Encompassing an area of nearly 300 square miles (482 km), Doi Inthanon National Park is also known as “The Roof of Thailand” because of its eponymous mountain, which, at over 8,000 feet (2,500 meters), is the highest peak in Thailand.
Visit Doi Inthanon for early morning views, winding hiking trails, spectacular waterfalls, and the colorful hillside stupas (temple domes). Bird watching enthusiasts will be wow-ed by the scope of the park’s wildlife, and photographers will want to plan their trips for January or February to catch the Siamese cherry blossoms in bloom.
This attraction in Chiang Mai province is less a true canyon than it is a massive body of turquoise water. Rent a songthaew (shared red car) or hop on a motorbike for the 25-minute ride to the Hang Dong neighborhood to access the canyon, and don’t forget to bring a bathing suit! Swim or float on a raft in the clear waters, and, if you’re daring, jump in from the 15-meter high cliffs.
MAIIAM’s transformation from crumbling warehouse to art museum/Instagram wonderland is newly complete. The space, renovated using local materials, honors both Thai tradition and the city’s newfound modernity. The large main mirrored facade and clean modern lines are a departure from the glitz that characterizes much of the Old City. The museum is open everyday but Tuesday, from 10 am – 6 pm. Admission is 150 THB.
Pung Thao Kong Shrine
Photographed every Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai? While this is a nearly impossible feat, consider a change of scenery. Head out of the Old City, heading east toward the popular Warorot market. You’ll find yourself in the heart of Chiang Mai’s Chinatown and from there, it’s only a few steps to the ornate Pung Thao Kong Shrine, a 136-year-old Chinese Temple that’s both a study in architecture and a photographer’s paradise.
Nestled in the hills of Mae Sa (a 35-minute drive from Chiang Mai’s Old City), Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden is home to Thailand’s longest canopy walkway and a host of unique plants and flowers. See lotus flowers, orchids, carnivorous plants, and, if you’re lucky, a rare flying lizard that can only be found on Chiang Mai’s Suthep mountain.
Every Sunday, Chiang Mai celebrates with a walking street — which stretches nearly a mile across the city, starting at Tha Pae Gate in the east. The road is closed to cars, motorbikes, and bicycles, and vendors lay out their wares, products, and food offerings for all to see. There are also musical acts, and even an alleyway lined with chairs for those who need a foot massage in the middle of their wanderings. The Walking Street is one of the best ways to experience the spirit of the city and explore all it has to offer.
Wat Chedi Luang is a large temple in the middle of Chiang Mai’s Old City. Its most noticeable feature is the ruined brick chedi (temple top) that was destroyed in the earthquake of 1545. Restored by UNESCO in the 1990s, Wat Chedi Luang is culturally significant as the resting place of Chiang Mai’s original city pillar (Sao Inthakin). Visitors pay a small 20 THB entry fee.
Wat Phra Singh
A grand temple in the westernmost part of the city square, Wat Phra Singh is the resting place of one of Buddhism’s most important statues, inspired by a lion statue in an ancient temple in India.
During the spring water festival (Songkran), the statue is carried through Chiang Mai and doused by spectators. Visit this temple to admire the ancient architecture, see the large stupa, or have a chance to chat with a monk about Buddhism or Chiang Mai.
Established in 1383 by Thai king, Keu Naone, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was initially constructed as a shrine to house a bone from the shoulder of the Buddha. Visitors can climb a 306-step staircase, alongside mosaic dragons — or access the temple complex via funicular.
After paying a small admission fee (20-30 THB), visitors abandon their shoes and explore the golden stupas, intricate tile work, and shrines. Worshipers often leave lotus blossoms as offerings, and visitors can often spot orange-robed monks.
Header image by Vincent Carabeo.