Chiang Mai 3D2N Itinerary: Things to See and Do in Northern Thailand

Chiang Mai 3D2N Itinerary: Things to See and Do in Northern Thailand

A memorable trip to Thailand’s Rose in the North!

Earlier this year, I was planning a trip to Thailand as I’d not been to this popular destination in a long while. Initially, I had wanted to book a trip to Bangkok or Phuket as I was familiar with those locations and missed travelling there. But after thinking it over, I decided to try something new for once. After looking up potential destinations to visit in Thailand, I made up my mind to book a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s beloved “Rose in the North”. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as it was my very first time there. Thankfully, it turned out to be one of my best trips to Thailand! If you’ve never been to Chiang Mai before, here’s a recap of what I did during my 3D2N trip to Chiang Mai, just to help you get started on planning your own travels there! 

Day 1: Chiang Mai Old City → Chiang Mai Zoo → Lake Huay Tung Tao → Night Markets

Moat separating the Old City district and the rest of Chiang Mai | Image credit: aphotostory via Canva Pro

Upon landing at Chiang Mai International Airport, it was just a short car ride to my hotel, located smack dab in the middle of the Chiang Mai Old City district, where many of the city’s main attractions are found. After checking in and leaving my luggage, it was time to explore the vibrant area in which I found myself in. 

Hopping between Chiang Mai’s temples

Wat Phra Singh | Image credit: laughingmango via Canva Pro

The Chiang Mai Old City is separated from the bustling city by a city wall and moat, exuding a more serene atmosphere. Gone were the gleaming skyscrapers of the city, replaced by quaint traditional houses and buildings, many of which housed ambient eateries, bars, and hang outs. More importantly, this area is where you’ll find some of Chiang Mai’s famous temples! 

The first stop of my 3D2N Chiang Mai itinerary was the famous Wat Phra Singh, one of the top sights to see in Chiang Mai. Also known as The Monastery of the Lion Buddha, this historic Buddhist temple is a well-frequented place of reverence for Buddhist pilgrims. Dating back to the 14th century, Wat Phra Singh boasts classic architectural designs of the old Lanna Kingdom and houses the revered Phra Buddha Singh statue. 

Wat Chedi Luang | Image credit: Dmitry Rukhlenko via Canva Pro

Just a 10-minute walk away was my next stop — Wat Chedi Luang, located right in the middle of the Old City. What makes this temple stand out is the size of its main chedi. At 80m tall, it is the highest point of the Chiang Mai Old City! Like Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang dates back to the 14th century and is an ode to old Lanna architecture, making it both a revered religious complex and scenic spot. What’s more, the temple once housed the famous Emerald Buddha before it was moved to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. 

You could also hop between the many temples located within the walled Chiang Mai Old City district, including, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Saen Fang, and Wat Si Suphan, known as the Silver Temple. My pro tip is to always remember to dress respectfully when visiting places of worship in Thailand! 

Visiting Chiang Mai’s museums

Cultural tourism in Chiang Mai extends beyond just beautiful historical temples. One of the top things to do in Chiang Mai is to visit the many popular museums in the city, and one of the locations I was most excited about was the Lanna Folklife Museum, a short walk away from Wat Chedi Luang. 

As someone who loves Asian culture and history, visiting the Lanna Folklife Museum was one of the highlights of my 3D2N Chiang Mai trip. Here, you get to learn more about life in the Kingdom of Lanna between the 13th and 18th centuries. See the many pieces of architecture, art, and rituals that predominated society back then, as well as some of the Buddhist-centric traditions that persist even today! 

Chiang Mai Cultural and Artistic Center | Image credit: City Heritage Centre Chiang Mai Municipal Official Facebook Page

After visiting the Lanna Folklife Museum, I headed across the street to the famous Three Kings Monument for a quick photo session. Right next to the monument is the Chiang Mai Cultural and Artistic Center, where one can learn even more about the history of Chiang Mai. I chose to skip this attraction for now because my plan was to instead head beyond the city walls to The National Museum of Chiang Mai, a 20-minute ride away. 

This three-storey museum is a haven for all culture vultures. Not only are there exhibits showcasing the culture and history of the Lanna Kingdom, but there are also bits and pieces of the heritage of Northern Thailand that can be found here. If history isn’t quite your cup of tea, I recommend heading to Art in Paradise Museum, a 3D optical illusion museum with plenty of whacky photo opportunities!

Meeting local wildlife at the Chiang Mai Zoo

Image credit: Andrey Khrobostov via Canva Pro

Having had my fill of cultural tourism in Chiang Mai, I then made for one of the most popular attractions in Chiang Mai — the Chiang Mai Zoo, located in the foothills of the majestic Doi Suthep on the outskirts of the city. 

Expect to find plenty of fascinating animals here, including crocodiles, a few different species of primates and birds, hippos, and more. There’s also an aquarium and specialised enclosures which house animals not originally found in Chiang Mai’s climate. If you’re travelling with kids (or if you’re young at heart!), you’ll be delighted with the feeding sessions as you’ll be able to get up close and personal with some of the animals! 

Huay Tung Tao Reservoir | Image credit: RonFullHD via Canva Pro

After leaving the zoo, before heading back to Chiang Mai Old City, I took a detour to Huay Tung Tao Reservoir. This man-made lake, lined with bamboo huts and eateries, is where the locals head to for some peace and quiet. 

Here, you can take a walk or bike around the lake while admiring the scenery or rent a pedal boat to head out into the lake. Regardless, you’ll feel a sense of serenity wash over you as you enjoy the cool afternoon breeze here. 

Hunting for food at the Chiang Mai street markets

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar | Image credit: Travel_Motion via Canva Pro

As a foodie, what I was looking forward to the most in Chiang Mai was visiting the bustling Night Bazaar on Chang Klan Road. After all, it’s touted as one of the best places to shop and eat in the city! 

The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar starts at approximately 5pm every evening and runs up to around 10 to 11pm, although some stalls may close shop earlier. I suggest allocating at least an hour for your visit to the bazaar as it covers a whole neighbourhood! Naturally, that means a multitude of options to satisfy your cravings for Thai street food. Take it from me, the mango sticky rice is a must-try! 

There are also restaurants and bars that line the streets, though some of them may be hidden behind the night bazaar stalls themselves. Once you’ve stuffed yourself with street food, you can check out the stalls selling football shirts, handicrafts, and more to hunt for souvenirs! 

During the day, you can also visit Talat Warorot Market, the largest market in the city, where you can find stalls selling clothing and even more Thai food to munch on. 

Day 2: Doi Inthanon → Chiang Mai Night Safari

On my second day in Chiang Mai, I signed up for an excursion to Doi Inthanon National Park with a travel provider in the Chiang Mai Old City district. This was mainly because the popular attraction is about an hour and a half away from the city centre, and it’s tricky to find your way there yourself. 

When booking a tour with a local travel agency in Chiang Mai, I advise you to not go to random agencies with little online presence. It’s best to ask the locals for help or, better yet, check with the staff of the hotel you are staying at for recommendations. 

Heading to Doi Inthanon

Image credit: via Canva Pro

Doi Inthanon National Park is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Chiang Mai, known for its alluring natural beauty, mesmerising hiking trails, and quaint villages. Located amongst the peaks of Doi Inthanon (the tallest mountain in Thailand) at around 2,560m above sea level, Doi Inthanon National Park is also famous for boasting chilly weather all year round. 

Having braved the summer heat for the past day, the cool breeze of Doi Inthanon was truly a welcome bonus on my 3D2N trip to Chiang Mai! Comfy sweater weather aside, I quickly realised that the 482 km² park, part of the Himalayan mountain range, was every bit as picturesque as people said it was. 

Heading past the entrance, we (the people in my tour group and I) were siphoned off into a mesmerising nature escape punctuated by verdant greenery in every direction. And the further in we went, the denser the forest got. Our guide explained that, due to the large area of Doi Inthanon National Park, the distance between some of the attractions is quite far, so it’s best to travel by car or bike. 

Exploring Doi Inthanon National Park

Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail | Image credit: Kum Seong Wan via Canva Pro

The first stop of our day tour was Doi Inthanon Summit, the tallest point in all of Thailand. Upon arrival, we were treated to spectacular views of the surrounding area, allowing us to take in the full, uninterrupted beauty of the natural scenery of the park. It’s no wonder this spot is a popular location to catch the sunrise! Plus, there’s also a cafe nearby for those who need a caffeine boost! 

After admiring the scenery from the summit, we embarked on a hike via the 2.5km-long Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, one of the most popular hiking trails in Chiang Mai. As we proceeded along the main road, we passed through pristine montane forests. Our guide told us that when the weather is fair, the views along the trail are even better! Do note however that the trail is closed from June to October, so plan your trip accordingly! Alternatively, you could also hike along the Ang Ka Luang Nature Trail

Two Chedis | Image credit: Panya Khamtuy via Canva Pro

After indulging in a homey lunch at a local restaurant in the park, we visited the iconic Two Chedis, the twin pagodas which Doi Inthanon is most famous for. Both of these magnificent structures were built to honour King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit, with each of the chedis representing the two beloved figures. The chedis provided an awesome view of the park, and, when visiting during the evening, is a great place to catch the sunset. 

After spending a while at the Two Chedis, our little tour group proceeded along the tail to the Wachirathan and Mae Klang Waterfalls. The Wachirathan Waterfall is the most famous falls in the park, standing at over 40m in height. The Mae Klang Waterfall is even taller at 100m, with cascading waterfalls gushing down over several tiers, a marvelous sight indeed! 

Mae Klang Waterfall | Image credit: Casper1774Studio via Canva Pro

Other attractions in Doi Inthanon

Image credit: Kreangagirl via Canva Pro

Needless to say, given the sheer size of Doi Inthanon, I wasn’t able to cover everything in the park. But some of the attractions I’ve noted down for my (hopefully soon) return visit included the Royal Project Inthanon, a vast floral garden featuring beautiful blooms and Mae Klang Luang Village, which features picturesque mountainside rice fields. Hopefully my next trip will be in February as that is when the Siamese sakura flowers bloom! 

If you’d like to visit a lesser-known national park in Chiang Mai, I recommend checking out Doi Suthep National Park, famous for its iconic hilltop temple (Wat Phra That Doi Suthep), from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Chiang Mai. 

Embarking on an adventure at the Chiang Mai Night Safari

After arriving back in Chiang Mai’s city centre, I headed to the popular Chiang Mai Night Safari, touted by my friends as one of the top things to do in Chiang Mai at night. Like the Chiang Mai Zoo, the safari is located at the foot of a stunning mountain range — the Doi Pui Mountains. 

Simply put, the Chiang Mai Night Safari is a top-quality edutainment attraction that combines environmental conservation, ethical tourism, and thrilling wildlife encounters. It’s also known as one of the best night safari setups in the region! 

As you embark on your safari adventure in the dark, you’ll come across a variety of different nocturnal wildlife. There are two main animal viewing zones: the Savanna Safari and the Predator Prowl. 

Some of the animals roam freely and tourists can really have an intimate encounter with these non-dangerous animals such as wild deer and muntjac. Others, like rhinos, cheetahs, lions, and leopards, are observed from a safe distance from inside your tram. What’s for sure is that you’ll be in for a safari experience you won’t soon forget! 

Day 3: San Kamphaeng → Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm

On my third and final day in Chiang Mai, I had the option of choosing to visit either the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs or Flight of the Gibbon Park, both of which were about an hour’s drive from the city centre. 

The former was where I could relax and unwind, while the latter was Chiang Mai’s popular hot spot for adrenaline junkies, offering zipline courses, rafting, and ATV rides in the countryside. As much as I wanted to opt for that, after a day of hiking at Doi Inthanon, I decided to treat my body to a well-needed day of relaxation instead. 

San Kamphaeng Hot Springs

Image credit: JoZtar via Canva Pro

The best thing about the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs is the serene ambience of the area. Located amidst lush greenery, it really does help to take your mind off the hustle and bustle of city life. There, you can expect a blissful time of relaxation and rejuvenation. 

What most people do is soak their feet in the comfortably warm water pool whilst admiring the lovely garden scenery around. You could also take a bath in the mineral pool or go for a swim, although these activities will come with an extra charge. 

One unique thing that you can do is to boil eggs where the water is gushing out from! Just hang your basket of eggs (you can buy these at the hot springs) over the opening, and wait for the eggs to be cooked! 

Visit Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm

Image credit: BGStock72 via Canva Pro

My final stop in Chiang Mai before heading back to the city to catch my flight was the Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm. As you might already expect from the name, this lovely nature-themed attraction is where you can go in Chiang Mai to admire colourful blooms and walk amidst free-flying butterflies. 

Those who fancy themselves green fingers can also buy seedlings here and try to grow their own orchids back home. Or, if you’re simply looking for a unique souvenir for your loved ones back home, I recommend getting the golden orchids — orchid petals dipped in gold. They are some of the most highly-sought after jewelry pieces around! 

And thus concludes my 3D2N trip to Chiang Mai! For a first-timer like myself, I was pleasantly surprised by the many unique experiences that awaited me at this travel gem in Thailand. The combination of cultural heritage, natural wonders, and delicious food really made me sad that I didn’t plan a longer stay! 

Truly, words cannot do this lovely destination in Thailand any justice. My advice is to simply visit the city yourself and you’ll see for yourself why I fell in love with Chiang Mai! So, start planning your trip now and be amazed by the lovely sights and experiences of Thailand’s Rose in the North! 

Brought to you by Tourism Authority of Thailand


About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.