November to February: The weather is perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities so many people choose this time to visit. While it does not get too cold, you should carry a jacket and some light woolens. January is always considered the ideal month and sees a high influx of tourists. In November, there is Loi Krathong festivities while in February you will see the Chiang Mai flower festival.
March to May: End of March, tourists still visit Chiang Mai and it's a good time to look for deals on hotels and flights. Even if the temperature during the day is high you can spend the afternoon in the pool and head out after sunset. Carry light kinds of cotton, sunglasses, and hats to beat the heat.
June to October: The temperature during the rainy season cools down although the humidity rises. While it rains less than southern Thailand, monsoons are still heavy in Chiang Mai as well. So you will have to be prepared with umbrellas, raincoats and sturdy shoes. Not many tourists visit Chiang Mai during the monsoon so if you are looking for a quieter holiday in this ancient town.
In conclusion, the ideal time to visit Chiang Mai is between October and April. Weather during this period is mostly cool and pleasant with a light breeze, which is also why it’s peak tourist season.
Thailand is considered a safe travel destination and very few visitors feel uptight about their personal safety. You’ll soon discover a very relaxed atmosphere where you’re safe to travel alone, at night, or as a female traveler. The locals are friendly, helpful and non-aggressive, generally. Theft is seldom a problem, except for pickpockets in touristy areas.
Although there are always scam artists preying on the naïve, there is very little duress or violence to contend with and not so much of the persistent bothering and hawking experienced in other Asian countries. Chiang Mai is particularly safe compared to other tourist centers. Apart from hustlers at tourist markets, pushy girls in bars or irritating tuk-tuk drivers, you can enjoy a hassle-free holiday here.
Safety in Chiang Mai is good; it’s a calm provincial town with few incidents of violence, theft or harassment. The tourist police do a good job of maintaining safety in Chiang Mai.
Luxury hotel with an outdoor pool, near Chiang Mai University
Address: 6 Rachamankha 9, Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, THA
Luxury resort with 2 restaurants, near Chiang Mai Night Market
Address: 123-123/1 Charoen Prathet Road, Changklan, Muang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, THA
Luxury hotel in Tha Sala with 4 restaurants, a spa
Address: 51/4 Chiang Mai - Sankampaeng Road, Moo 1 T Tsasla A Muang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, THA
Luxury hotel with spa, near Chiang Mai Night Market
Address: 1/1 Soi 9, Chalernprated Rd., Changklan, Chiang Mai, THA
Gleaming like a northern star from the heights of Doi Suthep (the regal mountain overlooking the city from the northwest) is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It is one of the most historically and spiritually significant places in Thailand and is an impressive embodiment of the Lanna culture, with its origins dating back almost 700 years. As such, large numbers of Thais and foreigners come to experience the special magic of this holy place.
Chiang Mai Old City is practically a living museum. Its narrow streets are lined with beautiful temples, old shophouses, and historical buildings, all surrounded by the crumbling ancient walls and the moat. Appar quite a small, compact place, so you can easily get around on foot without tiring yourself out, allowing you to enjoy the city’s relaxed atmosphere and interesting scenery. Naturally, the temples are the star attractions of the Old City. You should definitely check out Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, and Wat Phan Tao, but there are several more within easy reach.
Located in attractive countryside about 5 km south of Chiang Mai along the Ping River, Wiang Kum Kam is an ancient city dating back to the eighth-century Haripunchai Kingdom. Expect to see many interesting items and structures such as stone tablets with Mon inscriptions, Buddhist sculptures, and architecture, earthenware and pottery. Taking a horse-led carriage is a popular way to enjoy the ruins.
Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand, rises 2,565 meters above sea level. Known as a sanctuary for a wide range of animal species and perhaps the best place in Thailand for bird-watching, the park has approximately 362 different species, many of which are not found anywhere else in Thailand. Doi Inthanon is a popular destination, not only for its natural beauty but also for its historical significance.
At Chiang Dao cave, the caverns stretch many kilometers into the mountain yet only a small part of the complex is possible to explore. Two of the caves, Tham Phra Nawn and Tham Seua Dao, are illuminated by electric lights, but the upper caves are pitch-black and require a local lantern-carrying guide to lead the way. There are some spectacular limestone formations and Buddhist shrines in these caves.
The handcrafting of umbrellas and parasols in Bo Sang Village is known throughout the country and even abroad – so much so that the umbrella has become one of the symbols of Chiang Mai. Here, you'll find plenty of hand-painted umbrellas, tiny cocktail umbrellas, large parasols for gardens or patios and other handmade products – all made from a paper in various designs and at reasonable prices.
The Lanna Folklife Museum is an interesting museum full of exhibitions about the lives, history, and culture of the Lanna people of northern Thailand. The museum (also called the Lanna Heritage Centre) is located opposite the three Kings Monument in the middle of the old city and sits inside the old municipal court of Chiang Mai. The building has been renovated and now looks like a white colonial-style building, and despite the exterior, the museum offers a lot of information about the city’s history in English, Thai and Chinese.
The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is the place to shop, eat, drink and just people watch after sunset. Countless stalls pack along the sidewalks and spilling out into the street, selling almost everything you can think of. Like the goods on sale, the nightlife here is varied. A handful of side-walk bars and western-style pubs are perfect for stopping and having a mid-shopping drink or resting while someone else wants to shop.
First, it was the Sunday Walking Street, then the Saturday Wualai Walking Street. Closed to car traffic after midday, the Walking Streets are the best places to see and experience Chiang Mai in its own skin. All kinds of vendors and crafts fill the entire stretch. Street food, drinks, and cultural entertainment are all part of the experience – it's one of the best ways to spend an evening in Chiang Mai.
The best rooftop bars in Chiang Mai may not offer the dizzying heights of Bangkok’s, but the views are no less spectacular. Although Doi Suthep Mountain might boast the most famous vantage point of the city, there’s an ever-growing number of alfresco spots offering almost-as-nice views. Unlike the mountaintop, they also offer refreshing cocktails and delightful dining, too. The following is a rundown of our five favorites, from golden oldies 24 floors up, to swish new terraces where the molecular cocktails will have you thinking you’ve swapped cities for the night. The styles and atmospheres available are extremely varied, going from high-end cocktail bars to rough-and-ready backpacker haunts.
Across the River Ping from the Night Bazaar, Charoenrat Road runs parallel to the riverside and is home to a line-up of atmospheric resto-bars with the city’s best live music, with jazz, soul, reggae, and classic rock and roll tunes. Team this great atmosphere with the magnificent views and tasty food, and you can see why the Riverside is home to Chiang Mai’s most sought-after nightlife spots.
Like Phuket, Bangkok and the rest of Thailand, in fact, Chiang Mai has its fair share of pretty ladyboys, and cabaret shows are the best places to spot the prettiest and most talented of them all. Themes range from the glamorous to the hilarious, but the shows are always entertaining. Check out Blue Moon Cabaret at 5/3 Moon Muang Road.
Just south of Tha Pae Gate, the short strip leading towards Night Bazaar is a jungle of girlie bars, massage parlors and go-go pubs with their prettiest staff members outside beckoning patrons like sirens. While some have labeled the strip brash, loud, with an in-your-face attitude, it’s the place to go if you’d like some easy ‘company’. For something with a little more style, head to Foxy Lady A Go Go behind Dusit D2 Hotel.
Enjoy scenic views of the Ping River and experience a few hours of romance on a dinner cruise. If you booked the tour, you will be picked up from your hotel around dusk and taken to a pier to board your transport for the evening. The menu available has plenty of options, but you can expect Thai classics like spring rolls, chicken in coconut milk soup, fried chicken, pork, or beef in red curry paste and stir-fried morning glory with oyster sauce. You order your food before you board.
You can enjoy your authentic Thai cuisine while drifting past old temples and houses illuminated by twinkling lights. Before your boat departs from the dock, choose from a wide variety of delicious Thai foods and drinks. After your idyllic ride, return to the pier, where a transfer to your hotel awaits.
An entire warehouse dedicated to adult nightlife, definitely not a place to bring your family. Easily spotted by the glowing red neon sign that says “Free Show”, the complex houses some 30 girlie bars with pool tables and loud, throbbing music. There’s also a cabaret show and a Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) stadium in the middle where free shows are staged on most nights.
Chom Cafe And Restaurant is like a wonderland because it is exactly like a tropical forest with a fairy-like atmosphere, this place will surely make you admire. Coming to this Chiang Mai cafe, visitors can not only experience nature but also be satisfied with a rich and varied menu.
Besides going to Chom Cafe And Restaurant to enjoy drinks, delicious food, and photography, this place is also a true relaxation spot to enjoy the fresh, fresh air.
Cloud9 is a Chiang Mai cafe located in the middle of a green field. Instead of 4 walls with familiar decorating concepts, this place owns a space with 4 open spaces and glass doors. Sitting anywhere in the bar, the view in front of you is also the green eyes and the scenery of the countryside.
In addition, the cafe's campus is also designed, meticulously decorated with many beautiful up corners. The seating of the bar is arranged in many different places so customers have more choices. You can check-in with luxurious tables and chairs inside or enjoy a drink while watching the whole green scenery outside.
If the crowded Chiang Mai cafes in the heart of the bustling city no longer attract you, then look for The Giant - a tree cafe in Baan Pok village, Mae On district. Coming to The Giant Chiang Mai, you will enjoy the lovely rooms which are located inside at the bottom of the giant trunks and above the tree is an extremely creative coffee shop.
To reach this café on the tree, guests will go through unsteady steps. Coming here, not only do you enjoy the attractive menu of food and drinks, but you can also enjoy shooting with the interesting wooden bridges suspended on the trees. The main materials used at The Giant are bamboo and wood, extremely environmentally friendly will bring you an unforgettable experience.
Graph Cafe hides a corner in the old town with a small sign, placed right in front of the door. Graph Cafe is a restaurant for those who like to break through and like to drink coffee because the drinks here are mixed together in a unique way. Especially coming here, you can check-in live with lots of divine angles from outside to inside the cafe.
Rated as one of the best places in Chiang Mai to catch live music, this buzzing night bazaar spot belts out the blues six nights a week (closed Sundays). Located on the second story overlooking the sea of shops and stalls down below, expect a classic blues soundtrack courtesy of ‘Boy’ (now you get the name), along with his friends. Mondays are Jam Night, the perfect chance to impress your date or embarrass the kids. Look out for the stairs going up in front of the food court at Kalare Night Bazaar to find it.
After opening half-a-dozen highly successful branches in Bangkok, it was only a matter of time before HOBS (or ‘House of Beers’) made its way north. The brand has kept everything pretty much the same as in the capital, with a trendy location (inside the swanky Kantary Terrace shopping mall), live music, and, true to its name, a very long menu of beers from around the world. Expect to pay 200-350 for a beer, which is generally the going rate in Thailand to drink imported brews.
Myst is another slice of Bangkok that’s made its way to the Chiang Mai, bringing with it some excellent rooftop views from the top of the city’s newest mall, Maya. Just like the branch in the capital, Myst specializes in fancy molecular cocktails, as well as shisha pipes which come in all sorts of unusual flavors. Certainly not a go-to spot every night if you’re on a backpacker on a budget - but definitely worth a look if you’re celebrating a special occasion, or just want to get a decent panorama of the mountains while seeing how the city’s affluent locals like to splash the cash.
Located near Chang Puak Gate on the north side of the Old City’s moat, this is one of the top places in Chiang Mai to soak up some quality live jazz music with a friendly expat crowd. The modest venue might lack the décor and sound system of some of the fancier riverside spots, but we love how they always stay true to jazz classics - not watering them down to pop standards as some places are prone to do in Thailand. Arrive early to grab the sofa facing the band, or enjoy the ambiance at a slightly lower volume on one of the tables that spill out of the bar. Usually, there are two bands every night, playing from 21:00 and finishing at 24:00, as well as ‘free jam’ sessions on Tuesday nights.
Irish pubs are a ubiquitous sight in any tourist area, and the Old City in Chiang Mai is no different. I’m confident you know the score by now: oak and brass fittings, hearty pub grub, football on the telly, Guinness on tap – The UN Irish Pub isn’t reinventing the wheel but they are the best at what they do in Chiang Mai. The menu offers all those comfort foods Europeans miss from back homes such as bangers and mash or a steak pie. Saturday and Sunday nights The UN Irish Pub is popular for Premier League football fans, and on Monday, NFL takes center stage. There’s a leafy beer garden out the back that has twinkly fairy lights and a small bakery open in the daytime.
This unpretentious Nimmanahaemin bar offers a whopping 15 different international beers, lagers and ciders on tap – not to mention some of the juiciest burgers we’ve ever sunk our teeth into in Chiang Mai. From the pale ales of Belgium to London’s finest kinds of butter and a selection of more familiar names like Hoegaarden and Leffe, The Beer Republic certainly has one of the most comprehensive ranges of brews in Chiang Mai. Don’t know what to drink? Then don’t worry, the part indoor, the part outdoor bar provides a convenient five or ten sampler menu for 295 and 550 baht respectively.
Khao Soi is the one dish that you absolutely must eat in Chiang Mai. If you only have one meal in Chiang Mai, it should be Khao Soi. If you only have two meals, then you should eat Khao Soi again. Hopefully, you have at least four meals because Chiang Mai has four ‘not to miss’ spots to eat Khao Soi.
For the uninitiated, Khao Soi is a soup flavored with yellow curry and coconut milk, loaded with boiled noodles and then topped with fried noodles. Although Khao Soi is traditionally prepared with chicken or beef to comply with Muslim dietary rules, newer Chiang Mai restaurants, like Khao Soi Nimman, add various proteins like seafood and pork.
Not a single dish but a signature Lanna dining experience. Served in a low teak tray that doubles as a table, the khan toke comprises a range of northern-style side dishes and a basket of sticky rice. Diners sit on the floor and dig in with one hand. The modern version of khan toke is accompanied by a series of cultural performances such as folk music, finger-nail dance and tribal dances.
Khao Kha Moo is a popular Chiang Mai dish, and nobody does it better than the famous “cowboy hat lady” at the Chang Phuak night market. We dare you to find a better value for a dollar than this plate of succulent stewed pork leg served over rice with an egg and flavorful sides like pickled mustard greens and garlic chili sauce.
Yellow curry with a tamarind-based soup, pork chunks, shallots and shrimp paste. Its origins are in Burma, but the adapted northern Thai version uses less oil. With no coconut cream as the ingredient, the texture is less thick than green curry and rich with spices.
We stumbled upon Khanom Krok at the Sum Meet Market for the first time. The vendor laughed when we asked for hot sauce. It turns out that Khanom Krok is coconut rice pancakes and is best eaten as a dessert. The version that we liked best incorporates sweet corn into the coconut pancake. As a bonus, this Chiang Mai local food is vegetarian-friendly.
Perhaps the most exotic looking among all the kanom jeen (spaghetti-like noodles), this popular northern dish consists of the kanom jeen in a pork-soybean curry (nam ngeow), served with fresh vegetables, kaeb moo (crispy pork skin), dried bird’s eye chilies and a range of local condiments. The soup tastes rather light and refreshing, unlike other rich, coconut cream versions found in other regional kanom jeen dishes.
Refreshingly spicy, nutty and flavorsome, this healthy northern dish will wake you up from any slumber. The young, green jackfruit is boiled until tender, then shredded and stir-fried with a garlic-dried chili-shrimp paste base and a handful of herbs. Take one bite and the richly sweet, sour, salty and nutty tastes will explode in your mouth.
The name means ‘all mixed up’, and that’s what this dry curry dish is all about. Traditionally fashioned from kitchen leftovers, Gaeng Ho today is usually made from fresh ingredients. Fermented bamboo shoot, red curry paste, hang lay curry paste and kae curry paste combine to make the base ingredients. These then are mixed with a good variety of herbs and vegetables, pork belly meat, glass noodle, shrimp paste, and chilies.
Larb in northern Thai cuisine has more spices in it than the northeastern version. Beef, fish, pork or chicken meat is chopped up together with blood chunks and innards, then a quick stir in heated cooking oil (oil roasting), along with dried chilies, larb curry, blood chunks and a handful of herbs and spices. The dish goes best with warm sticky rice.
A traditional finger food, miang kham is a fun, do-it-yourself starter dish. One serving consists of fresh betel leaves (for wrapping), sweet syrup and a variety of fillings, usually sliced shallots, fresh red or green chilies, diced ginger, diced garlic, diced lime, dried small shrimp and roasted grated coconut. One bite can have all or some of the fillings – it’s totally up to you.
Located on the corner of Ratchapakinai road in the old city, this modern restaurant serves an incredible range of Thai and international food, perfect for lunch or a light evening meal. The restaurant really stands out in this part of town because of its modern structure. However, by keeping the design sleek and simple it adds another dimension to the surroundings, which include antique wooden buildings on the restaurant grounds. The menu is a good range of well-priced international and Thai food. During the day customers tend to make use of the terrace which has a casual cafe vibe, enjoying the decent selection of salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes. The Thai menu includes the northern favorite Khao Soi: a spicy coconut noodle soup with chicken, pickled cabbage and lime.
Huen Phen Restaurant is one of the cheaper options on our list. This long-established restaurant has been serving northern Thai cuisine, based on old family recipes, for over 40 years. Their khao soi is said to be one of the best in the city, and their dining room is particularly welcoming.
Khantoke Dinner is a wonderful way to spend the evening. You will experience a traditional Thai dinner and dancing show all within the charming atmosphere of the Chiang Mai Cultural Centre. Enjoy a range of northern Thai food, to share, with dishes including chicken curry, Burmese-style pork curry, fried chicken, sticky rice, vegetables with a spicy chili dip and the local delicacy of deep-fried pork skin.
Fruit shakes and lassies made from organic bio fruits are just two of the delights on this organically based menu, featuring both Thai and international food made from the freshest ingredients. The outdoor covered terrace is surrounded by plants and trays of wheatgrass and fans cool the indoor space. Come for breakfast and enjoy giant bowls of porridge that will keep going all day and pancakes served with fresh mango. For lunch, there are yummy rice soups and traditional Thai food. After a hard day exploring enjoy their veggie or chicken burgers with side salads, and a selection of European desserts like tiramisu or cheesecake. The owners are often on hand to welcome you, and there’s complimentary Wi-Fi as well.
Fern Forest Cafe is located on a small residential street in Chiang Mai’s old town. It is not immediately obvious as you walk past, with the sign hidden amongst the foliage, which makes you feel like you have stumbled upon a well-kept secret. The cafe tends to be quiet on weekdays and a Thai favorite in the early evenings and at weekends, but it always retains its relaxed vibe. The cafe serves a delicious variety of cakes displayed in the three fridges at the front of the cafe, some simple sandwiches, and breakfast dishes are available, as well as delicious local coffee. Open from 08:30 to 20:30, Fern Forest Cafe can be found on 2/2 Singharak Soi 4. From the north end of Singharak Road, walk straight and before you reach Ratwithi Road there is a sign to Fern Forest Cafe on the left-hand side.
With a superb location in a traditional Thai house, Ginger & Kafe offers a distinctive restaurant experience, with excellent food and service. The restaurant’s décor is fabulous, with antique furniture, colorful accessories and amazing attention to detail. They offer Thai and international favorites with the massaman curry being hailed as one of the best in the city. Before you leave, pop by the onsite shop where you can buy beautiful furniture and other household items.
You might want to try a khan toke dinner at least once when in Chiang Mai. At the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center, the setup is highly elaborate – from the elegant teakwood room decked out in Lanna style to the round teak tray containing nine side dishes to the seating arrangement on the floor – all designed to re-enact the original khan toke experience. Food is an array of local cuisine including fried pumpkin with chili, tomato and minced pork dip, curry, crispy noodles and plenty of rice. A cultural show – featuring ethnic hill-tribe dances, finger-nail dance and folk music performances – accompanies the dining experience.
Street shopping is all about immersing yourself in the local culture, and there’s no better place to experience it than at the Weekend Walking Streets. Here, the essence of Chiang Mai comes to life in a vibrant spectrum of art, crafts, music, and food – with mostly handmade quality than mass-produced goods. Stroll down the jam-packed streets and experience a wealth of traditional and modern Chiang Mai culture in one visit.
The Night Bazaar consists of street-side stalls selling mostly clothing and handicrafts, and a host of shopping plazas where you can find more unique crafts and jewelry. A good way to check out the whole area is to start at Tha Phae Road and work your way south towards Loi Khor. Once you reach the end of the market, cross the street and work your way back along the other side.
Think Park might not be the biggest place for shopping in Chiang Mai, but it’s a place, where you can find some nice designer products, often made by local artisans. I love shopping there for bags, cosmetics, or high-quality souvenirs and accessories. There are also a couple of shops that sell really colorful clothes, which you can only find here in Chiang Mai.
Across the River Ping, a short section of Charoenrat Road makes for a pleasant stroll. A collection of renovated wooden shop-houses that line its short stretch specializes in Lanna art and crafts, mostly from high-end local brands. The shops themselves are architectural treasures, built more than a century ago. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, this area is well worth a visit just for its historical value and scenic riverside panoramas.
Kad Suan Kaew (KSK) is the oldest mall in Chiang Mai and has a bit of a creepy vibe to it. Personally, I almost only go there to visit my beautician for manicures and pedicures, but I know that many westerners shop here for shoes, cosmetics, and cheap electronics. In fact, it’s the place to go if you need to get your iPhone fixed in Chiang Mai.
Maya Mall is probably the most well-known mall in Chiang Mai due to its location in the popular Nimman area. It is also my least favorite of all the malls in the city, because of its limited variety of shops. I usually only go there to watch movies at the cinema, eat delicious vegetarian dishes at the food court, or to have a drink at one of the Maya Mall rooftop bars.
If you are looking for a one-stop-shop for quality handicrafts and local products in Chiang Mai, then we recommend a browse of the stalls and shops in OP Place just a few steps from the bustling night bazaar. This large airy shopping mall has made local artisans its focus, and we had a great time rummaging through the collection.