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Thailand

Chiang Mai Holidays

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Chiang Mai made easy

Tucked away in Northern Thailand – a province famed for its rolling hills, ornate temples and unique flavours – Chiang Mai has its own distinct personality. You won’t find any beaches in the land of Thailand’s first kingdoms. Instead, your Chiang Mai holiday will combine culture, nature and wildlife for an unforgettable experience.

Known as Thailand’s second city, this centuries-old settlement is renowned for its hill tribes, elephant sanctuaries and ornate temples. Wat Phra Singh – the Gold Temple – is Chiang Mai’s most impressive feat of architecture. With glittering stupas, elaborate designs and colourful mosaics, it’s a fantastic example of a Thai Buddhist temple. Meanwhile, the hills surrounding Chiang Mai are peppered with traditional tribal villages, which give you a glimpse into Thailand’s past. Step back in time and find out more about their authentic, relaxed way of living. It’s best to visit a few different villages during your trip, if you can, as each one has its own unique culture.

And no holiday to Chiang Mai would be complete without a visit to the city’s famous elephant sanctuaries. These ethical centres prioritise the animals’ welfare and ensure they’re well treated by keepers and visitors alike. You’ll be able to watch, feed and bathe these gentle giants, but elephant riding is not permitted.

As part of your Chiang Mai holiday, it’s worth squeezing in a visit to Chiang Rai. It’s the northernmost city in the whole of Thailand, but the sight of Wat Rong Khun makes the three-hour drive more than worthwhile. Also known as the White Temple, this incredible complex is one of Thailand’s most recognisable buildings. Alternatively, if you don’t want to travel quite that far, take a day trip to Doi Inthanon. Standing tall at 2,565 metres, this soaring peak is Thailand’s highest mountain. You’ll be able to see the vast Himalayas, rich forests and exotic wildlife, and it’s just a 40-minute drive from Chiang Mai.

Things to do

Food

Events

Best time to go

Things to do

Chiang Mai is famous for its elephant sanctuaries, which are very popular with travellers who want an ethical elephant experience. These sustainable centres – like Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and Elephant Nature Park – have led the way in Thailand with their humane treatment of elephants. So you can get close to these gentle giants, safe in the knowledge they’re well looked after.

You should set aside a couple of days of your trip to visit the perfumed temples and traditional hill tribe villages around Chiang Mai. Each village has its own fascinating culture, and gives you the chance to appreciate a much simpler way of living.

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There’s plenty to do here after dark, too. Spend your evenings browsing the incredible Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, where endless stalls are piled high with everything from souvenirs to swords. Vendors set up their stands at sunset for a few hours of bargain-hunting, before wrapping up around 10:30pm.

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Cuisine in Northern Thailand

The cuisine here very much reflects Chiang Mai’s laidback lifestyle. Food in Northern Thailand – sometimes called Lanna food – is notably less spicy than elsewhere in the country. Instead of chilli-filled dishes, you can expect salty, bitter flavours. Sticky rice is generally served in favour of jasmine rice, and you’ll notice that pork is far more common than seafood – an effect of being far from the coast. There’s a whole range of delicious dishes you should try in Chiang Mai. The most famous one is probably Burmese-inspired khao soi – a mild noodle soup served with either pork, beef or chicken. Sai oua – also known as ‘Chiang Mai Sausage’ – is another favourite. Infused with lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli, these tasty sausages are often sold at Thai street food stalls, so keep your eyes peeled.

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Festivals and Events

To immerse yourself in Thailand’s traditions, it’s best to tie in your holiday with a cultural event. And Chiang Mai Flower Festival is one of the best. On the first weekend of February, this three-day extravaganza sees exotic blooms take over the city. You can look forward to impressive flower arrangements, floral floats and beautiful ornamental plants. Meanwhile, the Thai New Year – called Songkran – falls in mid-April. In Chiang Mai, the celebrations include a colourful Buddhist procession and a giant water fight by Thapae Gate. But the calendar highlight is Loi Krathong in November. This ‘Festival of Light’ sees hundred of candles float down the river, while lanterns are released into Chiang Mai’s sky. It’s a time to move on from any misfortunes, and make wishes for the coming year.

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Best time to go to Chiang Mai

Like the rest of the country, Chiang Mai has a tropical climate – but some months are much better than others. November to February is the best time to visit this part of Northern Thailand, when the days are dry and warm. With nine hours of sunshine and an average temperature of 25°C, it’s the perfect climate for hiking through the region’s hills and visiting shaded temples. Plus, if you travel in the first half of November, you’ll be able to incorporate the incredible lantern-lit festival of Loi Krathong into your holiday.

April and May are extremely hot – temperatures regularly reach 40°C – while the monsoon rains hit between June and October. 

Show More
Show Less

Things to do

Things to do

Chiang Mai is famous for its elephant sanctuaries, which are very popular with travellers who want an ethical elephant experience. These sustainable centres – like Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and Elephant Nature Park – have led the way in Thailand with their humane treatment of elephants. So you can get close to these gentle giants, safe in the knowledge they’re well looked after.

You should set aside a couple of days of your trip to visit the perfumed temples and traditional hill tribe villages around Chiang Mai. Each village has its own fascinating culture, and gives you the chance to appreciate a much simpler way of living.

Show More
Show Less

There’s plenty to do here after dark, too. Spend your evenings browsing the incredible Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, where endless stalls are piled high with everything from souvenirs to swords. Vendors set up their stands at sunset for a few hours of bargain-hunting, before wrapping up around 10:30pm.

Show More
Show Less

Food

Cuisine in Northern Thailand

The cuisine here very much reflects Chiang Mai’s laidback lifestyle. Food in Northern Thailand – sometimes called Lanna food – is notably less spicy than elsewhere in the country. Instead of chilli-filled dishes, you can expect salty, bitter flavours. Sticky rice is generally served in favour of jasmine rice, and you’ll notice that pork is far more common than seafood – an effect of being far from the coast. There’s a whole range of delicious dishes you should try in Chiang Mai. The most famous one is probably Burmese-inspired khao soi – a mild noodle soup served with either pork, beef or chicken. Sai oua – also known as ‘Chiang Mai Sausage’ – is another favourite. Infused with lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli, these tasty sausages are often sold at Thai street food stalls, so keep your eyes peeled.

Show More
Show Less

Events

Festivals and Events

To immerse yourself in Thailand’s traditions, it’s best to tie in your holiday with a cultural event. And Chiang Mai Flower Festival is one of the best. On the first weekend of February, this three-day extravaganza sees exotic blooms take over the city. You can look forward to impressive flower arrangements, floral floats and beautiful ornamental plants. Meanwhile, the Thai New Year – called Songkran – falls in mid-April. In Chiang Mai, the celebrations include a colourful Buddhist procession and a giant water fight by Thapae Gate. But the calendar highlight is Loi Krathong in November. This ‘Festival of Light’ sees hundred of candles float down the river, while lanterns are released into Chiang Mai’s sky. It’s a time to move on from any misfortunes, and make wishes for the coming year.

Show More
Show Less

Best time to go

Best time to go to Chiang Mai

Like the rest of the country, Chiang Mai has a tropical climate – but some months are much better than others. November to February is the best time to visit this part of Northern Thailand, when the days are dry and warm. With nine hours of sunshine and an average temperature of 25°C, it’s the perfect climate for hiking through the region’s hills and visiting shaded temples. Plus, if you travel in the first half of November, you’ll be able to incorporate the incredible lantern-lit festival of Loi Krathong into your holiday.

April and May are extremely hot – temperatures regularly reach 40°C – while the monsoon rains hit between June and October. 

Show More
Show Less

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We recommend

Wat Phra Singh

Also known as The Gold Temple, this amazing building in Chiang Mai is a must-see. It’s a fantastic example of a Thai Buddhist temple.

We recommend

Chiang Mai elephant sanctuaries

Chiang Mai has several ethical elephant centres, where the animals are well cared for. We’d recommend visiting Elephant Jungle Sanctuary or Elephant Nature Park.

We recommend

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

This bustling market appears every evening, with stalls stacked with everything from hand-carved ornaments to furniture. It’s the perfect place for souvenir shopping and a bite to eat.

We recommend

Doi Inthanon National Park

Discover Thailand’s highest peak. This National Park makes a great day trip from Chiang Mai, with lush jungles and stunning mountain views.

We recommend

Wat Rong Khun

Spend a day in Chiang Rai, further north, and marvel at the striking White Temple’s jagged architecture and dazzling colour.

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Our tailor made packages make it easy for you to discover more of the world.

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Whether you're looking for luxury or simplicity, we've got the perfect holiday for you.

Trust

Travelbag is fully protected by ATOL and ABTA, so your booking is completely secure.

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