Chiang Mai itinerary - 3 unique ideas

Embark on an extraordinary journey through Chiang Mai's cultural tapestry with our 3 carefully crafted Chiang Mai itineraries. From ancient temples that tell a story, to bustling markets and the serene embrace of nature, these itineraries promise a fusion of tradition, vibrancy and tranquillity. Immerse yourself in a blend of timeless charm and modern dynamism, creating memories that transcend the ordinary in Thailand's northern gem.

How to plan a perfect Chiang Mai itinerary

Crafting the perfect Chiang Mai itinerary involves careful thought and combining cultural immersion, outdoor activities and moments of serene relaxation. Start exploring the city's rich heritage and savour a traditional Khantok dinner. Carve out time for an outdoor adventure amidst lush landscapes, whether it's trekking through Doi Inthanon National Park or interacting with gentle giants at an elephant sanctuary. 

Immerse yourself in vibrant local life by wandering the markets and sampling the culinary delights of northern Thailand. Consider taking part in cultural workshops, from traditional Thai cooking lessons to meditation sessions. 

Take some quiet time in the moats of the Old Town or at the Mae Sa waterfalls, and stay flexible so you don't miss unexpected discoveries. With an abundance of things to do, your Chiang Mai itinerary will strike a harmonious balance between exploration and relaxation in this charming northern gem.

Want to save yourself the hassle of planning and booking? That's where we come in. Contact our Thailand travel experts discuss your preferences and interests.

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

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand © Shutterstock

How many days is good for Chiang Mai?

Determining the ideal length of your visit to Chiang Mai depends largely on your personal preferences and abilities, but four or five days is the most comprehensive way to experience the city. The first two days can be spent exploring the historic Old City, visiting revered temples such as Wat Phra Singh and savouring the local culture over a traditional Khantok dinner. 

The third day can be entirely devoted to outdoor adventures, such as trekking in Doi Suthep or interacting with elephants in a nature reserve. The last two days of your trip allow you to explore the area more deeply by travelling to Doi Inthanon National Park, where you can admire the breathtaking scenery. You'll also have time to take part in cultural workshops and attend seasonal events, providing a comprehensive introduction to Chiang Mai's rich offerings.

Set on taking a trip? Browse our inspirational Thailand itineraries.

Pha Dok Siew Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai Thailand © Shutterstock

Pha Dok Siew Waterfall  © Shutterstock

Must-see places in Chiang Mai

Known for its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty, Chiang Mai has several must-see places that capture the essence of this northern Thai city:

Old City

Surrounded by ancient walls and moats, Chiang Mai's Old Town is a historical gem. Its narrow streets are lined with centuries-old temples, including Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. With traditional architecture, lively markets and a rich cultural heritage, this neighbourhood has a special charm that makes it a must-see in Chiang Mai.

Doi Suthep

On the majestic Doi Suthep Mountain overlooking Chiang Mai is the iconic Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. Accessed via a scenic road or staircase, this sacred temple offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and houses revered relics, creating a serene and spiritually meaningful place.

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a sanctuary dedicated to the ethical treatment and conservation of elephants. Here you can interact with these gentle giants in their natural environment, and contribute to their well-being while learning about the park's vital role in saving and rehabilitating elephants.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang, a historic temple in Chiang Mai's Old City, is a massive chedi (stupa) built in the 15th century. Despite its partial destruction, it is a colourful symbol of the city's rich heritage. The temple complex is also home to a city pillar and intricate architectural details that appeal to culture lovers.

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai is a former quarry turned into a striking attraction. Surrounded by rugged cliffs, the turquoise waters of the canyon are a popular destination for cliff jumping, swimming and admiring the picturesque scenery. The canyon's unique landscape creates an exciting and refreshing experience for visitors seeking adventure and natural beauty.

Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon National Park, crowned as Thailand's highest peak, is a natural wonder located near Chiang Mai. The park is characterised by lush landscapes, vibrant flora and stunning waterfalls. Here you can explore the peak, encounter a variety of wildlife and immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the park.

Not quite sure when you would like to go? Read more about the best time to visit Thailand.

Chiang Mai Three Kings Monument © Shutterstock

Chiang Mai Three Kings Monument © Shutterstock

Itinerary #1: Chiang Mai Sustainable Trails

Chiang Mai is the ultimate getaway from the humidity of Bangkok. On this 5-day Chiang Mai Sustainable Trails itinerary this 5-day trip, you'll explore the local nature, beautiful Lanna-style temples, museums and the infamous night bazaar.

Itinerary overview

On the first day, upon arrival, you'll embark on a magical journey through Chiang Mai at night, experiencing local life and charming sights. On day two, become an artisan as you immerse yourself in the 200-year-old craft of lacquerware making and savour traditional Lanna style. 

On the third day, you'll discover Chiang Mai's historical treasures, learn traditional crafts and savour local cuisine. On the fourth day, you'll embark on an eco-adventure: visit a hill tribe museum, raft down the Mae Tang River and explore rural villages. On the fifth day, your journey comes to an end and you will be taken to the airport for your flight home. Read more.

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

Traditional hill tribe building exterior, Chiang Mai  © Shutterstock

Check this Chiang Mai itinerary:

Day 1

  • Arrival in Chiang Mai & check-in to your hotel
  • Chiang Mai Night Ride

Day 2

  • A Day as an Artisan Tour

Day 3

  • The Lost Treasures Tour
  • Thai traditional lunch

Day 4

  • Eco Adventure
  • Hill Tribe Museum
  • Mae Tang River rafting and local village exploration

Day 5

  • Transfer to the airport and departure

Ready to embark on an adventure? Book your trip now.

Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Shutterstock

Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, Thailand. © Shutterstock

Itinerary #2: Chiang Mai Safari Adventure

Our Chiang Mai Safari is perfect for families looking for an adventure holidasy. Majestic cliff-top temples, vast national parks and thrilling safaris await.

Itinerary overview

Your adventure begins with a relaxing day upon arrival in Chiang Mai, and on day two you'll delve into cultural wonders as you visit Wat Doi Suthep and explore the city's markets. Day three immerses you in the Hmong village of Nong Khoi and Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens, followed by a traditional Kantoke-style dinner. 

Day four adds an adventurous touch with a hot air balloon ride offering breathtaking views and an afternoon tour of local life along the Ping River. On the fifth day, your journey comes to an end and you will be taken to the airport for your flight home. Read more.

Chiang Mai food © Shutterstock

Chiang Mai cuisine © Shutterstock

Check this Chiang Mai itinerary:

Day 1

  • Arrival in Chiang Mai & check-in to your hotel
  • Day at leisure

Day 2

  • Morning tour of the City and Temples with Doi Suthep
  • Street Food Tour

Day 3

  • Hmong Nong Hoi with Botanic Garden
  • Kantoke Dinner

Day 4

  • Hot Air Balloon Adventure
  • Local Life Afternoon Tour

Day 5

  • Transfer to the airport and departure

Feeling curious? Take a step forward and book this trip now.

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

Elephants in Chiang Mai Nature Park @ Shutterstock

Itinerary #3: Thailand's Golden Triangle

On this 5-day Thailand's Golden Triangle itinerary you'll experience romance and adventure. You will travel through the verdant hills and river valleys of Thailand's lush north, exploring the markets, temples and mouth-watering northern cuisine of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

Itinerary overview

Begin with a traditional Khantoke dinner, immersing yourself in Northern Thai cuisine and local performances. On day two, you'll explore the Lanna Kingdom, seeing the province's main attractions, herb gardens and the Mae Ping River. 

On the third day, you will travel to Mae Kampong village, where you will experience local life and take a forest walk to a waterfall. On the fourth day, you'll head to the Golden Triangle, exploring the border areas and enjoying a longtail boat ride on the Mekong River. Finish your adventure on the fifth day by flying out of Chiang Mai Airport. Read more.

Phra That Si Chom Thong Temple , Chiangmai, Thailand © panda3800/Shutterstock

Phra That Si Chom Thong Temple , Chiang Mai, Thailand © panda3800/Shutterstock

Check this Chiang Mai itinerary covering Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai:

Day 1

  • Arrival in Chiang Mai & check-in to your hotel
  • Kantoke Dinner
  • Overnight in Chiang Mai

Day 2

  • The Lanna Kingdom Exploration
  • The Temples of Chiang Mai Tour
  • Overnight in Chiang Mai

Day 3

  • Mae Kampong Village Tour
  • Overnight in Chiang Rai

Day 4

  • The Golden Triangle Tour
  • Longtail boat ride on the Mekong River
  • Overnight in Chiang Rai

Day 5

  • Transfer from Chiang Rai to the airport and departure

Create lasting memories in Thailand - book this trip with us.

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

Buddha in Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong Wora Wiharn © Valery Shanin/Shutterstock

When is the best time to visit Chiang Mai?

The best time to visit Chiang Mai is usually the cool and dry season, which runs from November to early April. During this period, the weather is more comfortable, humidity is lower and temperatures are more pleasant. The months of November and December are particularly popular when the air is clear and temperatures are cool.

Avoid the rainy season, which runs from May to October, if you want outdoor sightseeing without frequent downpours. The hot season, from March to June, can be quite warm, with temperatures peaking in April.

If you are interested in cultural events, visit the Yi Peng Lantern Festival in November or the Songkran Festival in April for a unique and colourful experience. Ultimately, choosing the best time to visit Chiang Mai depends on your preferences for weather, outdoor activities and your desire to take part in certain cultural festivals.

Tips for visiting Chiang Mai in different months:

Doi Tao Lake along Mae Ping River in Thailand © Shutterstock

Doi Tao Lake along Mae Ping River in Thailand © Shutterstock

Getting to & around Chiang Mai

Travelling to Chiang Mai is convenient thanks to Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX), which receives direct flights from major Asian cities. Domestic flights and buses are also available from Bangkok. 

Once in Chiang Mai, transport within the city is via tuk-tuks, red trucks (songthaews) and taxis. Renting a scooter is a popular option for exploring on your own, and there are car-sharing services in the city. 

Walking is a great way to experience the charm of the Old Town, and bikes are available to rent for those who prefer cycling. The city's compact size makes it relatively easy to navigate, with a variety of transport options to suit different preferences and budgets.

Average cost per day in Chiang Mai

The average cost of a day in Chiang Mai can vary depending on individual preferences and habits. On average, budget travellers can spend around $25-$50, mid-level travellers can spend between $50 and $150, and those looking for luxury accommodation and experiences can spend $150 or more. These amounts usually include accommodation, food, transport, sightseeing and other expenses.

Chiang Mai is known for its affordability, and costs can be lower compared to other popular tourist destinations. Street food and local restaurants offer budget-friendly dining options, and transport in the city is inexpensive. Shopping at local markets and exploring free or low-cost attractions can help keep costs down.

Prepare for your Chang Mai itinerary

Discover the beauty of Chiang Mai with the guidance of our local Thailand travel experts. We handle every detail of the planning and booking for your adventure. 

Explore our fully customisable Thailand itineraries. Whenever you're ready to set off on your journey, contact us, and we'll craft a trip to suit your desires.

Prefer to do it alone? Get yourself a copy of The Rough Guide to Thailand and, perhaps, The Rough Guide to Thailand's Beaches & Islands. Don't forget to read out Thailand travel tips!

Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 08.12.2023

Online editor at Rough Guides, specialising in travel content. Passionate about creating compelling stories and inspiring others to explore the world.

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