Chiang Mai Temples
Chiang Mai, both the city and the province, have some of the most important and most beautiful Temples anywhere in the whole of Thailand and the Temples are a major draw for almost every traveller to the region. You might think you’re ‘Temple’d out’ by the time you arrive in Chiang Mai but hang in there, cherry picking a few of the most stunning or remote Temples in Chiang Mai is well worth your time.
Here’s our list of the top 10 Temples to visit when you’re in Northern Thailand – conveniently separated into 5 of our favourite city (or near the city) Temples and 5 of our favourite rural Temples.
Our top 5 Chiang Mai city Temples
With over 100 Temples in Chiang Mai city there’s a huge choice of Temples to visit, from the super famous (and busy) to small community very much part of every day life. But here are our top 5:
One of the most famous Temple’s in the whole of Thailand, let alone Chiang Mai. This stunning Temple is perched on a mountain overlooking the city of Chiang Mai and if you only visit 1 ‘city’ Temple then make it this one. Head up early in the morning or late in the afternoon to miss the ‘crowds’ or, if you’re feeling very energetic, join Chiang Mai’s cycling fraternity and ride up the 10km winding road to the Temple entrance. Great views, beautiful architecture and a fantastic way to spend a morning or an afternoon.
Located in the heart of the old city and a ‘must see’ when exploring the small roads of this atmospheric part of Chiang Mai. Home to Chiang Mai’s most important Buddha image and first built in the 14th century this is one of Northern Thailand’s most visited Temples and understandably so. Definitely one for the list.
Again located in the heart of the old city making it very easy to include in any exploration of Chiang Mai and another very significant Temple with a long and rich history. Impressive towering ruins give a real sense of the history of Chiang Mai and Wat Chedi Luang used to be home to the ‘emerald Buddha’ now housed in Wat Phra Kaew (The Grand Palace) that you might have visited in Bangkok. Another must see on any walking tour of the old city.
We’re off to a slightly different location for Wat Umong – still in the ‘city’ but in the ‘Suthep’ district, West of the old city. Wat Umong is a very different experience without the glitz and glamour of many urban Temples. Explore a series of small tunnels with Buddha images and feel the peace of the grounds all around the Temple. In fact the whole area around Wat Umong is worth exploring with lots of great small coffee shops, eateries and a very artsy, laid back vibe all around.
We’re back into the heart of the Old City for Wat Inthankin so again, very easy to include when you’re exploring. Marking the spot of the ancient centre of the city we like this Temple for how visually stunning and different it is and the fact that it feels like (well it is) that it’s right in the middle of every day life.
Our top 5 rural Chiang Mai Temples
Around 90 minutes of so out of Chiang Mai city, this forest Temple, and the trip to get there, with take your breath away. Head first to Mae Wang and then up the valley before turning off up a steep forest track for 10km+. The journey itself is worthwhile but then you arrive in a clearing with a range of stunningly designed Temple buildings. Enjoy the peace, you are in the middle of a mountain forest, and enjoy exploring the intricate designs on the Temple buildings. If you only visit 1 Temple outside of the city then make it this one – other one of the others below!
A good 2 hours from Chiang Mai city, Wat Doi Koeng is rarely visited (by travellers and locals alike) and that adds to it’s very special feeling. Head to Hod (also spelled Hot) and then it’s another 45 minutes with the last 15km along a very winding small road up into the mountains. But don’t give up, at the end of the road you’re rewarded with a superb reclining Buddha image looking down over the lake and plains below and you suddenly feel like you’re in another world. There are a number of different areas of the Temple to explore and even some hermits living up in the Temple grounds. A very special day out.
Hardly known and rarely visited, if ever, by overseas travellers. This Temple is more of a forest meditation retreat for monks and set half way up a small mountain the Mae Wang district of Chiang Mai. With a supply of holy water, great views from it’s hillside chedi and Buddha images set into small caves, this is a very atmospheric Temple and about as far as you can get from the busier urban Temples you’ll be more used to. There’s no special architecture here, nothing showy, rather you get a great sense of perhaps how Temples were hundreds of years ago.
Wat Chan is not somewhere you’ll visit on the spur of the moment. Around 3 hours+ from Chiang Mai city and the route to get there is along superb rural back roads taking you through numerous Hill Tribe villages it’s perhaps best visited if you’re heading to Pai and taking a back road adventure. An old teak Temple right in the heart of the small town / village, it feels incredibly special and calm and we recommend a visit as much for the journey there and the atmosphere than any special architectural / historical importance. It’s just cool and you feel like you’re very much in the heart of Thailand
Another Temple where the journey to get there is as interesting and worthwhile as the Temple itself. Set high in the mountains to the North of Chiang Mai city the road to the Temple is stunning as you wind up through steep hills and the forest. You’ll often pass through the clouds on the way up to the Temple which gives it added mystique. On arrival you pass through a small community and there enter the huge (currently being built) Temple entrance. This is a very popular Temple for Thai visitors as it’s believed that the Temple is built around four footprints of Buddha. There are many different parts of the Temple complex to explore, the views are wonderful and there’s also a great small restaurant serving hot coffee (needed in the winter to warm you up) and very pleasant food. A great trip out of the city and definitely worth including on your list of adventures
There are so many Temples throughout Chiang Mai that we’re bound to have missed one or two (or more!) that should have been on this list (and indeed, we’ve had to miss out a couple of our favourites too). If you’ve been to a spectacular Temple on your adventures in Chiang Mai and we’ve missed it from this list, please get in touch and let us know!
Keen to learn more about Chiang Mai? Have a look at all our travel articles on Chiang Mai covering everything you need to know and more about the gateway to Northern Thailand
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