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Chiang Mai travel guide

Chiang Mai promises rich culture and foodie heaven

Head north to Chiang Mai to dig a little deeper into Thailand's rich culture. This city is quite unlike anywhere else in Thailand - it's buried in jungle-clad hills that are home to remote tribes, and full of golden temples, fun festivals and heaps of adventure activities such as zip-lining, elephant encounters and mountain biking. And then there's the food...

We promise you this: every day of your Chiang Mai intinerary will be bursting at the seams from dawn until long after dusk. 

Chiang Mai Highlights

  • Doi Suthep
    This mountain-top Buddhist monastery was built in 1383, and is still a popular place to spot Buddhist monks going about their business. Jump in a cheap songthaew (pickup van) or hire a scooter to make it to the top of the jungle-clad hill it sits atop of, and marvel at the views. 
  • Wat Chedi Luang
    Another sensational Buddhist monument located within Chiang Mai's ancient city walls, Wat Chedi Luang is free to enter, and dazzling inside.The central location of this temple makes it an unmissable site for every visitor.
  • Hilltribes around Chiang Mai
    The hills around Chiang Mai are home to remote Karen tribes and an incredible array of wildlife. Jump onto one of our hilltribe treks to witness this incredible part of Asia for yourself. You'll be rewarded with a real insight into local village life, and more than a few Instagram snaps of the mind blowing scenery: think, rice terraces, rolling hills and huge swathes of jungle!
  • Adrenaline rushes
    From flying down the sides of Chiang Mai's mountains atop a mountain bike, to ziplining high above the dense jungle canopy, there are ample adventure activities to suit everyone in Chiang Mai. You can raft, trek, motorbike and kayak most days of the year here, but for those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on dry, solid ground, there are some incredible cooking classes to get stuck into in the city : a must for all!
  • Chiang Mai's Night Markets
    "Cheap-cheap, same same!" Chiang Mai's popular Night Bazaar is an ideal destination for gifts, jewellery, vintage clothing and fake designer gear. You'll also find amazing street food and cheap bars here; keep your eyes and nostrils open for Chiang Mai's delicious speciality dish, Khao Soi: a steaming bowl of creamy curry soup loaded with noodles, chilli and lemongrass. 
  • Yi Peng Lantern Festival
    If you're heading to Chiang Mai in November, you're in luck. For one night a year during Yi Peng celebrations, Northern Thailand's sky is illuminated by thousands of wish lanterns as they are released by locals (pictured at the top of this guide). On either side of this night, there are lanterns that are released to float down the moats surrounding Chiang Mai's old town. Pure magic! 

When is the best time to visit Chiang Mai

Chaing Mai is a few degrees cooler than Bangkok and Thailand's southern islands all year round, making it perfect for trekking. The best time to visit Chaing Mai is between December and April - the driest months. April through to May also stays pretty dry but the thermometer rises gradually. August, September and October see the heaviest rainfall, but this makes hotels and hostels cheaper!
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Chiang Mai Adventure Tours

Chang Mai Hilltribes trek - local lady
Northern Thailand Hilltribes Trek | 5 days
Travelling is all about getting out of your comfort zone. Discover true tribal life on this five-day long off the beaten track adventure. You'll explore Tham Lod Cave on a bamboo raft, learn about bush medicine from a local shaman and spend your nights in remote Karen villages; all meals are included as well as a competent and highly knowledgeable guide. 
From £249
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Northern Thai Highlights
Northern Thai Highlights | 9 days
Venturing into this part of the world sees you explore bustling cities, picturesque highlands, all in an epic 9 days. Stay overnight in a floating jungle raft, learn to cook like a pro, bask in the Grand Palace.
From £985
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Northern Thailand Hilltribes and Villages
Northern Thailand Hilltribes and Villages | 8 days
Eating and sleeping with the hilltribes will bring you face-to-face with these colourful cultures. We’ll leave plenty of time for fun in historic Chiang Mai with its night market and delicious cuisine.
From £419
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tuk tuk
Tuk Tuk Club
Ever wanted to drive your own tuk tuk? You'll be trained on how to drive your very own rickshaw before getting to spend time with elephants, explore mountainside villages and trek through national parks. The perfect trip for anyone wanting to combine unique adventure with stunning locations and a real exploration of the magic of Northern Thailand. Self-drive, southeast Asia style!
5 days from £606
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Chiang Mai Golden Triangle Trek
Get off the beaten track on this authentic Thai adventure around the Golden Triangle. From Chiang Mai, trek to a number of villages and witness local culture and everday life in the indigenous communities. Take a ride down the Kok River, cool down with a refreshing dip in a waterfall and relax in hot springs. 
3 days from £494
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Chiang Mai hills trek
Hilltribe Hut Experience
Take to the hills on this action-packed trip taking in the unique sights of northern Thailand. Set out from Chiang Mai into the surrounding region, absorb the local culture and try the diverse cuisine. You'll hike through remote villages, learn the secrets of jungle survival and feast on delicious food.
3 days from £214
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Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Eco resort chiang mai
Eco Resort
Set in shaded gardens, close to downtown Chiang Mai, this resort is an old school converted into bright simple digs for nature-loving travellers. Eco Resort offers both dorms or priavtes rooms, a huge outdoor pool, fitness centre, massage services and a cute cafe.  

Dorms from £14 pppn

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Small hotel Chiang Mai
3* The Small Hotel
Small Hotel is just a four-minute walk from the riverside market and Night Bazaar, so you will be close to all the action. It's a quaint and trendy hotel with a pink plunge pool and funky interiors. Why not dine in the rooftop restaurant and sip on cocktails in the bar.  

Private rooms from £15 pppn

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Dungatawan hotel chiang Mai
4* Duangtawan Hotel
This relaxed high-rise hotel offers private rooms and is located downtown right in the Night Bazaar shoppping district. Enjoy the panoramic pool, work out in the gym and chill in the traditional spa. 

Private rooms from £24 pppn

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How do I get to Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai is a major transport hub in the north of Thailand, making it super accesssable by road, rail or plane, not only from Bangkok, but from Thailand's neighbouring countries too. You'll be able to jump on regular busses to and from Siem Reap in Cambodia, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang in Laos, and now, even from Yangon in Myanmar, all costing anywhere between £10 and £20. Of course the easiest and funnest way to reach Chiang Mai is on one of our adventure tours, or by using a hop-on, hop-off Asia bus pass. For longer distances, Chiang Mai's international airport connects you to Kuala Lumpur, the Thai Islands, Hanoi and beyond cheaply and easily on a daily basis. Just check out our flights by following the link in our navigation menu!

You needn't think you have to fly to Bangkok and then get a bus up to Chiang Mai, either - we offer plenty of one-stop flights to Chiang Mai so you can dive straight into the action! Search and book them here

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