Should You Visit Chiang Mai?

Is Chiang Mai worth visiting?

Yes, Chiang Mai is absolutely a city that any traveler should visit. During our time here, we had so much fun. During our first trip to Chiang Mai in the fall of 2009, we fell in love with its excellent culinary scene and incredible temples and night markets. We've been back several times since then to experience it even more.

Whether you're a traveling as a family, a couple, or a backpacker, this city has a lot to offer. Any local will tell you what makes it special is the great museums and amazing food.

It's often mentioned as one of the best places to visit in major publications, such as in Conde Nast Traveler's Best Places to Go in 2022.

Chiang Mai is a cultural city that's located in the mountainous part of northern Thailand. The city has many temples, a famous night market, and a unique cuisine that is among the best in the country. Many visitors book treks into the countryside from Chiang Mai and the city has become a popular destination for digital nomads.

Chiang Mai, Thailand Chiang Mai, Thailand

7 Reasons to Visit Chiang Mai

1. Museums

The city is filled with culture and you'll find many beautiful temples in the area. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a mountain-top temple that is an iconic landmark in the city. Other famous sights include Doi Inthanon and Wat Chedi Luang.

2. Food

For many, this city offers some of the best food in all of Thailand. The cuisine is influenced by nearby Burma and China, with ginger and turmeric often used. Curries tend to be a bit milder and dishes are often served with sticky rice. Famous dishes around town include Khao Soi, Larb Kua, and Sai Oua. Cooking classes are also very popular around town and the courses often include a trip to a market.

3. Hiking

Many people use this city as a base for a trekking excursion into the surrounding countryside. The land is lush and beautiful and many treks also expose you to the welcoming Hilltribe people of Northern Thailand. Treks can be organized at almost any hotel or hostel as well the many tour agencies around town.

4. Shopping

The city is famous for its night markets, which run every night of the year until around midnight. You'll find the streets packed with people and vendors, rain or shine. This is a great place to search for local handicrafts and try some of the city's famous street food. Popular items to buy include rice boxes, silk, and Thai sky lanterns.

5. Nightlife

It is the largest city in Northern Thailand, so it has the most active nightlife scene in the area. Whatever your style, you can find something to do at night here. Many people head to the riverside to drink and listen to music. You'll also find clubs concentrated around Nimmanhaemin Road and Loy Kroh Road. There's also the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, which is packed with stalls and people sampling food and drinks.

6. Historical Sights

The old city is about 1.5 square kilometers in size and it has four gates, one on each side. The most famous area is Sunday Walking Street, which comes to life at 4pm every day when it is lined with stalls and filled with people.

7. The Costs

Depending on your budget, schedule, and travel style, Chiang Mai might be a very affordable destination for you. Check out the travel costs for Chiang Mai here or see if Chiang Mai is expensive here.




Expert Advice from Local Travelers

We're asking our community members and registered users to contribute their experiences about Chiang Mai.

Why would you recommend Chiang Mai to budget travelers? Or, why not?

Cheap hotels, cheap airbnb's, cheap food, and so many free activities. I don't know if I found anything that was actually expensive here. The night markets are full of delicious food that doesn't cost anything and the temples and other tourist attractions are so cheap.

noodles_and_curry
-
Aug 28 2023

What makes Chiang Mai a budget-friendly destination? Or not?

We stayed in Chiang Mai for awhile because it was a fun city with cheap prices and easy access to many parts of northern Thailand.

trista
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Jan 21 2024

We stayed for awhile in Chiang Mai because it's cheaper than the southern cities in Thailand. The market is great and there are tons of cheap restaurants.

leon_p
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Sep 7 2023

What was your favorite thing about Chiang Mai?

We loved the laid back vibe that Chiang Mai has. It's very different than Thailand's southern beaches and there's a great cultural scene.

jake272
-
Oct 13 2023

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Is Chiang Mai worth visiting in the Summer?

This is the low season for travel in Chiang Mai. This is an extremely touristy destination, so in the low season you'll still see plenty of other travelers when you visit, but less than other times of the year. Good deals are to be found on hotels and tours because it's not the best time of year to visit.

The weather here is somewhat warm for most of the season, with average temperatures around 30°C (86°F). However, this time of year it's also rainy, so it might not be ideal for many activities.

The nearby hiking this time of year is a must-do, so take some time to get out on the trails, take in some fresh air, and enjoy the scenery. The activities of the city are numerous, and this is a great time of year to explore all of them. From family-friendly attractions to romantic getaways, as well as budget-friendly things to do, there's something for everyone. Famous landmarks, museums, tours, and more are all available. The city this time of year is absolutely beautiful. Admire the gardens, parks, and fantastic architecture, too. During this season it's fun to experience the hiking, the museums and landmarks, and the big city activities. Also, you can experience the historic old town, the nightlife, and the beautiful scenery.


Summer Weather in Chiang Mai
Avg Temp
(°C/°F)
Avg Rain
(mm/inches)
July 30°C (86°F) 161 mm (6.3 in)
August 29°C (85°F) 236 mm (9.3 in)
September 29°C (85°F) 228 mm (9 in)

Is Chiang Mai worth visiting in the Autumn?

The weather here is somewhat warm for most of the season, with average temperatures around 29°C (83°F). However, this time of year it's also rainy, so it might not be ideal for many activities.

Autumn is the shoulder season for travel in Chiang Mai, which means slightly less visitors than in the peak season. As a very touristy destination, even in the shoulder season you'll see plenty of tourists when you visit. However, good prices and deals are to be found at this time of year.

Autumn is a great time of year to explore the numerous museums and landmarks around town. They are fun for the whole family as well great for couples. Soaking up that old town charm in the autumn is one of the favorite activities of visitors. The quaint scenery combined with the weather this time of year is quite nice. The city this time of year is absolutely beautiful. Admire the gardens, parks, and fantastic architecture, too. The nearby hiking this time of year is a must-do, so take some time to get out on the trails, take in some fresh air, and enjoy the scenery. This is a great time of year to take in the beautiful scenery, admire the historic sights, and wander through the museums. Also, you can enjoy the city's energy and go hiking.


Autumn Weather in Chiang Mai
Avg Temp
(°C/°F)
Avg Rain
(mm/inches)
October 29°C (83°F) 122 mm (4.8 in)
November 27°C (80°F) 53 mm (2.1 in)
December 24°C (75°F) 20 mm (0.8 in)

Is Chiang Mai worth visiting in the Winter?

Winter is the high season for travel in Chiang Mai, so expect more visitors and higher prices. This is an extremely popular destination, and in the high season it's busier than usual as this is when most people are able to travel. Expect large crowds of tourists, longer lines, and higher prices for hotels. On the other hand, you'll find that everything is open and you'll have a wide array of activities, things to do, and places to eat.

The weather this time of year is terrific, and averages around 23°C (74°F) through the season. This is one of the main reasons that travelers come, because they are looking for beautiful weather and a fun escape.

The city this time of year is absolutely beautiful. Admire the gardens, parks, and fantastic architecture, too. The nearby hiking this time of year is a must-do, so take some time to get out on the trails, take in some fresh air, and enjoy the scenery. You'll find plenty to do during winter, as you'll be able to browse through museums, taste delicious cuisine, and browse around the old town. Also, you can check out the nightlife, the big city activities, the beautiful scenery, and the hiking.


Winter Weather in Chiang Mai
Avg Temp
(°C/°F)
Avg Rain
(mm/inches)
January 23°C (74°F) 7 mm (0.3 in)
February 26°C (78°F) 5 mm (0.2 in)
March 29°C (83°F) 13 mm (0.5 in)

Is Chiang Mai worth visiting in the Spring?

This is the shoulder season for travel in Chiang Mai. As a very touristy destination, even in the shoulder season you'll see plenty of tourists when you visit. However, good prices and deals are to be found at this time of year.

The weather this time of year is terrific, and averages around 31°C (88°F) through the season. This is one of the main reasons that travelers come, because they are looking for beautiful weather and a fun escape.

The city this time of year is absolutely beautiful. Admire the gardens, parks, and fantastic architecture, too. Soaking up that old town charm in the spring is one of the favorite activities of visitors. The quaint scenery combined with the weather this time of year is quite nice. The nearby hiking this time of year is a must-do, so take some time to get out on the trails, take in some fresh air, and enjoy the scenery. During this season it's fun to experience shopping, the famous sights and museums, and the gorgeous scenery. Also, you'll be able to learn about the history of the town, dance the night away, and get out into nature.


Spring Weather in Chiang Mai
Avg Temp
(°C/°F)
Avg Rain
(mm/inches)
April 31°C (88°F) 50 mm (2 in)
May 31°C (87°F) 158 mm (6.2 in)
June 30°C (86°F) 132 mm (5.2 in)

Things to Consider Before Visiting Chiang Mai

Lots of Tourists
Chiang Mai sees a high number of visitors every year, which means you might have to wait in line and deal with large crowds during your visit.

Getting Around
The area is not very walkable, and public transit is not great here, so it might be difficult to get around without arranging your own transportation.

Related

What is Chiang Mai most famous for?

Chiang Mai is most famous for its lively night market, historical temples, local cuisine, and cultural rainforest treks. People visit this impressive city for its great museums, food, hiking, and shopping. It is also known for its great nightlife and historical sights. It is often described as laid-back, friendly, cultural, welcoming, natural, and temple-filled.


What is the most famous sight in Chiang Mai?

The most popular sight in Chiang Mai is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. You can see prices and costs for this and other sights in Chiang Mai on our travel costs page.

Or, see tickets, activities, and tours for Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and other attractions here.

How touristy is Chiang Mai? Is it a popular city to visit?

Chiang Mai is a very touristy city that attracts travelers from around the globe. Here are some of the most popular activities and tours. (Prices in US Dollars)


    • LIFECYCLING - Half Day City Bike Tour: $36
    • Sticky Waterfalls Tour Chiang Mai Thailand With Annie: $48
    • 1 day Private Tour to Unseen Temple in Lampang: $135
    • Full-Day Trekking and Sightseeing Tour in Mae Kampong: $56
    • Full-Day Hike and Bike Tour from Chiang Mai: $78
    • Inflatable Kayaking and ATV Adventure: $165
    • Private Tour to Doi Inthanon including Twins Pagodas and Hiking: $100
    • Full Day Chauffeur Driven Tuk Tuk Adventure in Chiang Mai including rafting: $144

    How long should I spend in Chiang Mai?

    The ideal length of time for a trip to Chiang Mai is two to seven days. Since Chiang Mai has a variety of activities such as shopping, museums, dining, and hiking, most people need this much time to see and do everything here.

    If you have a specific amount of time for your trip, see our advice about how much time to spend here: Should I spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Chiang Mai?, Should I spend 3, 4, or 5 days in Chiang Mai?, and Should I spend 1 or 2 weeks in Chiang Mai?.

    More Things to Do in Chiang Mai