Picking just a single page of must-see temples in Chiang Mai is quite a challenge – the city's not exactly short of them. There are over 300 wats scattered throughout the city and surrounding countryside. In fact, no other province in the whole of Thailand is home to more.

    Most temples in Chiang Mai are of the Lanna style, dating from between the 13th and 18th centuries and characterised by curved wooden roofs pointing up at the top. These come from the time when Chiang Mai was the capital city of the Lanna Kingdom and widely considered to be the capital of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. That title has also been held by Angkor in Cambodia, Ayutthaya near Bangkok and Bagan in Myanmar. What makes Chiang Mai stand out is that the majority of its temples are still intact and operating while the 3 former capitals of Buddhism are all now ruins.

    1

    Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

    Doi Suthep

    • History

    Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (widely known as just Wat Doi Suthep) holds the title of the most-visited, most famous, and most highly revered temple in Chiang Mai. The journey up the winding mountain road to the entrance is an experience in itself, whether you’re doing it on a rented scooter, as part of a private excursion or sitting in a packed-out songthaew with the locals. The final leg of the journey requires you to climb 309 steps up to reach the 600-year-old golden chedi at the top, which towers above the surrounding temple building, the monks’ living quarters and the city of Chiang Mai.

    Location: Route 1004, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

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    2

    Wat Chedi Luang

    Old City

    • History

    Wat Chedi Luang is conveniently located right in the middle of the Old City, walking distance from many of most popular hotels and markets. Luang translates in the old Lanna language to something like "very big", and the enormous crumbling central structure certainly lives up to its name. The main chedi is 80 metres tall, making it the highest point in Chiang Mai’s Old City

    The temple complex dates all the way back to 1385, but has had various additions, re-builds and revamps since. It was once home to the highly-revered Emerald Buddha, which now takes pride of place in Bangkok’s Grand Palace.

    Location: 103 Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 5 pm

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    3

    Wat Phra Singh

    Old City

    • History

    Wat Phra Singh stands as one of the most visually impressive temples in Chiang Mai, partially thanks to a huge renovation in the 19th century, plus numerous licks of paint ever since. The main temple building is the star of the show, featuring those iconic slanted Lanna-style roofs and an intricately decorated façade that shines brightly in the sunlight.

    There are various stupas and pagodas dotted around the grounds, which are free to enter. Walking distance from Wat Chedi Luang in the Old City, our recommendation is to fit in both during a morning or afternoon sightseeing trip on 2 feet or a tuk-tuk.

    Location: 2 Samlarn Rd, Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50280, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 416 027

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    4

    Wat Suan Dok

    Doi Suthep

    • History

    Wat Suan Dok is one of the less-visited temples in Chiang Mai but still definitely still worth a look for its shining array of brilliant-white chedis surrounding a glowing golden stupa. It’s located just outside the city walls on the road towards the University and Niman area, so it’s not exactly hard to find.

    Wat Suan Dok was built in the late 14th century and was originally intended to serve as a retreat for a revered monk from Sukhothai – the capital of Thailand at the time. There are free meditation classes and ‘monk chats’ Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 5.30 pm to 9 pm.

    Location: 139 Suthep Rd, Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 5 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 278 304

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    5

    Wat Umong

    Doi Suthep

    • History

    Wat Umong certainly shows its 700-year age, despite numerous touch-ups over the years. The crumbling, weather-worn central stupa towers into the sky, set around a well-maintained tropical garden and smart-looking green lawns. While the main stupa provides a neat photo-op, there’s plenty more to do at Wat Umong. You can feed the fish and turtles in the garden’s main pond, walk around the ‘talking trees’ that offer words of advice (in Thai and English), and head underground to check out the series of ancient tunnels. Find it just beyond the airport, in the foothills of Doi Suthep Mountain.

    Location: 135 Moo 10, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 5 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)85 033 3809

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    6

    Wat Phra That Doi Kham

    Doi Suthep

    • History

    Wat Phra That Doi Kham is mostly famous among locals for its huge seated Buddha, but is one of the lesser-known temples in Chiang Mai for foreign tourists thanks to its slightly out-of-the-way location. Nonetheless, it's just as spectacular as many of the more popular temples in the city.

    The Giant Buddha structure towers nearly 20 metres into the air, painted in bright white and gold. The whole temple complex dates back more than 1,000 years, with plenty of shrines, pagodas and relics to explore in the tropical garden area in the foothills of the Doi Suthep Mountain range. It is also known as "the Temple of the Golden Mountain".

    Location: Mae Hia, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 6 pm

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    7

    Wat Sri Suphan

    Old City

    • History

    Wat Sri Suphan is a central Chiang Mai temple that really stands out from the rest with its shiny coat of silver paint that glistens brightly in the sunlight. The tips of the stupas are solid silver and they have a neon light display that makes the temple glow in multiple colours at night – a stunning sight indeed.

    The temple complex actually dates back to the 16th century, although the main silver building is much newer, with additional halls and monks' buildings nearby. There's also a silver-working school housed here, which helps to pass on the traditions that led to the temple's creation. Find it just south of the Old City walls on Wualai Road, close to the weekend market.

    Location: Wua Lai Rd, Tambon Hai Ya, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 274 705

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    8

    Wat Chiang Man

    Old City

    • History

    Wat Chiang Man once served as the residence of the city’s founder, King Mengrai, shortly after its construction in the 13th century. That makes it one of the very oldest in the region. The temple itself is a glorious sight from every angle, with the old crumbling pagoda offering an insight into the rich history of Wat Chiang Man, while the newer temple hall presents a fine example of traditional Lanna architecture that has been well maintained over the years. Find it on Ratchaphakhinai Road, near the Chang Puak Gate in the northern part of the Old City.

    Location: The corner of Ratchaphakhinai Road and Phra Poklao Road soi 13

    Open: 08:00 - 17:00

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    9

    Wat Lok Moli

    Old City

    • History

    Wat Lok Moli is well-known for its striking 3-tiered wooden roof and prime location very close to Chang Puak Gate, on the north edge of the Old City. The main temple hall has been well-restored, although the weathered chedi at the back shows the temple's true age, dating back to around the 14th century.

    Although Wat Lok Molee is located very central, it’s just hidden out of the way, meaning most tourists miss it, allowing it to enjoy a little more peace and tranquillity compared to some of the city’s other temples.

    Location: 298/1 Manee Nopparat Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 5 pm

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    10

    Wat Phan Tao

    Old City

    • History

    Wat Phan Tao is a very modest neighbour to Wat Chedi Luang – the most famous temple in Chiang Mai’s Old City. Despite its size, it’s still well worth a look for its ornate decorations and detailed statues dotted around the garden. The temple's viharn (ceremonial hall) is one of the few remaining all-wood structures in Chiang Mai.

    The garden itself is often a hub for festivities during Yee Peng – Chiang Mai's unique version of Thailand's Loi Krathong festival, which focuses more on lanterns that float into the air instead of on the water.

    Location: 127/7 Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 814 689

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