10 Best Temples in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has no shortage of temples, with over 200 scattered throughout the city it might be difficult to choose the best temples in Chiang Mai.
Some temples are easy to find, some temples are close to your hotel in Chiang Mai, some temples you will stumble upon wandering down alleys, and some you have to hike to.
No matter what “wat” you choose to visit, you will not be disappointed! They are all beautiful, interesting, and historic.
Buddhist temples in this region of Thailand have heavy Thai-Lanna influence in their architecture, along with influence from various bordering countries such as Burma. The temples in Chiang Mai offer plenty of historic knowledge and artifacts to learn from.
It is important to remember to wear appropriate clothing when visiting these historic religious sites. Dress respectfully, with long pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders, and do not forget your shoes! We are guests visiting their beautiful country and we should not disrespect their religious sites.
This article lists for you our top 10 temples to visit around the city of Chiang Mai, organized in no particular order. No matter which temple you choose, you are sure to enjoy beautiful views, rich historic knowledge, and Buddhist values and teachings.
1. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temples in Thailand and by far the most visited and most popular temple in Chiang Mai. The temple sits on the mountainside across from Doi Suthep mountain, offering views high above Chiang Mai.
The drive is about 30 minutes from the city center, but the journey to Wat Doi Suthep is half of this temple’s wonder. This temple is located within the heart of Doi Suthep National Park and is surrounded by beautiful nature views on every turn.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a stunning example of Thai architecture, with beautiful statues, multi-tiered buildings with decorated roofs, and with a gold Chedi reaching nearly 80 feet. The wat is reached by a 300 step staircase, intended to help devotees, and tourists alike accrue Buddhist merit.
The legendary tale of this temple’s history with King Keu Naone, establishing the temple to hold a piece of bone said to be from Buddha’s shoulder. When the shard was brought to Lanna by a wandering monk, it broke into two pieces, one was held at Wat Suan Dok and the other mounted to a white elephant (a very sacred symbol in Thailand). The elephant wandered the jungle until passing away on the mountainside, in the place that would be then chosen for the temple.
When arriving at the temple grounds, you will find many souvenir shops and snack bars at the base of the temple, before heading up the stairs. The stairs are paralleled by two bejeweled statues of Naga running to the temple, and once you reach the top you will find a statue honoring the white elephant in the legend of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Beyond the statue you will find various monuments and relics scattered throughout the outer and inner terraces, and the famous gold Chedi being in the center of the inner terrace.
This temple not only brings thousands of tourists but also is a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhist devotees. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most legendary temples in Thailand and is worth the visit, even if only for some photos of the gorgeous mountain top view.
How to Get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
There are many ways to get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, from renting a car, motorbike or scooter and driving yourself, to taking public transportation.
If you have your international driver’s license and are comfortable on a motorbike, driving is one of the best ways to fully experience the beauty surrounding the temple. The drive is straight along the 1004, with only a few curves.
If you are looking for public transportation, you can grab a seat in a songthaew, one of the most popular ways to reach the temple. Taking a songthaew from the Chiang Mai Zoo costs about 40 baht per person each way.
Or, if you’re looking to really experience the beauty of Doi Suthep National Park, you can hike to the temple from Suthep Road. You will find a sign past the Chiang Mai University reading “Nature Hike”, turn right down the narrow road and after 100 meters take the first left. This path will take you to the base of the temple stairs.
- Construction began in 1386
- Construction was requested by King Keu Naone
- Entrance fee of 30 baht
- Open from 5 am-9 pm
- 9 หมู่ที่ 9 Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
2. Wat Phra Singh
The second most popular temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Phra Singh, also known as the “Golden Temple”. This temple is located conveniently inside of the old city wall on the west side of Ratchadamnoen Road.
The temple is another perfect example of Thai Lanna-style architecture. The grounds are intricately decorated with gold, white, and ochre colors. Within the property’s white walls, you will find gleaming golden chedis, ornamental roofs, along with well-manicured gardens.
Wat Pha Singh has several architectural attractions like its main chedi, Viharn Lai Kham (large assembly hall), and Viharn Luang, and more. This temple attracts many visitors to gaze at its decorated viharns (assembly hall) and it’s lively paintings of local life in the 14th century.
Wat Phra Singh was built in 1345 by King Phayu to hold the ashes of his father. From 1578-1774, the Burmese took over the north of Thailand and the temple abandoned. until King Kawila became ruler of Chiang Mai in 1782 and restored the temple.
The whole temple underwent renovations and additions in the 1920s. Even more recently the temple has had more work, and in 2016 the chedis which were previously white were given a golden covering.
When visiting the temple, you will see an intimate piece of the local community. Wat Phra Singh is still a running temple with a monastery and school on the grounds. You will likely come across schoolboys playing in the yards, new devotee monks sweeping the grounds, and even ice cream vendors around the gardens.
This temple is worth the visit if you’re looking to visit a beautiful temple with plenty of history and get a peek of local life in the city.
How to Get to Wat Phra Singh
The temple is easy to reach on foot or by public transportation if you are staying near the city center. If you are staying far from the city center, you can grab a songthaew for the cheapest transportation. The temple is located at the west end of Rachadamnoen Road, the main street running through Chiang Mai from Wat Phra Singh to the Tha Pae Gate.
- Construction began in 1345
- Construction was requested by King Phayu and has been renovated under King Kawila
- Entrance fee of 50 baht
- Open from 6 am – 5 pm
- 2 Samlarn Rd, Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50280, Thailand
3. Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang is located in the historic city center of Chiang Mai, halfway along Ratchadamnoen Road. Wat Chedi Luang is also known as “the Temple of the Great Stupa” and is a distinctive feature of Chiang Mai’s skyline due to its large ruined chedi or pagoda.
The temple is home to structures of great cultural significance such as the main viharn, the city pillar (symbolizing the center of the city, and the center of the universe to the Lanna Kingdom), and of course the temple’s large stupa or chedi. The grounds were previously divided into 3 temples and they now coexist as one.
This temple was built sometime between 1391 and 1402 taking over a century to build. At its highest, the chedi was measured to 262 foot high, and almost 200 feet wide. The chedi once held Thailand’s most sacred artifact, the Emerald Buddha.
This temple offers unique historical insight along with breathtaking views and architecture. A unique activity Wat Chedi Luang offers is personal talks with the monks, usually novices. In these hosted talks, you can ask the monks questions about Buddhism, the temple, or about Thailand in general.
During an earthquake in 1545, the chedi was reduced to a bit more than half of its original height. In 1992, restoration of the naga staircase and elephant statues decorating the base was finished. Although, the chedi itself was never restored to its original glory and now sits in its current state.
How to Get to Wat Chedi Luang
This temple is easy to find as it is located within the historic old city walls, halfway along Chiang Mai’s main road, Ratchadamnoen. You can easily reach the temple via walking or by public transportation. Wat Chedi Luang is hard to miss once you’re on the road as it is one of the biggest landmarks in the Old City.
- Construction began in 1391 and lasted nearly a century
- Construction began under King Saen Muang Ma, and continued under his widow and only finished in the 15th century under King Tilokaraj
- 40 baht admission fee
- Open from 6 am – 8 pm
- 103 Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
4. Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man is another temple located within the historic city center, found at the corner of Ratchaphakinai Road and Phra Poklao Road.
The temple offers beautiful historic architecture ranging in design due to various additions throughout the years. Wat Chiang Man has 2 viharns, a gold plated chedi, ubosot (ordination hall), and a scripture library. Here you will find some of Thailand’s oldest Buddhist resources and artifacts.
Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai built-in 1296, by King Mengrai. When the king decided to build a new city to be the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, he built this temple to be the first of the new city. This temple is home to a few very historic Buddha images.
Within the grounds of this temple you will find historic and cultural artifacts in abundance. From an important crystal Buddha statue, to a multitude of Buddhist texts this temple has some of the most historic artifacts of any temple in Chiang Mai. After the exploration of the temple, there are beautiful garden sanctuaries to sit and reflect on your visit.
Despite being in the center of the city, Wat Chiang Man is one of Chiang Mai’s hidden gems. The temple is rarely busy and provides a wonderful place of self-reflection. Visit Wat Chiang Man if you are interested in seeing one of the oldest Buddhist temples and learning more about the growth of Thailand.
How to Get to Wat Chiang Man
This wat is located in the northeast corner of the old city, between Phra Pok Klao and Ratchaphankhinai 1 Road. Enter the Chang Puak Gate on the north wall of the city center, take a left onto Ratchaphankhinai and the temple is on the right after 200m.
- Construction began in 1292
- Construction was ordered by King Mengrai, to be the first temple of the new city
- Free Admission
- Opening hours: from 6 am – 5 pm
- 171 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
5. Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dok is located outside of the city center, one kilometer west of the Suan Dok gate on Suthep Road.
The temple is one of the most photographic temples in Chiang Mai. The property is filled with many white pagodas and a principal gold-covered chedi in the center reaching 160 feet. Beyond the pagodas are the other recently renovated buildings including a large sermon hall and ubosot.
The white pagodas act as a mausoleum, holding the ashes of many past royal figures, and the principal gold-covered pagoda enshrines various Buddha relics. You can find stunning references of Buddha throughout this temple via statues and paintings.
This temple was founded by King Kue Na in 1370, originally used as his flower garden. The king then built the temple for a monk from Sukothai to house a piece of Buddha’s shoulder. Half of the piece is held in this temple, and the other was mounted to the legendary white elephant of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
When visiting Wat Suan Dok you will likely find it to be more interactive than many of the other temples in Chiang Mai. The monks offer chats hosted in English in which you can ask any relevant questions. The temple also offers guided meditation classes and vipassana if you are looking for immersion into Buddhism.
This temple is a legendary site to visit in Chiang Mai because Wat Suan Dok contains half of a very historic Buddhist artifact. This temple contains half of the artifact kept in Wat Phra Doi Suthep and is far less busy. Wat Suan Dok is one of the best photography spots for sunset; the sun gleams off the white and gold structures highlighting this temple’s beauty.
How to Get to Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dok is located just outside of the city center, 1km from the Suan Dok gate (in the north wall of the Old City). Follow Suthep Road for 1km and the temple will be on the left. You can easily find the temple on foot, or by public transportation.
- Construction began in 1370
- The temple was founded by King Kue Ne
- Free admission
- Open from 6 am – 5 pm
- 139 Suthep Rd, Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
6. Wat Umong
Wat Umong is the only forest temple in Chiang Mai. The temple is seated at the foot of Doi Pui Mountain and expands throughout 15 acres of forested area.
The temple is one of the most intriguing, with ancient untouched ruins, meditation tunnels, and an unpainted stupa. Though being one of the less flashy temples, Wat Umong gives an insight into an ancient temple that still has a working monastery.
Wat Umong is an ancient temple built in 1297, one year after Chiang Mai became the new capital city. King Manglai built this temple for a monk from Chiang Mai who meditated in tunnels. Once the city began to grow and become crowded, the monk found difficulty in meditating, so the King built Wat Umong.
Within the temple grounds, you will find monks circling the large stupa praying or walking the grounds. You can explore the tunnel system, although they are no longer used for meditation due to the amount of visitors the temple receives. The beautiful property is also home to a large lake and small island in the center, reachable by bridge.
This temple is a unique find in Chiang Mai, for not only is it the only forest temple but the temple also offers meditation and Dhamma talks for visitors. The talks occur every Sunday from 3-6 pm.
How to Get to Wat Umong
Wat Umong is located 4 kilometers west of the Old City. Although walking to this temple is possible, with Thailand’s hot climate public transportation is recommended. Grab a tuk-tuk or songthaew from the city center for around 60-100 baht.
- Wat Umong was built in 1297
- Construction was ordered by King Manglai
- Admission fee 20 baht
- Grounds are open from 6 am – 5 pm
- 135 หมู่ที่ 10 Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
7. Wat Phra That Doi Kham
This temple is also known as the Golden Temple and is widely popular with the local Thai people. The temple is located 15 km southwest of the city center on the top of a hill.
This temple is known for its 55-foot gold decorated Buddha statue seen from the base of the hill, and even from the main road. The temple is adorned in gold-covered statues, ornaments, and roofs, hence the name Golden temple.
This temple was built in 1230 when Queen Jammathewee held the throne. The temple was once called Suwannabanpot Temple, however, the villagers call it Doi Kham. It was once a deserted temple when the chedi was brought down by rain, but eventually funds were raised and the temple was renovated.
Wat Phra That Doi Kham boasts of many ancient and beautiful Buddhist artifacts, including paintings as old as the 13th century. Wat Phra That Doi Kham also offers stunning views of the cityscape and the mountains surrounding the valley.
A visit to Wat Phra That Doi Kham will give you a look into a popular local temple, rarely visited by foreigners.
How to Get to Wat Phra That Doi Kham
Wat Phra That Doi Kham is located on the top of the mountain 15 km southwest of the city center. The easiest way to get to the temple is by public transportation, and it’s best to book a round trip because it’s not always easy to catch a taxi going back.
Once arriving at the base of the mountain, it is recommended to take the 300 steps up to the temple to appreciate the full experience. A cable car option is also provided for those not thrilled with the idea of stairs.
- Constructed in 1230
- The temple was founded by Queen Jammathewee
- Entrance fee of 30 baht
- Open from 6 am – 6 pm
- Mae Hia, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
8. Wat Sri Suphan
Wat Sri Suphan is located in the city center of Chiang Mai and is easily recognizable when walking around as it is completely covered in silver.
Wat Sri Suphan is also known as the “Silver Temple” due to its completely silver coating. The walls, the roof, and even the statues and displays are coated in silver detailed decoration. The inside is filled with silver decor as well, with displays of mirrors and bright colors intermixing. Silver Buddha statues guard the entrance and adorn altars within the temple.
This temple unfortunately is still closed off to women due to old Buddhist rules. Yet, even a peek at the full silver exterior is worth the walk through the city center.
Wat Sri Suphan was first founded by King Mengrai in 1501, with the original building taking over a century. Since then the temple has been renovated and redesigned many times. Wat Sri Suphan was built for the silversmithing village of Chiang Mai in the 1500si and continues to keep the area’s trade alive today.
This temple is a unique find in Chiang Mai, for almost the entirety of the temple is covered in “silver”. (actually an alloy and zinc covering, silver coating was saved for religious artifacts). This temple is a beautiful sight even if only from the outside. With its convenient location, visiting this temple doesn’t need to be a day trip, rather a short pit stop.
Pro Tip: On Saturday the temple stays open until 9:30 pm, so you can combine your temple visit with a trip to the Saturday Night Market.
How to Get to Wat Sri Suphan
Wat Sri Suphan is located in the old city, near the location of Wualai Saturday Market. The easiest way to find the temple is to enter from Chiang Mai gate and head down Wualai Road, then turn right down Soi 3. This temple is not difficult to find and many will be able to point you the way. Tuk-tuks and songthaews are always patrolling the city center and will take you there for 30-100 baht.
- Constructed in 1501
- The temple was founded by King Mengrai
- Entrance fee of 50 baht
- Open from 6 am – 5:30 pm
- Wua Lai Rd, Haiya Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
9. Wat Inthakin
Wat Inthakin is a unique temple on the side of the road in the heart of the Old City. The temple has a close to Inthawarorot Road with cars driving just meters outside of the temple walls. This is one of those temples you might just stumble upon while exploring the city.
Wat Inthakin is a stunning temple even with its interesting location. With the beautiful black walls of the viharn and glorious gold decals covering the property, this temple is one of my favorites purely for visuals. This small temple is home to active monk quarters, two chedis, and a viharn.
The temple was built in the late 13th century, although the exact date remains unknown. In 1292, King Mengrai placed a pillar on the grounds of the temple, where the ancient city center once was. This temple is also called “the City Navel Temple” for that reason. In the 1800s, the pillar was moved to Wat Chedi Luang and remains there to this day.
The temple is small, quiet, and quirky located in the center of the hustle and bustle of the old city. The temple is convenient for a pit stop in between other attractions located within the ancient city.
How to Get to Wat Inthakin
Wat Inthakin can be found off of Intrawarorot road, on Soi Inthakin in the center of the city across from the Three Kings Monument. The location is convenient for walking or public transportation.
Wat Inthakin is within walking distance of several other temples, such as Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh. It is recommended to visit these three temples if you want a convenient walking temple tour.
- Constructed in the 13th century, with an unknown exact date.
- The temple was founded by King Mengrai
- Free Entrance
- Open from 6 am – 8 pm
- 3 Intrawarorot Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
10. Wat Chet Yot
This temple is located in Nimmanheim neighborhood, 3 minutes drive after Maya Shopping Mall.
Wat Chet Yot is home to many ancient architectural attractions such as the temple entrance gate, an ancient viharn, and multiple chedis holding ancient relics and artifacts. Wat Chet Yot’s exterior is a rare find in Chiang Mai, with ancient red brick instead of shining decorated roofs. This temple is one of the few examples of Hindu-Lanna architecture.
Wat Chet Yot was built in 1455 by King Tilokkarat. The King sent monks to Bagan, Burma to study the design of Mahabodhi temple, which is a copy of the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya located in Northern India. The King commissioned the building of the temple to be in the likeness of the Mahabodhi Temple, to prevent a decline in Buddhist beliefs.
This temple is rumored to be the spot of pilgrimage for local Thai people born in the year of the snake. It is also believed that by paying respect here, you can help your mind become peaceful and become successful.
This temple is an attraction for those who enjoy ruins and ancient architecture. Due to the many years, this temple has been standing, it is rugged and ruined with bricks falling apart. Wat Chet Yot offers a peaceful escape with plenty of beautiful space to reflect and meditate.
How to Get to Wat Chet Yot
Wat Chet Yot can be found on the Super Highway between Chiang Mai and Lampang. If you begin from Huai Kaew Road in front of the Chiang Mai University, drive downtown towards the city center. Next you will turn left at Rin Kam and head for the highway. Along the outside road for 1 km and Wat Chet Yot will be on the left side. The most convenient way to reach this temple is via songthaew truck or tuk-tuk.
- Constructed in 1455
- The temple was founded by King Tilokkarat
- Free Entrance
- Open from 6 am – 6 pm
- 90 หมู่ที่ ถนน ซุปเปอร์ไฮเวย์ เชียงใหม่-ลำปาง Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Final Thoughts on the Best Temples in Chiang Mai
Of the many temples, Chiang Mai has to offer, these 10 above are our favorites. These temples were chosen for their overall beauty, architectural influence, Buddhist and Thai history. However, no matter what temple you stumble upon, you will find plenty of stunning views and historic artifacts to learn from.
If you only have time to visit one temple in Chiang Mai, visit Wat That Phra Doi Suthep. Although this temple is always busy, there is no surprise why. You can experience a piece of a Buddhist legend, visit a beautiful temple, and see exquisite views from the mountainside and the surrounding national park.