“When you visit Chiang Mai, there is lots on offer. Temples, waterfalls, elephants, cafes…the list is endless. Making that decision is hard, and despite there being lots of lists on the web, they all mention the same old places. Sure, some of them you just can’t miss out when visiting Chiang Mai but here are our 10 best places to visit when in Chiang Mai — prepare to be inspired!
1. More than just Doi Suthep
Sure, every list has Doi Suthep — the temple found high on the mountain overlooking the city — and why not? It’s stunning, full of tradition and culture and the views are spectacular. Its full name is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and is by far the most famous landmark in Chiang Mai, made accessible thanks to Kruba Srivichai who built a road up the mountain in 1935. But why stop there?! Keep going a bit further up the mountain and you reach Phuping Palace, a still-used royal residence that is open to the public. The gardens are spectacular — especially in the mornings when the mist is still clearing — and are filled with roses that the Royal Princesses adore. Save yourself the hassle and book into a half a day trip exploring the palace and the temple by clicking here!
2. See the city from the sky in a hot air balloon
Take to the skies in a hot air balloon and see Chiang Mai from a totally new angle. Every morning balloons release their tethers and float silently skyward into the blue skies of northern Thailand. Pass fluffy wisps of cloud as you soar higher and higher, taking in the amazing views of the surrounding mountains, jungles, cities and ancient sites. The pilots point out some of Chiang Mai’s most well-known landmarks and you can even celebrate a birthday or propose to your better half up in the sky if you so desire. Once down on the ground, pop open some champagne in an old balloon tradition and enjoy a buffet breakfast at the local hotel they launch from. This story in Citylife (a local Chiang Mai magazine) encapsulates the experience perfectly!
3. Cook food with an auntie using herbs from her garden.
Chiang Mai is full of cooking schools, but none quite like this. This small farming family in Chiang Mai opens their kitchen doors to visitors who are looking to learn about real Thai food, permaculture and traditional ways of life. You will be invited to spend time in Auntie Orn’s garden learning about herbs and local produce, visit a local market, and then cook traditional Thai food with the ingredients you have collected. The recipes are clean and easy to follow, the food is organic and simple, and you get to learn techniques that you can take home and impress your friends with at your next dinner party!
4. Doi Intanon’s hidden nature trails
Another one you often find online is Doi Inthanon. Well-known for being Thailand’s highest peak, people flock to the summit just before dawn every day to enjoy probably the best sunrise view in all of Thailand, along with refreshingly cold temperatures and a sense of adventure. However, many places fail to mention that the mountain is home to a lot more than just a summit viewpoint. Why not leave the main roads and join some stunning nature trails that take you through the mountain side jungles, packed with unique flora and fauna found only on the highest peaks in the region. You could even stop by a Hmong hilltribe market, and the mountains most impressive waterfall on the way back down and make it a day of adventure that you’ll not forget in a hurry. Doi Inthanon Nature Trail on Tripzii.co.
5. See elephants…the proper way
Chiang Mai is full of elephant parks, sanctuaries and treks, and we all know how hard it is to pick one that is ethical. Today, it is widely accepted that riding is not good for elephants, keeping them chained up all day is also detrimental to their wellbeing and keeping them away from jungle trees is bad for their health. There are a number of places you can pick that offer the right sort of elephant experience, and Kanta Elephant Sanctuary is one of them.
After being allocated bananas and sugar cane to feed to the elephants, you will walk with your guide through the Sanctuary, where you will find free-roaming elephants and hear their individual stories. You can touch, feed, photograph, and interact with the elephants at your leisure while you learn about their lifestyle and behaviours. After you have met all the elephants, get wet and muddy with the elephants as you apply a mud treatment to their skin which helps protect them for the sun and clean their bodies. Take them to a river for a bath before leaving them to relax as you clean up and learn about elephant conservation. You can book a trip by clicking here, or browse a number of other elephant sanctuaries by visiting Tripzii.co!
6. Sculpt ceramics in a traditional Thai way
If you have a few days to spare and are a creative type of person, why not book into a three or ten day course spinning and sculpting clay into some traditionally crafted ceramics. The classes emphasise the basic traditional techniques mastered by Thais over centuries, along with more intermediate and advanced techniques for those who are already skilled in pottery. All resources are provided and whatever you make you can take home too! Each class is tailored to the student’s needs, and they encourage experiment.
7. Make some paper using poo
Keeping with the creative trend, this day out will leave you giggling like children while being amazed at what you can make with poop! Out towards Mae Rim sits a small paper factory that uses elephant poop to create paper! From collection to preparation, crafting, drying and curating — the trip takes you on a hands on, step by step tour of their facility while inviting you to create your own paper from the poop you collect. Not for the faint hearted, the technique involves pulling out the plant fibres still left in the ele poop to create a strong sheet of paper! Click here to book or visit their website to learn more at www.poopoopaperpark.com
8. Take to the river on a White Water Raft
For the wild types, a trip to the fast flowing waters in Mae Teng, just north of Chiang Mai is a must! Experience an unforgettable experience on the water with a team of professional extreme sports guides as you navigate over 10km of crazy river rapidssurrounded by lush green forests. Fully qualified and using imported equipment, safety is of course a number one priority, the guides will take you on the longest and best rafting trip along the Mae Teng River, one of the best rivers in Southeast Asia for rapid based water sports. If you prefer to control your own vessel, why not go for a kayaking adventure instead, with stops on the way to visit caves and local Karen villages deep in the jungle.
9. Fly through the Jungle canopy on a Zipline
Ziplies are all the rage here in Chiang Mai, and for good reason! They take you places you have never been before, and send you flying from mountain side to mountain side along a sturdy wire a kilometre in length, hundreds of metres above the ground! In fact, Jungle Flight offer the longest, most exhilarating zipline rides in all of Thailand. Navigate the canopy along 20+ ziplines and see the jungle from another perspective while you try hard not to scream in fear and excitement! The professionally trained staff are diligent and give clear and concise instructions while keeping the mood exciting and fun. We recommend the extreme package to get the full experience, because why go half on a full on day such as this!
10. Learn the history of Chiang Mai via Segway
When visiting any city, for many learning the history and culture is something high up in the to-do-list. Chiang Mai is a city with a rich and vibrant history, and the old city surrounded by the ancient moat wall is packed to the brim with temples, ancient buildings, museums and much more. Instead of booting up and walking the city — something that will leave you tired and sweaty in just a few hours — why not take to the roads on a Segway and seg your way through the only guided tour in the city. Explore unseen backstreets and learn the secrets of the city, information often unknown to the weary traveller. This is a double edged experience of fascinating history and stories about this ancient city, along with an exciting day out on a Segway. Don’t worry either, they teach you the basics before you set off so you don’t end up losing control and crashing into a relic or tuktuk!
For more information about any of these trips and many more in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son, visit www.tripzii.co — the leading Northern Thai platform connecting local adventures to people across the country.