25 Best Things to do in Chiang Mai
Your trip to Chiang Mai is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’re excited. You can’t wait to hit the ground in Thailand and start your adventure. But, speaking of start...where do you begin with activities? What will you see? What will you do? And how can you discover the most unique, adventure-packed, cultural experiences? If you’re looking for things to do in Chiang Mai, then your search stops here. Here are 25 unique experiences packed with culture, adventure and plenty of good times.
1. Show some love to mother nature’s magnificent giant
Spark your sense of wonder with a trip to a Thailand elephant sanctuary. Unlike the the elephant rides you’ll commonly see around the country, a trip to an elephant sanctuary involves no riding of the gentle giants. While this may sound disappointing, the sad truth is that most Thai elephants that are ridden are mistreated by their masters. What’s more, riding hurts their spines. An elephant sanctuary, however, provides a much more humane experience. Here you’ll stroke, feed and swim with these magnificent creatures as you play with them. The whole experience will pay off when you notice something very different about these elephants compared to their ridden counterparts: sanctuary elephants are almost sure to flash you a smile.
2. See endangered gibbons as you become Tarzan
If you’ve ever dreamed of swinging through the treetops like the iconic jungle hero, then Chiang Mai’s world famous Flight of the Gibbon experience is a must. Not only will you be immersed in beautiful virgin rainforest as you Zipline through a course of 30 stations (including one of the longest in Asia) you’ll also get a chance to see endangered gibbons who inhabit the jungle canopy. The adrenaline rush, gorgeous views and fun make this an unforgettable experience that’s sure to be a highlight of your Thailand holiday as it has been for so many visitors over the years.
3. Immerse yourself in another world with a traditional Thai dinner and show
For culture lovers, a khantoke dinner is a can’t-miss experience. During this show, you’ll be seated on the floor around a large round table, and then served northern Thai food as you witness traditional Lanna entertainment, which consists of Thai dancing and live music. For those who want to immerse themselves in a night of Thai culture—full of sights, sounds and delicious Thai food—this is certainly an unforgettable experience.
4. Explore Chiang Mai’s old city on eco-friendly transportation
No trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without a tour of the 700+ year old, moat surrounded city. And what better way to experience it than on a Segway? As part of the Segway Old City Tour, you’ll glide around the Old City’s back lanes and byways as your guide reveals the history of the famous landmarks, temples and markets. 100% safe, the tour kicks off with a 15-minute Segway lesson and includes a coffee and snack break. Throughout the tour your guides stop traffic for you as you see the sights in the 700-year old ancient city. You can also kill two birds with one stone by combining your Segway adventure with a rainforest Zipline experience and save some serious cash in the process.
5. Walk on a waterfall
You’ve never seen a waterfall so sticky. Located around an hour and a half north of Chiang Mai, the Bua Tong sticky waterfall is an unusual, yet beautiful sight. The bulbous, cream colored rocks of the waterfall are a hard sponge-like texture that grips easily to your feet, which means, the adventurous can scale it quite easily. Whether or not you’re bold enough to dare the climb, these falls in the lush, tropical forest are certainly worth a visit—if only to catch a glimpse of its unique appearance.
6. Experience traditional Thailand village life firsthand.
Many travelers who come to Thailand wish to experience traditional culture. With a trip to Mae Kampong, you can do just that. An hour outside of Chiang Mai, this small Thai village called Mae Kampong which allows you to step back in time and witness how Thais lived before mega malls, skyscrapers, wifi and iPhones. You’ll see local craftsmen produce mosquito repellents, baskets and cinnamon balms in this charming village as you exchange smiles with the locals. Located conveniently next to Flight of the Gibbon Zipline course, you can easily tag a trip to Mae Kampong onto your Ziplining adventure, no tourist traps here this is a genuine village experience!
7. Discover Buddhist secrets from the “real deal”
If you have even an inkling of curiosity about Buddhism, or simply want to learn more about Thailand’s most predominant religion, then it’s best to speak directly with experts: monks. Chiang Mai makes it easier than ever to have a philosophical debate or a friendly chat with Thailand’s famous holy men. You can learn about their life, beliefs or ask questions about the meaning of the universe. It’s all part of the “Monk Chat” program offered at a few temples around town, including Wat Suan Dok and Wat Chedi Luang.
8. Travel like a Thai
When in rome, travel like a local. In Chiang Mai, that means hailing a tuk tuk (one of the most iconic modes of Thailand transportation) or a songthaew, the most popular way of traveling around Chiang Mai. What’s a songthaew? It’s sort of like a taxi truck with a set of wooden benches in the back. But don’t worry. If you’re confused, you’ll quickly understand what these red vehicles are as soon as you arrive, because they’re everywhere. So why not give one a try? You’ll experience up close and personal how locals get around the city. And you may even strike up a chat with some local Thais in this classic cultural experience.
9. Witness Thailand’s most famous sport
No trip to Thailand would be complete without checking out a Muay Thai boxing match. With a trip to Thapae or Kawila Boxing stadium, you’ll see this slugfest first hand as two fighters exchange knees, elbows, kicks and punches. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see a knockout in this exciting display of Thai culture. This is a must add to your list of things to do in Chiang Mai.
10. Climb crazy horse
Journey deep into northern Thailand’s hill country to come face-to-face with Crazy horse buttress: a towering mountain of rock, ready to be climbed by adventure seekers. Travelers can learn the ropes of rock climbing here as they discover basic techniques such as rappelling. Raw, real and adrenaline-packed, this experience is better than anything you can get in an indoor rock climbing center. You’ll be out in nature climbing a real mountain in this 100% safe adventure activity, suitable for all experience levels.
11. Get wet, wild and cool off as you shout out screams of exhilaration
Don a life vest, grab a paddle and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime as you set out on the rapids of the mighty Mae Taeng river. For those in search of adventure activities, Chiang Mai visitors are sure to get a thrill as they splash through class 3 and 4 rapids on this two and a half hour white water trip. A perfect way to see Thailand’s pristine nature, cool off and get your adrenaline pumping, this ripping river adventure is great for first-time rafters and more experienced paddlers. Combine a white water rafting trip with a Zipline tour, and homestay for the ultimate adventure trip.
12. Be astounded by some seriously long necks
Just outside of Chiang Mai lies a hill tribe with some unique inhabitants. Women of the Karen tribal group have unusually long necks that have been elongated using brass rings that push their shoulders down, making it appear as if their neck is longer. But why do they do it? Simple. It’s all part of their heritage and tribal culture. A tour to see this hill tribe is an experience straight out of national geographic. But don’t wait to visit. Today many young women are breaking from the tradition and no longer elongating their necks. It’s predicted there are only a few generations left of this cultural peculiarity.
13. Sleep overnight in a traditional Thai home
If you want to truly experience Thai culture, what better way is there than to sleep overnight in a Thai family’s home? A homestay in the village of Mae Kampong offers you just this. You’ll enjoy a home cooked Thai meal and exchange gestures in a quest to communicate with your non-English speaking hosts. It’s good fun. As a bonus, you’ll also get a traditional Thai massage and Ziplining as part of your homestay experience. Select any two day adventure from Flight of the Gibbon in Chiang Mai to package together with your authentic homestay experience .
14. Rappel into a gaping black hole
Wind your way through white limestone tunnels into the great unknown as you rappel through an enormous cave. As part of a Flight of the Gibbon Ziplining tour, you can learn how to go caving. If you’re adventurous at heart and wish to explore the hidden wonders of sparkling limestone caves, a cave exploration tour is a must.
15. Explore the countryside on two wheels
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced, a mountain bike trip through the hills and countryside of rural Chiang Mai is a memorable adventure you won’t soon forget. You’ll cruise through Doi Suthep national park and, depending on your experience and choice of adventure, you’ll pass hill tribes, coffee plantations, a 200-year old bamboo grove and other natural wonders. Get a special deal on this activity when you book it with Ziplining and a homestay.
16. Summit a mountain and see breathtaking city views
No trip to the northern Thai capital is complete without summiting Doi Suthep mountain. Less than a 30-minute drive outside of Chiang Mai, this beast of a beauty stands 1,676 meters high. Once on top, you can explore the 13th century Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple and see the best views of Chiang Mai city from this stunning vantage point. Trips to the mountain are easy to arrange from the city, as almost every travel agent (and many hotels) will offer it.
17. Paddle in pristine Thai wilderness
If you’re looking to experience exotic, tropical forests close up, then why not do so on a kayak? You can paddle deep into the jungle on the Ping river to see abundant bird life, jumping fish and other mysteries of nature. You can paddle past rice fields, rolling hills and see the “last tooth of the Himalayas”—the massive Chiang Dao mountain. Or you can opt for a more leisurely trip and chill kayak on a lake next to Sri Lanna National park. Whatever adventure you choose, you can add on ziplining and a Mae Kampong homestay as part of this Flight of the Gibbon package.
18. Ease your muscles with a soothing soak in the springs
After a couple days of adventuring around Chiang Mai, a trip to the soothing hot springs of San Kamphaeng may be just what the doctor ordered. Surrounded by mountains in a pretty forest, the high sulfur content in these healing waters are known for their curative powers. And if you’re feeling hungry while you soak, why not boil some eggs for lunch? While it sounds odd, this hot spring destination offers visitors eggs to boil in the water for lunch or a snack.
19. See Freddy Krueger, Michael Jackson and Spiderman in Thailand’s most unique Temple
You wouldn’t expect to see images of celebrities, superheroes and villains inside a temple, now would you? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean a temple as such doesn’t exist. In Chiang Rai, a two and a half hour trip from Chiang Mai, lies the famous Wat Rong Khun. While this solid white temple is meant to symbolize purity, it also offers visitors a peculiar mix of traditional Thai architecture, pop culture and art. A must-see for those searching for Asia’s most unique temples.
20. Indulge in delicious eats in one of Thailand’s food capitals and learn to make Thai food
If you’ve spent some time exploring the Land of Smiles, you may quickly come to realize Chiang Mai is home to arguably Thailand’s most delicious food. From the one-of-a-kind curry noodle dish Khao Soi to the tomato pork sauce masterpiece of Nam Prik Ong, it’s hard not to be wowed by the mouthwatering meals on offer here. Other notable dishes to try are the northern sausage Sai Oua and the ginger pork belly curry concoction of Gaeng Hunglay. You can also take a cook class and lean to cook Thai food at home.
21. Saunter through one of Asia’s best night markets
Pick up some souvenirs or feast on a smorgasbord of delicious Thai foods as you wander through streets of sprawling shop stalls in Chiang Mai’s enormous night market. Lit up by festive lights, the market has an array of handicrafts, artwork, jewelry, clothes and other locally designed goods on offer in, dare we say, a romantic atmosphere.
22. Play in the snow, feed an elephant, and see some sharks
It can all be done in a few hours at Chiang Mai zoo. Spread over 200 acres of lush forest, the zoo not only has over 400 animal species on display (including favorites such as tigers, penguins and koalas), but also allows you to hand feed some exotic animals like elephants and rhinos. And as there is an aquarium on the grounds, you can also see sharks! As for the snow, Chiang Mai zoo is home to the snow dome where you can don boots and a jacket, grab a sled and do a little sledding as well. If you’re looking for a fun day out with some unusual activities, a trip to Chiang Mai zoo is worth a visit.
23. Try a modern Thai pastime
High tea has become incredibly popular in Thailand. For those who are unfamiliar with it, this traditional English meal offers diners a variety of baked goods, finger foods and sweets served alongside tea or coffee. As modern Thais have embraced the practice, trying high tea is an exceptional way to experience contemporary Thai culture. Good Chiang Mai places to try, include the Anantara and Dhara Dhevi.
24. Get a massage so good it’s criminal
Not all massages are created equal. And in Chiang Mai, there is one place that’s highly regarded as one of the best massages in the city. In fact, the massage is so good, it should almost be illegal. Actually, it kind of is. The massage you’re pampered with at the Chiang Mai Women Correctional Institution Vocational Training Center is performed by prison inmates. As the purpose of the center is to help the women develop skills to reintegrate back into society, you’ll also be doing a good thing, in addition to getting a delightful massage.
25. Conquer a tower of beer
As you stroll along the historic back lanes of Chiang Mai, you’re sure to see a common pastime and classic activity of many Thailand travelers: the beer tower. Typically around a meter high, a beer tower full of golden goodness is a pleasant way for anyone—local or traveler alike—to pass away the afternoon while lounging on a restaurant patio catching some rays and people watching. After knocking off many of the activities on this list (and finishing this epic post), surely you deserve some relaxation. So raise your glass and toast to your Thailand holiday!
If you’ve been searching for things to do in Chiang Mai, then hopefully this list has sparked some ideas. Whether you’re looking for culture, adventure or simply good times, these 25 activities can provide you all that and more. And if you’re on a tight schedule, no worries. Flight of the Gibbon offers several activities on this list that can be packaged together into a day or three. That way we can take care of the planning and you take care of the holiday making. To learn more about our adventure and cultural activities, contact us today or learn more.