Chiang Mai is Thailand's second city after Bangkok and perfectly blends the ancient cultural traditions of the Lanna region with a modern burst of partying. It is a must for all travelers.
Known as the Rose of the North, this fun and friendly city offers no end of things to see and do. Most visitors focus on the moat-enclosed Old Quarter with its wealth of guesthouses, bars and tasty northern food. This is the original city core, established in the 1300s by King Mengrai, but it still thrives with an energy rarely found outside Bangkok.
Chiang Mai's most important and ancient temples, such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, are among the best of the dozens of Buddhist havens that dot every corner of the Old Quarter. On Sundays, the road leading from Tha Pae Gate (the main gate in town) turns into a wonderful pedestrian walking street market.
Little bars and restaurants can be found all over the old quarter, but head down to the Ping River for a relaxing break from the urban bustle. Riverside pubs and restaurants are a great way to wind down after a day of sightseeing. The popular Night Bazaar is the perfect way to end a day.
There are also countless attractions worth seeing just outside of the city center. The towering mountains of Doi Suthep flank the western edge of the city, and a trip up the cool slopes to Doi Suthep Temple is a major highlight for any visitor.
Small traditional villages surrounding the city are home to local craftspeople and a great way to experience the old style of northern Thailand. Ban Tawai is where to look for wood carvings, while Bosang is famous for its parasols.
Chiang Mai is a major hub for travel to northern Thailand. It's international airport handles dozens of daily flights from around the country and several Asian destinations. The train reaches its terminus in Chiang Mai, and there are buses arriving hourly from every corner of Thailand.