The city of natural spectacles, indigenous tribes, a paradise for adventurers, shoppers delight, on a whole Chiang Mai is definitely a chunk of heaven on earth for all kinds of vacationers. The history of Chiang Mai itself is an illustrious one. It was The Capital of The Lanna and Mengrai Dynasties. Even now it upholds its historical glories proudly.
Thailand itself is a land of temples and Buddhist Wats. Chiang Mai is no less in this aspect as well. With 300 ‘Wats’ splattered throughout the city, it stands at the forefront of having the most number of temples in the entire world.
Most of the temples here are of the ‘Lanna’ style, dating between the 13th and 18th centuries. These are characterized by curved wooden roofs pointing to the top. The location of the temples, their sculptures, and symbolism earn them a definite spot on your checklist.
There are some important pointers to be mindful of before you go temple visiting.
- Make sure to cover your shoulders and knees otherwise you will be asked to rent a scarf to cover up with respect to the temple and monks.
- Once inside the temple grounds, footwear should be removed
Here’s our rundown of 10 best temples in Chiang Mai. Especially the first 5, they should never be missed!
1. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (The Doi Suthep):
One of the most venerated and famous temples in Thailand, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located 1676 meters above the city of Chiang Mai. Known as one of the best temples in Chiang Mai, it is sacred as it houses one of Buddha’s relics i.e a piece of Buddha’s shoulder.
This awe-inspiring temple is one of the must-see temples in Chiang Mai. It is crowned by a Chedi (Monument) which is 24 meters in height and is plated in gold from top to bottom. There are stories from way back that tell us about a wandering 14th-Century monk and a dying elephant, a hermit. The temple is erected upon the grave of a legendary white elephant. You will find interesting statues of Buddha beneath a Bodhi Tree and a set of temple bells that are touched by the Buddhist monks for good luck.
Opening Hours: 06:00 – 18:00
Location: Huay Kaew, Doi Suthep
2. Wat Phra Singh:
The second most venerated temple in Chiang Mai is the Wat Phra Singh. One of the best Chiang Mai temples and highly revered as it houses the city’s most important Buddha image, Phra Singh (Lion Buddha), which you can see next to the golden chedi.
It houses three main structures, the main attraction being the elegantly decorated Lai Kam assembly hall and the models of elderly meditating monks that look so real. There are also various stupas and pagodas dotted around the ground.
Opening Hours: 06:00-17:00
Location: Inside the old city wall, at the left end of Ratchadamnoen Road
3. Wat Chedi Luang :
Located right in the middle of the Old City, Wat Chedi Luang was built sometime around 1390. Wat Chedi Luang has a huge pagoda which is 80 meters high and was once the home of the Jade Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha), Thailand’s most sacred religious relic.
Now you can only see a replica in its place in one of the chedi’s alcoves.
There are several structures of cultural significance such as the city pillar and a giant gum tree guarding the temple. This tree is supposed to be inhabited by a guardian spirit known as “Prueksa Thevada”, an all-knowing sage, which protects the city from all ills.
Opening Hours: 06:00 – 17:00
Location: Prapokklao Road
4. Wat Sri Suphan (The Silver Temple):
A temple that stands apart from the rest because of its handcrafted silver decorations. Yes, you heard it right! Wat Sri Suphan is completely covered in silver, from the walls to the roof and silver carvings of the statues of Buddha. One of the best temples in Chiang Mai that is not to be missed.
This White temple of Chiang Mai has the tips of the stupas in solid silver and at night they have a neon light display which makes the temple colorful. The inside of the temple has interesting decorations made of silver, mirrors and bright colors mixed together. However, women are not allowed to enter the temple and should remain outside because of some age-old rules.
Opening Hours: 06:00 – 21:00
Address: 100 Wulai Road (next to the Wualai Saturday Walking Street Market)
5. Wat Phra That Doi Kam :
One of the lesser-known Chiang Mai temples as it is situated slightly out of the way, Wat Phra That Doi Kam is famous for its huge seated Buddha. The Giant Buddha statue is painted in white and gold and is nearly 20 meters high.
Dating back to over 1,000 years this is one of the best temples in Chiang Mai offering you plenty of shrines, pagodas, and relics to explore in the foothills of the Doi Suthep Mountain range, and this is also known as the ‘Temple of the Golden Mountain’.
Like Doi Suthep, Wat Phra That Doi Kham houses a Buddha relic and can be accessed by a staircase with nagas on either side.
Opening Hours: Daily Sunrise – sunset
Location: Doi Kham, Mae Hia, Chiang Mai
6. Wat Chet Yot (Temple of the Seven Spires):
Also called Photharam Maha Wihan, this is one of the Chiang Mai temples where the design of the central sanctuary, the Maha Pho Wihan also called Maha Chedi, resembles the Mahabodhi temple, in India. The building has seven spires and looks like a pyramid with a square base and is crowned with a flat roof. There are 2 bell-shaped chedis set atop the two smaller annexes of the main building.
The interior of the building contains a corridor that leads to a Buddha statue at its end. On both, sides of the Buddha statue narrow stairs lead up to the roof. This temple should be one of the must-see temples in Chiang Mai.
Opening Hours: 06:00 – 18:00
Location: Thanon Nimmanhemin Chiang Mai
7. Wat Umong (The Tunnel Temple):
Wat Umong in Chiang Mai’s only forest temple and should be in your list of must-see temples in Chiang Mai. The Idol here is also called the “fasting Buddha”. This represents the Buddha at the end of his long fast before attaining enlightenment.
This “temple in the cave” is one of the ancient Chiang Mai temples in a forest just outside Chiang Mai. Wat Umong is a 13th Century monument and consists of old ruins, meditation tunnels, and a large unpainted stupa. Here you can feed the fishes and turtles in the garden’s main pond, even walk around the ‘talking trees’ and check out the series of ancient tunnels.
Opening Hours: 06:00-18:00
Location: Suthep Road, Soi Wat Umong
8. Wat Chiang Man (Temple of the Crystal Buddha):
Wat Chiang Man is one of the Chiang Mai temples that holds some important Buddhist images including a famous crystal Buddha. This temple houses two important and revered Buddha figures, the marble Phra Sila and the crystal Phra Satang Man thought to have the power to bring rain
There are two main meditation halls in Wat Chiang Man, which are decorated in gold and red images of the Buddha. Inside the larger hall is Chiang Mai’s oldest Buddha image, a standing Buddha holding a begging bowl.
Established in 1297, this oldest temple is also one of the best temples in Chiang Mai.
Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00
Location: The corner of Ratchaphakhinai Road and Phra Poklao Road soi 13
9. Wat Suan Dok :
Known as the Flower Garden temple, Wat Suan Dok is located on what used to be a royal flower garden. This Chiang Mai temple is famous for its cluster of white chedis. The tallest Buddha is 48 meters tall and is said to contain a shoulder bone relic of the real Buddha. A piece of this is also enshrined at infamous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Walking among the white chedis early in the morning or in the rainy season, with mist or low lying clouds, and with the mountains of Doi Suthep in the background makes for an amazing experience.
Opening Hours: 06:00 – 21:00
Location: 139 Suthep Rd, Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District
10. Wat Buppharam :
Wat Buppharam is located just 500 meters away from the Tha Phae Gate. It was built around the 15th century and houses beautiful statues and ornamentation including three major Buddha images, one in painted wood, one covered in gold leaf, and one of a green gemstone. The gardens around the main building are packed with flowers and statues, including some recently added statues of some famous Disney characters.
The large Viharn is approximately 200 years old and contains large murals depicting one of the previous lives of Buddha. This story, in particular, focuses on the Vessantara Jataka, which is the story of Prince Vessantara, who gave away all his wealth and possessions to demonstrate the virtue of charity, one of the virtues of Bodhisattva. The Buddha image contained within the Viharn is around 500 years old.
Opening Time: 6 am-5 pm,
Location: Tha Phae Rd, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai
Temples are the truth-tellers of the magnificent histories of those places. Visiting these amazing places of worship not only talks about their history but also their profound cultural values. These should be some of the most important aspects of your vacation as well. Apart from temples, there are also many other Chiang Mai attractions which you should never miss during your trip.
It is always good to know more about the values that others share in their lives and we can always include those values into ours to make our lives more meaningful and fruitful.