7-Day Chiang Mai Itinerary: Temples, Waterfalls, and Hot Springs

Looking for things to do in Chiang Mai? This 7-day Chiang Mai itinerary gives you a chance to explore the rich cultural and natural heritage of Chiang Mai with visits to its stunning temples, bustling markets, and tranquil forests and waterfalls.

Chiang Mai is an enchanting city in Northern Thailand, where ancient temples, lush landscapes, and rural hill tribes coexist harmoniously.

It’s one of the few places in Thailand where you can get off the beaten path and explore a more remote, authentic side of the country. If you have seven days at your disposal, then you’ve allocated enough time to see the local side of Chiang Mai.

In this 7-day Chiang Mai itinerary, you’ll discover ways to have a truly immersive and unforgettable experience; from exploring ancient temples in the Old City to embarking on thrilling adventures in the surrounding countryside.

So when you’re ready to uncover the secrets of this ancient city, dive into our Chiang Mai itinerary…

Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s Old City is the most atmospheric part of the city and the best area to base yourself in Chiang Mai. There are plenty of accommodation options for every budget. Here are some highlights.

If you are looking to wrap yourself in comfort and elegance, you can’t beat The Inside House decorated in luxurious whites with a gorgeous pool, garden and terrace.

In the mid-range, Makkachiva is stunningly decorated in traditional Thai style around a central courtyard with rooms that have either a garden or a mountain view.

And if you are travelling on a budget, consider the charming and friendly 18 In Town Homestay.

How many days in Chiang Mai is enough?

Chiang Mai itinerary - Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh in the Old City

But first, is seven days enough for Chiang Mai? The perfect amount of time to spend in Chiang Mai is between 5 and 7 days.

You can rush through it all and see everything in five days, but that will be an exhausting vacation.

What makes Chiang Mai different from other cities in Thailand is it has a relaxing atmosphere and a vibe that encourages you to “go slow.”

Simply sitting back and relaxing in a quirky cafe, getting a Thai massage, walking around the canal, and spending your days sitting in restaurants chatting to the locals is one of the best ways to experience this city.

Seven days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Chiang Mai as it allows you to spend some days relaxing and mingling with the locals.

You could also take your relaxation to the next level by spending a few days in one of the best yoga retreats in Thailand. The True Nature yoga retreat is tucked away in the lush and serene countryside to the north of the city.

7-Day Chiang Mai Itinerary

Now you know how much time to set aside for Chiang Mai, here is the ultimate seven-day Chiang Mai itinerary, which combines everything you must see and do in the city, plus a few hidden gems…

Day 1: The Best of The Old City

Chiang Mai itinerary - Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang

The main reason to visit Chiang Mai is for the temples, and it’s no surprise either, as there are said to be around 300 temples in the Chiang Mai province.

Of course, you won’t want to visit every temple, but you can find some of the most beautiful and best-preserved ancient ones in the historic Old City.

Each temple tells a story of the city’s rich cultural heritage and Thai Buddhist traditions. Don’t miss a chance to visit the majestic Wat Phra Singh, known for its huge golden stupa, as well as the serene Wat Chedi Luang, one of the oldest sacred sites in Chiang Mai that dates back to the 14th century.

These temples are not just tourist attractions, but embodiments of Thailand’s profound religious traditions. Take a moment to sit under the shade of the trees and feel the reverence and peaceful energy of each complex.

Three Kings monument in Chiang Mai
Three Kings monument

After spending the morning strolling around the temples, head over to the Three Kings Monument to see a statue of the Kings Mengrai, Ramkamhaeng, and Ngam Muang, who are the founding fathers of Chiang Mai.

Relax in the afternoon in a coffee shop, or if the weather isn’t too hot, sit in the Nong Buak Haad Public Park and enjoy a Thai Milk Tea.

You’re going to want to go slow in the afternoon, as the evening is when Chiang Mai comes to life.

Depending on what day you visit, you may want to spend the evening at the Sunday Night Market or Saturday Walking Street Market, where you can shop for local crafts, taste delicious street food, and watch live music and dance performances.

If you’re visiting on a weekend, then Rachadamnoen Rd is the place to be from 4.00 pm until midnight.

If you’re visiting midweek, then spend your evening at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. No matter what day of the week, you’ll find the night markets and bazaars are the place to be at night.

Day 2: Doi Suthep Temple and Sticky Waterfall

Chiang Mai itinerary - Stairs leading to Wat Phra Doi Suthep
Stairs leading to Wat Phra Doi Suthep are guarded by the Naga

On the second day of this seven-day Chiang Mai itinerary, it’s time to head out of the city center and explore the wonders of the region.

Perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in Thailand outside Chiang Mai is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, one of the most sacred temples in Thailand that is perched on the mountaintop. You must climb 309 steps to reach the temple, so be sure to wear comfy shoes.

It was said to have first been built in 1383 when the first stupa was found, but most of the complex you see today was built in the early 19th century.

Things to do in Chiang Mai - visit Wat Phra Doi Suthep
Wat Phra Doi Suthep

The story behind this temple is unique and fascinating. It was said that many years ago, a piece of Gautama Buddha’s shoulder bone was given to a monk, who then gave it to King Dhammaraja.

He split the bone into two pieces, one went to Wat Suan Dok in Lamphun, and the other was placed on the back of a white elephant which was released into the jungle.

The elephant was said to have climbed to the mountaintop, trumpeted three times, and then died. The King ordered a temple to be built in the place where the elephant died.

The name of the Temple comes from this story, as Phra means “honorific Buddha image”, and That means “relic”.

The location of the shoulder bone is said to be in the rounded portion of the Chedi.

Sticky waterfall in Chiang Mai
Namtok Bua Tong or Sticky Waterfall

After visiting the temple, head to the awe-inspiring Sticky Waterfall, a unique natural phenomenon where mineral-rich waters cascade down moss-covered rocks, creating a sort of sticky surface where you can effortlessly climb up.

Pack your swimwear and spend some time cooling off in the refreshing pools, nestled in a jungle setting. You could easily spend half a day here enjoying the waters, splashing in the pools, and climbing up the rocky surface.

If you don’t have your own set of wheels, you can visit both, the temple and the waterfall, on a Doi Suthep and Sticky Waterfall Tour from Chiang Mai.

In the evening, head over to Nimmanhaemin Road for dinner. This is a trendy neighborhood known for its hip cafes, boutique shops, and vibrant nightlife.

Day 3: Elephant Sanctuary Experience

Chiang Mai itinerary - visit elephant sanctuary

Another popular reason to visit Chiang Mai is for the elephant sanctuaries. It is estimated there are around 80 elephant camps in Thailand, and most of them are in the north, but sadly they are not all ethical.

Many camps are designed to allow visitors to interact with the elephants, either by washing, bathing, feeding or even riding on the elephants.

This is not ethical practice, but thankfully there are places where you can see these gentle giants in their natural habitat without disturbing them.

Elephant Nature Park is a natural home for elephants, as well as other rescued Thai animals such as buffalos, dogs, and cats.

Located in the rural countryside, orphaned elephants are free to roam wherever they please within the sanctuary compounds, and visitors are allowed to observe but not touch the elephants.

As you observe, a guide will tell you about the elephant’s stories and how they came to be at the sanctuary. You can learn about elephant conservation efforts and spend the day watching them eat, play, bathe, and roam while you stay at an unobtrusive distance from them.

You can choose to stay for a full day or half a day at the sanctuary, but since it’s a 2-hour drive from the city center, we recommend staying a full day to really enjoy the experience.

Day 4: Thai Cooking Class and Cultural Immersion

Warorot market in Chiang Mai
All kinds of chili at the Warorot market

After spending two days exploring outside the city of Chiang Mai, you may want to take it easy on the fourth day.

One of the best ways to really get a feel for the authentic Thai culture is to take part in a cooking class.

Thai food is some of the most delicious and flavorful of Asian cuisine, and Chiang Mai has its own regional delicacies that tantalize the taste buds.

Chiang Mai is famous for its curries, particularly Khao Soy, which is a rich and creamy yellow curry made with coconut milk and topped with fried noodles.

In a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, you can learn to create this aromatic dish as well as other popular dishes like Pad Thai and mango sticky rice.

After spending half a day learning to cook up a storm, head over to the Warorot Market, a bustling local market where you can shop for fresh ingredients to cook for yourself at home, as well as pick up some unique souvenirs.

Thai boxing match in Chiang Mai

In the evening, watch a traditional Muay Thai match, also known as Thai Boxing, which is the Thai national sport. Muay Thai has been practised for centuries in Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai, so be sure to head over to Tha Phae Boxing Stadium at 9.00 pm to catch a fight.

Day 5: Mae Ping River Cruise & Thai Massage

Mae Ping River in Chiang Mai
Mae Ping River

If you’re looking to get off the beaten path and experience the rural beauty of the Chiang Mai province, then take a day trip out to the Mae Ping River for a gentle river cruise.

Step into a traditional long-tail boat and enjoy scenic views through the countryside. The boat will stop off at local hill tribe villages, where you can interact with the native communities and see how the locals live.

A journey along the Mae Ping River allows you to see the true, rural side of Thailand, visit authentic wooden homes, and interact with the people who live along the riverbank, using the rich resources of the river to aid their agricultural efforts.

Afterwards, treat yourself to a Thai massage. If you’ve never had a Thai massage before, you’re in for a treat.

A Thai massage is a cross between massage and sports yoga and is an ancient art form designed to improve circulation and rejuvenate the body.

You will find massage parlors all over the city, but for the best deals, be sure to download the GoWabi App, which has special deals on massage services and beauty treatments.

Day 6: Zipline Adventures, Hill Tribes and Hot Springs

After a relaxing day yesterday, it’s time to get a bit more adventurous on the sixth day. Take a break from the city and venture back out into the countryside to experience a zip line experience like no other!

A good option for Day 6, if you don’t have your own transportation is an organised tour that includes the Zip Line experience, Mae Kam Pong village and San Kamphaeng Hot Spring.

There are many zipline experiences in Chiang Mai, but there are two that are worth a visit. The first is the Jungle Flight zipline, which is famous for having the longest zipline in Thailand at 1,000 meters in length. This is no ordinary zipline, it’s classified as a “zipline roller coaster” and takes you along a wire that winds around the canopies as well as soars through the jungle setting.

Another awesome zipline experience in Chiang Mai is King Kong, which also allows you to fly through the lush jungle, soar over the treetops, and enjoy panoramic views from a whole new perspective.

Unlike Jungle Flight, it’s not just a zipline, but a complete canopy experience, with 36 platforms and obstacle courses 40 feet in the air. The longest zipline is 700 meters and can reach an impressive speed of 70 miles per hour.

Which zipline you visit largely depends on the experience you want to get out of it, but allow at least half a day to visit one of these adventurous experiences.

Afterwards, head out to visit a local hill tribe village for some lunch, such as Mae Kam Pong village.

Here you can mingle with the locals, visit their homes, and learn about their way of life. When visiting a local community, be sure to get some food or a cup of tea from their teahouses. It supports the community and helps the locals earn a wage.

San Kamphaeng hot spring, Chiang Mai
San Kamphaeng hot spring

After that, spend the afternoon relaxing in the San Kamphaeng Hot Spring. You can either relax in a private tub or swim in the mineral-rich swimming pool.

There is also a hot flowing stream for those who enjoy seriously warm waters, but note that the hot springs are usually quite warm so make sure you take breaks and take a cold shower to cool down.

Like at most hot springs in Thailand, you can purchase fresh eggs at San Kamphaeng to boil them in the hot spring.

Day 7: Hiking in Doi Inthanon National Park

National Parks in Thailand - Doi Inthanon
Cloud Forest at Doi Inthanon

Finally, spend a day in Doi Inthanon National Park, one of the most beautiful national parks in Thailand and home to the highest peak in the country.

You can spend a full day exploring the stunning natural beauty of the park, including hiking to waterfalls, remote villages, and breathtaking viewpoints.

Hike to one of the largest waterfalls in Thailand, Wachirathan Waterfall, which is over 80 meters high. Then, hike over to the Sirithan Waterfall, which stands 50 meters high and is fed by the Mae Klong River.

Doi Inthanon cloud forest, Thailand

Don’t miss a chance to visit the famous twin pagodas, the Napamatanee Don and Napaphon Bhumisiri. They were originally built for the Royal King and Queen and sit on the highest point in Thailand.

Afterwards, head down to visit the Karen Tribe and their village, Sobhad.

A day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park is the perfect way to end your Chiang Mai, experiencing the most beautiful nature and allowing the peaceful and serene atmosphere of this region to wash over you.

Final Thoughts

This concludes our 7-day Chiang Mai itinerary, which as you can see is a tapestry of cultural experiences, adventurous moments, and natural experiences – plus a few places off the beaten path.

Whether you want to explore the ancient temples to the verdant landscapes, there can be no doubt that this itinerary has something for everyone.

Remember that the beauty of Chiang Mai lies not only in its sights but in the feeling of peacefulness, the togetherness forged by locals, and the connections you make.

We hope this guide helped you plan your trip to Thailand and gave you inspiration for how to spend a week in Chiang Mai!

And if you are looking for truly off-the-beaten-path adventures from Chang Mai, consider Thi Lo Su Waterfall Jungle Adventure. This multiday rafting and hiking expedition takes you to one of Thailand’s most beautiful waterfalls.

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Margarita

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