Three days in Chiang Mai: the Highlight Itinerary


The first time I traveled to Chiang Mai was almost ten years ago. As soon as I got off the sleeper train, I fell in love with this fantastic city. So green and quiet after the madness of Bangkok! Back then, I had no idea what to expect or do in Chiang Mai, let alone how much time I needed to spend in the Northern Thai city. With all the experience from living in and traveling around this gorgeous part of Thailand I can say that 3 days in Chiang Mai is not enough, but you will be able to see and do a lot if you plan your trip well and book ahead to make sure you are not missing out on any of the highlights.

Day 1:

Welcome to Chiang Mai, after coming from hectic Bangkok it feels like arriving in a peaceful village. The lovely old city area with its ancient ruins, city moat, lush trees, and temples are awaiting you. Let’s get ready to explore Chiang Mai!

As you can read in our Temple blog there are over 300 temples in and around Chiang Mai. If you are just here for three days, then we recommend visiting only 4 of them.

Wat Chang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, is one of my favorites. The gardens are tranquil, and the elephant themed stupa will deliver you some great pictures.

Wat Chedi Luang is the most impressive temple, located right in the middle of the old city. The entrance fee is 40 Baht per person and believe me, that’s a bargain.

Wat Phra Singh, walk from Wat Chedi Luang to Wat Phra Singh following the Ratchadamnoen road, and you will see the golden stupa rising above the temple complex in the distance. What a fantastic sight!

Wat Sri Suphan, also known as the Silver Temple. The temple is located just south of the moat on Wualai Road. This district is known for its silversmiths that migrated here from neighbouring Myanmar. The silversmiths in the area joined forces to build this impressive temple.

Visiting all these temples will make you hungry, and with the excellent food options in Chiang Mai, you won’t stay hungry for long!

For lunch, we recommend having Khao Soi at the famous Khao Soi Khun Yaay. This legendary Northern Thai Noodle soup is a must-try. You can read more about our favorite Khao Soi restaurants in our Khao Soi Blog.

Lunch at Khao Soi Khun Yaay.jpg

After strolling through all these temples and finishing lunch, you can treat yourself on a well-deserved massage at one of the many massage parlors in the city. We recommend going to the Massage by Ex-Prisoners. This massage shop ran by ex-prisoners from the ladies’ prison in Chiang Mai has five branches spread out over the city. Most of the ladies come from villages nearby or just across the Myanmar border and did prison time for drug smuggling offenses. During their sentence, they can study massage skills and get their official massage diploma. The massage shop is a way for them to get back into society after they completed their sentences. Relaxing and supporting a good cause at the same time!

In the evening you can watch the sunset, sipping cocktails and go for dinner by the Ping River. There are a couple of restaurants on the east bank of the river that are worth it. The Goodview Restaurant and Riverside Bar & Restaurant are two popular restaurants serving Thai and Western food and drinks right by the river. I prefer the local Ton Goom River Front restaurant just north of the pedestrian bridge. This hidden gem Thai restaurant serves delicious food and is reasonably priced.

If you still have energy after dinner, then you can go shopping for bargains at the Chiang Mai Night bazaar located on the Chang Klan Road, nearby the Ping River.

Sunset dinner at Ping River.jpeg

Day 2:

Today is the big day! Wake up early and get ready for a half-day trip to Into the Wild Elephant Camp. This elephant sanctuary located in Doi Inthanon National Park has five elephants that roam free in a gorgeous area covered with thick jungle, a river, and mountains. Make sure to book this trip far ahead because Into the Wild only accepts 20 persons per day.

Into the Wild Elephant Camp.jpg

You will return exhausted back to your hotel around 1:30 PM to take a well-deserved nap or chill at the hotel swimming pool.

Around 5 PM you will be picked up to visit the Doi Suthep Temple by night. The Doi Suthep temple is the most famous in Chiang Mai. The temple overlooks the city from nearby Doi Suthep mountain and the views at night are stunning. By visiting the Doi Suthep Temple at night, you avoid the tourist hordes that visit this place during the day. Insider tip!

You will return to your hotel around 9:30 PM, and we recommend going to bed early because tomorrow we will go trekking with Maewin and Family.

Doi Suthep Temple by Night.JPG

Day 3:

Chiang Mai is the best trekking destination in Thailand. A 3-Day Chiang Mai Itinerary can’t be complete without a trek in the surrounding mountains. Our guides from the Maewin and Family Trekking are members of the Karen Tribe, and they know the jungle like the back of their hand. Follow them on a fantastic trek through rice paddies, jungle, tribal villages, and waterfalls. The jaw-dropping views and scenery of Northern Thailand is something that you will never forget.

This trekking is available for 1, 2 or 3 days with overnight stays at tribal villages. We recommend doing the 1-day hike if you only have three days in Chiang Mai. That should be enough to get a taste of the fantastic landscapes and to experience the authentic way of life of the people in this part of Thailand.

That is how I would spend my three days in Chiang Mai. Of course, you are free to add or replace other activities to make an itinerary suitable for your needs. If you need help with planning your holiday in Chiang Mai or if you are looking for advice, then please do not hesitate to contact us through email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or by phone. We are happy to answer all your questions.

Pim Meijboom