5 best temples in Chiang Mai’s Old City
5 best temples in Chiang Mai’s Old City (and the best way to see them)
Chiang Mai is home to many famous temples, such as Doi Suthep and Wat Sri Suphan. But when it comes to its historic Old City, which ones are must-see? As there are around a dozen temples that lie within the city’s moat-surrounded center, figuring out which ones deserve a look or a pass can be tough. Thankfully we’ve done the hard work for you. Here are the 5 top temples in Chiang Mai’s Old City.
1. Wat Chedi Luang
Smack dab in the heart of the Old City, Wat Chedi Luang is easy to reach as it’s near many hostels, hotels, and restaurants. This massive brick, stucco temple is 80 meters high and was once the tallest building in the Lanna Kingdom when it was built in the 1400’s. Today it’s still the tallest structure in the Old City. The temple was once home to one of Thailand’s holiest Buddhist statues, the Emerald Buddha, which now resides in Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
2. Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh is one of the best temples in Chiang Mai because it’s the Old City’s most visually stunning temple—featuring classic Lanna style roofs, glittering gold architecture, and various stupas. The temple was constructed in 1345 by King Phayu to host the ashes of his deceased father. It was later abandoned for two centuries during the Burmese rule and then restored multiple times once the Thais regained power. Besides the visual appeal, the temple’s main draw is the Lanna style architecture.
3. Wat Chiang Man
One of the best Chiang Mai temples is also one of the oldest in the region. Wat Chiang Man was built in the 13th century by one of the city’s founders and first Lanna King, King Mengrai. The temple is an intrinsic part of Chiang Mai’s history, and as such contains the oldest mention of the city’s founding date. A stone steele in front of the ordination hall notes the 12th of April, 1296 CE as the date Chiang Mai was founded.
4. Wat Pan Tao
More modest looking than its neighbor, Wat Chedi Luang, this peaceful wooden temple and garden is much less crowded than others in the Old City. The temple’s viharn (which is like a chapel for lay people) is one of the last remaining all-wood structures in the city. Its charming interior is made out of a dark teakwood and was formerly a royal residence. Today it houses an elegant golden Buddha statue.
5. Three Kings Monument
While not technically a temple, Three Kings Monument made the list for its historical significance. Located in front of the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center, the monument pays homage to the three founders and kings of Chiang Mai: King Mengrai, King Ngam Muang of Payao, and King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai. According to legend, the kings swore an oath of alliance to protect their territories in, at that time, the harsh northern Thailand region. Observing the monument, it appears that the three are in the midst of forming that pact.
For history buffs, the above sites hold the most historical significance out of the dozen or so temples in the Old City. What’s the best way to see them? Walking is one option. But a more fun and educational way is via our Segway Gibbon tour. Over the course of two hours, a pair of our experienced guides bring you to all the above sites, answering your questions and sharing historical insights along the way. What’s more, the tour also brings you to the relaxing Buak Had Park, the only natural green space within the moat-surrounded city.
Scared of riding a segway? Not to fear. Our guides provide you a 15-minute lesson and safety instruction at the beginning of the tour. Riding is easier than you think (and a whole lot of fun). For added safety, the guides stop traffic for you when crossing the street.