Destination Travel Guide Chiang Mai province

Destination Travel Guide Chiang Mai by Traveling 2 Thailand

Welcome to Chiang Mai province in North Thailand, called the Rose of the North as reference to the beautiful ladies of Chiang Mai. The capital city of Chiang Mai province is of course Chiang Mai, said to be the second biggest city of Thailand. As Chiang Mai is located in the mountains of North Thailand it is always a bit cooler here and because of that Chiang Mai is a popular destination in Thailand, both for tourists and the people living in Thailand. Photo above is overlooking Chiang Mai town with the famous Doi Suthep in the background. If you are planning to travel in Thailand and need help with planning then send me a email at The Little Elephant in Thailand.

Read more about other destinations at DESTINATION TRAVEL GUIDES.

Introduction of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is 700 km north of Bangkok and used to be part of the ancient Lanna Kingdom and is cultural strongly influenced by Burma / Myanman. In the west Chiang Mai borders to Mae Hong Son province and in the North to Burma. To the east Chiang Mai borders to Chiang Rai & Lampang and in the south to Lamphun. 

Chiang Mai town, along the Ping River, was build in 1296 as a walled city with a moat around it. Although most of the wall has disappeared the moat and some corners of the wall are still there. This square of about 1.5 square km is nowadays called the old city (although I think the area between Thapae road and Loy Kroi road should be a part of that). The old city is a tangle of small streets (soi's) with many centuries old temples build in Lanna style. There are said to be 75 temples in the old town of Chiang Mai.

So it comes as no surprise that this part of Chiang Mai town is a popular destination for tourist, Thai & foreigners alike. It is also here where you will find most of the accommodation, markets, restaurants and tour agencies.

The highlights of Chiang Mai

When people think of Chiang Mai they mostly think about the historical center of Chiang Mai town,  the Wat Doi Suthep, the Night Bazar and going to Pai & Mae Hong Son. Although the latter 2 are actually not in Chiang Mai province.

Popular destinations in Chiang Mai

Besides the provincial capital town of Chiang Mai, the province offers many destinations that have become popular in the past years. 
  • Chiang Mai ZOO
  • Chiang Dao
  • Zip-Line in the jungle of Chiang Mai (be careful!)
  • Elephants Sanctuaries
  • Doi Inthannon National Park
  • Wat Doi Suthep
  • Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden
  • Night Safari
  • Ban Tawai furniture village
  • Sankampeng Umbrella Village
  • Mae Kampong Waterfall
  • Grand Canyon Chiang Mai
  • Op Luang National Park

When to go to Chiang Mai?

Of course you can travel to Chiang Mai the all year around, the weather is as hot as everywhere in Thailand during the hot season of April and May. Then the monsoon season begins that lasts until end October with chance of heavy rains and some local flooding. From November to March the cool season hits the North of Thailand and temperatures in Chiang Mai province may go down to about 5℃ during night time (December-February). Chiang Mai is an attractive destination all year around, but for outdoor activities it is recommended to visit during the cool season, from September to February.

When traveling to North Thailand, Chiang Mai province included, in March & April be aware of the so called "burning season". During this months (and sometimes a bit longer and/or earlier) is smog haze in North Thailand due to burning of farm fields & garbage. Known area's are Chiang Mai, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and Nan. But make no mistake also the air in Bangkok or some places in Northeast Thailand can be unhealthy for sensitive people. Check the air quality at World Air Quality Index. 

Where to sleep in Chiang Mai?

In Chiang Mai town and upcountry is a good range of accommodation ranging from simple Guesthouses / Homestay's to comfortable boutique hotels & resorts. When stying in any city I always recommend to stay in the area where you want to go. For me that would mean within the old town, so between the moats or between Thapae road and Loy Kroi road. If you not want to stay in town but also not far then I recommend to stay along the Ping River. Have a look at my postings about Accommodation in Chiang Mai province.

Where to eat & drink in Chiang Mai?

In Chiang Mai town are many restaurants from simple Thai noodle shops to fine dinning and from Thai food to all kind of international food. Like good French restaurants and great pizzeria's. Have a look at my postings about Eat & Drink in Chiang Mai province.

Destination Travel Guide Chiang Mai by Traveling 2 Thailand
The famous Iron Bridge over the Ping River in Chiang Mai town

What to do in Chiang Mai?

When thinking about Chiang Mai town most people think about the Wat Doi Suthep, the Night Bazar and the Sunday Market (actually there is another market for every day of the week). And upcountry Chiang Mai people think about Elephants and jungle. Have a look at my postings about Chiang Mai province.

In Chiang Mai you will still find the old fashioned Samlor taxi's, this are 3-wheel bicycles where 2 people can sit and they are used for local traveling. And they are a great way to see Chiang Mai town, so I would recommend to make a samlor trip. But make a price before you are leaving! Or have a look at Chiang Mai om Tree Wheels, they do tours with samlors.

The best way to explore the old center of Chiang Mai is getting lost. Yes, just walk where ever you think you want to go. Explore the small and narrow alleys of Chiang Mai.

Destination Travel Guide Chiang Mai by Traveling 2 Thailand
Thapae square at night

How to get there & around?

Within Chiang Mai province you can het around with Songtheauw, Mini-van or the inter-regional busses. Chiang Mai town can be reached by :
  • By Air : The airport of Chiang Mai, openen in 1921 as Suthep Airport, is called Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) and connects Chiang Mai with Bangkok (both Don Muang Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport), Hat Yai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Phuket, Shenzhen and Kunming. Chiang Mai Airport is located 5 km west of Chiang Mai town. Among others Chiang Mai Airport is served by Air AsiaNok Air, Bangkok Airways, Thai Smile, Thai Lion Air and China Eastern Airlines. 
  • By Train : Chiang Mai is the end of the railway from Bangkok passing Ayutahya, Phitsanulok, Den Chai and Lampang.
  • By Car or Motorbike :  Chiang Mai is easily reached by road from Chiang Rai, Lampang, Phayao, Phrae or Nan. And with that actually from any major city in Thailand. All major roads leading to Chiang Mai go thru mountains and are of good & safe quality to drive or ride. For motorbike riding the area of Chiang Mai is motorbike riding heaven with stunning routes along the Thai-Burmese border.
  • By Bus : Chiang Mai can be reached from any major city in Thailand. Chiang Mai has 3 bus terminals :
    • Terminal 1 (Chang Phueak) near the old city for Songtheauws and mini-vans
    • Terminal 2 & 3 (Arcade) along the eastern side of the ring-road

How to get around in Chiang Mai town

In Chiang Mai town are Songtheauws for fixed routes that can also be hired for specific destinations. But make a price before starting the trip. There are also TukTuk's but again make a price before starting your trip. Some people rent a motorbike / scooter to go around in Chiang Mai town and upcountry. Be aware that scooters are legally motorbikes. But best is of course travel slow and take an Samlor. 

Destination Travel Guide Chiang Mai by Traveling 2 Thailand
Samlor & driver in Chiang Mai

Where to go next from Chiang Mai?

  • Pai & Mae Hong Son are about is about xx km & xx km north-west from Chiang Mai.
  • Lamphun is about 30 km south of Chiang Mai and home to the famous Wat xxxxx
  • Chiang Rai is about 190 km south-west of Chiang Mai and home to the White Temple and the Golden Triangle.
  • Lampang is about 90 km south of Chiang mai and is famous for its old wooden Thai houses and beautiful Lanna style temples.

Map of Chiang Mai province

Destination Travel Guide Chiang Mai by Traveling 2 Thailand
Chiang Mai province in North Thailand

Map of greater Chiang Mai town

Destination Travel Guide Chiang Mai by Traveling 2 Thailand
Map of greater Chiang Mai

Map of Chiang Mai old town

Destination Travel Guide Chiang Mai by Traveling 2 Thailand
Map of Chiang Mai old town

Disclaimer : All information is created in good faith and is an expression of fair comment.


About this travelogue

The Little Elephant Traveling in Thailand is since 2009 a travelogue to inspire traveling in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Southeast Asia is a mosaic of ancient temples, golden Buddha’s, markets, massage parlors, delicious cuisine, silvery waterfalls, scraggy limestone cliffs and 1000s jungle topped islands. From the serene tropical beaches of Thailand to the lush green mountains of Halong Bay in Vietnam. Follow my travelogue with in between Tips and Insight Information about Accommodation, Restaurants, Best places to visit and Places you never thought of to visit. You do not have to become a (paid) member, there are no advertisements and you can use / copy all information from this travelogue as long it is not for commercial use and as long you refer to this travelogue.

About the founder & editor

I belong to that race of men that don't fit in, a race that can't sit still, so they break the hearts of kith and kin and they roam the world at will. (Thanks Mark). Born in a tiny country in Europe at young age I started to explore Europe. And from 1985 I started to roam the world at will, first in Indonesia & Thailand. Now living in Thailand I am still roaming the world. If you have a question or need help in planning your holiday in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam then send me an email at The Little Elephant Traveling in Thailand.

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