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Chiang Mai travel guide

Dig a little further into Thailand's culture by heading north, to charming Chiang Mai. This city is buried in jungles and hills that are home to remote tribes, and bursts with incredible temples, fun festivals and heaps of adventure activities such as zip-lining, elephant encounters and mountain biking. What's more, many also consider this city to be Thailand's gastronomic hub. Buckle up and dig in!

Chiang Mai Highlights

  • Doi Suthep
    With a steep, uphill journey almost as beautiful as the temple itself, Doi Suthep is Chiang Mai's most unmissable site. This mountain-top Buddhist monastery was built in 1383, and is still a popular place to spot Buddhist monks going about their day-to-day activities. Make sure you cover your arms and legs, and take of your shoes!
  • 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.
  • Hilltribes
    Layer on the mosquito repellent and hike through Northern Thailand's rice terraces and jungles. Along the way, you'll meet and even stay overnight with remote Karen tribes people, who'll give you a taste of the real Thailand.
  • Elephants
    Would a trip to Asia be complete without locking eyes with the continent's most amazing creatures? Chiang Mai offers the best selection of elephant sanctuaries to visit; spend a few hours feeding them and learning about their day-to-day upkeep, or commit to a volunteering project to spend weeks caring for these gentle giants.
  • Chaing Mai's night markets
    "Cheap-cheap, same same!" Chiang Mai's popular Night Bazaar is an ideal destination for shopping for gifts, jewelry and clothes... and of course stuffing your face with both Thai and international fare before moving onto the nearby bars. Two tips: don't forget to haggle, and look out for a steaming bowl of Khao Soi - a delicious noodle curry dish native to the region.
  • Yi Peng Lantern Festival
    For one night a year during Yi Peng celebrations, Chiang Mai's sky is illuminated by thousands of wish lanterns (pictured at the top of this guide). 2016's lantern festival falls on 14th November, and there are also floating lanterns that glide down the river on either side of this date.
Two rafts full of people paddling in a river by a waterfall
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Chiang Mai Adventure Tours

A local Thai woman in traditional blue clothing

Northern Thailand Hilltribes Trek

Trek further than most into the jungle-clad hills surrounding Chiang Mai, to discover true tribal life for five days. 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.
A local Thai woman sitting on the floor surrounded by trays with plates of Thai food

Bangkok to Chiang Mai Express | 7 days

Calling all culture vultures! Seven days of temples, palaces, local life and food sound like your jam? On this tour, you'll get to take in the best of Bangkok before journeying northwards to the hills via train.
Two women sitting on the porch of a wooden house with tiered hills in the distance

Northern Thailand Adventure

Kicking off in Chiang Mai, you'll spend seven days trekking and cycling far off the tourist trail into the Golden Triangle, cruising down the Mekong, and even sleeping overnight with Hmong tribes. Throw in a whizz down the world's longest zip line (deep in the jungle), and you can consider this tour our 'Best of' edition.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai

The front of the Lani Chiang Mai Hotel

Lani Chiang Mai Hotel

Slightly away from Chiang Mai center's hustle and bustle, Lani Chiang Mai Hotel is a welcome bit of luxury for those who've spent a few days trekking in the hills! There's an outdoor pool, a free buffet breakfast, air-con, housekeeping and a terrace for chilling on.
A blue and white bedroom of the Bedgasm hotel

BEDGASM Poshtel x Cafe at Nimman

Like a hostel, but posher, this 'Poshtel' is a new breed of super-trendy, yet still budget-friendly hostel popping up all over Southeast Asia. It's not just the name that sets Bedgasm apart from the rest of the budget accommodation in Chiang Mai - it's the understated, trendy furnishings, a cool cafe to chill in with other travellrs, and a central location.
A young man with a guitar in an outside seating area of the Shunlin hostel Chaing Mai

i-smile Shunlin Hostel

Friendly staff, check. Rooftop terrace, check. Free WiFi? Check. Pick-up and drop-off service? Check. Cheap and cheerful Shun-Lin Hostel is centrally located and offers one of the best hostel experiences for backpackers in Chiang Mai.

How do I get to Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai is a major transport hub in the north of Thailand, and is therefore easily accessible via overnight bus from Bangkok - the most popular arrival point for visitors to Thailand. The drive from Bangkok takes around ten hours. From Chiang Mai, you may choose to travel east into Laos, or west to Myanmar with one of our adventure tours.

You may also arrive via domestic flight, as Chiang Mai's International Airport is one of the most frequented airports in Thailand.       

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