Chiang Mai temple on a mountain: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Arguably Chiang Mai’s most memorable temple is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It is one religious structure that every visitor to the northern capital must visit while travelling to Chiang Mai. Known to tourists as Doi Suthep, this incredible temples sits atop a giant mountainside found west of the city centre and provides visitors with sprawling views of the city below.
As its name suggests, the temple sits on the mountain of Doi Suthep. It came to be during the reign of King Keu Naone in 1383. It is believed that the temple was built in order to house a piece of bone from the Buddha’s shoulder, otherwise known as the Legend of the White Elephant. Though the origins are not quite known for sure, one thing remains clear: you must visit this temple if you are ever in Chiang Mai. It is best to visit the temple in the morning in order to beat the crowd and the heat! There is also a ฿30 (about $1) entrance fee.
Location: VIEW MAP
Visiting temples in Chiang Mai: Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang
Luckily for you, the temple of Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang hardly gets many visitors. When you frequent this temple, there is a big chance that you will be the only person meandering its impressive grounds, which is rare in a popular city like Chiang Mai. This towering religious structure might be found in a small and oftentimes unoccupied complex, however, it will surely impress all those who visit it.
Found in the old part of the city, this temple is one adorned with one of the most impressive rooftops in the city, with seemingly four staggering tops one on top of the other. The temple, also known as Wat Hua Khuang, is guarded by intricately depicted dragons, which only add to its complex design.
Location: 175 Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand — VIEW MAP
Chiang Mai temples: Wat Chiang Man
Chiang Mai’s oldest temple is certainly worth a visit for those visiting the northern capital. This marvel of architecture was actually established by Phaya Mengrai, the city’s founder. It was established in 1296, though carvings and other structures were continually added throughout the years. In addition to the temple, the grounds are also home to a chedi, or stupa. Stone elephants are found around the exterior of the base, which is contrastingly topped with a golden spire.
Location: 270 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand — VIEW MAP
One of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai: Wat Chiang Yuen
Wat Chiang Yuen is considered the national temple of the city. It also houses one of the most important Buddha images in Chiang Mai: Phra Suppunyu Chao. Before any king could become the ruler of the ancient city, they first had to pay homage to this image in order to gain a good fortune in their life. Chiang Yuen means long life, which is how the temple received its name. Wat Chiang Yuen was abandoned when the city was overtaken by the Burmese but was later reconstructed in 1794 by Phraya Wachiraprakan (Kawila).
Location: Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand — VIEW MAP
Temples in Chiang Mai: Wat Sum Pow
Wat Sum Pow is a Buddhist temple built during the Mangrai Dynasty. It is located in Old City and easy to get to, making it a for sure stop on your temple itinerary. It is also known as Wat Sam Phao. It is Lanna in style and though it is small, you should definitely make a short stop here to revel in its incredible architecture. In addition to being the site of a temple, you can also get a traditional Thai massage here!
Location: 158/2 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand — VIEW MAP
Temple home to a Lanna-style chedi: Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang is another one of the city’s most memorable temples. It was built in 1401 and used to stand at about 90 metres tall. It was later destroyed in an earthquake in 1545 and no longer towers at such a great height, however, it is remarkable all the same. In addition to the temple, the Lak Muang Shrine is also found on the grounds of this ancient site. Feel free to meander, and be sure to take photographs as you go. It is also here that you can partake in free monk chats!
Location: 103 Road King Prajadhipok Phra Singh, Muang District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand — VIEW MAP
Temple in the heart of Chiang Mai’s old town: Wat Phan Tao
Wat Phan Tao sits just adjacent to Wat Chedi Luang. While it is certainly not as memorable, it is home to characteristics that will entice even the most templed out of tourists to meander its grounds in their entirety. Arguably its most memorable feature is the Lanna-inspired wooden carvings found throughout.
It was originally constructed to be a palace but was later turned into a temple. It is found within the city walls and is believed to have been constructed during the 14th century. Naga serpents are found around the structure as well as a giant white chedi. Lions are found outside the temple’s entrance for protection. Also, do not be surprised if you see a monk or two meandering the grounds of this historic place, as well.
Location: Phra Pokklao Rd., Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand — VIEW MAP
Best temple for a sunset: Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dok is different than the rest of the temples on our list. While each one is remarkable in their own way, this one stands out because of its stark white colour and simple abundance of structures that make up the entirety of the temple. Wat Suan Dok was built in the 14th century but remains one of the most popular wats, or temples, in the city today.
This is probably one of the most picturesque of temples in the entire city, and it is easy to see why. The mausoleum garden is teeming with white pagodas that are Lanna in style, with a shimmering, golden pagoda adding just the right amount of colour to the site.
Location: 139 Suthep Rd, ตำบล สุเทพ อำเภอ เมืองเชียงใหม่ Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand — VIEW MAP
Temples in Chiang Mai: Wat Umong
If you are looking to get off the beaten path in terms of temples, Wat Umong is the one to frequent. It was built in the 14th century and was originally intended to be a monastery but was abandoned and remained empty for years, which could explain why it is so seemingly overgrown with foliage. This only adds to the beauty of the temple, however. Wat Umong was not used again until the 1940s, and all of the overgrown plants were slowly but surely removed from the structure.
On a large, artificial mount sits a giant pagoda. It is wrapped in gold and white cloth and is surrounded by forestry, making it one of the most unique temples on our list. In addition to the pagoda, there is a meditation centre, spiritual hall, tunnel, small lake, and a museum on site, as well. Wat Umong is found at the beginning of the Doi Suthep mountain, so it is a good stop off point if you are taking a motorbike to the temple of Doi Suthep. Wat Suan Dok is also nearby, so visiting these three temples in one day could be an ideal venture!
Location: Su Thep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand — VIEW MAP
Visiting temples in Chiang Mai: Wat Lok Molee
Wat Lok Molee is unique in many aspects. For one, it features a chedi built during the 14th century that may be one of the most picturesque of all the chedis found in the temples around town. It is believed to be one of the oldest temples in the entire city, as well. The religious structure even houses the ashes of some important people in power during the Mandrai Dynasty. There is no admission fee into this temple.
Location: — VIEW MAP
Temple of the Lion Buddha: Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh, otherwise known as the Monastery of the Lion Lord, is one temple you will not want to miss out on frequenting. The Buddhist temple apparently came to be in 1345 and was built to house the ashes of King Kham Fu during the Mangrai Dynasty. It also houses Phra Buddha Sihing, which is how the temple received its name.
The temple later received restorations once in the 1920s and again in the early 2000s. The main chedi is what holds the ashes and is Lanna in style. It is a popular spot for Songkran, the famous water festival that takes places in Thailand in April. Another noteworthy find on the grounds is the library, so be sure to check this out!
Location: — VIEW MAP
Silver temple: Wat Sri Suphan
It is easy to see why Wat Sri Suphan is also known as the Silver Temple. The hand-crafted silver design found throughout the entirety of the religious structure will have visitors in awe, and many of the carvings depict Buddhist legends. The temple is believed to have been built by a silversmith village in 1502, though little remains of the original structure. The temple that stands today, however, is unforgettable all the same.
Location: VIEW MAP
How to get around Chiang Mai
Most of these stunning temples are found within the walled city. Those found outside of the city centre can be reached by hiring a form of public transportation, like a tuk-tuk or songthaew. You can rent a bicycle to get to the ones in and around town. This will set you back about ฿50 (about $1.60) a day. The price of transportation will depend on the number of people that are going to the temple as well as what temple you are going to.
What to wear to a temple in Thailand
While many of the temples may not state any information about what to wear before entering, it is important to note that there is a dress code to each one of these ancient temples. Men and women must cover both their shoulders and knees before entering any temple. Women must also cover their chests. Some temples will not have any type of security out front to stop you if you are not covered, however, it is still considered disrespectful to enter a temple with too much skin showing. Be sure to take your shoes off before entering any prayer halls, as well.
More information about the top temples in Chiang Mai
Do you want to know more about the top temples in Chiang Mai? Then check out these articles we have rounded up featuring the most beautiful religious structures in town!
- 10 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai in Chiang Mai by Hotels.com
- The Most Gorgeous Temples To Visit in Chiang Mai by Hannah Smith for Culture Trip
- 7 Best Temples In Chiang Mai for Nomads Wind
- Temples of Chiang Mai by Lonely Planet
- 7 Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai by Joanna for The Blond Travels