8 In Asia

Turn Down for Wat? Five Temples to Visit in Chiang Mai

I’ve never been one for club hopping or bar hopping, but temple hopping? That I can get behind – and there’s no better place for it than Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

The tiles. The statues. The colors. I couldn’t get enough! And I was in luck, because Chiang Mai has more than three hundred temples to explore, leaving me plenty of options. Keep scrolling for a list of five wats, or temple complexes, you shouldn’t miss while visiting Chiang Mai.

Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man is Chiang Mai’s oldest temple, and I was instantly drawn in by its lush green surroundings and peaceful atmosphere. Located slightly off the city’s main tourist routes, you just might luck into having the place all to yourself – that is, aside from the monks gathered in the viharn, or assembly hall, chanting their morning prayer.

My favorite part of Wat Chiang Man was the chedi, or stupa. A chedi is the most sacred structure of a wat, often containing relics of the Buddha. Chiang Man’s chedi depicts the front halves of fifteen elephants perched atop its square base, giving the appearance that they are supporting the upper half of the structure.

Wat Phan On

The two-story viharn and shade-filled, peaceful courtyard at Wat Phan On stood out to me instantly, and while it’s certainly not one of Chiang Mai’s most famous temples, it quickly became a favorite for me. Its beautiful gold and red chedi has an image of Buddha built into each of its four sides.

Every Sunday, Ratchadamnoen Road – where Wat Phan On is located – is transformed into a bustling street market from 4pm until midnight, where you’ll find a variety of jewelry, clothing, crafts and food stalls.

Wat Inthakhin

This tiny temple packs a big punch. Two brick chedis, one from the 14th century and one from the 15th century, accompany the small, wooden viharn. Adding to its beauty was a series of rainbow streamers and animal-printed banners arranged around the grounds, adding explosions of color to the whole place. I assumed they were there all the time but later learned they were hanging in honor of Songkran, the Thai New Year festivities.

Wat Chedi Luang

The focal point here is the temple’s prominent chedi, built over the course of almost a century, from 1391 to 1475. Upon first observation, you’ll notice that it looks somewhat asymmetrical or incomplete. The structure was damaged in the 16th century – potentially by an earthquake – and then partially restored in the 1990s. Damage or no, it’s still an impressive sight to behold.

One of my favorite parts of this temple was the gold and black Reclining Buddha image located in a small building at the back of the complex. The main viharn was also worth a look – adorned with more Songkran banners, the inside of the building was a giant burst of color and detail.

Wat Phra Singh

At my last temple of the day, I was again drawn to the wat’s main chedi. The oldest structure in the complex, an elephant emerges from each of the four sides of the shimmering silvery-gold base. Similarly to Wat Chedi Luang, there’s a gold and black Reclining Buddha image here, too.

An added bonus: I came across a food and crafts market on my way out of the temple, where I happily refueled with some mango sticky rice, my go-to snack in Thailand.

Other Chiang Mai Recommendations

Take advantage of the inexpensive spa options. I tried out a traditional Thai massage as well as a facial. I often view these treatments to be too expensive at home, so it was fun treating myself to something different.

Enjoy the city’s delicious and diverse options for food. I loved trying new things at the street markets, even when I didn’t fully understand what I was ordering.

Play with pachyderms! We spent a fun and educational day at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and heard positive reviews of the Elephant Nature Park as well.

Try your hand at some Thai cuisine classics. I highly recommend the Thai Farm Cooking School, but cooking classes are very popular in Chiang Mai, so there are lots of options depending on your budget, needs and preferences. Read my recap of the TFCS here.

Have you been to Chiang Mai? What was your favorite part of the city? Share your thoughts and any other city recommendations in the Comments section below!

Pin it for later!

I’m sharing this post for the Wanderful Wednesday blog link-up, hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Marcella of What a Wonderful World, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This, and Van of Snow in Tromso. Follow the links to look through their sites!

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld
    September 20, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    I’d also rather temple hop than bar hop, any day! 😉 These temples are all so gorgeous and I love that they are all different. I think my favourite part are the Songkran banners, they add so much colour!

    • Reply
      Caity Pfohl
      October 19, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      I loved the banners, too! Once I realized they were only hanging for Songkran, I felt very lucky to have been able to see them! Thanks for reading. 🙂

  • Reply
    Bryna | Dotted Line Travels
    September 20, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    I’m with you – I can’t do bar hopping but temple hopping is one of my favourite things to do! These temples look amazing. I love all the minute details and vibrant colours. I also wish I could have some of that mango and sticky rice right now!

    • Reply
      Caity Pfohl
      October 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      I crave mango sticky rice all the time! It was so good – I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did! More than enough reason to get back to Thailand asap. 🙂

  • Reply
    California Globetrotter
    September 21, 2017 at 1:35 am

    I feel ya chica! I’m not one for bar hopping, but I could definitely go temple hopping! These all look so awesome! Would love to see them one day! Thanks for introducing me! #WanderfulWednesday

    • Reply
      Caity Pfohl
      October 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      My pleasure. 🙂 Thanks so much for checking out the post!

  • Reply
    Vanessa Brune
    September 24, 2017 at 5:29 am

    I’ve never been to Asia and visited a temple so I would love to explore any and all of those! The atmosphere at a temple must be so special!

    • Reply
      Caity Pfohl
      October 19, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      The atmosphere was so lovely – we were lucky enough at many of them to be some of only visitors on the grounds and it was very peaceful. I’d love to visit more within Thailand and the rest of the region someday!

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