Chiang Mai is the main city in Northern Thailand and a very popular destination for cooking classes, elephant parks and temples…The city is actually home to more than 200 temples! And the majority of them are inside the Old City (the little square in the map below).
As we spent 20 days in Chiang Mai, it was only fair that we visited a few of them during our stay. But if you don’t have that much time, or more specifically, just 1 day, we’ve gathered the most interesting, beautiful and worthy of your time to visit.
5 Best Temples to Visit in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a pretty interesting city to visit and the temples are a part of the everyday life for the Thai people. So chances are you will find quite a lot of people and tourists in some of the most popular destinations. We are sharing our MUST visit temples that you can do either by: walking or renting a bicycle to travel around the Old City OR renting a motorbike to do it all under a day!
WAT PHRA THAT DOI SUTHEP
Wake yourself up in the morning and get either a motorbike (rent costs about 200-250Baht or AU$7-9 for the whole day) or take a ‘bus’ (little red trucks) or even a tuk-tuk (just make sure to arrange prices before hand, it shouldn’t be more than 100-150 Baht). Make your way up to Doi Suthep, one of the most beautiful and popular temples in the whole of Thailand, so expect crowds. The road is steep but well maintained and easy to follow.
Once you get there, purchase tickets (only 50 Baht) and climb upstairs to enter the complex. Once you enter the main temple, you’ll witness the beauty of the Buddhist faith. The main structure (golden mount) is surrounded by a fence-like area where devotees circle it 3 times while reciting their prayers. The area is also surrounded by Buddha images and little shrines where people leave their prayers and wishes.
Take some time also to explore outside the temple and enjoy the views on top of Doi Suthep, the mountain where the temple sits.
Make your way down and down the road you go, still 4 temples to go!
WAT SRISUPHAN (SILVER TEMPLE)
Head down back to town to visit the other 4 temples in Chiang Mai. Go all the way down without going through Old City (will save you some time) and get to the Silver Temple or Wat Srisuphan. A temple covered in the silver engravings and with meticulously made carvings. Although a very impressive temple and completely prepared to received guests (they even offer free wifi!), we didn’t find many tourists visiting it while we were around, but locals were everywhere, working and praying or going on with their lives. One setback however is, women are not allowed inside the temple. Still worth the visit as the outside is magnificent and beautifully worked on.
WAT MUEN SAN
If you really enjoyed the Silver Temple, then we highly suggest you also visit the Wat Muen San. An almost empty temple that’s half the size of the previous one but with the advantage that everyone can walk in and admire its beauty. Intricate work is also displayed inside and out. Plus, 12 panes for every month of the year, where you can see a different design for each.
WAT CHEDI LUANG
As you make your way back to the Old City, stop at one of the most famous temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Chedi Luang. An ancient temple which survived an earthquake and once hold the sacred Emerald Buddha image (now in Luang Prabang). The structure is different from all others you’ve probably seen in the rest of SE Asia and shows a different architectural style.
Tickets to visit the complex of temples is only 20 Baht per person and you can visit the other temples around like the Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmin.
WAT PHRA SINGH
Lastly, but not least, at the end of the day, make your way to the Wat Phra Singh to enjoy the large gardens and beautiful hand painted murals inside the temple. If you are lucky enough, you’ll find a monk or two to have a friendly chat with you. We were very blessed to meet these two lovely young monks who asked to have a word with us to help them practice English. Our talk turned into some invaluable insights on their lives and the Buddhist ways of dealing with our everyday struggles and problems.
Visiting the temples of Chiang Mai may be an exhausting task but it’s worth the run around.
Have you been to Chiang Mai? Which were your favourite temples to visit? Did you get to talk to a monk? We’d love to hear your stories, write to us below!
Larissa & Jean