Chiang Mai is an essential stopover on any visit to Thailand and attracts with its wonderfully diverse historic, cultural, themed and natural attractions. Sightseeing tours in the city take in historic temples, the Old City and the Chinatown zone around Warorot Market. On the edges of the city, Doi Suthep and its landmark temple plus the ruins of the 700-year-old Wiang Kum Kam are easily accessed. The best Chiang Mai sightseeing and city tours are listed below.
Last Updated: 01-03-2018
Sightseeing and City Self-Guided Tours:
Doi Suthep – Doi Pui | Mae Sa Valley | Museums | Parks | The Old City and Temples | Warorot Market | Wiang Kum Kam | Zoos | Vehicle Rental List | Further Reading
The Old City quarter is a good place to start sightseeing. It is right on the doorstep for many tourists and is loaded up with majestic temples and a few unique monuments. Unmissable sights include Chedi Luang Temple and its historic stupa, Phra Singh Temple, the Three Kings’ Statue and the evolving Museum District around it. Read more on Chiang Mai Old City and Ancient Temples.
Beyond the 700-year-old city walls, there are lots more temples and religious monuments. A sightseeing excursion to the hilltop Doi Suthep Temple is one of the single most popular activities for both Thai and international visitors. A Doi Suthep trip can be combined with visits to Bhuping Palace, Monthathan and Huay Kaew waterfalls, and a Hmong hilltribe village. Read more on a guide to Doi Suthep – Doi Pui.
Built during the late 13th century, Wiang Kum Kam pre-dates Chiang Mai and boasts a fascinating collection of extant ruins. Among other recommended temples to visit in the greater Chiang Mai area are Wat Suan Dok and Wat Jet Yod. Both were founded 500 years ago and feature historic structures and relics. Read more on a guide to Wiang Kum Kam.
Warorot Market is known as Kad Luang in the local Thai kham muang dialect. This translates as Central Market and it is the premier destination for visitors looking to visit a traditional Thai market. The ground floor of the multi-storey structure is packed with stalls piled high with herbs, spices, dried fish, colourful fruits and all the other ingredients which ensure Thai cuisine remains distinctive. Shops around the outside of the market and the surrounding sois sell a huge assortment of products like footwear, traditional clothing and fabrics, gold jewellery and Chinese medicines. Pung Thao Kong Chinese Shrine and Ton Lamyai Flower Market are other great sights in this part of town. Read more on Chiang Mai Traditional Markets and Walking Street Markets.
Museums and Art Galleries
There are more than 10 museums in and around Chiang Mai. These include the Lanna Folklife Museum, the Arts and Cultural Centre, the Tribal Museum and the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders. Besides the historical collections, Chiang Mai has a number of contemporary art galleries around the city too. Read more on museums and art galleries in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Zoo and Night Safari
Chiang Mai has two premium zoos. Chiang Mai Zoo is at the foot of Doi Suthep and home to 400-plus species including pandas plus the likes of an aquarium tunnel and a seal enclosure. Chiang Mai Night Safari is south of the city and boasts another mixed cross-section of animals covering everything from miniature horses and tapirs from Brazil to crocodiles and white rhinos. Read more on Chiang Mai Zoo and Night Safari.
Royal Park Ratchaphruek is on the same road as the Night Safari and is a huge expanse of flower gardens from around the world. The park’s Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion is the flagship of the traditional architecture here. Read more on Chiang Mai Parks and Gardens.
The southern end of the so-called Samoeng Loop is just beyond the Night Safari. People doing the 60km loop as a sightseeing excursion get to see Krisdadoi Resort’s floral gardens and experience nature at its finest before heading down into the multiple attractions of the Mae Sa Valley. Tiger Kingdom, Mae Sa Elephant Camp, a snake farm, Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden and Baan Tong Luang hilltribe village are five of around twenty attractions in the valley. Read more on a guide to Mae Sa Valley.