Chiang Mai's temples are perhaps the most interesting of its many attractions. Unlike Bangkok, where few temples are more than 200 years old, some temples in Chiang Mai are as old as the city, which celebrated it's 700th anniversary in 1996.
The one temple every first-time visitor absolutely, positively must see is the mountain-top Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. The temple is a "must see" not only for its importance as a pilgrimage temple, but also for the outstanding views it affords of the city and its surrounding plain, when the weather cooperates. A trip to the temple is usually combined with a stop at the royal Phu Phing Palace and the Doi Pui Maeo village.
There are, however, many other temples in Chiang Mai worth a visit. Some of these are a bit off the tourist trail, including our favorite, Wat Umong.
Tours to Doi Suthep and many other temples can be booked in advance through our travel partner Viator.
- Wat Chedi Luang
- In its day, Wat Chedi Luang must have been the most impressive temple in Chiang Mai. Built about 600 years ago, the huge chedi which give the temple its name must have soared high above the surrounding city.
- Wat Chiang Man
- Probably the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Man is located near the Changpuek gate in the city's northern wall.
- Wat Chiang Yuan
- Although possibly very old, this temple just outside the northern moat was well maintained by the Burmese and Shan communities.
- Wat Gate
- Its not in any of the major guidebooks, but we think this temple on the east bank of the Ping River is definitely worth a visit. Don't miss the temple's museum, with hundreds of photographs showing life in Chiang Mai as much as a 100 years ago.
- Wat Jed Yod
- Slightly out of town on the northern loop of the ring road, this late 15th century temple was built to host the Eighth World Buddhist council. Wat Jed Yod is unlike just about any other Thai temple. Its also next to the National Museum, so you can easily spend an afternoon viewing the temple and the museum.
- Wat Lok Moli
- An ancient temple just outside the northern moat, this temple was abandoned until recently.
- Wat Pan Tao
- Next to Wat Chedi Luang is a small interesting temple called Wat Pan Tao, which means "to increase 1,000 times." The temple was built around the same time as Wat Chedi Luang, in the late fourteenth century. It was one of four monastic temples serving the royal temple.
- Wat Pa Pao
- Its completely overlooked by all the guidebooks, but Wat Pa Pao is a quite unique temple in Chiang Mai.
- Wat Phra Sing
- Within the walls of the old city, Wat Phra Sing was started in the mid-fourteenth century. The Buddha image which gives the temple its name is one of the most revered in Northern Thailand.
- Wat Saen Fang
- A Burmese styled temple with a colorful chedi, located just off Tapae Road between the river and moat.
- Wat Srisuphan
- Near the center of the silver village just outside the Chiang Mai gate is - what else - the silver temple.
- Wat Suan Dok
- Just outside of the town walls on Suthep road, Wat Suan Dok is interesting for its large open-air sala and its many reliquaries containing the ashes of Chiang Mai's royal family.
- Wat Umong
- Chiang Mai's most unusual temple who's main feature is a maze-like system of tunnels.