Being an ancient city that dates back to the 13th century, it still retains its historical remnants with strong Buddhist traditions and over 300 temples. Some of the significant Buddhist attractions that one must visit include the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Phra Singh. For history buffs, their do list must include Chiang Mai, the old defensive wall and the moat that was built and used to tackle foreign attacks in the period between between the 13th and 15th century.
Probably the most popular tourist activity in Chiang Mai, is a day out with the elephants. On a day out at an elephant camp you’ll get to get up close and interact with these majestic mammals. You can enjoy feeding and bathing them. For more info, check out our Best Elephant Camps in Chiang Mai and How to choose an Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai posts. This activity normally requires 1 Full Day, but many camps offer half-day options if you don’t have a full day to spare. After an exciting day with the elephants, you could choose do a spot of shopping at Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar. This is held every night, and stalls are open from around 4pm – 11pm. If you’re in Chiang Mai over a weekend, be sure to catch the Saturday Night Market (on Wua Lai Road), or the bigger Sunday Night Market (on Rachadomnoen/ Walking Street) . These markets sell more artisan-type products and handicrafts made by locals. Whereas the Night Bazaar on Chang Klan road sells mostly mass-produced goods made in China.
Another top activity in Chiang Mai, is to visit the hill tribes. This is the cultural part of a trip to Chiang Mai. Around 7 major Hill tribe groups live in northern Thailand, and they are an important part of the cultural tapestry of the area. Broadly speaking, there are two types of villages. There are tourist villages which have been set up for the purposes for tourism and require an entrance ticket. They allow you to see a range of hill tribes in one village (such as the Karen, Hmong, Akha, Yao, Long neck etc). Or authentic villages which are natural ones that haven’t been set up for visitors. If you’re short on time, then a visit to a tourist village such as ‘Baan Tong Luang’ village in Chiang Mai offers an educational and all round overview of the different hill tribes, which would otherwise be hard to see in one day. Whichever villages you choose to visit, you’ll want to make sure you visit them ethically. Check out our How to visit Hill tribe villages in an ethical way post and our 1 Day Hill Tribe Tour.