Begin your exploration of Chiang Mai by checking out the historical centre of the city where sections of the original wall remain in tact. There are quite literally dozens of temples scattered throughout the city.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is probably the famous temple; it’s located around 18 kilometres outside the city and was built in the fourteenth century. Other note-worthy temples include Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Chedi Luang.
If you’re interested in museums then head to the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre and the Chiang Mai National Museum. The kids will appreicate the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders.
Among the many temples you’ll find in Chiang Mai, the Wat Chedi Luang is certainly one of its most significant, and likely, most popular. Dating as far back as the 14th century, the Wat Chedi Luang is a historic landmark that offers sights of ancient temple ruins and relics. The main chedi itself collapsed several centuries ago and is now only about half of what it was before it broke down. There are also smaller chedis and temples inside the complex that are equally impressive and beautiful. Make sure not to miss the popular ‘Monk chat’, where you can talk freely with monks about Buddhism and other life topics.
The Art in Paradise Museum is Chiang Mai’s first illusion art museum, showcasing paintings and other work that provide an illusory 3D effect. Some paintings simply show scenes that ‘pop out’ of the frame, while others are more interactive, allowing guests to participate in the work’s overall illusion. The museum itself is divided into six zones: the Underwater world, Wildlife, Classic Art, Eastern Cultures, Ancient Egypt, and Surreal Art. You’ll also find a coffee shop and restaurant inside if you want to grab a bite to eat or take a break. The museum is open daily from 9am till 9pm.
The Elephant Nature Park is a rescue and rehabilitation centre that allows you to get up close and personal with elephants, dogs, buffaloes, and other animals. This is a different experience compared to most other animal attractions in Chiang Mai, allowing you to see creatures behave naturally without spectacle or intervention. As a visitor, you’ll have plenty of things to do here, ranging from simple animal-watching to more interactive activities such as elephant feeding and even volunteering at the centre. Overnight stays are also available for those who want even longer stays at the park.
The Royal Park Rajapruek is a nature park that offers lush gardens and a diverse collection of local and international plants. The complex itself is enormous, with several sections exhibiting different types of flora. Highlights include its famous Orchid Pavilion, the Bonsai garden, the Sawasdee garden, and the Shaded Paradise. The park’s most famous attraction, however, is its magnificent Royal Pavilion, a massive temple-like structure that showcases traditional architecture and stunning examples of intricate designs and artwork. You can certainly explore the entire park by yourself, but it may be best to hire a tram or guided tour to see all its offerings.
If you’re not put off by bugs and insects, the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders is a fascinating place to learn many amazing things about these creatures. The museum’s insect collection is truly extraordinary, with specimens of over 10,000 species, including 459 different species of mosquito found in Thailand. From butterflies and moths to beetles and mosquitoes, this museum’s displays will surely amaze any visitor. It even has collection of fossils inside, featuring evidence of ancient life forms from millions of years ago.