Set in the north amongst a stunning mountain backdrop, Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second city, with a quaint moated old town and rich cultural heritage.
Far less daunting than its southern counterpart, Chiang Mai’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere renders the city a favourite in many travellers’ hearts. The 700-year old town is the cultural and spiritual core of Northern Thailand, and plays home to over 300 temples.The city encapsulates the perfect blend of modern amenities and traditional charm, with the feel of an ancient village maintained by the presence of the moated Old Quarter. The once entirely walled-in area has been developed in recent years, but the preservation of some of the original city walls adds to the unique vibe of the city. Tree-lined streets are lined with traditional wooden houses and their leafy gardens, and a green stretch of parkland that borders the moat makes for a great leisurely walk in blissful surroundings.
When visiting the temples, it’s difficult to overlook the Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, which sits atop Mount Doi Suthep, boasting a remarkable view of the entire Chiang Mai basin. The temple is one of the most revered amongst the Thai people and is a major pilgrimage during the Buddhist holidays of Makhu Buja and Visak. To reach the temple requires a challenging climb up 309 steps, although there is a cable-car for those so inclined. The temples are still working community centres as well as tourist attractions, so don’t be surprised to encounter monks, who are often keen to engage in conversation and practice their English.
Colourful celebrations pepper the Thai calendar, and spiritual Chiang Mai is a great place to experience the festivities. A standout date is the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, which sees the simultaneous release of thousands candle-lit lanterns into the sky and river. This dreamy spectacle, held during the full moon, truly is a sight to behold.
Chiang Mai’s location amongst the looming hillsides makes it an ideal base for trekking, and a mountain tour will allow you to explore the deep forests, rugged waterfalls and captivating villages with the aid of an experienced guide. To really connect with the stunning environment, take an excursion to camp out underneath the stars at one of the region’s National Parks.
13 hours 45 minutes
Best Time To Go
November to March
Chiang Mai has a very hot climate, with temperatures close to and above 30°C almost all year round. There are three main seasons - from the end of October through to February it is the 'cool' season, but temperatures still remain above 20°C on average. This is the most preferable time to visit the city, as the heat will not be overwhelming when exploring the region. The temperature then peaks sharply from March to May, and days are long and sunny during this period. From June on to late October you should expect frequent rain and thunder showers, although temperatures remain high.