Beautiful Ancient Temples You Must Visit in Chiang Mai

Written by Katherine

May 31, 2023
Last Updated on March 5, 2024

As a first-timer to Chiang Mai, you would come across a lot of videos and blogs talking about the temples you must visit. If you are like us and are staying in the Chiang Mai Old City, you will be “glad” to know that there are over 30 temples in this area. (´・ᴗ・ ` ) Hubs and I tried to visit as many of the popular temples as possible in the blazing heat of Chiang Mai. So come along with me as I show you the beautiful ancient temples that we visited during our stay in Chiang Mai! (@´ー`)ノ゙

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Temples and Places of Interest that We Visited in Chiang Mai

Since we were staying in Chiang Mai Old City for 5D4N, our plan was to visit at least one point of interest each day. But fate has it that we got sick prior to the trip and were only just recovering the day before we flew. So our bodies were kind of worn out before flying to Chiang Mai. Also, Chiang Mai’s weather was hotter than expected in November, so we ended up giving up some visits as we chose to have more rest (mainly me, actually). (´-ω-`)

We did what we could and visited the following temples and places of interest. I have included the places of interest in the map below for your easy reference. (´• ω •`)

  • Within Old City: Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao, Three Kings Monument
  • Outside Old City: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Pha Lat, Mae Kha Canal

Tips for Visiting Temples in Thailand (hence Chiang Mai)

When visiting temples in Thailand, here are a few things to note:

  • Wear clothes that are covering both your shoulders and knees. You should avoid wearing a sleeveless top and shorts or short skirts. A lot of people visiting temples in Thailand were seen wearing a T-shirt and elephant pants/long skirts or long dresses. I chose to wear to pair of jeans and a T-shirt. A lot of temples that we visited in Chiang Mai do not check on your attire. But if they do, usually they have a counter that would rent out sarongs to you. But to avoid the hassle, you can just wear the correct attire when visiting these places.
  • Remove your shoes before entering the hall. Usually, there would be signs asking you to remove your shoes before entering the hall as a form of respect for the temple and its sacred objects. Depending on the temple, some would need you to place them on racks, and some would let you put your shoes just outside the hall. Wat Pho in Bangkok needed us to place our shoes in a tote bag to carry them with us as we walked around the hall. So just follow what others are doing, and you will be fine.
  • Always be respectful. As temples as sacred places, always be respectful when visiting them by speaking quietly and avoiding making noises. Generally, it is okay to take photos and videos inside the temples and halls, but just be conscious and try not to make too much noise when inside.

Wat Phra Singh, Home to the Phra Singh Buddha

Located in the heart of the Old City is Wat Phra Singh. The temple is home to the Phra Singh Buddha statue, one of the most important Buddha statues in Thailand. Wat Phra Singh is also the first temple that we visited on our first day in Chiang Mai. Since we were waiting to check into our hotel, The Inside House, we decided to drop by the temple, which is a short 6-minute walk away. But the short walk was long enough for us to feel the heat of Chiang Mai. I thought it was supposed to be cooler here in Chiang Mai in November! (ノД`)

Exploring the Temple Grounds of Wat Phra Singh

Entrance is free of charge here at Wat Phra Singh. The first thing that greeted us once past the entrance was the beautiful main hall where the Phra Singh Buddha image is. There were quite some people in the hall doing their prayers when we were there. Initially, I thought that that was it. Just the main hall and the beautiful Buddha image. But nope, the compound was bigger than expected! Once past the main hall, there were other buildings that you could visit.

The intricate architecture around Wat Phra Singh, one of the most famous temples in Chiang Mai Old City, and the Phra Singh Buddha in the main hall of the temple.

Behind the main hall is a golden Chedi that is located just in the centre of the temple grounds. There is also a nice shady area of trees where you can rest and relax while there. I thought that we would be seeing a lot of tourists since Wat Phra Singh is one of the most famous temples to visit in the Old City. But surprisingly, it was rather peaceful, and it allowed us to take our time to walk the temple grounds and admire everything around us. ( ´ ω ` )

Behind the main hall of Wat Phra Singh, one of the most famous temples in Chiang Mai Old City, and the golden Chedi on the temple grounds.

QUICK TIP If you need to cool down after walking around Wat Phra Singh, you would be glad to know that there is an 7-11 just opposite the temple! We were so hot after walking around in the heat that we HAD to drop by 7-11 to buy ourselves a drink and enjoy some aircon. Phew! (>ω^)

Information about Wat Phra Singh

Opening Hours: 9 AM – 6 AM

Wat Chedi Luang, My Favourite Temple in Chiang Mai Old City

Out of all the temples that we have visited in the Old City, I think Wat Chedi Luang might be the one I loved the most. The temple is known for its huge Lanna-styled Chedi, which measures 80 metres tall. Over the years, the Chedi has suffered damage due to earthquakes, and the current Chedi is actually a restored version of the damaged one. That is to say, the current one is actually smaller in size than the original one. Honestly, I cannot imagine the original version of the Chedi, as the current one already looked so impressive. w(°o°)w

A view of the beautiful Chedi at Wat Chedi Luang, one of the most famous temples in Chiang Mai Old City

Entry Fee and Attire Check before Entering the Temple

Anyway, when we reached the main entrance, there was a sign asking foreigners to take another entrance. Wat Chedi Luang charges an entry fee of 40 baht per pax for foreigners, while it is free for locals hence the separate entrance. Here at Wat Chedi Luang, they also have someone at the counter checking for your attire before you enter. As I have mentioned, as long as you are covering your shoulders and knees, you should be good to enter. We saw some foreigners being stopped at the entrance, so they had to rent the sarongs from the temple before they could enter.

The entrance of Wat Chedi Luang, one of the most famous temples in Chiang Mai Old City, and the Buddha statues around the temple grounds

Women are prohibited from Entering this Hall

Once we entered the temple grounds, the first hall that we came by was the Inthakhin Pillar Vihara. There is a notice explaining why women cannot enter the hall. Chiang Mai’s city pillar is enshrined underground in Wat Chedi Luang. It is believed that women’s menstruation would humiliate and ruin the sanctity of the city pillar; hence women are not allowed in the hall. Hence I have to task hubs to enter the hall to help me capture some photos.

A sign outside the Inthakhin Pillar Vihara of Wat Chedi Luang mentioning men can enter as well as a view of what is inside the hall

Actually, I have heard about the thing about women menstruating and temples. I was told when young that if I was menstruating, I should avoid entering temples. I even remember once, during my grandparent’s wake, my cousin was menstruating, and she was not allowed to hold incense sticks during prayers. Most temples we visited in Thailand do not have such a prohibition, so let me know in the comments if this is an unspoken rule that ladies should adhere to. So far, I have been lucky and was not on my period when I visited these temples.

A Huge Compound with Monk Residences

Similar to Wat Phra Singh, the temple compound was huge. I would say that it felt even bigger than Wat Phra Singh. We took a slow walk around to look at many of the other Buddha statues housed within the temple grounds. Similar to Wat Phra Singh, there were locals doing their prayers, and the whole place felt really surreal. There were seats under trees facing the Chedi, providing shade from the blazing heat of Chiang Mai, while enjoying a view of the Chedi. (´• ω •`)

Monks walking around Wat Chedi Luang, one of the most famous temples in Chiang Mai Old City, and a Buddha statue in one of the buildings on the temple grounds.

Apparently, there are a number of monk residences in Wat Chedi Luang; hence we were able to see a lot of monks walking around within the temple grounds. We even spotted an area where you could have a one-on-one session with the monks. During the session, you could ask them anything that you want to know. We thought it was rather interesting, and even though we did not do it, we saw quite a number of foreigners chit-chatting with the monks there.

Information about Wat Chedi Luang

Opening Hours: 5 AM – 10 PM

Wat Phan Tao, A Former Throne Hall

Wat Phan Tao was not on our list of temples to visit. But since it was located just right next to Wat Chedi Luang, we decided to just drop by to check it out. There is no entry fee to enter the temple. Unlike the former two, Wat Phan Tao’s main hall is made entirely of teakwood. In comparison to Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao’s compound is much smaller, with the main hall being the only place to visit.

The intricate architecture of the main hall of Wat Phan Tao, which is made entirely from teakwood, as well as the Buddha statue in the main hall. Also a view of the Chedi just outside the main hall.

The main hall of Wat Phan Tao used to serve as the throne hall during the reign of King Mahotara Prateth, the fifth king of Chiang Mai. If you are visiting Wat Chedi Luang, do consider dropping by this temple to admire the beautiful bronze Buddha statue and the intricate teakwood architecture. (´ ω `♡)

Information about Wat Phan Tao

Three Kings Monument, A Prominent Landmark of Old City

The Three Kings Monument is located in the heart of Chiang Mai Old City. It is made up of three bronze statues of the three kings who found Chiang Mai, namely King Mengrai, King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai, and King Ngam Muang of Payao. The statue was erected to honour the three kings who played a significant role in Chiang Mai’s history.

The Three Kings Monument, a prominent landmark of Chiang Mai Old City.

The monument is located in a large public space that is popular with locals and tourists. When we passed by it at night, there were locals practising their skateboarding there. During the daytime, when we came by again, we saw people paying respect to the monument. There were flowers and incense candles at the feet of the statues as people paid their respects. There were quite a number of seats around the monument. After so much walking, it was good to sit down under the trees to enjoy a short respite.

Cooling Ourselves Down with some Ice Cream

Initially, we wanted to visit the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center, which is just beside the Three Kings Monument. But hubs and I were both so tired after all the walking that we gave up on it. (´・ᴗ・ ` ) While we were walking back, we walked past Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang. The temple is quite small, so we did not really go in. But what attracted us there was an ice cream man selling coconut ice cream! On such a hot day, the ice cream was such a nice welcome. So if you happen to be around the area, check to see if he is around! If not, there are actually some cafes around where you can cool yourself down from the heat. ( ´ ω ` )

Information about Three Kings Monument

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Pha Lat, A Magical Sunrise Experience

These two temples are not within Chiang Mai Old City, and both are temples that I would highly recommend you to visit. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is also one of the more famous temples in Chiang Mai and is located on top of Doi Suthep. We booked a sunrise tour with an ex-monk and had a wonderful experience visiting the temple.

The Chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the sunrise from one of its balcony as well as Buddha statues at Wat Pha Lat, both temples located in Chiang Mai

As Wat Pha Lat was along the way, we also dropped by this hidden gem as well. Wat Pha Lat has a totally different vibe from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, and you SHOULD visit it as well.

📌 We experienced something totally unexpected during our trip to Doi Suthep, and I think it adds to the amazing experience we had, so go and read about our experience HERE now! (ノ´ з `)ノ

Bonus: Mae Kha Canal, A Visit We did not Plan For

This might not be relevant, but we also accidentally visited the Mae Kha Canal! The Mae Kha Canal is known to resemble that of the Otaru Canal; hence it became a trending place to visit while in Chiang Mai. I personally don’t think it is a place where you must visit, but if you happen to be in the area, I think you can consider dropping by.

The famous bridge at the Mae Kha Canal, also known as Chiang Mai's Otaru Canal

📌 We had one of the best local breakfasts at a restaurant nearby, so check out my post HERE to find out more!

Overall Experience Visiting Temples in Chiang Mai Old City

I personally think that the temples we visited were quite unique. Hubs and I did not experience any temple fatigue, whereby you feel that the temples started to feel the same as one another. Since there are so many temples in Chiang Mai, I think it is wise to choose a few unique ones to visit while here.

If you are staying in the Old City, most of the temples I have mentioned here are within walking distance, so it is actually quite easy to visit all of them within 1-2 days. As hubs and I were not in the best condition after our recovery, we had to cut out some temple visits as we prioritised our rest. But I think all in all, we were quite satisfied with our temple visits, and I highly recommend you visit the ones we go to. My personal favourite in the Old City is Wat Chedi Luang. If time permits, I do recommend doing the sunrise tour to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Pha Lat for a unique experience. (´• ω •`) ♡

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Useful Travel Resources

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💰 BEST Cards to Use for Your Overseas Spending

Want to enjoy seamless spending overseas without the pesky fees? Check out my post on the best card to bring overseas – the Trust Bank and YouTrip cards!

🥶 Tips on Packing for 10 – 20 Degrees Celsius Weather

Winter packing woes got you stressed? My guide will turn your “Gaaaah!” into a smooth vacay in 10 to 20 degrees Celsius weather!

Feeling hungry and in need of some great food options? No worries, I’ve got you covered with my handpicked list of restaurants in Chiang Mai Old City, and there are even some convenient GrabFood choices! Alternatively, you can also explore some more Chiang Mai-related articles that could catch your eye. ( *ˊᵕˋ* )⸝

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