Chiang Mai – Things to Do and Where to Stay
Visit Chiang Mai, Thailand with our guide on when to go, where to stay & what to do. Enjoy temples, markets & culture in this beautiful city in northern Thailand.
Chiang Mai – Things to Do and Hotel Inspiration
Photography by Anna Bowkis
Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is a must-visit destination. This beautiful town surrounded by lush green mountains and brimming with culture is only a 3 hour flight from Hong Kong and now has a low cost airline to get you there, thanks to the launch of Hong Kong Express. It is the ideal destination for a long weekend with so much to see and do. We visited recently and we have our roundup of where to go, what to to do and where to stay.
When to go?
Chiang Mai has three distinct seasons – Hot, Rainy and Cool
Hot Season: March until June with temperatures from 30-35°C. The city is dry and dusty and the crop burning can make the air very hazy. It’s not an ideal time to enjoy Chiang Mai.
Rainy Season: July until end of September. The countryside once again becomes lush and trees and flowers bloom. It doesn’t rain daily, but if you are visiting at this time, pack an umbrella and some waterproofs if you are going trekking.
Cool Season: October until February. This is peak tourist season as there is little rain, and the blue skies and temperatures in the mid 20°C make it an ideal time for exploring and enjoying all that Chiang Mai has to offer. Evenings can get a little chilly, so a light jacket or jumper is recommended.
How to get there?
There are now direct flights from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai on Hong Kong Express. To review prices and book, visit their website.
Where to stay?
Charming & Family Friendly – The Tamarind Village
The Tamarind Village is in a great location, right in the heart of the old town.
Book early to secure one of their Tamarind Suites which are perfect for a family. If you have small kids, you might want to steer clear of booking the upstairs Lanna Room/Lanna Deluxe as the balcony is very low.
In addition to the inviting pool, the Tamarind Village offers daily activities from paper umbrella painting to flower garland weaving. Pamper yourself in their beautiful spa or expand your waistline with the delicious food served in their restaurant.
Escape from life – Veranda Chiang Mai, The High Resort
A half hour drive from downtown Chiang Mai, The Veranda feels like another world. Nestled in the lush green jungle, this is the place if you want to relax and unwind. The infinity edged pool is spectacular, surrounded by a shallow pool perfect for kiddies.
Whilst their basic room ‘Comfy Studio’ is nice, why not go big and treat yourself to a jacuzzi pavilion with an enormous lounge area and bed big enough for 4!
There are several dining options from ‘The High Room’ set high above the resort to modern Thai at Rabiang-Cha.
There is a kids club open from 9-5pm although the facilities were limited and more suited to younger children who would be entertained with arts and crafts activities.
Chic City Luxe & Leave The Kids At Home – 137 Pillars House
Stepping into the walls of 137 Pillars House is like stepping into a different era. This colonial gem is filled with charm, the sort of place you would want to spend curled up on the balcony with a book and enjoying afternoon tea in its grounds.
On that note, this is the hotel to leave the kids at home and have a city escape with your partner. Whilst they do let you bring your kids, it’s not the sort of place you’d want them running around and ruining the calming atmosphere. The hotel has 30 suites to choose from, the most expensive being the Louis Leonowens Pool Suites.
There’s a gorgeous pool, gym and spa. There are various dining options including al fresco in the courtyard surrounded by their tropical gardens. The hotel is located in the Wat Gate area, along the Ping River.
Boutique Budget – the Dusit D2
Situated in downtown Chiang Mai, the Dusit D2 offers well priced rooms, including a Studio Suite with a separate bedroom and lounge area. There’s a small pool, gym and spa. For those clucking to go shopping, the Night Bazaar is practically in your doorstep!
What should I do?
If you are travelling with kids, then have a look at Nicola’s ideas for things to do in Chiang Mai with children here ranging from an umbrella factory to an elephant sanctuary and more.
Totally unrelated to Chiang Mai’s cultural heritage, if you’re looking for an hour of fun, head to Art In Paradise. This is a museum dedicated to illusion art and is a good wet weather option. You and the kids will have lots of fun posing in photos like this…
Temples – Chiang Mai is a city full of amazing and beautiful temples. Wander the old town and marvel at the intricacy and beauty of the designs, and the sheer number of both temples and monks that are firmly part of life in Chiang Mai.
Older kids (and parents) will love the Flying Squirrels, a zipline tour through the treetops of Chiang Mai. Kids must be a minimum weight of 20kg. Flying Squirrels is an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai, located near the mountain village of Pong Krai.
If those limbs are tired from the Flying Squirrels, a unique place for a massage is the Women’s Correctional Institute for Massage. Here, low risk female prisoners have been trained to give professional massage, giving them the skills to rejoin the community once they are released. Don’t worry – the massage does not take place in a prison cell, it is in a nice spa setting and my Thai massage was fabulous. The address is: 100 Rachvithi Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Every Sunday, the ‘Walking Street Markets’ are open from late afternoon till midnight. This is a shopper’s paradise with everything from cushion covers and Chang beer t-shirts to beautiful handcrafted pieces. The market stretches from the Old City for about 1km so bring comfortable shoes and your wallet!
If you are bored with the usual Thai tourist tat, Warorot Market is a fabulous feast for the eyes and senses. This is where the Thai locals do their own shopping and is the place to stock up on all your spices and Thai cooking sauces.
Although we’re sharing the details of the Tiger Kingdom, we are not endorsing or recommending it. This is essentially a petting zoo for tigers from teeny tiny tiger cubs (adorable) to big scary ones (but lovely nonetheless). You can pick various packages depending on who you want your picture with and also stroll around the grounds to look at these beautiful creatures. The tigers aren’t drugged and are clearly in very good condition. That said, the spaces are small, and it may leave you feeling uncomfortable. Do your own research and decide if this activity is right for you.
HK Hub and Jetlag and Mayhem were in Chiang Mai with Hong Kong Express, but the reviews here are 100% our own opinions and we were not paid for this review.