Top Things to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

There are so many things you can do in Chiang Mai that you could stay for months and not do everything. If you only have a short time, I suggest picking what is most important for you and going after those. Don’t forget to schedule yourself some downtime though! Strolling the markets and people watching is a favorite past time here.

I did a lot while in Chiang Mai and liked it enough to visit a second time. However, I didn’t do nearly as many activities as most people do. Go at your own speed and don’t get swept up in only doing touristic things.

-  Take a cooking class. This can easily be arranged through wherever you are staying. There are a number of schools and I didn’t hear a bad thing about any of them. I did a half day class with smart cook. (Read more about that here.)

- Doisuthep, the temple on the hill.

- Temples, temples, temples. They can be found every which way in the city and surrounding the city.

- Go to a ladyboy show. This might seem very out of your comfort zone but I recommend going. It’s interesting and actually a good show. The costumes are amazing.

- Tiger Kingdom. If you have always wanted to get in a cage with a Tiger and take crazy pictures, this is for you.

- Visit with the elephants. This takes many forms. There are so many places you can go. I heard mixed reviews on all except the Elephant Nature Reserve, where you can volunteer for a week or a day to work with rescued elephants. Book ahead!

- Yoga and mediation. You can do a 24 hour mediation retreat for beginners up to a full week and beyond of retreat type programs.

- Get a massage. There are places of every level. The fancy spa to the side of the road massage. One of the most popular is the rehabilitation program for women prisoners. They are trained in massage so they have a skill when they are released. This work release program has centers all around the city and can be found by their purple signs. They book up fast each day. Massages run about 150 baht to 500 baht at the higher end. I went to Khunka twice and enjoyed it. I paid  200 baht.

- Go to the Sunday night walking market. It is massive and has more of a variety than any other market I have been to. I was exhausted by the end but I ate great and cheap.

- If you have been on the road a while stop by the “On the Road” bookshop. Their selection is phenomenal. It looks like each book in there was handpicked. They specialized in used books but have a number of new ones for sale as well. It is a mostly English bookshop but they do have a small selection of German, French and Spanish books as well.

- The daily night bazaar is also worth a stop. It is right near the ladyboy show, so you can do both in one night.

- For the expat, foreigner, traveler bar scene and dancing, head to Zoe’s.

- Walk the neighborhoods of the old town and beyond. Get lost, get off the trail.

- Visit Free Bird Café. It the restaurant arm of a local non-profit that educates Burmese refugees.

- Get out of town and see some waterfalls.

- Rock Climbing. 

- Rent a scooter or bicycle and spend a day getting to know the city. 

- Walk to moat.