24 hours in Chiang Mai: Explore the best temples & markets
Located near the borders of Myanmar and Laos, Chiang Mai is a favourite with passing backpackers and holidaymakers. Surrounded by tropical rainforest, it's bursting with colour, charm and so much to see. Here's our step-by-step guide to making the most of 24 hours in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand's largest and most vibrant city...
Grab a map
The first thing you'll need to get the most out of your 24 hours in Chiang Mai is the Nancy Chandler Map of Chiang Mai. This indispensable and stylish guide will help you delve into all the quirky juice bars, boutiques, noodle stalls and markets tucked down the side streets and alleyways of this ancient city.
Choose your transport
Chiang Mai's old city is compact enough to be tackled on foot - though plenty of tourists hire bikes as it's also ideal for cycling. But for authentic Thai transportation you can also jump in one of the plentiful tuk tuks to take you to breakfast.
Chiang Mai is packed with cute coffee shops, especially along Ratpakinai Road, but you can't beat the nicely-named Good Morning Chiang Mai for coffee and breakfast.
From Wat Chedi Luang, one of the largest temple complexes in the city, which you can spend a couple of hours at, to the smaller Wat Chiang Man, which is said to be Chiang Mai's oldest Wat dating back to 1297, it's certain that 24 hours in Chiang Mai won't be enough to scratch the surface of the wats here, but it will certainly give you a flavour for the religious culture of the city.
Get a dose of Buddhist wisdom
...with these signs in the gardens around some of the larger Wats such as Wat Chedi Luang. The most impressive temple in the city is reminiscent of a huge Mayan pyramid and is full of stunning golden Buddhas, as well as wisdom which will stay with you long after your 24 hours in Chiang Mai are over.
Snack on a rotee
If you're peckish on your way out of Wat Chedi Luang why not stop for a rotee from the cheerful lady who cooks up non-stop rotees for the hungry crowd of tourists outside - a mid-afternoon carb fix, with optional fillings like chocolate and banana start from just 50p.
Pamper yourself to perfection
Thailand is perfect for pampering and Chiang Mai has a particularly large concentration of salons offering massages, facials, manicures and pedicures at every turn, including holiday-friendly long-lasting shellac manicures that usually cost at least £25 in the UK - here they're around £7.
Set out your stall
Any of Chiang Mai's legendary night markets will not only provide endless shopping options, but also tasty, exciting and low budget street-style eating ideas come dinner time - Chang Puak Gate market for example is a real no frills eating experience but one that will furnish you with the tastiest and freshest gyoza, authentic Pad Thai and other treats all washed down with chilled and moreish fruit shakes.
Park yourself at the cocktail car
Park yourself at this adorable little pop up car-bar that really revs up come evening; it's a great place for a mojito or two and a perfect spot to meet or make friends before your 24 hours in Chiang Mai comes to a close.
More about Chiang Mai
Get FREE travel offers
Sign up to receive the latest deals and exclusive discounts on holidays, flights, hotels and more, plus inspiration on where to go when
We promise not to share your details
*affiliate links: find out how we are funded and why this helps us remain free to use.