Best Temples In Chiang Mai To Put On Your Bucket List!
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A beautiful city located in Northern Thailand has become one of the most popular places to live for digital nomads. Surrounded by the mountains, with no direct access to the sea, Chiang Mai is less frequently visited place in the country by tourists. They usually chose to put Bangkok and islands on their Thailand itinerary.
Too bad! There is something magical about Chiang Mai which is kind of hard to describe. Maybe it’s the oddity of the street markets. Or the friendliness of local vendors. Maybe the creative atmosphere that you can feel in almost every cafe. Or maybe the beauty of the city itself, that has an amazing Old Town and interesting outskirts. You name it! There must be a reason so many foreigners decided to make this city their base.
In this post, you will find the list of the best temples in Chiang Mai. If you are planning a trip to Thailand, be sure to read my other posts that will be really helpful in planning your travel.
Wat Khuan Khama it the only temple in Chiang Mai built in the commemoration of a horse! Don’t forget to stop by the notice board at the entrance which tells the story of the horse groom serving under General Jaomun Damtuang. When his most beloved horse died, he donated his land to build a temple here, dedicated to the horse.
Coming to the beautiful architecture, the chedi of the temple is built in an old Lanna style. While most of the doors and columns have intricate floral carvings on a red background.
Inside the main Viharn, you will see vibrant beautiful paintings high on the walls, that depict the traditions and life of people in Chiang Mai. While on the altar, you can see 9 Buddha statues, in different mudras (poses) which is again something very unique to this temple.
As you circle the temple and proceed towards the exit along the boundary wall, you will also notice various animal figures in gold. These are actually representative of the Chinese– Thai zodiac.
Overall, the history, the architecture, and the campus of this temple is very unique, which makes it one of the best temples in Chiang Mai.
How to get to Wat Khuan Khama?
Located just across from Wat Lok Moli, this temple is a landmark in itself, with several gold horse idols perched along its wall. You can easily take a shared songthaew from anywhere in Chiang Mai and get down here.
What’s the entry fee to Wat Khuan Khama?
What are the opening hours of Wat Khuan Khama?
The temple is open daily from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Wat Sri Suphan
Chiang Mai is the second-largest city in Thailand with an exciting number of historic sites, a great collection of travel attractions, and a vibrant food scene.
The city embraces a unique culture of Northern Thailand, which differentiates itself from the country’s capital, Bangkok, through its art and religious venues.
While Chiang Rai, a nearby city further north in Thailand, is famous for its Wat Sri Suphan (the White Temple) and the Black House, an art museum that displays various eerie art artifacts about death. There is a temple in Chiang Mai that celebrates Buddhism in a different color.
Wat Sri Suphan, or the Silver Temple, is a Buddhist temple located in the south of Chiang Mai Old City, very close to the Wua Lai Walking Street. It’s one of the weirdest temples in Thailand. Built during the Mangrai Dynasty in the 16th century, it is a Lanna-style architecture that is intricately ornated and completely covered in silver. The temple is not big, yet the decorations are impressive. The carvings and sculptures of the temple are all hand-made and are a display of the life and legends of Buddha.
Why is it covered in silver? It was because the temple was originally built as the main temple in a silversmith village. Today, you may still find many silver studios in the neighborhood with artists creating beautiful silverworks that makes them a good souvenir or gift.
How to get to Wat Sri Suphan?
Located just outside the Old Town, Wat Sri Suphan is easy to walk to. You can also take a taxi or tuk-tuk to get there.
What’s the entry fee to Wat Sri Suphan?
It’s 50 THB (~$1,50) per person.
What are the opening hours of Wat Sri Suphan?
It’s open daily from 9 AM to 9 PM.
Wat Pha Lat
Perhaps the most underrated temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Pha Lat. This overgrown temple has hidden jungle vibes and was barely known to travelers until recent years. Look out for intricate carvings and stone Buddha statues as you step over the moss-covered branches that lie across a tumbling waterfall.
This temple is along the Monk’s Trail, which eventually finishes at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, and was originally built as a rest stop for monks on the way to its more famous and opulent counterpart. I highly recommend the full hike, especially if you want to get out of the city smoke.
You also have a beautiful view of Chiang Mai from here too! It is serene and still used as a meditation sight. Take a seat on the stone walls and gaze over the city beyond – perfect for solo or introvert travellers who want to escape the crowds below.
How to get to Wat Pha Lat?
You can catch a Grab bike or Songthaew to the beginning of the Monk’s trail hike – Wat Pha Lat Hike comes up on google maps. You could also take a songthaew directly to the temple. I recommend going early, especially if you’re doing the full hike, to avoid the heat.
What’s the entry fee to Wat Pha Lat?
The admission is free.
What are the opening hours of Wat Pha Lat?
The temple is open from 5 AM till 6 PM.
Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in Chiang Man. It dates from the end of the 13th century when the city was founded. It represents a blend of different architectural styles. What’s unique about this temple is that not many tourists know about it, so you will be able to explore it almost alone.
The temple complex is situated in a lush garden where you can relax on one of the many benches scattered throughout the garden. Have a walk around the gorgeous greenery to find a little pond with koi fish and an enormous Ficus tree.
There are two main temples in the complex, both beautifully decorated in gold and red and the larger one features the city’s oldest image of Buddha holding an alms bowl.
There are also some beautiful murals inside the temple, and if you exit through the back door, there are more buddha statues to explore. In front of the main meditation hall, there is a gripping, large stupa with curved elephant statues. Because of the stupa, the Wat Chiang Man temple is also known as the Elephant Temple.
How to get to Wat Chiang Man?
You can take a tuk-tuk here or cycle, which may be even more enjoyable.
What’s the entry fee to Wat Chiang Man?
It’s 40 THB (~$1,25) per person.
What are the opening hours of Wat Chiang Man?
Wat Chiang Mai is opening up at 8 am. The gates to the temple close at 6 pm.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (full name: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Ratcha Woraviharn, is a Buddhist temple complex (Wat) located about 15 km west of the city center of Chiang Mai. It is a Royal Second Class Temple and basically the symbol of Chiang Mai.
The biggest highlight of the temple is definitely the 24 meters high gilded chedi, which is said to contain a relic of the Buddha.
However, the most stunning thing about the temple is definitely its location. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located on the slopes of Doi Suthep Mountain in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park at an altitude of 1,056 meters. You can reach the temple complex via an elongated staircase, the railings of which are decorated with snakes. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by properly green nature, an untouched landscape, and the best view you can get.
The national park itself has a size of 261.06 km² and was opened in 1981 as the 24th national park in Thailand. At the foot of the temple complex, there is a large parking lot with several small shops and restaurants.
If you drive down the street into the national park, you will see the Buhbing Palace, the summer residence of the royal family. Most of the year the palace is open to visitors and it is worth taking a walk through the extensive, well-tended gardens. The flowering plants are not the only colorful thing in the national park.
Numerous hill tribes still have their home here. You can reach the largest village by following the road deeper into the national park. Although tourism has long since moved here, much of the original way of life can still be admired.
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai. It’s located in Lamphun, a suburb about 40 km outside the city.
The temple’s outstanding feature is the central stupa. In the 9th century, an erstwhile king from the Hariphunchai dynasty has built the central stupa to house hair of Lord Buddha. Haripunchai kings were some of the earliest rulers in Nothern Thailand and Lamphun was their capital. In the 11th century, another Hariphunchai king has built the temple complex and the compound.
This temple complex was renovated several times. What you can see today is the pyramid-shaped stupa named Chedi Susanna built by a Lanna king in the 15th century.
The main temple building houses a large Buddha statue from the 15th-century Lanna Kingdom in Northern Thailand. In the compound, you can find a stone with four footprints. Legend says that it indicates Lord Buddha’s visit to the region.
How to get to Wat Phra That Hariphunchai?
To get here, you can book a tour, take a taxi or hire a bike from the center of Chiang Mai. It makes for a meaningful, culturally-immersive half-a-day visit. Opposite the temple, you could also visit handloom workshops run by local women.
What’s the entry fee to Wat Phra That Hariphunchai?
There’s no admission fee to visit the temple complex. It is still very much off the tourist radar. As always, make sure you respect local customs. Don’t’ forget to remove your shoes before you enter the temple and cover your knees, and wear long sleeves.
What are the opening hours of Wat Phra That Hariphunchai?
Located on the western side of the old city Wat Phra Singh is pretty much opposite Tha Pae Gate on the eastern side following straight along the main Rachadamnoen Road (around 1km).
Meaning it is easy to reach from anywhere within the old city walls. So Wat Phra Singh was built in the time of Khu Basrivichai a revered monk in Northern Thailand (Lanna) and the temple was named after the year of the tiger (Kharn) in which he was born.
And while Wat Phra Singh means ‘Tiger Monk Temple’ (Wat = Temple, Phra = Monk, Singh = Tiger) it is more commonly known as ‘lion temple’ (Singto = Lion) as they’re almost interchangeable in Thai architecture (lions are not native to Thailand). So tigers/lions will be found depicted throughout the architecture and the design of the temple, including those that guard the front gates of the compound.
There are also other unique features as including the double-sided entrances to the central ordination hall (ubosot), and the big golden chedi (stupa) which is dedicated to the year of ‘big snake’ (marong).
The temple is also said to be the 1st to house the famed Emerald Buddha that now resides in the Emerald Buddha Temple at Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
How to get to Wat Phra Singh?
You can easily walk to the temple, take a taxi or tuk-tuk.
What’s the entry fee to Wat Phra Singh?
To enter Wat Phra Singh there is a 20 Baht charge for tourists.
What are the opening hours of Wat Phra Singh?
The temple is open daily from 6 AM till 5 PM.
Wat Chedi Luang
Located close to the historic center of Chiang Mai, Wat Chedi Luang is also known as the temple of the big stupa.
Wat Chedi Luang construction occurs between the 14th and 15th centuries, during the Lanna Kingdom period. The great chedi (pagoda) measured at its peak around 80 meters tall and remain one of the tallest temples in the city.
A massive earthquake, in 1545 destroyed part of the chedi. But, in the 90’s a restoration work, financed by UNESCO and the Japanese government has made. However, the top of the chedi has never reconstructed, mainly because there has no idea how the original looks liked
In 1468, Wat Chedi Luang housed the Emerald Buddha before the image moved to Luang Prabang in Laos and then to Wat Phra Kaew, in Bangkok. A copy of Emerald Buddha, made from black jade was built in 1995 for the 600th anniversary of the chedi and placed in one of the niches.
In the temple ground, you can also find several other structures of cultural significance, including gum trees, believed to protect the city from all ills.
One of the best things to do when visiting Wat Chedi Luang is engaged in a monk chat. Every day, tourists are encouraged to speak with monks, usual novices about religion, Thailand, or any other matter. Chiang Mai is just one of the many regions to explore, but, the country has more amazing places. Check out these 12 best cities to visit in Thailand.
How to get to Wat Chedi Luang?
You can easily walk to the temple, take a taxi or tuk-tuk.
What’s the entry fee to Wat Chedi Luang?
The admission to the temple used to be free but, now there is a 40 THB (~$1,25) fee to pay.
What are the opening hours of Wat Chedi Luang?
Opening from 6 a.m to 6 p.m, the main entrance is south of Ratchadamnoen road, opposite to Phra Pok Klao road.
Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Man, and Wat Chedi Luang are considered as the top 3 best temples in Chiang Mai. Book your 4-hour tour to visit them all in one go! Click here for more.
Tips For Visiting Best Temples In Chiang Mai (and Thailand in general)
Remember- you will be visiting the temple. Wear long pants and cover your arms, if you want to see everything.
Wear socks if you care about hygiene.
If you are a hygiene freak, take socks with you. You can’t get into the temple wearing your shoes. You need to take them off before getting in. So if you are don’t want to walk barefoot, bring on your socks.
Don’t point your feet toward Buddha.
It’s very rude. Feet in Thailand are considered unpure, so it’s forbidden to show them directly to the Buddha statue.
Pay respect to people praying.
Just because you are a tourist, doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. The main purpose of the temple (and any sacral building) is for people to pray there.
While Thai are very tolerant, try not to take photos of them while they are meditation or talking with God(s).
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