Things to do in Chiang Mai: Northern Thailand Tourism

Remember how I mentioned in my blog on 7 Tourist Spots in Thailand to Visit on Your Holiday that I visited Chiang Mai twice? I have compiled for myself some information on Chiang Mai. Hope you will find the information useful too as you start planning your vacation to Northern Thailand! 🥰


About Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai เชียงใหม่ which means “New City” in the Thai language was founded in 1296 as the new capital of Lan Na, succeeding the former capital, Chiang Rai. Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand and is definitely worth a visit if you are craving for a holiday in Thailand (beyond Bangkok).

Chiang-Mai-Trekking-Tour-Scenery
Scenery in Chiang Mai

How to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

By Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

There are a few different ways to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but the most popular and convenient is by flight. Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways both offer frequent direct flights between the two cities, so it’s easy to find a flight that fits your schedule. The flight takes 1-1.5h and you can fly to Chiang Mai from both airports to Bangkok ✈️

By Overnight Sleeper Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, you can also take the overnight sleeper train starting from Hualampong Train Station in Bangkok. The train makes a few stops along the way, but it’s a great way to see the countryside and save on accommodation costs 😍

There are several different classes of sleeper train tickets, so be sure to choose one that fits your budget and travel needs. For myself, I travelled on the second class train cabin. I made the mistake of choosing the upper deck in the first trip, which is great for sleeping (less vibration) but tragic because there are no windows for you to enjoy the scenery 🥺 Hence I spent majority of the journey squeezing in with my mum at the lower deck to enjoy the view as well 😂

Things to do at Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a popular tourist destination in Thailand, and for good reason. There are plenty of things to do in this charming city. From sightseeing and trekking to shopping and dining, you can easily fill your days in Chiang Mai 🥰

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Chiang Mai is the old city wall. This well-preserved fortification was built in the late 1300s and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The wall surrounds the old city center and is a great place for a stroll. This can be easily covered by taking a tuk-tuk ride around the city or walking. I was lazy and my mother was travelling with me, hence I voted for the first option 😎. Visiting the Chiang Mai old city wall is a must if you are interested to learn the Thai culture.

Chiang Mai Old City Wall
Chiang Mai Old City Wall, image taken from theakrya.com

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Another thing to check out for tourists is the Chiang Mai Walking Street, which is one of the busiest areas in Chiang Mai during the night. The market offers a variety of food, drinks and souvenirs to tourists and locals. There is something for everyone at the Walking Street Market and it is definitely worth a visit! Some of the popular items sold at the market include Thai food, desserts, handicrafts and souvenirs. Be sure to come hungry and enjoy all the delicious food on offer! 😋

Other Tourist Attractions I visited in Chiang Mai

Doi Suthep – Chiang Mai Northern Thailand Tourism

Another popular attraction in Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep, a mountain located about 16 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai city 🌄. Visitors can take a cable car up to the summit, or hike up if they’re feeling adventurous. The views from the top are stunning, and you can even see all the way to Myanmar on a clear day.

wat-doi-suthep-dragon-steps-hike
Wat Doi Suthep Dragon Steps Hike, image taken from bestpricetravel.com

How to get to Doi Suthep:

-Take a taxi 🚕: This is the easiest way to get to Doi Suthep. Taxis can be easily hailed from the street or found at taxi stands throughout the city. The taxi ride should cost around 200-300 baht, depending on your destination.

-Take a songthaew 🚚: Songthaews are red pickup trucks that act as shared taxis. They can be found throughout the city and the Songtaew ride to Doi Suthep should cost around 50 baht per person. If you are looking for a nice blend of comfort and a unique Thailand experience, go for this option as I myself have done 🥰

-Hike 👨🏻‍🦯: If you’re feeling adventurous and fitspo 💪🏻, you can hike to Doi Suthep. The hike will take about 2-3 hours and there are a few different routes you can take.

What you can do at Doi Suthep:

Take the cable car up to the summit: The cable car ride costs 100 baht per person and offers stunning views of the city.

Hike to the summit: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike to the summit. The hike will take about 2-3 hours and there are a few different routes you can take.

Visit the temples: There are a few temples located at the summit of Doi Suthep. Be sure to check out Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which is one of the most famous temples in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Trekking Tour

If you’re looking for something a little more active, why not go on a Chiang Mai trekking tour? There are plenty of beautiful areas around the city to explore, and you’ll get to see some of the best scenery Thailand has to offer. I signed up for a 3 day 2 night trekking tour with a tour agency and it is a tour with no regrets 🥳🥳

Everything in the tour is planned properly for you ✌️. The tour agency will pick you up from the hotel (with no surcharges if you stay in the city center) and drop you off back at your hotel. Highlights of the tour include eating lunch at the top of a roaring waterfall, bamboo rafting and the beautiful scenery throughout the entire trek! 🤩

Doi Ithanon – A Must-Visit for Chiang Mai

And finally, no trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without a visit to Doi Ithanon, the highest mountain in Thailand 🌄 At over 8,000 feet, it’s a challenging hike, but the views from the top are worth the effort.

Doi-Inthanon-National-Park
Doi Inthanon National Park, image taken from thekeepersmap.com

There are plenty of things to do at Doi Ithanon. You can go on a hiking tour, visit the two Wachirathan waterfalls, or check out the botanical gardens. There’s also a hill tribe village near the top of the mountain where you can learn about traditional Thai life.

If you’re looking to explore Doi Ithannon in more depth, there are a few different tour options available (which I have signed up for on my holiday). One popular tour is the “Grand Canyon of Thailand,” which takes you to the bottom of the mountain and includes a stop at the Wachirathan waterfalls.

So whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or an action-packed adventure, Chiang Mai has something for everyone.

Best time to visit Chiang Mai

One of the great things about Chiang Mai is that the weather is milder than in other parts of Thailand. In the summer months, it can be quite hot during the day but it usually cools down at night. The same is true in the winter – it can be cold in the morning and evening but it will warm up during the day. This makes Chiang Mai a great destination for year-round travel.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Chiang Mai is between November and February, when the weather is cooler and the skies are usually clear. March to May is also a good time to visit, although it can get quite hot during the day. Hence for Singaporeans looking to escape the heat, this season will not be an ideal time to escape from one hot city to another hot city. June to October is the rainy season, so visitors may want to avoid this time if they don’t want to deal with wet weather.

Accommodation in Chiang Mai

It is recommended to stay in the city center (use the old city wall as a reference point) because the easiest way to explore Chiang Mai is via Tours. Most tour groups will pick you up and drop you off from your hotel, so it will be a great hassle if you do not stay within the city center.

About the author – see the About page for more information

Joanne Tan is an aspiring polyglot and has so far mastered English, Chinese and Thai languages. She first started learning Thai in 2015 before staying in Bangkok for 5 months, and then continued studying Thai up to Advanced Levels at the National University of Singapore. In 2017, Joanne was awarded ‘Advanced Thai Proficiency’ by the Sirindhorn Thai Language Institute of Chulalongkorn University. Today, Joanne continues to teach her friends basic Thai speaking and helps her Thai friends actively promote Thai culture.