The capital of the cultural north, Chiang Mai is home to over 300 Buddhist temples, a thriving night bazaar and is best known for its access to hill tribes and elephants.
Chiang Mun, Chedi Luang and Phrasingh are some of the most striking temples in the city with strong architectural influences from Lanna Thai and Burma, while locals insist you have not arrived before a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Out of town and 290 steep steps, or a popular cable car journey later, Wat Phra atop Doi Sutherp Mountain is a spectacular temple in its own right and very rewarding for the panoramic views alone.
Chiang Mai’s night bazaar offers crafts, souvenirs, kitsch and antiques. Even those with the strictest resolve not to buy will be softened by the lively atmosphere and friendly vendors.
Escaping the city, we can arrange white water rafting, cycling through rural villages and visits to responsible elephant sanctuaries as well authentic and personal visits to Thai and Burmese Hill tribes.
Chiang Mai is one of my favourite cities in Asia. Despite being the capital of Northern Thailand, it’s much smaller than Bangkok and a stay there feels much more relaxed. It’s steeped in history and you can spend hours wandering around the temples and night markets in the Old Town. If you fancy heading out of town, you’ll be perfectly placed to explore the surrounding national parks and try out a few more adventurous activities.
When to go
Visit Thailand’s north from November to May for the driest weather. From November to February, the cool breezes can welcome but it is important to bring layers to keep warm in the evening.