Often voted a must-visit place in Thailand, sleepy Chiang Mai is the perfect escape from the busy streets of Bangkok. If you’re a city bod and want to experience authentic Thai culture, there are few places to rival Chiang Mai.
The skyscrapers and business centers of Bangkok are replaced with ancient temples, local street food, and intrepid jungle hikes. Sound up your street? We thought so! Check out our Chiang Mai travel guide below:
Chiang Mai itinerary for 3 days
There are plenty of things to do in Chiang Mai for 3 days, alone or in a group. Whether you’re a solo traveller, couple, or group of friends, we’ve put together an awesome itinerary for your 3 days in Chiang Mai. Let’s dive right in!
Morning: Start your day with a panoramic view over Chiang Mai from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This holy temple is one of the oldest places in Northern Thailand and, for that reason, many visitors rate this as the best thing to do in Chiang Mai. Located at the lofty elevation of 1,056m above sea level, it looks down over Chiang Mai from the top of Doi Suthep Mountain.
Rumor has it that a pure white elephant with a Buddha relic tied to its back trumpeted three times and died at the summit of Doi Suthep. Noting the significance of the event, the king of Chiang Mai at the time instructed a decadent religious site be built on the exact spot. The countless gleaming gold shrines and Buddha statues around make it of utmost importance to the locals.
Take a taxi up to the top of Doi Suthep or to save your pennies, board a red songthaew from Chang Phueak Market. Hold on tight as it’s a windy ride to the top! You can also opt to join a Doi Suthep tour to make logistics easier on your end.
Afternoon: Reward your cultural morning with everyone’s favorite Thai pastime – a massage! There’s one location in Chiang Mai that’s quite special. The Women’s Massage Center By Ex-Prisoners provides training and career opportunities for Thai women serving jail sentences for minor crimes. Not only will you enjoy a fantastic massage but you’ll be doing your good deed for the day. Can’t beat that!
”Why do I love Chiang Mai? Every neighborhood is packed with all the essentials, and brand new adventures are quite literally steps outside your front door” — Along With Ari, longterm expat in Chiang Mai
Morning: If you’re looking for a half day trip from Chiang Mai, take a trek through the forest to Wat Pa Lat, a sleepy Buddhist temple on the hillside. This journey through the woodland is known as the Monk’s Trail and predates the highway. Traditionally, monks would make the pilgrimage as it was the only route to reach their spiritual hermitages. The hike takes a little over an hour and offers fantastic views of Chiang Mai.
Afternoon: No Chiang Mai guide would be complete without some tasty Thai food recommendations. The city is home to countless food markets but we particularly like Warorot Market. Gone are the elephant pants and fridge magnets of the Night Bazaar: Here you’ll find colorful local produce and dishes including spicy Thai sausage, mango sticky rice, and dried insects. Only for the brave!
Chiang Mai solo traveller? Night markets are a great way to sample all the best Thai foods without those awkward candlelit dinners. Oh, and you can eat 3 meals without anyone judging. Sold!
You can opt to join a Chiang Mai Foodie tour, or if you’d like to venture out on your own, see these 12 Shopping Streets & Markets in Chiang Mai To Get Lost In.
Wondering what to eat in Chiang Mai?
Don’t leave without tucking into the national dish of northern Thailand, khao soi noodles. This coconut broth is flavored with lime and chili and served with crispy egg noodles and chicken breast. Other Thai dishes to try include Pad Thai, Massaman Curry, Panang Curry, Tom Yum Soup and Mango Salad.
You can also check out our list of the Top 5 Must Eat Dishes in Chiang Mai and Where to Find Them!
Morning: Spend a few hours wandering Chiang Mai’s downtown and finding the hundreds of temples nestled between the City Walls. Wat Chedi Luang is famous with tourists, but there are countless quieter temples like Wat Sri Suphan (silver temple) and Wat Chang Man.
For an adventure, head to 700-year-old Wat Umong where a series of underground tunnels were once used to hide relics from invaders.
Afternoon: For your final afternoon, head to Chiang Mai’s most stylish neighborhood, Nimman. Whether you indulge in a decadent brunch at The Larder, sip speciality coffee at Rist8o Lab, or browse the many stylish boutiques, you won’t get bored.
Once the sun sets, there are plenty of fantastic places for dinner in Nimman, including Crazy Noodle and Kao Soy Nimman. Both serve modern, experimental Thai food that’ll blow your mind. Partygoers can spend the night sipping cocktails at Warmup Bar, Beer Republic, and Baa(n) Din.
Looking for more places and activities to visit at night? These 7 Chiang Mai Nighttime Adventures will surely keep you busy!
Where to stay?
There are so many places to stay in Chaing Mai from cheap and cheerful hostels to boutique hotels and luxury resorts. We’d recommend Thunderbird Hostel for budget travellers and Rainforest Boutique Hotel for couples and flashpackers.
If you want to pick from a more comprehensive list, check out our best places to stay in Chiang Mai broken down by budget. You’re welcome!
Featured image from www.morenatravels.com