Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, Thai smiles and delicious Thai cuisine, lure people back year after year. However, Thailand is also a land of stunning mountain vistas, fertile valleys and dynamic cities.
One city in Northern Thailand that captures the imagination of all who visit is Chiang Mai. A city with a traditional Thai heart intertwined with all the excitement, fun and glamour of a modern cutting-edge city.
Let us help you plan a Chiang Mai tour itinerary that will guide you on what to see and do during a 3 day Chiang Mai tour itinerary.
Chiang Mai will charm you and that is why it should be on the top of everyone’s list of places to visit in Thailand.
- Getting to your Hotel from Chiang Mai Airport
- Where to stay during your Chiang Mai tour itinerary
- Day 1 – Visit the Chiang Mai Old City
- Things to do in Chiang Mai Old City
- Eating Out in Chiang Mai Old City
- Chiang Mai Old City Hotels & Guesthouses
- Day 2 – Visit the Night Market Area
- Eating Out in the Night Market Area
- Night Market Area Hotels
- Day 3 – Chiang Mai Day Trips
- Last Words on a 3 day Chiang Mai tour itinerary
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The Chiang Mai Airport services both International and domestic flights. There are multiple flights daily from Bangkok and many other regional airports.
Getting to your Hotel from Chiang Mai Airport
So, you’ve landed in Chiang Mai Thailand and need transport to your hotel. Getting to your hotel from Chiang Mai International Airport is super easy. Go to the taxi booths inside the airport, give your hotel details and you will be given a voucher with the amount payable to the driver. Take the exit to the taxi rank and you will be allocated a taxi.
For those who prefer private transfers directly to your hotel, check the pre-arranged transfers that can be booked online here.
Also stay connected during your visit with a pre-booked Sim card that can be collected directly at the airport on arrival into Chiang Mai.
Where to stay during your Chiang Mai tour itinerary
Most people who visit Chiang Mai Thailand stay in either the Old City or Night Market area. Both areas have their own unique vibe and a mix of interesting places to visit.
To help you plan your stay we have put together a 3-day Chiang Mai tour itinerary.
If you are looking at options on where to stay during your visit you may like to check our recommendations on some of the top hotels in Chiang Mai.
Day 1 – Visit the Chiang Mai Old City
Most people who visit Chiang Mai like to stay close or within the Old City. Chiang Mai’s Old City or Old Town as it is sometimes known, is surrounded by ancient walls and a water filled moat.
The Old City is a maze of lane ways just waiting to be explored, with each turn you will find a new treasure.
Charming boutiques selling traditional arts and crafts, Buddhist temples with resplendent golden Chedi’s and lively local markets are just some of the wonders you will discover when you walk within the Old City.
There are many ways to explore the exotic laneways of the Old City. Do it independently on foot or take a walking tour or bike tour of the city.
Things to do in Chiang Mai Old City
Lanna Folklife Museum
The Old City is Chiang Mai’s historical heart and the best way to learn more about Northern Thai Lanna culture is to visit the Lanna Folklife Museum.
The Lanna Folklife Museum is located across from the Three Kings Monument in the Old City and no Chiang Mai tour itinerary would be complete without visiting this fascinating museum to gain an insight into the history of the region.
The museum shows examples of local crafts including pottery, stencilling and the exquisite textiles of the region.
It gives insight into daily village life and superstitions.
The museum also explains the symbolism and decorative features of the Lanna style Buddhist temples that dot the city.
Visit a Buddhist Temple (Wat)
Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist Temples, all have a peaceful beauty and their own unique story.
Wat Chedi Luang is home to the largest Chedi (Pagoda) in Chiang Mai. If you are interested in learning more about Buddhism, talk to a local Monk at Monk Chat while visiting the temple.
Wat Phra Singh is known as the “Temple of the Lion Buddha”. The temple has a spectacular golden Chedi and historical murals.
Wat Chiang Man is the oldest Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai and one of our favourites. Life size stone elephants encircle a gleaming gold capped Chedi.
Explore the Old City Markets
Sunday Walking Street Market is a Chiang Mai institution which is held every Sunday night. The market sells everything from Thai arts and craft, trinkets, clothing and it’s the place to try local cuisine. During high season (November to February) it gets crowded so make sure to arrive around 5pm.
Chiang Mai Gate Market is located at the south end of the Old City moat. I love this market, it’s the place to see locals going about their daily life. There is a huge range of fresh fruit and vegetables and bubbling pots of delicious Thai food. In the evening food stalls are set up and it’s the place to try authentic Thai food.
Chang Puak Market is located just outside the North Gate of the Old City. Each evening food stalls are set up and it’s the place to come for a cheap and delicious Thai meal. Food carts in this market have been featured on international food shows.
Go Shopping in Chiang Mai’s Old City
No Chiang Mai stay would be complete without exploring the shops of the Chiang Mai Old city. It’s full of interesting boutiques and shops. My favourites are just south of the Three Kings Monument on Prapokkloa Road.
The shop window of Intanu is a feast for the eyes. On display within these dark teak walls are exquisitely decorated Khon masks and headdresses. Used in traditional Thai dancing the Khon Masks are both beautiful and fierce and highly collectable. A must see when visiting Chiang Mai.
Fairy Tales store
Quirky fairy tale dolls invite you into this dream inspired shop. On sale is a selection of unusual nature and animal inspired jewellery.
You smell Herb Basics before you see it, exquisite herbal fragrances draw you into the shop. On sale are a range of Northern Thai herbal products. From aromatherapy, beauty products and fragrance this sweet-smelling shop will delight you.
Banoktor hand made dolls
Walking into Banoktor is like going back to a second girlhood. Character filled crocheted dolls line the walls. The dolls are made by local village women to supplement their income. The fun is in styling your doll in the colourful dresses, hats and shoes. A fun day out for girls of all ages.
See our video below for what to expect when shopping and visiting the Old City of Chiang Mai.
Eating Out in Chiang Mai Old City
Eating out in Chiang Mai is a foodie’s adventure. Take time to relax in one of the many restaurants of the Old City, there are heaps to choose from and you will find many also cater to vegetarians and vegans.
For the food enthusiast there are a range of Chiang Mai food tours to choose from and it’s a great way to discover local street food. Here are just a few of our favourite restaurants.
Breakfast in the Old City – Fern Forest Cafe
The Fern Forest Café is a cool tropical oasis, a tranquil setting and one of my favourite places for breakfast in Chiang Mai. The café has a selection of Thai and International breakfasts, but my favourite would have to be the Pancakes with Seasonal Fruits.
Fern Forest Café is open between 8:30am to 8:30pm daily. The address is 54/1 Singharat Road, Sriphum, Muang Chiang Mai 50200.
Lunch in the Old City – Dada Café
The Dada Café is a small restaurant that prides itself on fresh healthy ingredients. The menu has a delicious mix of Thai and Western cuisines, is Vegetarian friendly and has Vegan options. The café has a juice bar that sells a range of detox and reviving juices. I can recommend the Avocado and Salad Sandwich.
The Dada Café is open from 9am to 9pm daily. The address is 20/1 Ratchamanka Road, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200.
Dinner in the Old City – Dash Restaurant
Dash Restaurant is housed in a traditional Lanna style teak house. The restaurant has a charming atmosphere and serves a delicious range of Northern Thai and Western cuisine. The restaurant is a favourite with locals and expats. A popular dish is the Crispy Chicken with Tamarind Sauce.
Dash is open daily between 10am and 10pm. The address is 38/2 Moon Muang Road, Soi 2 Chiang Mai 50200.
Chiang Mai Old City Hotels & Guesthouses
Where you stay in the Old City will depend on your budget. The Old City has a range of hotels and guesthouses that range from luxury to budget. Here are two of our favourites.
The Inside House Chiang Mai
If you are looking for the style and luxury of a bygone era, look no further than The Inside House Chiang Mai. The lush green gardens and dazzling whitewashed walls of this Thai Colonial inspired hotel will charm you. Rooms have been beautifully decorated, and some come with private pool.
Lee Chiang Boutique Lanna Hotel
The Lee Chiang Boutique Lanna Hotel is in a quiet lane behind Wat Phra Singh Buddhist temple. Clean and comfortable with a relaxed Thai style, the Lee Chiang Boutique Lanna offer homestyle hospitality.
*Please note – like many hotels in the Old City the Lee Chiang Boutique Hotel has no lift.
Day 2 – Visit the Night Market Area
Each evening the Night Market area comes alive as street stalls are erected along Chang Klan Road. Nestled amid these street stalls are the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Kalare Night Markets and Anusarn Markets.
Things to do in the Night Market Area
In the evening visit the Night Bazaar area of Chiang Mai and get ready to be blown away by the array of stalls selling arts and crafts, jewellery and clothing. There are restaurants, bars and live entertainment to enjoy at these seemingly endless markets.
Visit Boy Blues Bar
Boy Blues Bar is the place to come for the best blues music in town. There are a variety of acts that are enthusiastic and fun. Boy Blues Bar is located upstairs at the Kalare Night Bazaar.
Have a traditional Thai Massage
You will find massage shops all around the Night Market area. For that extra special spa experience book a spa treatment at the Oasis Spa Chiang Mai. Four locations are available across the city and hotel pickup is available.
Visit Warorot Market
Warorot Market is a shopper’s paradise, a rabbit warren of trinkets, homewares, Buddhist religious items, traditional Thai costumes, clothing and food. For cheap Thai food stop off at the food court and sample traditional Northern Thai dishes. Visit the Flower Market while you are there.
Eating Out in the Night Market Area
The Night Market area is full of small restaurants selling both Thai and Western food. The Night Markets are near the River Ping, a lovely place to sit and relax. Here are two popular restaurants on the banks of the River Ping.
Afternoon tea in the Night Market Area – Nakara Jardin
The Narkara Jardin Bistro is set in a lush tropical garden. Try a scrumptious afternoon tea in Nakara Jardin’s relaxed atmosphere. Be transported back in time to a more refined era as you sip on a choice of teas and coffee while being served with a selection of sandwiches, pastries, cakes, scones and tarts.
Nakara Jardin is open between 11am to 7pm, Closed Wednesday. The address is 11 Soi 9 Charoenprathet Road, T. Changklan, A Muang, Chiang Mai 50100
Dinner in the Night Market Area – River Market Restaurant
The River Market Restaurant is located next to the Iron Bridge, the perfect place to watch the Mae Ping River Cruise boats drift by. The River Market is housed in a traditional Lanna teak house and serves both Thai and Western dishes.
The River Market is open between 11am to 11pm. The address is 33-12 Charoenprathet Road, T. Changklan, A Muang, Chiang Mai 50100.
Night Market Area Hotels
Le Meridien Chiang Mai Hotel
Walk out of Le Meridien Hotel and you will find yourself in the heart of the bustling Night Market Area.
Le Meridien has everything you would expect in a luxury hotel including comfort and fine dining. Le Meridien Sunday Brunch is a Chiang Mai institution.
Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel and Spa
Located near the River Ping, the Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel and Spa is an oasis of calm. Large Thai Colonial inspired rooms invite you to relax and enjoy all that Chiang Mai has to offer.
The hotel has an onsite spa, restaurant and bar and is a short walk to the shopping and entertainment of the Night Market Area.
Day 3 – Chiang Mai Day Trips
Chiang Mai has lots of wonderful day trips to choose from. Ziplining, white water rafting and river cruises to name a few. Here are our favourite Chiang Mai day tours.
Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Buddhist Temple.
Hire a red bus (Songthauw) for the day and head up the twists and turns to Doi Suthep mountain. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Buddhist temple is at the top of the mountain and overlooks all of Chiang Mai.
This is the most sacred temple in Chiang Mai. The temples gold Chedi gleams in the sun and there are spectacular views that overlook Chiang Mai.
Visit a Hilltribe Village
Leave Doi Suthep mountain and continue the journey to the Hmong Hill Tribe village. Here you will see Hill Tribe women wearing colourfully embroidered clothing and jewellery that can be purchase at the local markets.
Add a Thai cooking class to your itinerary
Thai cuisine is world renowned. What better way to understand the Thai culture than starting with the food? Most Thai cooking classes include a trip to the local market. Learn how to make Chiang Mai’s signature dish, Khao Soy, a spicy chicken noodle soup served with crispy fried noodles.
Meet the Elephants
There is much discussion about the morality of taking an elephant tour. The Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary has ethical elephant tours that highlights the majesty of these animals with dignity and respect.
Last Words on a 3 day Chiang Mai tour itinerary
We have only touched the surface of all the things to do in Chiang Mai. There are so many more wonderful places to discover, that is why Chiang Mai should be on everyone’s list of places to visit in Thailand.
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