KKday Itinerary: 4 Days in Chiang Mai

Elephant Sanctuary: Chiang Mai, Thailand

From the bustle of Bangkok to the holiday fever of Pattaya, every city in Thailand is bursting with personality. But for the ancient city of Chiang Mai, the charm lies in its laid-back atmosphere. This growing backpacker destination is scenic and peaceful, without ever being boring. Take advantage of the next long weekend and travel to Chiang Mai with KKday!

Day 1: Play with the Elephants

Visit the Karen Village Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

For the Thai, the elephant carries immense cultural significance—from the ancient kings of Siam who rode them into battle, to common folk hauling materials to build temples. And if you only have a day in Thailand, spend it with these gentle giants in their natural habitat, deep in Thailand’s mountain region.

Chiang Mai: Karen Village Elephant Sanctuary
Spend a day with Thailand’s gentle giants

Change out of your day clothes into traditional Karen attire and get a quick lesson on elephant history, behavior, and Chiang Mai’s elephant preservation efforts. You won’t be riding the elephants or see them perform along the town streets. Instead, you’ll feed them bananas and sugarcane, while you have traditional Thai food lunch for yourself.

Chiang Mai: Karen Village Elephant Sanctuary
The elephants can become especially playful in the water!

Go down and join the elephants by the river where you can bathe and brush them. After the river, they’ll lead you to a therapeutic mud spa, where the baby elephants become especially playful! Snap a picture with your new animal friends before saying good-bye, as you end your day with a scenic drive back to your hotel.

Day 2: Nature Calls

Explore Doi Inthanon National Park

Get up early and make the most of the day when you visit Doi Inthanon National Park, part of the Himalayan mountain range and an incredible expanse of Thailand’s most stunning natural attractions.

As you hike along the trails, the next thing you’ll hear are the Wachirathan Waterfalls, crashing from heights of up to 80 meters.

Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon Waterfalls
One of the park’s grandest waterfalls, Watchirathan Waterfall

You’ll also notice the birds, which you’ll hear before you see. The lush mountain landscapes make the park one of the best bird watching sites in the country.

Chiang Mai: Doi Inthanon Bird Watching
Doi Inthanon National Park is home to many exotic species of birds.

Be sure you’ve packed a jacket before making your way to the peak of Doi Inthanon, where temperatures drop to as low as 10 degrees Celsius. At 2565 meters, you’ll overlook all of Thailand and beyond.

Chiang Mai: Mt. Doi Inthanon
The peak of Mt. Doi Inthanon is the highest point in all of Thailand.

Day 3: An Old New City

Pay your respects at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

While Chiang Mai translates to ‘New City,’ the former seat of the Lanna kingdom is steeped in over 700 years of history. The most prominent sign of this is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of Thailand’s oldest and most sacred temples. To reach the wát, many Buddhist devotees climb the 306-step staircase, but you can opt to take an elevator lift for 20 baht.

Chiang Mai: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Visit one of Thailand’s most sacred temples.

Outside, you’ll see a magnificent gold umbrella, a symbol of Chiang Mai’s independence from Burma and its union with Thailand. The temple enshrines a bone fragment said to belong to Buddha himself, carried by sacred white elephant. Follow the walkway to the glimmering gold chedi that holds the relic, where you can leave lotus blossoms as an offering.

Visit Bhubing Palace

Not far from Doi Suthep is the Bhubing Palace, the Thai royal family’s summer home. Because of the cool mountain climate, Queen to raises a stunningly colourful garden filled with exotic flowers, especially roses.

Chiang Mai: Bhubing Palace
Enjoy the cool mountain air, colourful flowers, and music.

The late and well-loved Thai King—who was also a saxophonist and inventor—left his own imprint in the gardens: the musical water fountain plays his compositions.

Watch a Khantoke Show at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center

Chiang Mai: Khantoke Show
You won’t have time to talk over dinner, as you’ll be amazed at the performance.

End the day with a Khantoke Dinner, the northern Thai way of eating—seated on a floor mat at a low table with the food served on large platters. As you eat, enjoy a traditional dance performance. The shows include the Fon Lep (‘Finger Dancing’), Fon Thean (‘Candle Dancing’) and Ram Dab (‘Sword Dancing).

Day 4: Do as the locals do

Take a Thai Cooking Class

Chiang Mai: Mama Noi's Cooking Class
Impress your friends back home with your homemade pad thai!

On your last day in Chiang Mai, find ways to bring a bit of it home with you. You’ll start by selecting ingredients from the local market. With the help of the chefs, you’ll be able to prepare green curry, pad thai, and the sweet, sticky rice with mango.

Bargain Hunting at the Marketplace

End your trip with a leisurely trip to any of Chiang Mai’s marketplaces as you haggle your way to the perfect outfit, jewelry piece, or souvenirs to bring home.

Chiang Mai: Sunday Market
Find a great souvenir from the market to remember this trip

Check out the Night Bazaar, open seven days a week, that has all your shopping desires as well as live music and traditional Thai dancers. If you’re in for the weekend, visit Saturday & Sunday Night Walking Street, which is filled with artisan items, local handicrafts, and unique clothing. Our advice? Purchase a handmade elephant pendant to wear as a small, happy reminder of your trip.