Chiang Mai is a city that maintains its historical and religious charm thanks to the presence of many historical buildings. There are a lot of beautiful temples that you should not miss there.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Forever holding onto the crown of the most-visited, most famous, and most highly revered temple in Chiang Mai is the magnificent Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (for short, you can just call it Wat Doi Suthep). The journey up the winding mountain road is an experience in itself, whether you’re doing it on a rented scooter (250 baht for the day), as part of a private excursion (600 baht there and back) or sitting in a packed-out songthaew with the locals (80 baht for one way). The final leg of the journey requires of 309-step walk up to reach the 600-year-old golden ‘chedi’ at the top that towers above the surrounding temple building and monks’ living quarters.
Wat Chedi Luang
If you’re short on time or have already done Doi Suthep and need more temple action, one of the best is located right in the middle of the Old City, walking distance from many of most popular hotels and markets. ‘Luang’ translates in old Lanna language to something like ‘very big’, and the enormous crumbling central structure certainly lives up to its name. Some quick facts: the main chedi is 80 metres tall making it the highest point in the Chiang Mai’s Old City; the temple complex dates all the way back to 1385 (but has had various additions, re-builds and revamps since); and it was once home to the highly-revered Emerald Buddha, which now takes pride of place in Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
Wat Phra Singh
Thanks to a huge renovation in the 19th century, plus numerous licks of paint ever since, Wat Phra Singh stands as one of the most visually impressive temples in Chiang Mai. The main temple building is the star of the show, featuring those iconic slanted Lanna-style roofs and an intricately decorated façade that shines brightly in the sunlight. There’s also various stupas and pagodas dotted around the grounds, which are free to enter. Walking distance from Wat Chedi Luang in the Old City, our recommendation is to fit in both during a morning or afternoon sightseeing trip on two feet or tuk-tuk.
Wat Suan Dok
Characterised by its shining array of brilliant-white chedis surrounding a glowing golden stupa, Wat Suan Dok is one of the less-visited temples in Chiang Mai but still definitely still worth a look. It’s located just outside the city walls on the road towards the University and Niman area, so it’s not exactly hard to find. Wat Suan Dok was built in late 14th century by a King of Chiang Mai and was originally intended to serve as a retreat for a revered monk from Sukhothai – the capital of Thailand at the time. There are also free meditation class and ‘monk chats’ Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 17:30-21:00.
Still standing after 700 years, Wat Umong certainly shows its age, despite numerous touch-ups over the years. The crumbling, weather-worn central stupa towers into the sky, set around a well-maintained tropical garden and smart-looking green lawns. While the main stupa provides a neat photo-op, there’s plenty more to do at Wat Umong; feed the fish and turtles in the garden’s main pond, walk around the ‘talking trees’ that offer words of advice (in Thai and English), and head underground to check out the series of ancient tunnels. Find it just beyond the airport, in the foothills of Doi Suthep Mountain next to the zoo.
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