Chiang Mai in January: weather and travel tips

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 07.12.2023

Planning to visit Chiang Mai in January? Expect pleasant cooler temperatures and low rainfall. In short, the weather at the beggining of the yeear is ideal for travellers who are keen on outdoor activities — though you should be aware that air pollution can be an issue.

What is the weather like in Chiang Mai in January?

The weather in Chiang Mai in January is generally cool and dry, as this month is considered to be the coolest of the year. It can be especially chilly in the evenings and early mornings, so better bring some warm clothing.

Air temperatures in Chiang Mai in January

The average temperature in ranges from 15°C to 27°C (59°F - 81°F). Temperatures can drop significantly, particularly in the mountainous areas surrounding Chiang Mai.

Average rainfall in January

January is part of the dry season in Thailand. In this month, Chiang Mai only experiences around 10mm of rain. But there can still be sporadic showers or drizzles during this time.

Considering visiting Chiang Mai in January? Browse our inspirational Thailand itineraries and start planning your perfect trip.

Wat phra that doi suthep temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand © Shutterstock

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, Thailand © Shutterstock

 Is January a good time to visit Chiang Mai?

Generally speaking, November through to March is considered the best time of year to visit Chiang Mai. So, thanks to its cooler temperatures and low rainfall, January can be a good time to visit.

That’s especially the case if you’re hoping to take a trip that takes in Chiang Mai’s Sustainable Trails, or fancy enjoying a Chiang Mai Safari Adventure

Just be aware of the air pollution that comes courtesy of the “Burning Season” that runs from January to March — more on that later. 

Not sure when you want to go? Read up on the best time to go to Thailand

Elephants in Chiang Mai's Elephant Nature Park, Thailand © Shutterstock

The weather in Chiang Mai is January is cool and dry — ideal for visiting the Elephant Nature Park © Shutterstock

What about the crowds and cost?

As with other top Thai tourist destinations, visiting Chiang Mai in January means you should expect big crowds.

This is because it falls firmly in peak season, drawing travellers to explore its natural and cultural attractions when the weather is pleasantly cooler, at a time many parts of the world are in full-on frozen mode!

Being high season, there’s more competition for accommodation, so expect prices to be higher, too.

Set on taking a trip this winter? For more travel inspiration, read up on the best places to visit in January.

Traditional Hmong hill tribe building exterior, Chiang Mai province, Thailand © Shutterstock

Traditional Hmong hill tribe dwellings © Shutterstock

Ready for your dream trip to Chiang Mai?

If you want to kick off the new year in epic style on an unforgettable trip to Thailand, you’ll find tonnes of inspiration in our Chiang Mai itineraries

Like all Rough Guides trips, they’re customisable, and a Thailand local expert will be on hand to take the hassle out of planning and booking. Here are a few itineraries to spark ideas:

  • Chiang Mai’s Sustainable Trailsoffering a beautiful escape from Bangkok’s humidity, Chiang Mai is regarded as the cultural heart of the country. Take this trip to enjoy a magical night ride to ancient temples and bazaars, uncover artisan culture, and enjoy an eco-adventure on the Mae Tang river.
  • Chiang Mai Safari Adventureideal for family fun and adventure, this will see you explore Chiang Mai’s lush valleys and national parks. Expect majestic cliff-top temples and thrilling safari adventures.

Discover more Thailand itineraries.

Chiang Mai food © Shutterstock

Visitors to Chiang Mai will get to chow down seriously tasty food © Shutterstock

Tips for travelling to Chiang Mai in January

As you prepare for your trip to Chiang Mai, remember a few important travel tips for visiting Thailand.

What to wear in Chiang Mai in January

Given the average temperatures in Chiang Mai in January, pack light, cool clothing, but also come prepared with warmer layers. This is, after all, the coldest month of the year around these parts.

It’s also wise to pack long sleeved tops, long skirts and dresses, and trousers. Alongside keeping you warm in the brisker early mornings and evenings, you’ll also need them to cover up when visiting temples — more on that below.

Be aware of air pollution 

Before deciding when to visit, be aware that January to March (sometimes also into April) is known as “Burning Season” in Chiang Mai and wider northern Thailand. 

This comes as a result of farmers using controlled fires to clear and fertilise their land after harvest. 

This being dry season, there’s little rain or wind to disperse the haze, which means air pollution can reach extreme levels.

Respect local customs 

When visiting temples, it’s vital to respect local etiquette through observing a few dos and don’ts.

First up, shorts and short skirts are out. You should wear trousers or a long skirt, and bear in mind that shoulders should also be covered — bring a scarf if your outfits are sleeveless. 

Next, before entering a temple, remove your shoes, hat and sunglasses. Then, once you’re inside, don’t ever touch or point at a Buddha image or monk. You should also avoid turning your back on a Buddha image.

Lastly, be mindful of the fact that temples are peaceful places of meditation — switch your phone to silent mode, and keep your voice down.

Buddha in Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong Wora Wiharn, near Chiang Mai, Thailand © Valery Shanin/Shutterstock

Be respectful when visiting temples like Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong © Valery Shanin/Shutterstock

Festivals and events in Chiang Mai in January

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival

8km southeast of Chiang Mai, the three-day, mid-January Bo Sang Umbrella and Sankampang Handicrafts Festival is a beautiful way to see local crafts at their finest.

Hand-painted umbrellas fashioned from mulberry bark paper, silk and cotton sit centre-stage, alongside fans, lanterns and parasols.

Come the evening, the umbrellas are illuminated, and there’s a market, parade, dancing, music and art exhibitions.

Cherry blossom viewing 

West of Chiang Mai, cherry blossoms thrive in the chillier climes of the Doi Suthep mountain. The best time to see them in bloom is from the end of December to mid-February. 

You can take a songthaew taxi there from the centre of Chiang Mai. Just be aware that weekends in January weekends draw big crowds. 

Thantawan Festival 

Taking place in Lanna Rock Garden, Chiang Mai, from January 12th-14th 2024, the Thantawan Festival promises to be a three-day extravaganza of natural beauty, music and art.

Handcraft paper umbrella with paint color in Chiang Mai © Shutterstock

Visit Chiang Mai in January to enjoy the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival © Shutterstock

Planning your January trip to Chiang Mai

Inspired? Find out more in our guide to the best things to do in Chiang Mai

Browse our customisable Thailand itineraries, and contact our Thailand local experts to save yourself the hassle of planning.

Prefer to do it on your own? Get yourself a copy of The Rough Guide to Thailand and make sure to read all our tips for backpacking Thailand

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 07.12.2023

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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