• Wat Bupparam

Attraction

Visit Chiang Mai's temples

Thailand’s historic city of Chiang Mai is home to more than 300 temples (known as ‘wats’), some dating as far back as the 13th century. Whether you love their statuesque architecture or serene atmosphere, these impressive Buddhist sites are as beautiful as they are fascinating.

Archaic temples and dramatic vistas

Thai temples tend to be made up of a complex of buildings, usually surrounded by peaceful exotic gardens. Structures you might come across include the chedi (a domed relic tower), the ubosot (prayer hall), the viharn (sermon or ritual hall) and the mondop (a library topped with a spire). Here’s a handful of the most stunning Chiang Mai temples – from the oldest to the most revered:

Wat Phra Doi Suthep

 Chiang Mai’s most famous and venerated temple is reached by venturing into the dramatic mountains surrounding the city. The 14th century temple, topped with a glorious golden chedi, is perched high among the clouds in Doi Suthep National Park. Scale the 306-step red tiled staircase leading up to the temple, and you’ll be greeted by pristine golden structures, complemented by vivid views, especially if you visit at sunset.

Wat Phra Singh 

Sitting within the old city walls, this elegant 14th century temple is one of the most visually stunning. With soaring pointed roofs, intricate mosaics and gilded decorative features, it’s a feast for the eyes. A tiny chapel houses the revered Pra Singh image of the ‘Lion Buddha’ – an important focal point of the annual Songkran festival.

Wat Chiang Man

Chiang Mai’s oldest temple can be found in the heart of the old city. It’s a tranquil site, with lovingly-tended gardens, where you can enjoy some well-earned calm and reflection. The oldest buildings in the complex, such as the impressive elephant chedi, date back to 1306, mingling beautifully with the more modern, gilded viharns.

Wat Chedi Luang

This enormous 14th century temple in the centre of the city remains impressive, despite slowly crumbling as the years go by. Its towering 80-metre-high chedi is the tallest structure in the old city, even after suffering earthquake damage. The site is home to an ancient gum tree, which legend has it protects Chiang Mai from all evils. The story goes that if the tree falls, so will the city. Thailand’s most famous icon, the Emerald Buddha, was housed here before moving to Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew. If you can, go along to the temple’s moving candlelit processions that take place on many Buddhist holidays.  

Wat Phra That Doi Kham

 A favourite among Chiang Mai locals, this spectacular temple on the outskirts of the city is one of the more peaceful places to visit. Its most striking feature is the giant seated Buddha statue, looming almost 20 metres tall and dressed lavishly in gold. A funicular will take you to its picturesque hilltop setting if the steep staircase isn’t for you.    

Top Tips from our Experts

Christie

Destination Executive

“Some temples offer the opportunity to book an informal ‘Monk Chat’ – a fascinating chance to sit down with young trainee monks and exchange cultural stories while helping their English skills.”

Martyn

Destination Manager

“Dress respectfully, avoiding shorts, flip-flops and tops that expose your shoulders or chest. When entering the temples themselves, you’ll find shoe racks where you should leave all footwear.”