Chiang Mai Classic Sites
With a laid-back atmosphere and wonderful mix of old and new, the city of Chiang Mai feels very different to the bustling capital of Bangkok. This full day tour takes in the classic sites of the city and surrounding countryside, but can also be adapted should you have any specific interests.
Certainly a 'must-see' is Wat Chiang Mai, which is the city's oldest temple, first built around 1296. The temple houses many important artifacts, including the small but famous 'Crystal Buddha' and the Phra Sila; a bas-relief Buddha image carved into marble, believed to have come from Sri Lanka or India over 1,000 years ago. There is also a stone slab in front of the ordination hall, which dates back to 1581. This slab bears the first known reference to the founding of Chiang Mai.
We also recommend visiting Wat Chedi Luang. This was originally one of the tallest buildings in ancient Chiang Mai, however it took significant damage either in an earthquake or from cannon-fire. Whilst it no longer boasts a towering spire, there has been extensive restoration work to the exterior, including new Buddha images, nagas and elephant statues. The temple was also the previous home of the Emerald Buddha, currently in Bangkok, and visitors can now see a jade replica, which was given as a royal gift in 1995 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Chiang Mai.
The third key temple that we recommend visiting within the city is Wat Phra Singh (although for those keen on temples, there are many more). This temple offers an excellent example of classic Lanna architecture. It is most well known for its beautiful Phra Singh (Lion Buddha) image, which is housed in a small but ornate chapel, and first came to Chiang Mai in the 1360s.
Take a stroll through some of Chiang Mai's most charming streets, including the vibrant Nimmanhaemin Road, known for its art scene, and enjoy a delicious local lunch.
Later in the afternoon, head out of the city to visit Wat Doi Suthep. This famous mountain temple was built in 1383 as a shrine to house a Buddha relic. Your driver will take you up the winding mountain road, and then the temple is reached by either a steep 306-step staircase or a tram. As well as admiring the temple, visitors can also enjoy the panoramic views over Chiang Mai and the lush surrounding countryside.
Please note that as you will be visiting religious sites, you will need to cover shoulders and knees. You will also need to remove your shoes at certain parts of the temples.