Chiang Mai is a vibrant, culturally rich, and laid-back city located in northern Thailand. With its ancient temples, bustling night markets, lush green landscapes, and delicious cuisine, it’s easy to cover all the city has to offer in a 5 day Chiang Mai itinerary.
Chiang Mai has become increasingly popular for travelers seeking an authentic Thai experience.
It’s famous for its Yi Peng festival (otherwise known as The Lantern Festival) which takes place every November, as well as being a hot location to enjoy Songkran (Thai New Year) which is celebrated by washing the Buddha statues at the temples and having water parties in the street.
Even if you are not visiting Chiang Mai during one of these festivities, there is so much to see and do.
In this guide, we have provided you with the ultimate Chiang Mai 5-day itinerary that covers the best of Chiang Mai and more…
Is 5 Days Enough for Chiang Mai?
Before we get into the best 5 day itinerary for Chiang Mai, let’s quickly cover how many days you need to spend in the city.
5 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Chiang Mai, as it allows you to explore the city and the surrounding region without rushing to fit everything in.
You can spend some days relaxing in the city, take it slow, and visit one or two attractions per day.
You can see Chiang Mai in 3 or 4 days, but you would have to rush to fit everything in, whereas 5 days allows you to travel more leisurely.
Read more: 1 Month Itinerary for Thailand
The Best 5 Day Chiang Mai Itinerary
So without further ado, here is how to spend 5 days in Chiang Mai…
Day 1: Exploring the Old City
On your first day in Chiang Mai, we recommend exploring the old city. The old city is located inside the historic city walls, and surrounded by a moat.
The old city is home to some of the city’s most historic temples and landmarks and is one of the main reasons to visit Chiang Mai. Be sure to check out the remains of the Tha Phae Gate, located on the Eastern side of the city.
Begin your day by visiting Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan, a stunning temple complex that dates back to the 14th century.
The temple complex features beautiful chedis (stupas), ornate carvings, and intricate murals.
After visiting the temple, walk over to the Three Kings Monument, a sculpture dedicated to the three Kings (Mengrai, Ramkamhaeng, and Ngam Muang) who are the founding fathers of Chiang Mai.
Then head over to the Wat Lok Moli which is located on the outside of the north gate. This temple dates back to the 1300s and has a beautiful historic chedi with colorful prayer flags at its base.
Next, head to Wat Chedi Luang, an ancient temple that was once home to the Emerald Buddha.
Although the original 14th-century structure was damaged in an earthquake, it remains one of the city’s most impressive landmarks. It’s famous for its enormous chedi (stupa) made from bricks, with huge elephant statues at its base.
I recommend you visit this temple during sunset as it looks impressive when the night lights turn on and light up the four corners of the chedi.
End your day by having dinner at the Tha Phae Walking Street, where you can sample street food, shop for souvenirs, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
In the evening, you can watch a Muay Thai fight (Thai Boxing) which takes place nightly starting at 9.00 pm.
Day 2: Elephant Sanctuary and Doi Suthep
On your second day in Chiang Mai, take a trip to an elephant sanctuary. When choosing an elephant sanctuary to visit, we recommend you ask about your accommodation or do some research online for an ethical sanctuary.
There are many sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, each offering to provide a safe and ethical way to interact with elephants without supporting the cruel practices of elephant riding and exploitation.
The most ethical sanctuaries allow you to observe without interacting with the elephants while learning about their habitat and conservation efforts.
If a sanctuary allows you to ride, feed, bathe, or play with elephants, they are not ethical.
Elephant sanctuary tours last for half a day, so try to time your visit for the morning, so you can spend your afternoon exploring Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a beautiful temple complex perched on a hill overlooking the city.
The temple features a golden pagoda and intricate carvings, and the views from the top are breathtaking.
If you have time, you can visit the Sticky Waterfalls(Namtok Bua Tong) in Nam Phu Chet Si National Park on the way back. This is the perfect place to cool off with a refreshing swim in the pools of the waterfall.
Day 3: Cooking Class and Night Bazaar
On day three, you may want to do something more relaxing, so I recommend you take a cooking class to learn how to prepare some of Thailand’s most delicious dishes.
During a Thai cooking class, you’ll visit a local market to learn about Thai ingredients before returning to the cooking school to prepare your own curry paste and other dishes.
You will also learn about Thai cooking methods and culinary etiquette.
These classes tend to take 2-3 hours, so it’s best to plan for half a day to do this class.
Afterward, relax with a traditional Thai massage before heading to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar for some authentic street food.
The bazaar is a bustling outdoor market that offers everything from clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs to street food.
If you’re visiting on a Sunday, you could also take a trip over to the Sunday Night Market which is another great place to find street food and shop for souvenirs.
Day 4: Doi Inthanon National Park
On day four, take a day trip to Doi Inthanon National Park, located about 60 kilometers southwest of Chiang Mai.
The park is home to Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, and features stunning waterfalls, hiking trails, and scenic viewpoints.
Spend the day exploring the park, hiking to the summit of the mountain, visiting the Karen Hill Tribe Village, and marveling at the beautiful flora and fauna.
Day 5: Yoga Retreat and Nimmanhaemin Road
On your final day in Chiang Mai, book yourself into a yoga retreat to relax, unwind and rejuvenate your mind and body.
Chiang Mai has many yoga studios and retreats that offer a variety of classes and workshops suitable for all levels of experience.
Afterward, head to Nimmanhaemin Road, a trendy neighborhood in Chiang Mai known for its coffee shops, art galleries, fashion boutiques, and restaurants.
Spend the afternoon exploring the area, trying out different cafes, and shopping for souvenirs.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has a wide range of accommodations to suit all budgets and preferences. Here are some of our top picks for places to stay in Chiang Mai…
- Pakping Hostel. This is a new hostel that opened up in 2022 and features mixed and female-only dorms, with a modern and homey atmosphere. The owners are incredibly nice and helpful, and the location can’t be beaten – literally in the heart of the Old City. We stay here every time we go to Chiang Mai.
- Rachamankha Hotel. This is a charming boutique hotel located in the city center, within walking distance of the city’s temples and attractions.
- Le Meridien Chiang Mai. This is a modern 5-star hotel with stunning views of the city and a rooftop pool. It’s located outside of the Old City near the Night Bazaar, but still within walking distance of the city’s attractions.
- Sala Lanna Chiang Mai. A boutique hotel located on the banks of the Mae Ping River, offering stunning river views. This is a quiet location outside of the main city, and would be the perfect place to stay during the Lantern Festival (a Thailand bucket list experience) as it overlooks the river where the Loy Krathongs float downstream.
- Amora Hotel Chiang Mai. A budget-friendly option located in the heart of the city, just outside Tha Phrae Gate, offering comfortable rooms and easy access to all the major attractions.
Read more: When Is The Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai?
Map Of This Chiang Mai Itinerary
To help you plan your route, here is a map of this Chiang Mai 5 day itinerary…
FAQs About This Chiang Mai Itinerary
Here’s what people usually ask us about visiting Chiang Mai…
Is 5 days too long in Chiang Mai?
If you’re a fast-paced traveler, then 5 days may be too long for you. But if you prefer to travel slowly, allocate time to relax and soak up the atmosphere of a place, then 5 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Chiang Mai.
Which part of Chiang Mai is best?
The Old City is the best place to stay in Chiang Mai since it’s central to most attractions. You can also find great accommodation in Karin Thip Village, located on the Eastern side of Chiang Mai outside the old city.
Final Thoughts on this 5 Day Chiang Mai Itinerary
Chiang Mai is a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage and plenty of natural beauty to explore.
Whether you’re interested in history, food, or adventure, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city, and should not be skipped when visiting Thailand for the first time.
With this 5-day itinerary, you can experience the best that Chiang Mai has to offer and make memories that will last a lifetime.