Wondering what’s the best time to visit Chiang Mai? Look no further – this guide will give you all the info you need regarding Chiang Mai weather and climate.
Chiang Mai is set in the northern region of Thailand, and experiences a much more seasonal climate than other destinations in Thailand that are more tropical. This means that temperatures can go up to 40 Celsius degrees in the summer, while the cold season can experience a night temperature of as low as 10 Celsius degrees. Don’t forget that Chiang Mai is located in a mountainous region and it gets colder here than Bangkok or Phuket!
There are 3 seasons in Chiang Mai: cool season, hot season, and rainy season. I’ve now been living in Chiang Mai multiple times for a few months at a time, and experienced most of the seasons here. All of them come with their advantages and disadvantages, and there are a few things that you need to keep into consideration when deciding when to visit, including Chiang Mai temperature and climate.
Discover the pros and cons of visiting in each season, check out the Chiang Mai weather by month, and find out when is the best time to travel to Chiang Mai.
November to February: The Best Time To Visit Chiang Mai, Thailand
The cool season of Chiang Mai goes from November to February. This is considered as the best time to visit the city, especially if you want to take advantage of the cool mountainous Chiang Mai climate.
At this time of year the weather in Chiang Mai, Thailand is ideal. The average day time temperature in Chiang Mai during the cool season is 28 Celsius degrees Celsius, which is the perfect temperature – not too cold, not too hot. I find the weather in Chiang Mai in November to be perfect for me, and for me it’s the best month to visit Chiang Mai.
On the other hand, night time temperatures can get as low as 10 degrees Celsius, although they usually stay at around 15 or over. You can experience even lower temperature if you travel further up the mountains to places like the Doi Inthanon National Park.
The coolest month for Chiang Mai on average is January… but let’s get this straight. If you come from Europe or the USA, these are probably much higher temperatures to what you are used to in the winter season. If you just pack a couple of hoodies or sweaters, long pants, and a light jacket you’ll be fine. You can wear your tropical clothing items during the day but at night, you will need a light jacket or sweater.
During this season you won’t get much rainfall, and the humidity level is low compared to the rest or the year. It’s really the perfect conditions to include outdoor activities in your Chiang Mai itinerary without having to worry about bad weather spoiling your adventure.
The only downside to visiting Chiang Mai during the cool season is that it coincides also with the high tourist season. Due to the pleasant Chiang Mai weather conditions during this time of the year, you can expect a higher influx of tourists, both foreign and domestic. While the prices for tours and transportation shouldn’t change, accommodation is more expensive this time of the year. And of course you can expect the main tourist attractions and restaurants to more crowded.
The peak of the tourist activity goes from the months of December to January, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, even more so because the Chiang Mai weather in December is close to perfect. Loi Krathong and the Yee Peng Lantern Festival are also celebrated in November and prices go up at this time at the year. However, these are beautiful festivals to witness. I haven’t had a chance yet to experience the lantern festival but I’m dying to!
March to May: The Hot Season
The hot season in Chiang Mai goes from March to May. Expect the temperatures to go up slightly already by the end of February and early March. The average midday temperature in Chiang Mai during the hot season is 32 degrees Celsius, but with the high level of humidity in Chiang Mai, it can often feel a lot more, to unbearable levels.
While there is minimal amount of rainfall during the hot season, you can expect rain to gradually come in during the end of the season (late May).
April is the peak of the hot season, with daytime temperatures that can get up to as high as 40 Celsius degrees. I honestly wouldn’t recommend visiting Chiang Mai in April as most of the activities are outdoor and it would be unpleasant.
READ ALSO: How To Spend 3 Perfect Days in Chiang Mai
The ground at this time is extremely dry and dusty; the leaves also fall off from the trees and the once lush rice fields turn brown. As such, Chiang Mai is not as photogenic as it would be during the rainy season.
Another downside to visiting Chiang Mai during the hot season is the air pollution. Now, this is a pretty important topic, so I decided to write a whole paragraph about this. I suggest you to read it before making a decision to visit at this time. You can find it down below.
But – and there’s a but – while there are issues during the hot season, there’s something important that happens in Chiang Mai at this time. Songkran, the Thai New Year, falls every year on April 13th, and it’s a very important celebration for Thai people. The schools are closed during the observance of Songkran and most people travel back to their hometown to visit the family.
People celebrate Songkran with a water festival, and Chiang Mai is the city where you can find the largest Songkran festival. For a few days, usually April 12th to 15th, the streets become a battlefield where people, foreigners included, fight each other with water guns and buckets of ice water. It’s a pretty exhilarating and unique experience, and it’s totally worth visiting Chiang Mai during this occasion. Remember however that prices for accommodation will be higher during Songkran, and that many attractions/shops will be closed.
June to October: Chiang Mai Rainy Season
The rainy season in Chiang Mai goes from June to October. Unlike other places in Thailand such as Phuket and Koh Samui, though, the rainy season in Chiang Mai is not too bad and would still be a good time to visit especially if you want to avoid the high tourist season.
During the rainy season, the average daily temperature goes down but the humidity level is still very, very high. The southwest monsoon causes the frequent rainfall in Chiang Mai during this time of the year. It’s not a bad things, though, because when the monsoon rains come in, the dust and smoke is cleared from the air.
Unlike what you might imagine, it doesn’t rain all day during the rainy season! It’s very rare for the rain to continue on for days without ever stopping. Most of the time you’ll just experience some short, but strong, tropical rainfall that lasts a couple of hours, and that’s it. The highest possibility of rainfall takes place during the afternoon and in the evening. This means there’s still time to go and experience all the many things there are to do in Chiang Mai. And when it rains, why not go for a good massage in Chiang Mai?
The peak of the rainy season is from August to September, so you can expect the highest amount of rainfall during this time of the year. The weather in Chiang Mai in June is pretty good, not as hot as before, but not rainy yet. Rainy season is also the cheapest time of the year to visit the city since it corresponds to the Chiang Mai low season. You can find great deals on hotels at this time of the year. If budget is a concern, it might be the best time to go to Chiang Mai.
What About the Chiang Mai Burning Season?
You might have heard of the Chiang Mai burning season, and it’s a real issue. Between February and April every year, farmers in the countryside around Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai burn their agricultural land in order to prepare the soil for the next set of crops. Forest fire can also be pretty common at this time. This combination of forest fires and the burning of the crop lands causes a ton of smoke and dust into the air.
The quality of the air in Chiang Mai is so poor during this time of the year that it looks foggy all the time. You can’t see the mountains because of the haze, and you can breathe the smog in the air. We were in Chiang Mai last year during this time and we were checking the situation daily on an app that was measuring the air quality. Some days it was so bad that the app suggested to stay inside and not venture out at all.
If you have any existing respiratory issues, you should take extra precaution against visiting Chiang Mai during the hot season. In fact, it would be best to avoid it altogether (especially the months of February and March). Elderly people and children should also avoid Chiang Mai at this time.
If you don’t have any issues, you’ll probably be fine, but it’s important to consider the situation before choosing to spend significant amounts of time in the area. It might be the worst time to visit Chiang Mai. Some years it’s ok, some years it’s pretty terrible. In 2019 it was really bad, but in 2017 for example I didn’t experience any issues and almost didn’t notice the problem, so it’s up to you!
And there you go! Hopefully this post is useful to organize your trip to Chiang Mai. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!