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The Perfect 3 Days in Chiang Mai Itinerary

The Perfect 3 Days in Chiang Mai Itinerary

You have 3 days in Chiang Mai? This Chiang Mai itinerary will guide you through the best things to do in Chiang Mai and what to see in Chiang Mai in 3 days.

Let me tell you: if you’re heading to Chiang Mai, I’m very very jealous. Chiang Mai in my opinion is one of the best places to visit in Thailand, and one that I keep going back to again and again. Its mix of temples, hipster cafes, and traditional markets will conquer you.

After exploring Bangkok and relaxing at some of the best islands such as Koh Samui or Koh Tao, Chiang Mai with his hills is a great change of scenery.

➤ Most people who come to Chiang Mai arrive from Bangkok. You can get here by plane, train, and bus.
CHECK OUT HERE all transport options from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or down here.

If you’re wondering how many days in Chiang Mai is the right amount, I think that 3 days is a good duration. You can definitely spend more time here and still have plenty of places in Chiang Mai and day trips out of Chiang Mai available, but in three days in Chiang Mai you can see all the most important landmarks and have fun.

READ ALSO: When Is the Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai?

If you are wondering what to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand, check out this 3-day Chiang Mai itinerary with all my tips for discovering the best of Chiang Mai in 3 days.

DAY 1: TEMPLES & SHOPPING

Morning | Explore the Temples of Chiang Mai

Topped with a golden spire and part of a large temple complex, Wat Chiang Man is best viewed during the morning hours. Built over 700 years ago, the complex itself is relatively well kept.

Inside the complex there are several homes and altars, multiple Buddha statues, 500-year-old statues commemorating the creation of Chiang Mai, a library, and even a pond. You can spend an entire morning wandering the area, so plan accordingly.

This is just an example, but there are so many temples in Chiang Mai that you could spend months in town and not see them all. Some of my favorites include Wat Rajamontean (in the Instagram photo), Wat Lok Molee, and Wat Suan Dok. Visiting temples is definitely one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai in 3 days.

You can also join a guided tour that will show you the major temples and teach you about the history and culture of Buddhism.
BOOK HERE the Chiang Mai: Morning Cultural Small Group Walking Tour, a spiritual tour to discover Buddhism rituals a the temples.
BOOK HERE the Chiang Mai Top Temples & Handicraft Center Private Day Tour, which combines a visit to 4 ancient temples in Chiang Mai’s old city area with a visit to the  Sankampaeng handicraft center.

➤ If you’re into temples, make sure to head to Bangkok, home to some of the most incredible temples I’ve ever seen!

Afternoon | Visit the Terracotta Garden and Relax at an Hipster Cafè in Nimman

While you could pick other areas, my personal recommendation is to visit the Terracotta Garden. This small grotto like garden is actually an outdoor showroom created by a local artist.

Wandering through the hundreds of moss cover statues, you will come to a large house which doubles as a modern showroom and shop for Baan Phor Liang Meun. There is also a very nice cafè that is the perfect place to relax at when ouside is crazy humid (most of the time in Chiang Mai).

There are hundreds of other trendy cafès in the Old Town and Chiang Mai in general. If you prefer to take a break from history and the Old Town, head to the Nimmanhamein area.

Some of the cool places in Chiang Mai and cafes here include Food 4 Thought, The Barisotel (in the photo up here), and SS1254372 (yes, that’s the actual name).

Evening | Visit Wat Chedi Luang Temple

Visiting this temple in the evening ensures that you will get to see it properly lit. Unlike others in the area that are covered in gold or meant to be viewed in the direct sun, this temple is best viewed when the sun is going down and the grounds are lit by lanterns and candles.

At almost 700 years old, the Wat Chedi Luang temple has undergone a number of renovations but still stands proud in the middle of Chiang Mai’s historic district, a glimpse into a past that has helps create modern Thailand. Evening is also when monks will be inside, while the outside will be illuminated at exactly dusk. 

You can also visit the Wat Chedi Luang Temple by joining a half-day Chiang Mai Temples and Culture tour, which will teach you about the history of the city and 3 major temples in Chiang Mai. 
BOOK IT HERE

Otherwise, you can opt for a bike tour that won’t only show you Wat Chedi Luang, but the most important landmarks in the Old Town of Chiang Mai and local markets.  BOOK IT HERE

Night | Go Shopping at the Night Market

The night market is one of the most interesting parts of visiting this city, and one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai at night. Filled with fresh foods, bright lights, amazing performers, and so much more, the market might be enough of a reason to visit the city itself. Everything is incredibly cheap and set-up starts around dusk. Try to arrive before 10pm, otherwise you will miss a few of the vendors. 

Many people choose to make their way down the street, looking for different things to try. Those who are interested in real Thai food will find it here. Those who are interested in something exciting might fight fried scorpions or extremely hot chilies if they look carefully enough. My tip is to look for carts that have a large number of people surrounding them if you really want to get the best food while strolling through the market.

You can join one of these night food tours (food tours are the best IMO!):

Chiang Mai 4-Hour Food Adventure by Bike: go on cycling adventure and discover Chiang Mai off the beaten path by night, tour a local market, and try all the traditional food from Northern Thailand.
BOOK IT HERE

Evening Local Street Food Market Tour: Visit 2 evening street market and sample 8 traditional dishes of Chiang Mai Cuisine in this 2-5-hour tour.  BOOK IT HERE

If you only have one day in Chiang Mai, I recommend to follow this first day itinerary that covers the most important Chiang Mai attractions.

DAY 2: MOUNTAINS AND MASSAGES

Morning | Hike to Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, known as just Doi Suthep, is one of the best known temples in all of Chiang Mai, and a Chiang Mai must see. Coated almost completely in gold, the temple is nearly 800 years old and has been evolving and growing for that entire time period.

Despite being almost 10 miles outside of the city proper, the temple is high enough in the mountains that the downtown area of Chiang Mai can be seen. It is obviously a popular spot with tourists so arriving in the morning will give you a chance to beat the crowds.

You can certainly take a bus or a taxi to get here, but I recommend hiking the Monk’s Trail to Doi Suthep. It takes a couple of hours to get there and it’s a bit steep at times, but if I’ve done it, trust me, you can do it too! Just bring tons of water with you.

If you feel more comfortable this way, you can also join a guided trek through the jungle to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep  BOOK IT HERE.

OR | Get a Traditional Sak Yant Tattoo

Fancy an even more traditional and spiritual experience? The art of the Sak Yant (Bamboo Tattoo) is an ancient one. Sak Yant tattoos are believed to provide protection, and there are over 1000 tattoo designs associated with different kinds of protection. The experience starts with a chat with the ajarn (tattoo master), where you’ll talk about your life, values, and troubles, to best decide what kind of protection you need.
The only company I feel comfortable recommending for such a delicate experience is Where Sidewalks End. This responsible tour operator takes the ceremony very seriously by making sure the equipment is sterile and safe, and by pairing you with a translator/guide who will help you communicate with the tattoo master.

Sure, you can find cheaper operators out there, but I heard horror stories about people not being able to communicate with the ajarn and ending up with a tattoo they didn’t like. Also, the safety standards are not always respected. I’m of the opinion that if you decide to go for something as permanent as a tattoo, you should go with the best, not the cheapest.

Check out the Lanna Ink Experience that includes a private driver/guide/translator, a translated consultation before the ceremony to decide what tattoo designs suits you best, the Sak Yant ceremony and a meal afterwards. BOOK IT HERE

READ ALSO: How to Spend 3 Perfect Days in Bangkok

Afternoon | Take a Cooking Class

Most people after having been in Thailand for a few days find that they want to know how to cook Thai food in their own home. This region is particularly well known for spicy food that can be hard to replicate. Thankfully there are many cooking schools that offer one day classes and will even let you eat the fruits of your labor.

Some popular options include:
– Grandma’s Home Cooking School, where you’ll learn how to cook 5 to 7 popular dishes such as Tom Yum Koong and Pad Thai at an organic farm outside of Chiang Mai (vegetarian options are available),

Red Chili Cooking School, where you’ll start the day by visiting a local market with the chef to purchase the ingredients, then you’ll prepare a 4-course meal and enjoy the dishes after creating them.

Evening | Enjoy a Traditional Massage at Kiyora Spa

In the evening, your body will be sore and you will likely be in the mood to relax. Thailand is known for amazing spas and experiences that will blow you out of the water, and a Thai massage need to be on your itinerary for Chiang Mai.

READ ALSO: Where to Get the Best Massage in Chiang Mai

When choosing a spa, I recommend going to the Kiyora Spa, which is close to the majority of downtown sights. The spa is open until 10pm, making it easy to arrive after a long day on your feet and relax without feeling rushed.

I was invited by Kiyora Spa to go for the two-hours Soothe ‘N’ Bliss package and absolutely loved it. This package is a combination of Thai massages and herbal compresses.

First the body is deeply massaged, getting out all of the soreness and tiredness from your body – the masseuses are very professional and will ask you multiple times if the pressure is good, so don’t feel shy and make sure it’s the right level of pressure for you. I  love a strong massage but they can definitely go lighter if that’s what you prefer.

Then they will place herbal compresses on your back, and will massage you one more time. The heat of the herbal compresses helps further relax your muscles and heal any small skin irritations you have picked up along the way. After this, an aromatherapy massage will relax you even further. Finally, a scalp massage to relieve any lingering tension and complete your relaxation experience rounds out the day. 

But it’s not over, cause when you get out of the room you’ll find some ginger tea and mango sticky rice waiting for you. Nothing better than a healthy snack after a massage!

Kiyora Spa offers all kinds of packages and different types of massage, and includes free transportation to/from your hotel when you choose a package. Make sure you reserve a spot in advance, the spa is pretty popular!

Kiyora Spa is located at 26/1 Chang Moi Soi 2, and it’s walking distance from the Tha Pae Gate. The Soothe ‘N’ Bliss package costs 2200 baht.

For other options, you can choose online on Get Your Guide (which is the platform I use to search for day tours and activities) among a series of treatment.
BOOK HERE a traditional Thai massage, an Herbal ball massage, or a Tok Sen Massage with transfers or
BOOK HERE a 2, 3, or 4-hour package that includes multiple treatments for a blissful day of relaxation (with transfers).

DAY 3: DAY TRIP TO ELEPHANT NATURE PARK

No visit to the area is complete without going to the Elephant Nature Park and seeing the majestic creatures in their natural setting. This is probably my favorite place in the area, and truly must do in Chiang Mai.

The elephants you can find here have been rescued from situations where they were abused, but now they roam free. Large and small elephants in the park love humans, will often take food from them, and are always more than happy to show off. Activities such as eating lunch alongside the elephants or swimming with them in the river are always popular.  

You will find many, many “elephant sanctuaries” in the area but almost all of them are actually places where elephants are abused and chained. Tickets for Elephant Nature Park aren’t cheap, but you are sure that the park takes good care of the animals. There is no elephant riding allowed (please, NEVER ride an elephant) and visitors interact with them in a responsible way.

The sanctuary is about 30 miles outside of Chiang Mai, but transportation to and from the hotel is included in your ticket price.

BOOK HERE your ticket or through the Elephant Nature Park website.

WHERE TO STAY IN CHIANG MAI

Whatever your budget, you’ll be sure to find the perfect option in town. There are so many hotels in Chiang Mai! Book your accommodation by using the map below ⬇


 

Luxury & Boutique Hotels

The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai: It doesn’t get much better than this. 5-star hotel on 24 hectars with farm fields, temples,… you have to see the pictures to really understand how beautiful this place is. Book in advance as it gets fully booked.  BOOK IT HERE

Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai: Shangri-La is synonym with luxury, and the one in Chiang Mai doesn’t disappoint. Beautiful rooms in Thai style. Great outdoor pool with jacuzzi.  BOOK IT HERE

Na Nirand Romantic Boutique Resort: In a traditional Norther Thai style, this 5-star hotel offers beautiful rooms that overlook the river. An oasis in a peaceful location, yet close to the Old Town. Lovely bathrooms with a tub in the suites.  BOOK IT HERE

Panviman Chiang Mai Resort: This place is paradise! Check out a full review below.

Affordable Luxury: <$100 a Night

Phra Singh Village: 5 star with a boutique design that mixes modern and traditional Thai elements. Great outdoor pool, and perfect location right in the middle of the old town.  BOOK IT HERE

Art Mai Gallery Nimman Hotel Chiang Mai: Looking for a design hotel? Look no further. This is a 5-star, one-of-a-kind art hotel where every room is decorated with different art subjects. Right in the middle of Nimman, the hipster student neighborhood, but in a quiet location.  BOOK IT HERE

Budget Hotels & Hostels

Rinn Boutique House: An excellent budget hotel with spacious rooms with a kettle and everything else you need. 10-minute walking to the Old Town. Free bikes to explore the city.  BOOK IT HERE

THE TIPPANET (adults only): With a 9,8 score on Booking, you know this hotel must be good. Spotless clean rooms, helpful staff, and common areas. Complimentary coffee, biscuits and custard sticky rice in the morning.  BOOK IT HERE

Oxotel: Forget those dirty, cheap-looking hostels. Oxotel is a design, minimalist hostel, that features both dorms and private rooms. Super clean and in a good location.  BOOK IT HERE

IF YOU HAVE 4 or 5 DAYS IN CHIANG MAI: RELAX AT PANVIMAN CHIANG MAI RESORT

If you have 5 or 4 days in Chiang Mai, trust me, you need to come here.

After a few full days of exploring and running around, there’s nothing better than relaxing in the green hills around Chiang Mai. Nestled in Mae Rim, north west of Chiang Mai, is my favorite hotel in the area, Panviman Chiang Mai Resort & Spa, the perfect place to relax for a couple of days, and one if you should add to your itinerary for Chiang Mai.

Panviman is actually located not far from the Elephant Nature Park, so you could even bring your luggage when you visit the park and arrange your pickup there with Panviman so you avoid the back and forth.

Where to start when telling you about this place… maybe from the fact that you can enjoy the tranquility of the mountains while relaxing in your private hot tub on the terrace? How does that sound?

 

Hey hey beautiful! I hope you are having a great start of the week! I surely did at @panviman.spa where everyone spoiled me as if I were a princess. I spent 3 whole days by myself and it was glooorious. You know, just the thought of spending days on my own after my breakup last year used to send shivers of fear down my back. And I avoided it as if it was hell for over one year. Always surrounded by people and faces and voices. •

But it gets exhausting, doesn’t it? As an introvert extrovert, I need my alone time… and I realized I had been ready to do this for a long time. I slept, I thought, I wrote and enjoyed my meals in silence with the view o the hills. Have you ever gone for a long weekend away? Let me know if you loved it or hated it in the comments. 💖 • #beautifulhotels #ThailandInsider #thailandluxe #chiangmai #chiangmaithailand #cnx #chiangmaitrip #sheisnotlost #dametraveler #loveyourselffirst #youareenough #takecareofyourself

Un post condiviso da Stefania Guglielmi (@everysteph) in data:

Trust me, it’s pure bliss. I literally spent hours in it, just listening to music and the sounds of nature and letting the thoughts run about the magical 2 months I had just spent in Chiang Mai.

The three days I spent at the resort courtesy of Panviman were the most relaxing I had in a while! And when the water turned cold, well, your room isn’t exactly a bad place where to spend your time.

I stayed in one of the seven Jacuzzi Villas, that come with a huge king bed, plenty of living room and desk space if you need to get some work done, and a luxurious bathroom with one of the biggest showers I’ve ever found in a hotel. The terrace is also furnished with a table and chair.

What’s special about Panviman though, is its stunning grounds, with the two-storey pool nestled in the nature. When you are bored of spending time in the pool or sunbathing though, you can go for a walk around the property or exercise in the fitness center.

Other activities include free yoga classes in the weekend, giant chess, and a kids’ club, just to name a few. You can also indulge in a massage in the SPA, I surely did and had a great time.

If you decide to base yourself at Panviman and want to visit Chiang Mai from here, you can do so by booking in advance the free shuttle service (twice a day) that brings you to and from the city center, so you can explore the markets and temples.

The breakfast selection is great, with anything from fresh fruit and cooked Thai dishes to made-to-order eggs and pancakes and pastries and smoothies. The restaurant also offers a gigantic selection of Thai and Asian dishes and Western options, and the two times I ate there I had a great experience. The dishes are also very reasonably priced considering the resort isn’t walking distance to any other place.

I only ate there twice though, because the first two days I was busy with a 3-day juice cleanse I did in collaboration with BOOST, the only place in Chiang Mai that delivers cold-pressed juices to your house. It was my first time doing a juice cleanse and I’ll admit it, it wasn’t easy, but I felt so healthy afterwards!

 

Have you ever done a juice cleanse? 🍏🍌🥒🥕 • If you told me one year ago, I would have laughed in your face. Me?? Doing a juice cleanse in Chiang Mai in collaboration with the lovely guys at @boostcoldpressed , where I could only have juice and nothing else for 3 days? NO WAY. •

But life is in constant motion, and what I learnt in the past year is to go with the flow and accept change and keep my mind open for the lessons that come. During this process, I discovered how I had neglected my health and well-being. The process of change started with one month of detoxing, intense exercising and veganism in Goa + 2 months of a healthy, semi-vegetarian diet in Chiang Mai, that culminated with this juice cleanse. •

The juices are tasty and super nutrient so I wasn’t hungry during the cleanse. I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t super easy and took quite a lot of self-will, but I felt very good afterwards. Since I started being healthier, I feel more energized, it’s easier to focus and I hadn’t realized how I felt bloated all the time before. My body is changing too: my water retention is almost gone, I lost a couple of kilos of fat, and I’ve got abs (hello 6 pack!). Plus going to the gym is a wonderful, natural anxiety reliever and I now love it. I can’t see myself going back to a less healthy lifestyle. How about you? •

headband: @margherita_morris swimsuit: @asos shorts: @hm

Un post condiviso da Stefania Guglielmi (@everysteph) in data:

During high season, I recommend booking in advance because the resort is pretty popular.

BOOK HERE your Jacuzzi Villa or other type of rooms at Panviman Resort.

I hope this Chiang Mai travel blog was useful to create your own itinerary! Chiang Mai is my absolute favorite place in Thailand. Such a mix of old and new, temples and cafès. Follow this 3 days in Chiang Mai itinerary and you’ll love it too!

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