Me, oh my, who doesn’t love Chiang Mai and need an ultra-fabulous, 3 day Chaing Mai itinerary in their life?
I know I sure do!
Because between elephant sanctuaries, white water rafting trips, jungle treks, waterfalls, cooking classes, and Buddhist temples galore, it’s kind of hard to know where to start when planning the perfect Chaing Mai itinerary, especially since it’s one of the best places to visit in Thailand.
But not to worry my travel-loving homie, because that’s where I come in!
I’m here to put all of your travel-related worries at ease so that you can just kick back, relax, and have a beyond epic time enjoying everything that this uber-fabulous, totally chill city has to offer.
And trust me, it’s a lot!
Because this former seat of the Lanna kingdom has been transformed into a sprawling modern city (complete with vegan donut shops that will make every expat’s heart sing with joy) that is surrounded by vast tracts of lush green countryside, pristine rainforests, picturesque waterfalls, and quiet country villages – all of which are just waiting to be explored.
All I need is for you to kick your heels and chillax like a boss. Because I’m about to reveal all the juicy deets about where to eat in Chiang Mai, what to do in Chiang Mai, where to stay in Chaing Mai, some of the best temples in Chiang Mai, and how to get to and from the airport in Chiang Mai.
By the time you actually get to Chaing Mai, people might start to mistake you for a local.
Minus that pink, sequence fanny pack of yours.
Because even though I know that fanny packs are totally “en vogue” right now, they still definitely make you look like a complete tourist. As does that selfie stick of doom that you may or may not be carrying.
Just sayin’. Because per usual, I like to keep it real.
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Starting Your 3 Day Chiang Mai Itinerary: Getting To and From the Airport!
Welcome to Chiang Mai!
You’re going to love it here, I promise.
Let’s get you safely from the airport to your accommodations!
And the good news?
There are a whopping SIX different ways to get to and from the airport.
Regardless of your budget, I’ve got you covered.
Now, first off:
Remember, that as always, the Grab rideshare app is your new best friend in Thailand.
You should definitely download the app at some point so that you can order a car to take you wherever you want to go, and for a whole lot less than a regular cab.
I will be recommending Grab a whole lot during this 3 day Chiang Mai itinerary, so be prepared!
Because in all honesty:
Grab is my absolute favorite.
I also recognize that it’s not for everyone, especially since it can be a pain to use when getting to and from the airport in Chiang Mai.
You could always use a taxi.
We wouldn’t want to make things too easy for you. I mean, where’s the fun in that?
There are actually two different kinds of taxis that you can grab (get the lame pun?) while at the airport, an airport taxi and a metered taxi.
They’re honestly kinda the same so the one you decide to use doesn’t really matter.
And the obvious upside of taxis?
Well, they take you directly where you want to go, even though they are a bit more expensive.
Now, to avoid getting overcharged:
Always book a taxi at one of the taxi stalls in the arrival hall.
And while an airport taxi will charge you a flat rate of 150 baht ($5) to go anywhere in Chiang Mai, a metered taxi will charge you anywhere between 100-120 baht ($3-4).
Metered taxis will have to charge you a mandatory 50 baht ($1.50) surcharge for leaving the airport, so just bear that in mind.
***PSST! Other than going to and from the airport, all the taxis that you take in Thailand should be metered. And if they’re not, do yourself a massive favor and do not get in.***
Aside from Grab though:
I also love me a good Tuk Tuk ride.
I personally love commandeering a Tuk Tuk from the airport and enjoying the local experience of it all (I also think this is a fab way to first lay eyes on Chiang Mai when you arrive).
Before you just hop right inside the first Tuk Tuk you see, always remember to barter!
And while I know it can drive some people CRAZY (me included), it’s a necessary evil when it comes to hiring a Tuk Tuk..
As you approach the driver, he or she will typically say 150 baht ($5).
This price can normally be bargained down to 100-120 ($3-4), depending on where you’re headed and who you’re driver is.
And like with taxis:
Hallelujah, they will take you straight to your desired location. So, no getting lost and falling off the edge of a cliff necessary.
If you want to make things even cheaper (and I mean who doesn’t) then you can always take a shared taxi, which is locally known as a Songthaew.
It’s basically a small truck-like vehicle that will head into the city center once the truck has enough passengers.
That being said:
The stops the truck makes are limited, so this may not be the best option if you’re staying outside the center of Chiang Mai.
You can’t really beat the price point here since they cost just 40 baht ($1) per person.
They can be a bit inconvenient since you’ll probably have to sit around in the heat, with all your luggage, and wait for more passengers to arrive.
They are super easy to find since they basically surround the entire airport and are bright red in color.
Just be aware that many drivers will try and up-sell you into taking the truck into the city by yourself.
If this happens, just be firm, say “no”, and wait for more people!
If you thought the Songthaew was cheap then you’ll be delighted to know that the airport bus is even cheaper and will cost you just 20 baht ($1).
Not surprisingly, it only stops at pre-set destinations within the old town (Honestly, not 100% sure what those stops are because if Google doesn’t know then I sure as hell don’t).
And last but not least?
A minivan, which will also that you to areas outside of the city center.
To be totally real with you though:
I know VERY little about this option except that it exists and it’s fairly infrequent.
If you’re staying outside of the city center, I’ve heard this is a great way to get to your accommodations.
Your 3 Day Chiang Mai Itinerary: Things NOT to do!
A bit of real talk before we swan dive into this 3 day Chiang Mai Itinerary.
Because whatever you do:
DO NOT ENGAGE IN UNETHICAL TOURISM!
And in Chiang Mai:
There are no less than three controversial activities that tourists should avoid,
So, please don’t do them!
But what are they? Well, they include the following:
1. Elephant Trekking
NEVER ride or bathe with elephants. It damages their spines and is a form of animal cruelty.
Most elephants kept for trekking are NOT treated well and have miserable lives.
The good news is that there ARE ethical ways to enjoy elephant tourism.
I pinkie that I’ll recommend some below.
Obviously, you’ll just need to keep reading to figure out what they are.
If you do decide to do an activity that isn’t listed here (which is totally fine since I can’t do it all) then just be the awesome traveler that I know you are and always do your research first, especially when it comes to any form of animal tourism.
2. Tiger Kingdom
You know those “cool” insta photos of people posing with tigers?
Well, those aren’t at all cool.
Because the tigers in those photos are kept sedated for tourist’s amusement and are treated horribly when you’re not looking.
While you might hear that this place is a “sanctuary”, this is 100% not true.
Because Tiger Kingdom is a SUPER unethical place (aka shady AF) that should be avoided during your 3 day Chiang Mai itinerary.
3. Visiting the Karen Long Neck Tribes
Ever wondered what a zoo would be like if people were on display?
That’s exactly what you’ll experience if you visit a Karen Village.
And in case you have no idea who the Karen people are:
They are a traditional tribe in Thailand where the women wear many different weighted rings around their necks; a historic practice that makes this part of their body appear elongated as the bones of their shoulders are pushed down by the rings.
Which is an interesting, totally unique, cultural practice.
Except for the sad fact that in recent years, the Thai government has actually encouraged these tribes to continue this practice just so that they can be used to turn a profit as a tourism commodity.
If you want to be an ethical tourist, you need to avoid organized visits to these villages since this type of exploitation of indigenous people is not okay.
3 Day Chiang Mai Itinerary: Day 1
1. Catch the Sunrise at Wat Pra Doi Suthep
I really hate to start your 3 day Chiang Mai itinerary off with some bad news, but it kind of needs to happen.
Because today you’re gonna have to get up early AF.
I’m not happy about it either, especially since I’m a very anti-morning person (I think mornings are the devil).
I promise it’ll be worth it!
Get up, get dressed (no, you don’t have to be happy about it), and let’s go watch the sunrise at Wat Pra Doi Suthep.
Seeing the sunrise at Wat Pra Doi Suthep is SO worth it! And it’s not even that touristy in the mornings!
We call this winning at travel.
***To visit Wat Pra Doi Suthep and all other wats (temples) in Thailand, both men and women MUST wear proper attire. This includes shirts with sleeves, pants/skirts/dresses that fall below your knees, and nice shoes (No flip flops! And if you do wear sandals, you must wear socks since bare feet are NOT allowed). However, if you do arrive improperly dressed, you can usually rent/buy clothes from a nearby vendor (you should not rely on this). FYI, you also cannot wear shoes inside the temple and MUST tuck your feet under your tush when sitting in front of any Buddha icons since pointing your feet at Buddha is offensive to worshippers.***
But in all seriousness:
This place totally blew my mind, something that is not all that easy to do since I’ve been to a ton of different places while traveling this not-so-little world of ours.
Once you’ve dropped off, be prepared for an impromptu workout since you will need to climb over 300 steps (you got this!) to get to the top.
Leave yourself plenty of time to make it to the top before sunrise begins.
And once you finally do make it up all those stairs (Hooray! You go Glen Coco!):
In addition to gawking at the beyond GORG sunset, you’ll love seeing the temple complex bathed in the stunning light of the early morning.
Also, fun little factoid for you!
Wat Pra Doi Suthep was apparently built to house one of Buddha’s shoulder bones.
Creepy, but cool! Also:
Did you know that there’s actually a waterfall nearby?
Huai Rap Sadet Waterfall isn’t the most impressive, but I love that there’s one so close by!
So if you’re hot after all those steps:
You can cool off a bit at the waterfall!
You’re not exactly getting breakfast this morning, so on the way, I’d recommend grabbing a small snack.
Not to worry because we will be eating a ton of feelings during this Chiang Mai itinerary!
Address: 9 Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Admission Fee: 30 baht ($1.00)
Hours: Open daily from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm
How to Get There: Call a Grab, or take a Songthaew (red truck) from near the Chang Pauk Gate. It takes around 30 minutes to get there, so make sure you plan accordingly. If you take a Songthaew, you can sometimes ask them to wait for up to 1.5 hours if you buy a return ticket.
How long to spend: You’ll want to spend a little time here both before and after sunrise. Therefore, you could easily spend an hour or two here. Just don’t take too long because you NEED to leave enough time for our next activity.
2. Take a Thai Cooking class (includes lunch)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again more than once before the end of this post.
Thai food is delicious and it is your DUTY to eat as much of it as humanly possible while in Thailand.
I am recommending that you take a Thai cooking class!
And I can’t say enough nice things about this authentic Thai cooking class and market tour!
Because not only are the classes here 100% vegan and vegetarian-friendly, but they’re insanely comprehensive, are taught by super friendly and fun staff members, last an incredible 6 hours, cover a variety of different foods (to create an intense, 4-course meal that left even this bottomless pit right here feeling full), and include a trip to a local market where you’ll learn all about Thai vegetables, herbs, and spices.
The meal you create is tasty AF. And let’s be honest, that is probably THE single most important thing you need to know about this class.
This class was one of the many highlights of my solo trip to Thailand!
Not only can I now make Thai food whenever I want (Sort of since I’m really a terrible cook when left to my own devices), but you also get to snack on some of your creations as you go.
I did NOT have any problem putting back a few courses of delicious Thai food throughout the class!
Because as it turns out:
Surprise! I make a pretty mean peanut sauce. Who knew?
Yeah, I know you’re super jelly!
The good news is that now you can too!
So trust me:
This class definitely deserves a spot on your 3 day Chiang Mai itinerary.
And if you wanna know what you’ll be making exactly, just click here because the recipes you create depend on whether you take a morning class or a night class.
Cost: $46 per person
Hours: The morning class starts at 9:30 am, and ends at 1:30 pm with pickup from your hotel between 9:00 am and 9:30 am.
The evening class starts at 4:30 pm and ends at 8:00 pm. with pickup from your hotel between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm.
How to Get There: If you haven’t arranged for a Songthaew to wait for you at the temple, it will probably be easiest to call a Grab. Otherwise, you could always head back to your hotel after sunrise and arrange to get picked up/dropped off by the cooking class from there.
How long to spend: Classes are typically six hours long.
3. The Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders
Geographically, it makes more sense to do the next activity first.
Because this museum has an insanely early closing time, I recommend going here first.
But wait, WTH is this crazy place?
Well, it’s a weirdly wonderful, super comprehensive private insect collection that belongs to a Thai couple who, not shockingly, have PhDs in entomology.
They call it a labor of love.
And it is!
Because in addition to all of the amazing specimens on display here:
This museum also has an entire section devoted to the physiology of mosquitoes and the history of malaria in the region.
I know it sounds kind of weird and like I’ve gone mildly insane, but I promise, it really is a must-see!
At least if you love quirky, unique museums just as much as I do.
Address: 72 Siri Mangkalajarn Rd, Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Admission fee: 200 baht ($6.50)
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and on Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
How to Get There: It’s an easy 45-minute walk through Chiang Mai’s Old Town to get here. Or, if you really can’t bear the heat, just call a Grab.
How long to spend: I found it fascinating and easily spent an hour here, even though the collection, in all actuality, is pretty small.
4. Walk around Chiang Mai’s Old Town
Now it’s time to explore the oldest part of Chiang Mai!
Because in all honesty:
No 3 day Chiang Mai itinerary would be complete without a visit to the Old Town.
From the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders, it’s just a 20-minute walk to the Suan Dok Gate, a historic, 13th-century gate.
And not gonna lie:
This is probably one of THE coolest ways to enter the old town since I kinda felt like Royalty.
Make sure that you exit old town via the ancient Phae Gate, which is equally cool.
Besides exiting and entering though all of these ancient gates, what else is there to do here?
You obviously have to check out ALL of Chiang Mai’s exquisite Wats!
Because believe it or not:
This city in Northern Thailand is actually home to over 300 Buddhist wats, which is way more than any other city in Thailand.
They aren’t all in the Old Town.
There are over 15 of them in, and around, the Old Town area.
Go and enjoy it. But, always remember to dress appropriately and be respectful of Buddha!
Some of my faves include Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, and Wat Phra Singh (AKA the Gold Temple. Yeah, you’ll understand the nickname when you get there).
While you’re here, you might even be able to fit in a “monk chat”, which is exactly what it sounds like.
It’s basically where you sit and talk with a local monk, for an hour or two, and help them practice their English.
If you’re interested, just ask any one of the wats that you visit about this activity since most of them have monk chats that typically take place in the afternoon.
if you’re in need of a little coffee pick me up after your hella early wake up this morning, then feel free to treat yo’ self at Amrita Garden.
Because not only is their vegan carrot cake a total foodgasm in your mouth, but they also make a mean flat white.
And while you’re here:
You can also get a traditional Yak Sang tattoo at Sak Yant Chiang Mai.
I’m not really a huge fan of needles, so this isn’t really something that I’ve done or looked into.
I, sadly, can’t really offer any additional insight or recommendations. I just know that this is a popular place to go and get an awesome, traditional Thai tattoo done.
Address: 72 Siri Mangkalajarn Rd, Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Admission fee: Free to enter the Old Town, but most of the Wats will cost around 20 – 40 baht ($.70 – $1.50) if you want to go inside.
Hours: 24 hours (Again, different times for the wats – I recommend arriving by 4:00 or 5:00 pm at the latest since many of them start closing around 7:00 pm).
How to Get There: It’s about 20 minutes to walk from the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders to Old Town. But, of course, you always have Grab.
How long to spend: A few hours should suffice, depending on how much you like temples.
5. Wander Around a Night Market (& Get Dinner)
Hope you’re hungry!
Because if there’s one thing I truly love in this world, it’s eating copious amounts of Thai street food.
And trust me:
The night markets in Chiang Mai are full of beyond divine street food.
As a veg, I do need to be a bit careful.
Thankfully, I’ve never had a problem trying to find something delicious to eat.
And while Chiang Mai has a ton of different night markets for you to explore, I think the first one that you should check out is Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.
Sure, it’s popular and touristy. But, that’s for a very good reason.
Because this place has plenty of food stalls for you to choose from, and all while enjoying some live music and experiencing the fun vibe of this place.
But, since we’re definitely here for the food:
There are two regional snacks that you absolutely MUST try while you’re here.
And they are Khao Lam and Krabong.
And if you have no idea what either of these two dishes are, it’s all good because I was clueless about these foods before I rolled on into Chiang Mai.
Khao Lam is a hollow bamboo tube that’s filled with a delicious mixture of hot sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, and boiled black beans (sometimes).
Like I said: DELISH!
And Krabong? Well, they’re uber-delicious, fried vegetable strips that typically include either pumpkin, banana blossoms, or papaya (PSST: Pumpkin is my total FAVE).
Just change into a pair of your stretchiest pants and you’ll be fully prepared for a night spent eating your face off.
Address: Chang Moi Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Admission Fee: Free to enter, but bring some cash for food and any souvenirs you might want to buy.
Hours: Open daily from 5:00 pm to 12:00 am.
How to Get There: It’s just a 15-minute walk here from the Tha Phae Gate. Plus, if you walk, you can totally justify eating more since you just burned ALL those calories.
How long to spend: Stay until you can eat no more and are ready to head back to your hotel/hostel.
***If you’re looking for something else to do either before or after the night market, then you may want to check out the Art in Paradise Chiang Mai Museum. Open until 7:00 pm daily, this museum showcases some epic 3D optical illusion art pieces that are well worth a look. But, it’s a tad expensive for Thailand and costs $10 per person. It’s also better to visit with someone so that you can get some AWESOME photo ops while you’re here.***
3 Day Chiang Mai Itinerary: Day 2
Not surprisingly, I HIGHLY recommend a trip to the Elephant Nature Park, indulging in a day of beautiful, 100% ethical, animal tourism.
Just in case that isn’t of interest, I have provided an alternative option for day 2 of this 3 day Chiang Mai itinerary, which is a day trip to Chiang Rai.
1. Spend the Day in a Nature Park with Elephants
Ethical tourism is SUPER important to me.
Which is why it makes me so sad that unethical elephant tourism is such a huge problem in Thailand.
And Chiang Mai is no exception.
The good news is that Chiang Mai is also home to one of the most ethical elephant sanctuaries in the world (Yeah, this place basically started the worldwide movement toward ethical elephant parks).
I have no problem personally recommending the Elephant Nature Park.
While staying in Phuket, I took the plunge and visited the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary.
And while I was totally on the fence about this place prior to my visit, the entire experience quickly became one of the highlights of my trip to Phuket.
***Dying to visit Phuket and want even MORE info? Then check out my extensive, 3-day Phuket itinerary! It has everything you need to know about planning the PERFECT trip to Phuket, Thailand!***
What does all this have to do with Chiang Mai?
I was so impressed with the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, that I decided to visit the Elephant Nature Park on my next trip to Chiang Mai since it was founded by one of the same people, Lek Chailert.
And my thoughts on Elephant Nature Park?
Well, I am by no means an expert. But, after lots of research and personal visits, the park definitely seemed ethical to me.
First of all, they NEVER allow anyone to ride the elephants.
Which is fantastic since elephant spines are not designed to support the weight of a human.
When people sit atop these gentle giants for fun, they can inadvertently injure them, hence the reason why elephant riding is a big no-no.
Visitors are not permitted to bath with the elephants.
Apparently, this is a popular thing for tourists to do, but it’s not really good for the health of the animal since you’re sitting on top of them.
If you do decide to visit this park, you’ll get to feed the elephants (their fave are the bananas), explore their habitat with a knowledgable guide, learn all about them, get to take up close and personal pictures of them, and even get to eat a sumptuous, vegetarian lunch buffet, all while watching these creatures in their natural habitat, roaming free and being well cared for.
You MUST book your visit well in advance since let’s be honest, pretty much everyone loves elephants and wants to spend the day frolicking among them.
Don’t get left out and book your visit now (it also includes transport to and from your Chiang Mai hotel, which is a nice little added bonus).
Address: 1 Ratchamanka Rd, Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Cost: Visits start at 2500 baht ($80) for adults, depending on how long you want to stay at the park (You could even have a slumber party at the park and spend an entire week there!).
How to Get There: You can arrange to be picked up at your accommodation.
2. Dinner at Taste from Heaven
Chiang Mai is a certified paradise for vegetarians and vegans alike.
They have vegan donut shops. Need I say more?
The one thing that I particularly love about the vegan/vegetarian eateries here is that many of them have actually transformed traditional, local dishes into vegan and vegetarian-friendly foods.
Which is fantastic since a lot of the vegan places that I visit tend to only serve more Western-type foods like burgers or pasta.
And while those foods are great:
Gosh darn it, I want to savor the local flavor and enjoy some iconic, Thai dishes when I’m away from home!
Because let’s be honest:
Can one ever really have too much Pad Thai? Yeah, my thoughts exactly.
Tonight we’re headed to Taste from Heaven, a totally vegetarian restaurant, with a wealth of vegan options that will satisfy even the most carnivorous of souls in your life.
But wait, what should you order?
Umm, Literally everything.
Okay, if you’re really forcing me to narrow it down a bit then go with the pumpkin curry.
Because yeah, it is DA BOMB (curtesy of the ’90s)!
I could literally eat it every day and die a happy woman.
It will cost you just 90 baht ($3) for a huge AF bowl.
But, if you’re a beyond hungry beast like me:
Then the spicy cauliflower wings ($2.50) and the money bags ($3 for a plate of crispy pastries that are filled with tofu, garlic, onion, and carrots) are both GREAT starters.
And of course:
Chase all this foodie goodness down with some vegan ice cream and a vegan chocolate brownie for dessert.
The calories 100% do not count when you’re on vacation. Especially when they taste THIS good.
Address: 34/1 Ratchamanka Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Hours: Open daily from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm.
How to Get There: Order a grab.
3. Watch a Muay Thai fight
Interested in a uniquely Thai cultural experience?
Then be sure to watch a Muay Thai fight while you’re in Chiang Mai.
And in case you’re not in the know:
Muay Thai is often referred to as the “Art or Science of Eight Limbs”.
Which I for one think is a kick-ass name since it refers to the eight points of contact that are used in this beyond crazy sport (So, Muay fighters can use kicks, punches, elbow strikes, and knee strikes. In contrast, boxing only has a meager, two points of contact).
Now, I won’t lie to you.
Fights can get a bit vicious.
It’s still an interesting and entertaining local pastime that’s worth checking out.
While there are several different places to watch Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, I personally have only been to Anusarn Boxing Stadium, which is right near the Anusarn Night Market (So, be sure to grab some tasty snacks before you go inside)!
Fights here start at 8:00 pm every evening (except Sunday) and tickets can be bought at the door for 500 baht ($16).
If you’re looking for a fight that starts a little later in the evening, then I’ve heard great things about Thapae Boxing Stadium, where flights start at 9:00 pm.
Address: 149/24, 149 27-28 Changklan Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Cost: Tickets start at 500 baht ($16)
Hours: Monday through Saturday 8:00 pm to 11:30 pm.
How to Get There: Get a Grab to Anusarn Night Market.
How long to spend: Fights are usually around three and a half hours.
Option 2: Day Trip to Chiang Rai
I know visiting an elephant sanctuary isn’t for everyone.
If this sounds like you, then may I suggest a day trip to Chiang Rai?
Because this is how I saw Chiang Rai and while I would have loved to have spent more time there, I still enjoyed seeing the city as part of a day trip.
“But what’s so special about Chiang Rai?” I hear you wondering.
Chiang Rai is home to some of the most stunning temples I’ve EVER seen! And not just in Thailand, but in the WORLD!
And I pinkie promise, that’s no lie!
But, which temples should you visit?
Well, even though it’s SUPER touristy, I loved Wat Rong Khun, AKA the White Temple.
It’s incredibly modern and totally unique and is adorned with an array of creatures from Buddhist mythology, as well as some very modern-day figures like George Bush, Captain America, the hulk, and more (Umm, Jack Sparrow anyone?).
And while some of the imagery is kinda creepy, I was totally into the creativity of it all.
Because this place truly is unlike any other temple that you’ll ever see.
Before you leave Chiang Rai, don’t forget to see Wat Rong Suea Ten, AKA the Blue Temple.
IT’S SO BLUE! Okay yeah:
Not surprisingly, the White Temple is, like, REALLY white.
It was kind of shocking to see just how blue the Blue Temple really was.
But in a good way.
So yeah, definitely stop by and do it all for the ‘gram (PS: I’m joking and I really hope you’re visiting for more than just “the ‘gram”).
While those two temples were the standouts for me, if you have time, I’d also recommend visiting Wat Huay Pla Kang (It’s famous for its giant statue of Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion) and Wat Tham Pla (AKA the Monkey Temple).
And for all my fellow history nerds out there:
Swing by the Hall of Opium Museum, my most favorite place in Chiang Rai
Because while you’re here:
You’ll learn all about the opium trade and the devastating effect that it had on Thailand and its neighboring countries.
It was a hard museum to visit but is still well worth your time.
And If museums and temples really aren’t your thing:
Then you can always just take a boat tour along the Mekong or visit the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar (former Burma) meet.
While I took a local bus to Chiang Rai, which took 3.5 hours and cost me about $10 each way (so yeah, we’re talking a REALLY LONG day here), you can always opt for a tour instead.
Because even though a tour will cost you a bit more:
It’s MUCH simpler since the tour company will pick you up/drop you off at your hotel, shuttle you to all of Chiang Rai’s main attractions (so you won’t have to try and find transport between temples once you’re in Chiang Rai), and provide you with a delicious lunch.
If you’re not really into going it alone while in Chiang Rai, then a tour is a great option.
Hours: Day tours to Change Rai will pick you up at 7:00 am and drop you off, back at your hotel, at 8:30 pm.
Price: A day tour to the White Temple, the Golden Triangle, and Wat Phra That Chedi Luang, including lunch and a boat trip along the Mekong River, will cost $68.17 per person.
3 Day Ciang Mai Itinerary: Day 3
1. Breakfast at Free Bird Cafe
New day, new awesomeness. That’s why today, we’ll start with a divine breakfast at Free Bird Cafe.
If you want to make it to the next activity on this Chiang Mai itinerary, then you’ll NEED to get here, right when they open, at 9:00 am.
I know it’s a lot of pressure but I think you can handle it.
This is my FAVE breakfast spot in all of Chiang Mai.
Eating here is kind of essential to your gastronomic happiness.
The vibe here is a little hippy-dippy but in the best way possible.
The seating is also semi-communal (Although if you arrive this early in the day, then you’ll easily get a table all to yourself), with an eco-shop attached to the restaurant that sells an assortment of fantastic products that all the Hipsters in training will love.
I go a little weak in the knees for the french toast here.
And added bonus?
There’s both a vegan and non-vegan version of this dish available.
Believe it or not though:
I actually prefer the vegan version, which is made with chia seeds and coconut milk.
NOM, NOM, NOM. #AMAZEBALLS.
However, if you’re looking for something to eat that has a bit more Thai flavor to it, then order the Jok.
Not gonna lie though:
When I first heard what it was, I was not 100% convinced that I would actually enjoy a breakfast dish that was made of boiled rice, veggies, ginger, and garlic for breakfast.
But, SURPRISE! I was wrong, per usual, and it was SO tasty.
That being said:
I’d still order the French Toast all day, every day, and have zero regrets about it.
PS: This is 100%, a non-for-profit organization that uses all of the money it makes to help educate refugees fleeing from Myanmar.
Now you can feel extra awesome about eating here!
Address: 14 Sirimankalajarn Soi 9, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Hours: Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm and on Sundays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (closed Mondays).
Price: Most dishes here are between 200 and 300 Baht (Between $6 and $10)
How to Get There: Use good ol’ Grab
2. Take a Tour of the Sticky Waterfalls (Bua Thong Waterfalls)
Want to defy physics and run UP a waterfall-like Spider-Man?
Yup, I knew you would.
If this experience sounds like a whole lot of awesome, then take a day trip to the Bua Thong Waterfalls (AKA Sticky Waterfalls).
How is this straight up, Harry Potter level sorcery even possible you may rightly wonder?
Without getting TOO technical here (because the science nerd in me totally could), the waterfall’s stickiness has something to do with the natural mineral deposits within the area.
The minerals here produce a thin layer of material that coats the rocks, making it totally possible for you to walk up a waterfall.
This place can be a little difficult to find. That’s why it’s probably best to just take a tour here.
And I recommend this one, with Take Me Tour!
It’s a private tour, with a local expert, that starts at $43 per person and includes a picnic lunch (with delish veggie options available).
The guide, PD, was also beyond AMAZING and really helped make this experience one to remember.
She was also incredibly knowledgable and happily took photos of me as I looked like a pseudo-superhero climbing up this bananas waterfall.
We all really do need photographic proof of a place like this, where we can straight up, defy the laws of gravity.
Tours run daily, include pick up/drop off to your hotel, start at 10:00 am (this is a bit flexible), and get you back to Chiang Mai by 3:00 pm.
If you’re looking for a full-day tour that includes a trip to Doi Suthep Temple AND the Sticky Waterfall, then check out this tour right here!
And while I personally haven’t done this tour:
It looks like a whole lot of fun and features a visit to Wat Doi Suthep Temple with a private guide, a holy blessing from a monk during a wrist tiding ceremony (super cool), stunning panoramic views of Chiang Mai, and a trip to the famous, But Tong Sticky waterfalls.
Lunch is also included with the price of the tour ($88.63 per person), as is pick up from your hotel at 8:00 am (you’ll get dropped off back at your hotel around 4:00 pm after this full day of awesome).
All in all, it sounds like a super sweet experience to me!
3. Wat Pha Lat (Monk’s Trail)
Once you’re back in Chiang Mai:
Head to Wat Pha Lat because you’re going to be extra awesome you and hike the Monk’s Trail!
Because this off the beaten path, hidden gem, is well worth your time and effort.
I seriously feel in love with this place.
And while there isn’t anything particularly special about the temple itself (so no gold or ostentatious fixtures), sometimes when you travel, it’s more about the peace and quiet contentment that you get when you chill out in nature with a bunch of monks.
Thankfully, it’s not a difficult hike. But, do make sure to bring plenty of water with you.
Because in case you missed the memo:
It’s hot AF in Thailand.
The entire trail is covered by trees, so you don’t really have to worry about frying to a crisp during your hike.
And once you finally do conquer the behemoth stairs that await you at the end of the trail, there’s a sweet little waterfall that can dip your toes in.
This is a temple, so I am COMMANDING you to keep your clothes on.
Don’t forget to enjoy the wicked awesome views of Chiang Mai from here.
Address: Unnamed Rd Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Admission Fee: Free!
Hours: Honestly not sure, it doesn’t seem to be listed anywhere. But, like with most temples, I’d advise getting here before 5:00 pm.
How to Get There: You can take a Grab to the foot of the trail. From here, you need to hike up to the temple (If you ask nicely, PD might be willing to drop you off at the foot to the trail). Alternatively, you can take a songthaew and ask to be dropped off at the Monk’s Trail. Just look for a sign that reads “Nature Trail Phalad” (I’ve heard there is now a sign for “Monks Trail” but I can’t swear by that).
How long to spend: Plan to spend at least 2.5 hours here (An hour up, depending on how fit you are, some time at the temple, and then 45 minutes back down).
4. Dinner at Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant
It’s been a long freaking day.
And it’s finally time for some more mouthwatering Thai food!
And there’s no better place than Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant, which is one of my fave restaurants to go and stuff my face in Chiang Mai.
And no lie?
I ate some taro red curry with tofu here that completely rocked my world.
I legit, still dream about this dish…like just last night.
They do change up their menu on the reg, so you might not be able to get this dish while you’re here.
If you do see it on the menu, then be sure to order it, purely for the sake of your own well being!
Pretty much all of their food AMAZING since I’ve also tried, and loved, their cashew nut stir fry with tofu, as well as their pumpkin stir fry.
Their smoothies here are SUPER refreshing, with the mint lime smoothie being my personal fave.
Address: 28 Nimmanahaeminda Road, Tambon Su Thep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Hours: Open daily from 11:30 am to 8:15 pm.
Price: Most dishes here are between 150 and 250 Baht Between $5 and $8)
How to Get There: Just use your new best friend, Grab.
5. Get Massaged by an Ex-Con
Yup, you read that correctly!
Because in Chiang Mai one of the best things to do – and something you NEED to add to your 3 day Chiang Mai itinerary – is to get a massage from a former prison inmate.
I know, I know, it seems a little weird but don’t worry, it’s totally safe.
There are also several massage parlors that host this program since the goal here is to provide vocational training and rehabilitation for women who recently completed their prison sentences.
Yup, just another super cool, social initiative in Chiang Mai.
I also put this activity at the very end of this Chiang Mai itinerary because I really don’t want you to become totally addicted (like me!) and end up spending an unhealthy amount of money on Thai massages.
No that I would ever be that financially irresponsible and do such a thing (wink, wink).
You’ve done a decent amount of hiking today and deserve a little self-care!
And while there are a ton of different massage options for you to choose from:
I’m partial to the traditional Thai massage, though, which costs 300 baht ($10) for one hour.
If you’re not used to them, they can be brutal AF.
But you WILL feel better afterward, so it’s totally worth it.
Address: 1 Intawaroros Rd. Sriphum Maung Chiang Mai 50200 (There are several, this is the one I went to)
Cost: It all depends on what you want, but massages start at 300 baht ($10).
Hours: Open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily.
How to Get There: Grab. It’s always Grab.
3 Day Chiang Mai Itinerary: Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
1. Green Sleep Hostel (budget)
Want to make friends and have a great time?
Because nestled in the heart of old town, right across the street from the market, is Green Sleep Hostel.
A place where you can do just that!
Beds here start at $13 per night and include a wealth of dorm options like female-only dorms (I stayed in the 4-bed option), mixed dorms, and even private rooms.
They also have a tremendous breakfast spread that includes fabulously delicious things like FRESH bread and fruit (Carbs for the win!).
This place is also incredibly popular among budget travelers, so be sure to book ahead.
While I was here, I met a ton of other travelers here who basically decided to forgo the rest of their Thailand travel plans, just so that they could stay here longer.
Since this place really is THAT awesome.
Address: 5 10 Rachadamnoen Rd, Si Phum Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
2. Warm Light Hostel (budget)
I’ll be real with you.
This place has curtains on each bed. And truth be told, I’m a sucker for any hostel with good partitions.
How else am I supposed to magically get my bra off without anyone seeing?
Don’t judge me, we’ve all been there!
Warm Light Hostel is NOT a party hostel.
It’s a small, chill hostel that is great for budget travelers who want a bit of quiet and privacy, but who also still want to meet some fabulously new people.
They even have a billiards table!
Beds here start at $5 per night, making this is an excellent choice for more low-key travelers.
All-day breakfast is also available, even if it’s just toast and jam (Whatever, For the price you pay it’s still nice and can make a convenient, mid-day snack).
It’s also conveniently located in Chiang Mai’s, Old Town, making it the perfect home base from which to explore the area.
Address: 248/76 Manee Nopparat Road, Sri Phoom, Chang Phuak Gate, Si Phum, 50200 Chiang Mai, Thailand
3. Lanna Oriental Hotel (Mid-range)
Lanna Oriental Hotel is just oozing charming and personality.
And while my room here did cost a hefty $55 per night:
It overlooked the hotel’s pool and was filled with beautiful, teak furniture that helped give this place a stylish but cozy feel.
There was a gym, a generous breakfast buffet and, most importantly, A/C.
It’s also well located right in Old Town, making it easy to explore many of Chiang Mai’s top attractions.
Address: 59 Singharat Rd, Si Phum Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
4. Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel (Mid-range)
Wanna fall asleep looking out over the stunning Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep?
If so, then book a night at Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel.
Because for just $50 per night:
You get a room with a mountain view (and a couch to enjoy it on), a BATHTUB (so luxurious!), and a desk (in case you want to pretend to do work).
All rooms here also come standard with the standard minibar, coffee making facilities, and cable TV.
But trust me:
Just one look at this place, and not only will you book a room here, but you’ll also start to figure out how you can stay for way longer than 3 days.
Address: 21 Huaykaew Rd, Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
6. Thanyawintra Boutique and Spa (Luxury)
Thanyawintra Boutique and Spa is a beautifully decorated, modern hotel that is located right in the heart of Chiang Mai’s Old Town.
With rooms that start at $80 per night:
Guests get to enjoy A/C, free WiFi, flat-screen satellite TV (and a streaming service), a hot tub (YES!), hairdryer, desk, coffee-making facilities ,and a minibar.
Then dine at their on-site restaurant, which has a multitude of Asian and European dishes for you to devour, with vegan options available for any of my dietarily restricted homies out there.
In the mornings, all guests get to enjoy a lavish, à la carte breakfast buffet that is sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
And of course:
There is a spacious swimming pool here that you are required to spend copious amounts of time in.
Address: Thanyawintra Boutique & Spa, 268 Wichayanon Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
BEFORE YOU GO! DON’T FORGET TO PRINT OUT YOUR FREE, 3 DAY CHIANG MAI ITINERARY NOW!
SO, THERE YOU HAVE IT. THE NOT-SO-EPIC FINALE TO MY 3 DAY CHIANG MAI ITINERARY (SORRY, NO FIREWORKS OR TICKER TAPE PARADES TODAY!).
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