Thailand as a destination is at the top of travel lists for seasoned backpackers and first-time travelers alike. Why? The stunning beauty of its pristine beaches, colourful nightlife, friendly locals, and awe-inspiring temples. And this certainly holds true in the golden city of Chiang Mai, a northern city in the mountainous regions of Thailand that is a much-loved destination for backpackers.
One of the most popular things to do in Chiang Mai is to go temple hopping. Golden walls, high turrets, large statues, and stunning courtyards are what you can expect at these stunning sites. If you are only here for a day, make a plan to hop around to the best temples. If you are staying in the area for longer, then feel free to view the temples leisurely—though there are over 300 in the region, so you’ll never see them all in one trip.
The most stunning and amazing temple sites like Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (the quintessential Thai temple), Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Suan Dorg will give you a real sense of the culture and religion of Thailand. The golden turrets and surrounding lush jungles are one-of-a-kind.
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If you want to explore more of the jungle, you can go rafting, mountain biking, hiking, and zip lining amongst the lush forests. Or, visit the Bhuping Royal Palace Gardens, not far from the What Phra That temple.
Spending time in the Old City is a favourite activity in Chiang Mai. Built over 700 years ago, the walled city is surrounded by a moat. There are many temples in the city, you can view the original city gates, explore Chiang Mai’s Cultural Centre, visit museums, take a cooking class, and shop at local artisans. There is even a dedicated craft market each Sunday. Chiang Mai also has a great nightlife scene, though not as rowdy as in cities such as Bangkok.
As with anywhere in Thailand, expect amazing street food at low prices. Ask at your guesthouse or around the city, and you’ll be pointed in the right direction when it comes to great local food.
You can also do some trekking or some fun combination of riding elephants, walking and rafting. Enough for the adventurous, but not to hard. These can be 1 to 3 day activities. When opting for multiple days you’ll stay overnight at local hilltribe villages. Often not as authentic as Laos, but still worth it.
Where to Stay
As with most areas in Thailand, you can find great budget guesthouses in Chiang Mai. Get a great stay for cheap at locations such as the Lita Guesthouse, White House, or Nonni Guesthouse. Using accommodation sites like hostelworld, Airbnb, or couchsurfing can help you keep your daily costs low.
Chiang Mai is a true wonder of the world, and a delight to see with your own eyes.
Whether this is your first visit to Chiang Mai or one of many, the gorgeous temple city never fails to disappoint backpackers and travelers from around the world. So stop reading about the beauty of Chiang Mai and start planning your trip!