What to Do in Chiang Mai: 5 Insider’s Tips by Local Experts

Eco life with hill tribe at Lisu Lodge, What to Do in Chiang Mai: 5 Insider's Tips by Local Experts

Eco life with hill tribe at Lisu Lodge, What to Do in Chiang Mai

What to Do in Chiang Mai: 5 Insider’s Tips by Local Experts

When asked about what to do in Chiang Mai, temple tour and hiking are the obvious answers. While Chiang Mai temples and mountains are undeniably impressive, they aren’t all the city has to offer. Rich in both culture and nature, Thailand’s northern capital has something for everyone. Here is the list of what to do in Chiang Mai curated by the locals.

1. Climb Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall
Climb, splash, swim at Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall in Chiang Mai, What to Do in Chiang Mai: 5 Insider's Tips by Local Experts

Climb, splash, swim at Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is dotted with beautiful waterfalls for you to take a dip in, but the hidden gem Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall is even more special. Thanks to its non-slippery limestone surface, you can both swim and stroll up the over 100-meter tall fall while admiring the lush rainforest all around. Plus, Bua Tong Sticky Waterfall is only about one hour from Chiang Mai Old City by car.

2. Slow down and enjoy countryside life
Cycling route along rice fields in Chiang Mai, What to Do in Chiang Mai: 5 Insider's Tips by Local Experts

Cycling route along rice fields in Chiang Mai

Although it’s the de facto capital of the north, Chiang Mai retains the laid-back vibes. Why not take a bike ride along its blissfully traffic-free roads? Just less than an hour from the Old City, you can enjoy a cycling journey to local vineyards and vegetable farms. For handicraft lovers, ride along rice fields and visit the local handicraft village of Ban Tawai. There you can take a stab at wood carving. If you’re interested in other crafts, you can also try pottery at the village of Muang Kung, or make herbal balls for Yam Krang massage therapy or watch local artisans handcraft paper umbrellas at Bo Sang. Local-at-heart shopaholics will love Kaad Ngua Market or cattle market and flea market rolled into one.

3. Experience the real Northern-style cooking
Authentic Northern Thai cooking with mortar and pestle, What to Do in Chiang Mai: 5 Insider's Tips by Local Experts

Authentic Northern Thai cooking with mortar and pestle

From Khao Soi (crispy and soft noodles in coconut-based curry) to Sai Oua (Chiang Mai pork sausages spiced with herbs), Lanna or Northern Thai food is internationally renowned. With almost 1,000 years of history, it’s a pity to experience Lanna cuisine only by tasting. Handpick the ingredients yourself at a traditional fresh market, cook it all up and dine on your own creations amid the famous mountainous landscape of the north—with the locals by your side at every step of the way. It’s going to be an authentic Lanna cooking experience from start to finish.

4. Show your love to elephants
Elephant bathing at ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, What to Do in Chiang Mai: 5 Insider's Tips by Local Experts

Elephant bathing at ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai

A meet and greet with elephants is another obvious answer for what to do in Chiang Mai. Instead of riding and watching them perform tricks, isn’t it much better to prepare food, feed, bathe and take care of these national stars? There’s no better way to show them your love than visiting ethical elephant sanctuaries.

5. Explore Chiang Mai’s temples and mountains through a more local perspective
Bamboo rafting with locals in Chiang Mai, What to Do in Chiang Mai: 5 Insider's Tips by Local Experts

Bamboo rafting with locals in Chiang Mai

Everyone visits the gorgeous temples in Chiang Mai Old City, and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Doi Inthanon National Park are on most travelers’ lists. To add a local twist to your temple visit, you can watch sunrise on Doi Suthep, give alms to monks early in the morning, trek up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on the hidden trail and explore the hidden forest temples nearby. For a more unique nature adventure, don’t miss bamboo rafting, climbing the grand limestone mountain of Chiang Dao and an ethical visit to Lisu hill tribe village.

Some of the most local things to do in Chiang Mai are a little out of the way, but don’t let that stop you from exploring. With local friends from Thailand’s largest marketplace of 1-day trips, TakeMeTour, to show you around and share local stories, you’ll definitely find out what to do in Chiang Mai in many more unique ways. From Bangkok and Phuket to many more off-the-beaten-path destinations, hundreds of real local trips by Local Experts await.

Recommended reading: What to Do in Bangkok: 5 Insider’s Tips by Local Experts

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