chiang mai

Visit the Elephant Nature Park

The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is an elephant recovery centre for maltreated elephants, exploited or used in other parts of Thailand for entertainment, as pack animals or for transporting tourists. At OneMoreDestination we are not in favour of taking pictures with animals of any kind, as the animals used in the tourist industry usually suffer the consequences of a life of overcrowding and stress. The visit to Elephant Park will allow you to enjoy elephants in semi-freedom regime, accustomed to people and that receive all the attention to be able to lead a full and happy life.

elephant park chiang mai

Sukhothai Excursion

The ruins of Sukhothai are a very interesting stop if you get to Chiang Mai, although you will have to take the train or bus to get there and even spend a night in the city in order to have time to enjoy a visit to the ruins of the city (UNESCO world heritage since 1991).


Hippie and night markets

The city of Chiang Mai was formerly on a bustling trade route, which led to the production of handicrafts and manufactures that were exported to other parts of the country. This commercial spirit is still present today through the multitude of hippy markets and night markets that you can find in the city. The best known are the following:

  • Warorot market, until 18h
  • Night Bazaar of Chiang Mai, the night market par excellence
  • Sunday Market, Sunday afternoons to midnight

chiang mai night market