Are you planning a trip to Chiang Mai but are unsure what to do, where to eat, or how to plan your visit? This itinerary for 4 days in Chiang Mai has you covered!
Known as the largest city in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a popular destination due to its nature, cultural richness, many things to do, and exceptional local cuisine!
Prepare yourself for 4 days of adventures as you visit beautiful temples and vibrant night markets, spend an afternoon with elephants, explore Chiang Mai’s mountainous surroundings, and more!
For those flying into Chiang Mai, here’s a helpful guide on how to leave the airport and get into the city center.
Now that you have a glimpse of what to expect during your visit, let’s discuss further details!
Getting Around Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Songthaew: These shared red pickup truck taxis drive around Chiang Mai, picking up passengers. They’re the cheapest way to get around, at around 30 – 70 baht per ride.
Use Grab/Bolt: Grab and Bolt are similar to Uber; both are popular ride-sharing apps in SE Asia. It’s usually cheaper to use both apps than to take a taxi.
Rent a Scooter: There are several scooter rental shops around the city where you can rent a scooter daily to get around Chiang Mai.
Taxi or TukTuk: Walking around Chiang Mai, you’ll notice several taxis and tuk-tuks ready to take you around the city. Both are great ways to get around, but avoid any scams that may occur.
4 Day Chiang Mai Itinerary Overview
- Day 1: Explore the Old City & Chiang Mai Night Market
- Day 2: Day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park & Chiang Mai Gate Market
- Day 3: Elephant Sanctuary Half Day Trip, Warorot Market & Muay Thai Fight Night
- Day 4: Day Trip to Chiang Rai or Farm Cooking Class & Exploring Wat Ket
Day 1 in Chiang Mai:
Once you’ve had breakfast, it’s time to get your day started. If you aren’t staying in the Old City, it’s best to make your way there, enjoy breakfast here, and start adventuring!
After you’ve enjoyed all the attractions in the Old City and visited Chiang Mai’s most beautiful park, you’ll end the evening at the famous Chiang Mai Bazaar!
The Old City of Chiang Mai is a historic district and is a large part of the city center today. While things are relatively modern today, the Old City is where you’ll experience most of Chiang Mai’s cultural charm.
Below, I’ve listed all the must-see temples in the Old City, Three Kings Monument, and Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai’s most significant historical landmark.
I’ve noted all the temples and landmarks in the Old City in an efficient order, saving you some time when exploring. For those who’d prefer to take a tour and learn more from a local guide, go on this top-ranked temple tour!
That said, there are some neat shops and cafes along the way. Consider a quick stop when you need a quick break!
- Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan
- Wat Chedi Luang
- Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang
- Three Kings Monument
- Wat Chiang Man
- Pha Ga Gate
As you walk around the Old City in Chiang Mai, you will continuously spot the fascinating ancient walls surrounding it. These walls were built in 1294 A.D, though they have been restored.
Nong Buak Haad Public Park
Located on the southern edge of the old city, Nong Buak Haad Public Park is a picturesque 20-acre park beautifully landscaped with plenty of flowers, tall palm trees, and hedges. There’s also a large pond that flows throughout the park.
Visitors can stroll along the meandering pathways, admiring the colorful flowers, towering trees, and water fountains.
The park is perfect for a stroll or relaxing at one of the many shaded cabanas by the water. When visiting, you’ll spot locals exercising, picnics, children at the park, and others playing basketball. The park offers a wide variety of well-maintained amenities.
When I visited, I fell in love with this park because of its picturesque location, the white bridges along the pond, and the wildlife there. Despite being centrally located in the city, it was quiet and peaceful!
Chiang Mai Night Market
After a day of adventuring around the Old City, it’s time to visit the famous Chiang Mai Night Market, also known as the Night Bazaar. Fun fact: This market dates back to the 1980s, so it’s been around a while!
At the Chiang Mai Night Market, you’ll find plenty of foods, such as stir-fried Crab in chili paste, pad Thai, Pad Kra Pao, fresh grilled seafood, and even international options, like Mexican, Indian, and Arabic cuisine.
To accompany your food, many juice bars at the market serve freshly squeezed juice or coconuts. There’s also an actual bar serving many choices of beers and cocktails.
Don’t forget dessert, try many local Thai desserts at the market, including the famous mango sticky rice and Thai rolled-up ice cream.
Once you’ve enjoyed a wide variety of food at the market, it’s time to explore the many items sold there- and theres a lot!
The market has many small souvenirs, such as magnets, keychains, figurines, and a wide variety of clothing. A part of the market is dedicated to local artists, and you’ll spot them painting away.
There’s also a wide variety of household goods at the market: fresh soaps, handcrafted candles, creams, and other household items.
The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is open daily from 5:00 PM to 12:00 AM. However, most vendors begin to close their stands at 11:00 PM, sometimes even 10:30. So, to experience the market at its best, it’s best to visit before 9:30 PM.
By the way, if you look at Google Maps, you may get confused by where it is, so let me clarify things for you.
The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar has many connected markets, taking up a large block in the city. What you see on the map is Anusarn Market, Kalare Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, and Pleon Rudee Night Market. All these markets are slightly different, but they are all part of one massive night market, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.
Local TIP: You won’t find many vendors at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar on Sundays. That’s because most Bazaar vendors go to the Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market along The Phae Walking Street instead!
Day 2 in Chiang Mai:
Onwards to your second day of adventures, on the second day of your itinerary, you will spend a full-day trip exploring Doi Inthanon National Park, regarded as one of the best national parks in Thailand.
Doi Inthanon Park is a top attraction in Chiang Mai. It offers wildlife, waterfalls, picturesque trails, temples located in the mountains, local tribes, and much more.
Once you’ve returned to the city center and gone for dinner, spend the rest of your evening at the Chiang Mai Gate Market.
Doi Inthanon National Park
As you venture out on a full-day tour exploring Doi Inthanon National Park, you’ll get picked up from your hotel early in the morning in a small group. Then, you’ll be off for a scenic two-hour drive to the park.
Once you’ve arrived, your adventure begins by visiting Wachiratharn Waterfalls, one of Chiang Mai’s largest waterfalls. Expect a cool waterfall mist in the air when you visit!
After you’ve cooled off and captured some great shots at the waterfalls, the next stop is visiting the Hilltribe Village, where a small Thai tribe lives. There, you’ll experience how the tribe lives and their traditions and discover many crafts/foods they have for sale.
Then, enjoy a traditional Thai lunch as you fuel yourself for further adventures. It’s time to explore the highest point in Thailand- a Thailand bucket list item. After that, you will venture through the Ang Ka Nature Trail, a lush green trail in the rainforest.
Moving on to the last and most impressive part of Doi Inthanon Park, you’ll check out the famous twin pagodas dedicated to Thailand’s king and queen. Surrounding the pagodas are many beautiful, colorful flowers, small waterfalls, and trees.
For those who prefer to go alone, you can hire a driver and do your own thing, but attending the tour is quite convenient. Also, having a guide to share some context about what you’re seeing adds to the experience.
The full-day tour ends in the evening, and you should be back around 6 to 6:30. So pack your bag with a power bank, extra water, a hat, sunscreen, and whatever else you may need!
Chiang Mai Gate Market
After a long day trip to Doi Inthanon Park, it is time for a laidback evening at one of Chiang Mai’s night markets. The market opens up daily after 4:00 PM till 2:00 AM.
This market offers a more local atmosphere than the Chiang Mai Night Bazar. Also, the Chiang Mai Gate Market revolves more around food, not so much goods.
At this night market, you’ll find a wide variety of meat skewers, pad Thai, Thai curries with rice, fried chicken, fried pork skin, papaya salad, the food list goes on and on!
There’s plenty of outdoor seating at the market, ideally under many trees, so you won’t have to worry about dining in the sun after a long day of outdoor adventures!
Day 3 in Chiang Mai:
No first-timer trip to Chiang Mai is complete without visiting an Elephant Sanctuary visit because Chiang Mai has the most ethical sanctuaries in Thailand.
On your third day, you’ll spend the morning visiting an elephant sanctuary. Once back, head over to Warorot Market in Chinatown, where you will discover the bustling local market.
After dinner, experience a night of Muay Thai fighting, Thailand’s national sport. This may be optional if you’re visiting with kids. Instead, visit the fun Art in Paradise Museum with the kids!
Elephant Sanctuary Half Day Trip
You’ll start the day bright and early, with a pickup from your hotel around 7:30 AM and taken to the Elephant Rescue Sanctuary.
On arrival with the small group and your tour guide, you’ll first change into loose and comfortable Mahout Style Karen clothes. Your tour guide will start by teaching you about the elephant sanctuary and the many efforts they’re putting into ethical elephant care.
Shortly after, you’ll feed the elephants fruits and walk around with them in their natural habitat. Lastly, you’ll get in the river with the elephants and help them bathe!
Book the morning half-day tour, that way, you can be back in time to enjoy Warorot Market later in the day, the market closes at 5:00 PM.
Warorot Market (China town)
In Chiang Mai’s bustling Chinatown is Warorot Market, a busy day market full of clothing, textiles, fresh produce, meat, dried fruits, candies, and more.
As soon as you walk in, you’re hit with a rainbow of colors, tempting smells, and the buzz of locals living their everyday lives. This market is far less touristy than most markets in Chiang Mai, perfect for those looking for an authentic city experience.
There are a few food stalls throughout the busy lanes of the market, but overall, the market is more than known for its goods.
By the way, those hunting for the popular and typical Thai elephant pants, well, this is the best place to buy them; they’re the cheapest here. Some of the products you find at many of the night markets in Chiang Mai come from Warorot Market!
Most of the shops have clear signage, which is convenient, meaning you don’t have to haggle on price.
By the way, Chansom Memorial Bridge is just steps away from the market, and it’s the perfect spot for a city photo along the Ping River!
Fight Night at Tha Phae Boxing Stadium
Once you’ve gone for dinner after an afternoon exploring/shopping at the bustling Warorot Market.
It’s time to experience Thailand’s national sport, Muay Thai, fighting at the Tha Phae Boxing Stadium. The sport is deeply ingrained in Thai culture, and many fighters come from all over the world to train and fight in Thailand.
From 9:30 PM to midnight, prepare yourself for three- to five-round fights throughout the night. Tickets cost 500 THB+, depending on your preferred seating choice.
Day 4 in Chiang Mai:
On your last day of this 4-day Chiang Mai itinerary, you have two different options: a whole-day trip to Chiang Rai, a city known for its tribes and spectacular temples, or a half-day cooking course, an afternoon at a local market, and a quiet evening.
I’ve added two options on the last day because some of you may prefer a more laid-back day, considering you’ll be traveling somewhere new or home the next day.
Others may still be up for a long day of more adventure, the Chiang Rai is a full-day trip!
Option 1: Chiang Rai Day Trip
Prepare yourself for an active day of sightseeing as you venture off from the early morning to Chiang Rai at 7:00 AM. Along the way, you’ll enjoy a scenic drive as you see the northern countryside.
Once you arrive in Chiang Mai, you’ll first visit what might be Thailand’s most iconic temple: the famous White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Shortly after, you will break for a savory traditional Thai lunch at a restaurant.
After lunch, you’ll be on your way to visit the Emerald Buddha temple and a few other temples.
I highly recommend this trip for those looking to experience the most beautiful temples in Thailand. After all, this is one of the top-ranked day trips in Chiang Mai!
Option 2: Cooking Course at a Farm & Explore Wat Ket
Another top-ranked tour to do in Chiang Mai. The cooking course tour at a farm is a fun way to learn how to cook some of the most famous Thai dishes.
After being picked up from your hotel, you’ll start the day by visiting a local market, where your guide will show you around. Shortly after, you’ll be taken to the farm, where you’ll learn from an instructor how to make three dishes of your choice!
It’s a fun day tour for those looking to learn more about Thai cuisine, and I mean, at the end, you get to eat! Also, the tour guide will send you an e-recipe of all the dishes you make!
Book the morning half tour so that you can enjoy adventures later in Wat Ket and the sunset at Nawarat Bridge!
Now that you’ve enjoyed a fun morning visiting a farm in Chiang Mai and learning how to cook a few Thai dishes, you can take them home. It’s time to spend the afternoon exploring the Wat Ket area.
The first stop is San Pa Koi Market. This is a local market where you can find plenty of food to try, and it’s far cheaper than the other markets in the city.
After the market, steps away, is the intersection of Charoen Muang Rd and Nai Pol Rd. Start walking towards the Nawarat Bridge from there. Along Charoen Muang Rd toward the bridge, you’ll find many great restaurants, street-side bars, and cozy cafes.
Once you arrive at the Nawarat Bridge, hopefully around sunset, you’ll have the perfect photo opportunity to capture a great photo of the city and the Ping River!
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
Old City, Night Bazaar, and Nimman are the three most convenient areas in Chiang Mai for first-timers.
All three areas are well located, near many attractions and other areas, and offer various hotel/restaurant choices. However, each area is slightly different and offers different atmospheres.
Below, you can find out which area is best for you and the best hotels by budget.
Old City is as central as one can be in Chiang Mai, a great area for first-time visitors. There are plenty of local shops, restaurants, and attractions nearby. For solo travelers and backpackers, the Old City has the best hostels!
InterContential – A contemporary, luxurious, modern 5 Star hotel located in the Old City of Chiang Mai, with nearby shops, restaurants, and massage parlors
Phor Liang Meun – Well-decorated 3 Star hotel with a modern and old-school look, located on the edge of the Old City in an excellent location
Mad Monkey Chiang Mai – Top ranked hostel, known for its vibrant atmosphere, and convenient location.
The Cabin Backpackers – Well priced dorm style hostel located by the Old City and Night Bazaar area.
Night Bazaar Chiang Mai is on the eastern side of the city. The area revolves around the main Night Bazaar street, where you’ll find the daily market. Besides the main road, the area has a calmer, laid-back atmosphere than the Old City.
It’s an excellent area for solo travelers who prefer a less touristy part of the city, couples, and families.
Shangri-La Chiang Mai – Swanky 5 Star hotel with exceptional amenities in a fantastic area; a few minutes walk away from many restaurants and the city’s vibrant night markets
Night Bazaar Inn – Steps away from the local Night Bazaar, this 3 Star hotel offers spacious rooms at a mid-range price in a great location.
Nimmanhaemin aka (Nimman), is known as expat central, popular amongst foreigners living in Chiang Mai. The area is known for its many modern restaurants, shopping malls, and Western cuisine.
Because of all the conveniences, it’s an excellent area for families. Couples and solo travelers may also enjoy it. But it’s not for those looking to experience a more local city atmosphere.
U Nimman Chiang Mai – An exceptional luxury 5 Star stay in the Nimman area, U Nimman offers modern, spacious rooms, many amenities, and the best panoramic views of the city with its rooftop pool.
Norn Boutique Hotel – Quaint and cozy modern 3 Star hotel in the Nimman area, known for its charming wood decor, spacious rooms, and well-thought-out amenities.
Best Restaurants in Ho Chi Min City
Are you curious about where you should eat in Chiang Mai? Here’s a list of restaurants I enjoyed during my trip to Chiang Mai, and a few are also Michelin Star winners!
For those visiting on a budget and looking for affordable restaurants, use my guide for cheap eats in Chiang Mai!
Rasik Local Kitchen: Dishing out contemporary Thai food with only seasonal ingredients; expect various meats and seafood, with various wines.
Khao Soy Maesai: Known as the top Khao Soy spot in the city, it has been a Michelin Guide winner for the last three years. Get ready to wait in line, it’s worth it!
Kiti Panit: Located in an old renovated mansion, Kiti Panit focuses on a small but well-executed menu representing Nothern cuisine; recently, Michelin Guide awarded.
Ancient Beef Cuisine: Near the Ping River, Ancient Beef is a halal restaurant serving many various beef dishes with rich flavors; their complimentary soup is delicious (free refills, too)
Ekachan The Wisdom: Representing both North and Southern Thai cuisine, known for their TomYum soup, spicy beef salad, and prawns over curry
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar: Open Monday through Saturday, this bazaar offers various local and international foods at affordable prices.
Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai
There’s a limited window when the weather conditions are ideal in Chiang Mai. The best time to visit Chiang Mai is from November to March. Here’s a breakdown of the different weather periods in the year for Chiang Mai.
November – January: At this time of year, you can expect many dry days, with lots of sunshine and low humidity. This is by far the best time of the year to visit Chiang Mai.
February – April: These three months in Northern Thailand are the burning season. A time when farmers burn crops, and the air quality index becomes some of the worst in the world in Chiang Mai. It’s best to avoid visiting during this time.
May – October: Considered the off-season in Chiang Mai, during this time, you can get lucky with sunshine some days, but heavy rainfall some days and high humidity levels are to be expected.
Tips for Visiting Chiang Mai
- The ATM fees in Thailand aren’t cheap and range around 200-300 Baht/$6-8.50 US per cash withdrawal. So make sure to withdraw what you need to save on ATM Fees. The maximum withdrawal is 20,000 Baht per transaction.
- Always have cash with you in Chiang Mai, you’ll use it more than 80% of the time during your visit.
- Watch out for a few Chiang Mai scams you may encounter when visiting.
- When visiting temples, be respectful. That means taking off your shows in certain areas, not being too loud, and respecting those worshiping.
- If one of the days you visit Chiang Mai is a Sunday, make sure to visit the Sunday Tha Phae Gate Night Market, one of the largest markets in Asia.
- Chiang Mai is known for its cultural festivals, and visiting during a festival offers a unique experience.
- Tipping in Thailand isn’t customary, but sometimes if the service during a tour/massage or restaurant is beyond, you could show your appreciation with a small tip.
Chiang Mai Itinerary for 4 Days — Final Thoughts
There you have it, that’s how to spend four days in Chiang Mai! This itinerary will ensure you make the most of your first visit to the ancient Thai city!
After spending one month in Chiang Mai, I got to know the city well. I experienced the main attractions, went on most day trips, and wandered long before putting this itinerary together. I hope you enjoyed my in-depth itinerary for Chiang Mai!
Chiang Mai is excellent and one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia. It’s busy but also laidback at the same time, making it unique. If you have more time in Northern Thailand, I recommend make a two or three day trip to Pai!
Last but certainly not least, beyond all that Chiang Mai already has to offer, it’s also the cheapest place to visit in Thailand!
Is 4 days enough for Chiang Mai?
Visiting Chiang Mai for four days may feel rushed because there are many things to do in the city, but it’s doable!
Keep in mind, the city offers a great base to explore other places in Northern Thailand, like Chiang Rai and Pai.
Is 5 days too long in Chiang Mai?
Five days in Chiang Mai isn’t too long. There are many things to do both inside and around the city.
What should you not miss in Chiang Mai?
Experience the Old City, visit a few temples, visit the night markets, and take at least one day trip to Doi Inthanon Park and Chiang Rai!
How many days do you need in Chiang Mai and Pai?
To visit both Chiang Mai and Pai, plan for at least seven days between the two places. But more days in Chiang Mai, there’s more to experience there.
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