Essential Temples in Chiang Mai for a First Time Visitor
There are over 300 Buddhist temples in the province of Chiang Mai. In the city? Close to 80 temples! Most of them are well preserved, dating back to the 13th century. Religion and spirituality are huge aspects of Thai culture, so visiting a temple is a great way to travel like a local. That said, let’s hop right into our list of the top 5 Chiang Mai temples!
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most popular landmark of Chiang Mai and one of the most sacred temples in Thailand. Located atop the mountain, its shining golden stupa is visible from almost anywhere in the city.
The winding road up to the temple reveals incredible views and multiple waterfalls. To reach the temple, you have to climb around 300 steps. While that’s much less than the 1,237 steps to reach the Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi, it’s still tiresome. It’s best not to think about it, enjoy the journey and wonder in awe at the view from the peak. There’s a large terrace overlooking Chiang Mai and the landscape is absolutely jaw-dropping. If you only have time for a single temple in Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep is the one.
Entry Fee: 30 Baht
Wat Chedi Luang
Chiang Mai’s Old Town has a number of temples to choose from, but Wat Chedi is by far the best. (Not so) hidden inside is a one of a kind jade replica of Buddha that tourists travel from afar to see up close.
The temple used to be one of the tallest buildings in Chiang Mai until an earthquake hit the city and destroyed the tower. Centuries ago, it remained an active place of worship. Back in the mid-90’s, it was partially restored and that’s honestly part of the appeal. Being able to see its age alongside what it once was is just beautiful.
Entry Fee: 40 Baht
Wat Sri Suphan
Wat Sri Suphan, also known as the Silver Temple, is one of the most unusual temples in Chiang Mai. Scratch that – it might be the most unusual temple in Thailand! The walls and the roof are completely covered in silver. While that doesn’t sound too strange, keep in mind that gold is norm. Gold in Buddhist belief is a reflection of light or purity, so most temples are covered in gold.
Take a step inside Wat Sri Suphan and the silver becomes way more intense. The interior is extremely impressive with fine silver carvings, vivid colors, and large mirrors. Even the statues of Buddha are silver-plated, except for the largest one placed at the altar.
Wat Sri Suphan is an active ordination hall and only men are allowed to enter.
Entry Fee: Free/donations
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh is the most revered temple not only in Chiang Mai, but in the whole country. It houses about 700 monks who often approach visitors to practice their English.
Who doesn’t want to speak with a Thai monk? Language exchange is a wonderful thing. Give a little English, learn some basic Thai phrases in return.
The temple complex strikes the adventurous side of your soul with beautiful architecture and lavish decoration. A small chapel at the rear is the most visited place in Wat Phra Singh. Many people visit the temple to pay respect to the famous Buddha image Phra Singh.
Entry Fee: 20 Baht
Sitting in the suburbs of Chiang Mai near a quiet forest, Wat Umong is the perfect spot for a peaceful afternoon walk. If you want a more quaint Chiang Mai temple experience, this is the place for you. It’s a bit further from the city center, so it isn’t as popular with tourists.
Wat Umong translates to “tunnel temple.” Its name comes from the tunnels that lead you around. Unlike other Thai temples, Wat Umong has plain walls and a lack of decoration. It’s a completely different temple experience, with its soft echoes and auspicious environment.
A visit to Wat Umong is more like exploring 700 years old tunnels barefoot, wandering among mysterious Buddha statues and chilling in the garden.
Entry Fee: Free/donations