Chiang Mai is one of my favourite places to travel and, if all goes well, will start to offer quarantine-free travel later in 2021.
Main picture Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai credit whyyan on flickr
Many people however don’t explore outside of the city itself which is a shame because the surrounding area is beautiful and has many attractions on offer.
Please note that this article includes external links. We have visited all sites but always advise caution when clicking on external links.
Chiang Mai city and the wider province is a place that every temple lover should visit.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is situated on Doi Suthep mountain at 1,056 metres and an easy half hour drive from downtown Chiang Mai. One of the most holy Buddhist sites in Thailand, the temple dates back to the late 14th century and is a ‘must-see’ for travellers. The temple is reached by either 300 steps or a funicular cable car from the car park. At the top is a tall golden chedi and numerous murals depicting events from the life and teachings of the Buddha. The views from the top are also well worth the climb.
More views of the Chiang Mai landscape are available at Doi Pui Viewpoint, in particular some delightful sunset vistas. The viewpoint can be reached from Doi Pui Hmong Village situated atop Doi Suthep mountain.
On the way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, hidden in the jungle, is the much more secluded and peaceful temple of Wat Pha Lat. Built in the mid 14th century, originally a resting place for people making their way to the Doi Suthep temple. In the 1930s it became a meditation site for monks. Its name translates as “Monastery at the Sloping Rock’” Wat Pha Lat offers old stone buildings, intricate carvings and statues, and its own impressive city views.
Wat Prathat Doi Kham, a hilltop temple a half hour drive from the city, is often referred to as the ‘Golden temple’ due to its 17-metre tall Buddha image decorated in gold. Another 300-step staircase or a funicular cable car ride takes you to the temple. This sacred temple was built over 1,300 years ago in 687 A.D. and after being abandoned underwent a revitalisation when a hidden chamber was discovered in 1966 containing ancient Buddha images.
Around 90 minutes from Chiang Mai city is Wat Tham Chiang Dao, located in front of a cave known for its intriguing stalactites. The cave can be explored for a short distance by yourself, but you need to hire a guide for a deeper exploration.
The area around Chiang Mai is known for its waterfalls and probably the best is a 90 minute drive from the city – Bua Thong ‘Sticky’ Waterfall. This multi-tiered falls with limestone walls is surrounded by forest flora. The falls are so sticky that they can be climbed – take care just in case they are not as sticky as advertised in places.
Montha Than Waterfall is much closer to the city and is located on the way up Doi Suthep mountain. An excellent place to relax with three levels of falls and a peaceful setting.
For lovers of a hotspring there is Pong Kwao, 90-minutes’ drive from the city, which offers Japanese-style onsen pools – two indoor and three outdoor pools and nine private rooms. Discovered just over one hundred years ago the springs are now a community project.
San Kamphaeng was originally a natural hot spring used by nearby villagers to boil vegetables and treat skin diseases. The geyser-fed streams are now available to customers in private and group rooms and a mineral pool. Just one hour from Chiang Mai.
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
In the foothills of the Doi Suthep-Pui mountains, 50 minutes’ drive from Chiang Mai is Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden. Offering a diversity of Thai plants and other flora, including rare, endemic, and endangered species. The 1,000 hectares features gardens, glasshouses, natural vegetation, and walking trails.
Built in 2006 to commemorate 60 years since His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great’s accession to the throne
The 80 hectares of park, just 30 minutes drive from Chiang Mai, includes a Thai Tropical Garden showcasing native plants, an Orchid Garden, International Garden Zone, and the government-managed agricultural area Gardens for the King.
Chiang Mai city and the wider province are well-known for the range and quality of local handicrafts and there are plenty of opportunities to see how they are made and, of course, to buy.
Muang Kung Pottery Village is around 30-minutes from Chiang Mai and has beautifully crafted jars and other ceramics
Ban Tawai Village is also 30-minutes away and specialises in woodcarving with a wide range of items produced from home decorations and export quality wooden furniture to silverware, lacquerware, and wickerwork creations.
If you have the time, or are travelling more widely, then a drive on the Rubber Tree Road (or route / highway 106) is worth the trip.
The road links Chiang Mai to Lamphun, and is a 40-minute drive that winds through exotic countryside.
Advertising and affiliate links help to support this site. We only partner with organisations who we believe provide a good service or product. Thank you.