Next to Bangkok, Chiang Mai is probably the biggest destination for visitors to Thailand. Rich with northern Thai culture, clean air, and plenty of beautiful sights to see, the mountainous "northern capital" of Chiang Mai is not to be missed. Here are four top famous and historic temples to visit when spending time in the north of Thailand. So hop on one of Thailand's new night trains, and explore the beautiful historic city of the north!
Sitting high on a mountain overlooking Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Doi Suthep is a 13th century temple, and is one of the most sacred holy sites in northern Thailand.Wat Doi Suthep is the principal temple in Chiang Mai, and one of the top destinations when visiting the north.
Climb the 309 steps leading up to the temple building to the glittering golden chedi in the central courtyard, the most sacred spot at the temple, which is said to hold a fragment of the Buddha's shoulder bone.
At the temple, you can light incense, pray, and make merit at the most holy site in the city. If you get tired, there are plenty of nearby restaurants, souvenir shops, and coffee stalls to take care of you! Enjoy the nice breeze and cooler temperatures at the top of the mountain.
Wat Phra Singh
Back down the mountain, head into the city center, surrounded by ancient walls and a muddy moat, to the spiritual and historic heart of the city: the Old Town, where some of the most famous historic temples are located.
Wat Phra Sing, since 1935 a Royal Temple of the First Grade, is a 12th century temple named after it's most important statue, the Phra Buddha Sihing, a relic said to have been brought to Ayutthaya long ago from ancient Ceylon.
The grounds of this temple are remarkably beautiful, with lush green gardens and glittering golden chedis alongside the dark teak wood temple buildings.
Wat Phan Tao
Perhaps one of the most beautiful and iconic sites in Chiang Mai is Wat Phan Tao, a 14th century monastery, and one of the oldest remaining original all-wooden temples. The bright saffron of the monks' robes stands out strikingly against the dark wood of the temple, making the whole scene feel timeless and surreal.
Prayer flags hang from the high rafters of the dark wooden temple, and the inside is quiet and peaceful. It's the perfect place to meditate, or just take some beautiful photographs.
Of particular note is the wooden carving of a peacock over the temple entrance. The peacock was the historic symbol of the ancient Kings of Chiang Mai, and a sort of unofficial symbol of the city itself.
Wat Chedi Luang
Very near Wat Phan Tao is Wat Chedi Luang, a 14th century temple which once held the famous Emerald Buddha, which now sits at
The 82 meter-high chedi was at the time of its construction the tallest building in the kingdom, and it still dwarfs the surrounding temple buildings. Although the Emerald Buddha now resides in Bangkok, there is a replica of Thailand's holiest artifact on the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang.
This is also a really great place for visitors who want to learn more about Buddhism! Wat Chedi Luang offers a free daily "monk chat" where visitors can sit down and chat with novice monks who want to practice their English. Visitors are encouraged to ask about anything they want to know regarding Buddhism. The monks are more than happy to answer any questions, or just sit down and chat.