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...

Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai © Phuchitsanu - Fotolia.com

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.

Tuk Tuk, Chiang Mai
Tuk Tuk, Chiang Mai © Rama - Flickr CC BY 2.0

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.

Get caffeinated

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.

Good Morning Chiang Mai Café
Good Morning Chiang Mai Café - photo courtesy of chiangmailocator.com

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.

Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai
Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai © Heinrich Damm - Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

Chiang Mai Temple Sign
Chiang Mai Temple Sign © Jaillan Yehia

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.

Chiang Mai Foot Massage
Chiang Mai Foot Massage - public domain image courtesy of Rinto Jiang - Wikimedia CC0 1.0

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.

Chiang Mai Night Market
Chiang Mai Night Market © Takeaway - Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

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.

Don't forget to check our deals and discounts to see if we can help get you to Thailand with offers on flights and holidays. Have you been? Tell us what you'd recommend for 24 hours in Chiang Mai...

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Jaillan Yehia

Jaillan Yehia

Posted on Monday 25th November 2013 in: Asia City Culture Food & drink

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