Travel Guides & Information
Known as the “Jewel of the North”, the ancient city of Chiang Mai is located around 700km north of the capital but is easily reached by remarkably cheap air tickets from one of the low-cost carriers. Steeped in history and culture, the city is cooler, quieter, and more laid back than the chaotic capital of Bangkok and has been a popular destination with tourists for decades.
There are numerous nature reserves and national parks within a stone’s throw of the city, including Thailand’s highest peak of Doi Inthanon, and you can still get your shopping fix at one of the city’s many malls and markets.
The central portion of the city (known as Old Town) is surrounded by a square moat, and the remnants of the ancient city walls (built to repel Burmese and Mongol attacks) are still visible, particularly at Tha Phae Gate. One for culture vultures and nature enthusiasts, the city offers better value than more popular destinations such as Phuket, but still has plenty to see and do and even has some pretty decent nightlife, most notably around the Loi Kroh Road area.
Sunrise at Doi Angkhang
Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai
Surrounded by mountain ranges and tropical jungle, Chiang Mai enjoys slightly cooler weather than the rest of Thailand. A popular destination because of its laid-back vibe and adventure opportunities, the "land of misty mountains" is also well known for its many hiking trails–which are better explored when the temperatures and humidity go (slightly) down.
Chiang Mai has three distinct seasons: cool, hot, and rainy. The cool season, between November and February, is the best time to visit, with daytime temperatures in the mid- to high-20s and night temperatures that can get down into the low teens. If you plan on doing a lot of mountain trekking during this time, bring layers and a thin sweater–the top of the mountains inside Doi Inthanon national park see temperatures as low as 5 degrees Celsius in the cool season.
You'll see very little rain during these months, so it's a great time for outdoor pursuits–which is why the cool season is also the busiest in Chiang Mai. You'll run into lots of tourists and see higher prices, a fair compromise for cool, comfortable weather.
The Mae Hong Son Mountains
The rainy season runs from June/July through October, and you'll probably see rain every day if you visit during this time. The good news is that rains are mostly in the form of short morning showers, so you can still be outside the rest of the day (though the humidity will go up after it rains). While this isn't a good time for jungle treks or climbing, it's perfect for tourists who plan on spending more of their time discovering the city and visiting temples–plus, the crowds are thinner and the prices lower during the rainy season.
The hot season (March to June) is scorching hot, with temperatures that can reach into the 40s and humidity at the 80 to 90 percent level. Unless you have a reason to visit during this time, it's better to avoid a trip–it's just too hot to do anything comfortably during these months.
Chiang Mai has an additional unofficial season known as the burning season. This occurs between February and early to mid-April, so it mostly coincides with the hot season. Every year during this time, farmers burn leftovers from their crops, causing a thick cloud of smoke to move into the city and cover everything–there's no escape from this, and the air becomes so filled with smog, it's hard to breathe. Anybody looking to spend time outdoors–and especially people with breathing issues–should avoid visiting during this period.
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