The Chiang Mai temples are one of the biggest draws of this Thailand destination. But with more than 300 temples scattered throughout the area, it can be a challenge to pick which ones to visit — especially if you’re only in town for a few days! To help you narrow down your choices and fine-tune your itinerary, check out our guide of seven must-visit temples in Chiang Mai.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The golden temple of Wat Doi Suthep is one of northern Thailand’s most beloved attractions. Sitting on a mountaintop overlooking Chiang Mai, the sacred site is a serene place for prayer and meditation. Travelers can get to the temple entrance by hiking or riding a car, scooter, or songthaew. Then, trek more than 300 steps up a staircase to a gleaming gold chedi at the top, surrounded by Buddha images, ornate artwork, and pristine gardens.
Wat Chedi Luang
Located in the heart of Chiang Mai, Wat Chedi Luang is a worthwhile addition to any traveler’s itinerary. The ancient brick and stone temple, which was once the tallest structure around and was home to the Emerald Buddha, remains majestic in the bustling city. Take a stroll around the 600-year-old building and marvel elephants beautifully carved around it. It’s also worth checking out Wat Pan Tao, the exquisite wooden temple right next to Wat Chedi Luang.
Wat Phra Singh
The beautiful Wat Phra Singh dates back to the 14th century when Chiang Mai was still the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. It’s a stunning testament to Lanna architecture, with the main stupa featuring an octagonal foundation. While Wat Phra Singh houses plenty of very old Buddha statues, it is best known for being the home of the revered Phra Singh or Lion Buddha. Head to the chapel Wihan Lai Kham to see this exalted Buddha image.
Wat Chiang Man
Step into the past with a visit to Chiang Mai’s oldest temple, the elaborate Wat Chiang Man, which was built in 1292 as the residence of the city’s founder and first king, Mengrai. It’s conveniently set in the northern area of the Old City, making it a convenient stop for many Chiang Mai tours. Take a peek inside the main building, a golden structure decorated with elephant carvings.
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)
There’s a magical quality to Wat Rong Khun, popularly known among travelers as the “White Temple” after the striking white buildings and artworks in the temple complex. The prevalence of the color white is believed to symbolize purity, while the abundant glass throughout Wat Rong Khun signifies wisdom. Designed and financed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the privately owned White Temple is among the most eye-catching attractions in Chiang Mai. It’s an exquisite showcase of classic Buddhist design and themes; at the same time, it features modern touches like murals of pop culture figures.
A visit to the White Temple is usually bundled with stops at the equally striking Blue Temple and the surreal Black House.
Wat Pa Dara Phirom
The 100-year-old Wat Pa Dara Phirom is an ostentatiously designed temple complex named after a legendary princess. Indeed, the temple lives up to its royal roots with ornate décor and Sukhothai-style Buddha statues. Visit Wat Pa Dara Phirom during sunset to marvel at the beautiful buildings bathed in golden hues.
Wat Ban Den
Head to the sprawling Wat Ban Den, a relatively new and ever-growing temple complex about 50 kilometers from the city. It features a wide variety of gilded halls and structures, including 12 pagodas that represent the different zodiac signs. Many tourists stop by this hilltop temple to pay tribute to these serene spaces.
Exploring the temples of Chiang Mai is a must-do when you’re in this northern Thailand destination. Make sure you visit a couple during your holiday, then head to KKday for more travel ideas in Chiang Mai and greater Thailand.
*Featured photo via KKday Suppliers and Pixabay