Are you thinking of travelling around Thailand? Well then, a visit to Chiang Mai should be on your list.

Chiang Mai is the laid-back cultural capital of Northern Thailand, located between abundant nature and mountains possessing a lovely climate almost all year round. It's one of my most favourite places to visit in all of Thailand, let alone Southeast Asia!

Are you wondering how many days to stay in Chiang Mai and what there is to see and do?

Here is my ultimate answer to what to do in Chiang Mai in 3 days with a full itinerary for a visit to remember this beautiful mountainous city. You are welcome!

3 days in chiang mai
chiang mai itinerary 3 days

Why Should You Visit Chiang Mai?

You may wonder what's so special about the second biggest city of Thailand and what's is actually worth including in your Chiang Mai itinerary? So let us get to know the place a little better.

Chiang Mai, also known as “the rose of the north”, is located roughly 700km north of Bangkok and is Thailands second largest city. You will be able to experience diverse culture that has evolved from the golden era of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and more.

If you love authenticity and natural beauty where modern touches come mixed with traditional style, Chiang Mai is a great destination choice – festivals, vivid religious art, architecture, dance, temples and even the local hill tribes in the mountains of Chiang Mai can be visited.

The province covers the high mountains and the abundant plains by the Ping River where you can take in traditional countryside life plus fantastic views of the dense forest, complete with the flowing waterfalls in Northern Thailand.

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The Best Time To Visit Chiang Mai

There are three seasons that characterise Chiang Mai. The hot season or summer from March to May, the rainy season from May to October, and the cool season which I refuse to call winter but which is a little cooler, from November to February.

Given the tropical climate, I highly recommended visiting Chiang Mai during the cool season when it is dry and not too hot.

Once you are there, there are so many cool and fun outdoor activities to try on your 3 day Chiang Mai itinerary, like visiting the beautiful and unique Elephant Nature Park, going zip-lining through the rainforest, hiking, trekking, and mountain biking at Doi Inthanon National Park and whitewater rafting

And did I mention the many day trips you can take outside of the city?

When you return from exploring out in nature, you can always lay-low and visit one of the many night markets. After a long and tiring day, I would absolutely recommend to get a relaxing Thai massage and treat yourself with a lavish feast of Thai food. Don't forget to finish it all off with a Mango Sticky Rice, my all-time favourite desert!

Popular Chiang Mai Activities

How Expensive Is Chiang Mai?

Overall, Chiang Mai is cheap compared to other destinations in Thailand such as Bangkok, Phuket, or Koh Samui. The cost of living is very affordable and you can expect to get a lot for what you pay.

How Expensive Is Food In Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai is a modest place, you can find inexpensive eateries and street food marketplaces all around.

Food and accommodation is a crucial part of your travel budget. Here in Chiang Mai, you can get a good meal for less than 50 Baht if you decide to eat where the locals do. Prices will increase as you eat at any of the tourist spots or you can give yourself a treat and eat in a five-star hotel for just about $50 or 1,500 Baht.

You can also expect that if you buy groceries to a foreigner’s taste like Tops or Rim Ping supermarket, it will be more expensive of course.

How Much Do Hotels Cost In Chiang Mai?

Accommodation isn't expensive either in Chiang Mai.

All depending on your taste and lifestyle, if you are simply visiting and staying at a hostel or you want to stay in one of the awesome 4 or 5-star resorts. But you can find a bed in a hostel for a few dollars, one of the cheapest accommodation options I have seen in probably all of Southeast Asia.

Or if you come into town as a digital nomad (like I once did!), then you can live a good life with about 15,000 Baht monthly or around $500-600 USD. You can find a private twin room in the Nimman Area from 500 Baht a night to 960 Baht.

If you are more into the experience of the Old City, you can stay in a hostel dorms from 289 Baht to 470 Baht – of course, these prices are subject to change and according to the season.

Extra tip: If you are planning to stay in Chiang Mai for a few more days or even weeks/months, make sure you bargain a good deal upon your arrival, Thai people are usually very open to this and will give you a better rate if you stay longer.

chiang mai 3 day itinerary
chiang mai 3 days

How Expensive Is The Nightlife In Chiang Mai?

If you enjoy nightlife and having a few drinks, I recommend that you ready yourself with the pricey cost of imported liquor which can reach up to 275 Baht per pint of Guinness since everything alcohol is heavily taxed in Thailand.

On the other hand, if you would like to taste local Southeast Asian brews like Singh, Chang, Leo and Tiger, it is as cheap as 50 Baht per bottle.

How Expensive Is Transport In Chiang Mai?

Another important thing is transportation. Chiang Mai is very easy to navigate and you can walk to many places around the walled Old City.


You don’t have to worry about the stressful traffic since you can easily take a Songthaew which is essentially a shared taxi or bus, there are many all around the Old City and you'll easily spot these small trucks as they are red and honking.

Ride Your Own Scooter

Driving in Chiang Mai is a bit more full on if you're in the Old City, but it can be a good method of transportation outside of the city center as it is a great way to do some day trips, given you have experience driving a scooter or motorbike.

Rent a scooter (about 300 Baht per day) or get around the place with a shared taxi, also known as Songtheaws, which are the cheapest option. You can get to a destination around the city at around 20 Baht as the driver picks up other people along the way and the cost is basically shared.

Tuk Tuk

Another option for you is a Tuk Tuk. They are faster in terms of travel but it will cost you 100 to 200 Baht around the inner city, depending where you go and how heavy the traffic is. Always bargain!

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Where To Stay In Chiang Mai?

Some of my favourite hotels in Chiang Mai are:

99 The Heritage

Located in the Old Town, this is a wonderful affordable 4-star boutique hotel choice in the center of it all. The hotel has a pool, restaurant and free bikes for rent.

Check current rates and availability on: | Agoda

The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai

Set 15-minute outside of the hustle bustle of the city among huge landscaped grounds.

Just beautiful suites with a blend of Thai and colonial and a magical place to stay in Chiang Mai. 

Check current rates and availability on: | Agoda

Panviman Chiang Mai Spa Resort

Surrounded by tropical greenery, Paviman Chiang Mai is set in the mountains outside of Chiang Mai.

The hotel offers massages and facial and body treatments at the resort's own Viman Spa. Make use of the exercise facilities such as the fitness centre, mini-golf course or jogging track. A total oasis that feels like a retreat away from the city.

Check current rates and availability on: | Agoda

STrips the Poshtel

A great boutique hostel right near the Night Bazaar. The rooms all come with air conditioning and offers private ensuite or shared bathrooms.

All beds have a private reading light and lockers. Free breakfast and WiFi and bike rental for a small fee.

Check current rates and availability on: | Agoda

If you still haven't found the ideal place to stay in Chiang Mai, read my huge article about the best hotels and guest houses from budget to luxury in this article here.

Now that you are familiar with the best time to visit and where to stay, let's see what are the top things to do in Chiang Mai.

I hope you find my suggested Chiang Mai itinerary interesting and helpful, enjoy!

Your Ultimate Chiang Mai Itinerary In 3 Days

Day 1: Thai Culture & Temple Hopping


They say, you should always, always start your day with a good breakfast. And I couldn't agree more!

Here are my recommendations for grabbing the best breakfast in Chiang Mai:

  • Overstand Coffee Shop – Open six days a week and offering a sumptuous breakfast, lunch, as well as coffee and drinks. They have vegetarian and vegan options, serving locally grown and roasted coffee, health food smoothies, and fresh bread daily. Yum!
  • Blue Diamond – This breakfast club offers a big variety from Thai vegetarian food and home made bread, fruit bowls, fresh juices, eggs and so much more. It's almost become an institution to Chiang Mai. Open from breakfast to dinner, they serve fresh meals along with coffee and drinks.
  • Rustic and Blue – There is no hardly another beautiful place like Rustic and Blue where you share a meal with family and friends, or whoever you are travelling with. Feel at home in their little backyard and enjoy the delicious and creative dishes that are made from fresh, seasonal and local ingredients.
  • Larder Cafe and Bar – One of my favourites from back in the days. Fresh food is being served in this cafe is something to look forward to – try the Breakfast Hot Dog!
three days in chiang mai

Now that you are content and filled with exceptional food, you can start exploring all of what the Old Town has to offer.

I assure you, there are a lot of things to do in Chiang Mai and at the end of your three days you will wish you had just another three days. 

Put on your walking shoes and get a little lost in the beautiful Old Town, walk around or rent a bike and explore at your pace.

You should definitely visit the following sights in Chiang Mai – best to plug them into Google Maps and then walk your way around the Old Town:

  • Wat Chedi Luang
  • Tapae Gate
  • Wat Chiang Mai
  • Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center
  • Three Kings Monument
  • Wat Phra Singh
  • Have a conversation with a monk
  • Chang Mai National Museum
  • Watt Bupparam
  • Wat Phan Tao
  • Lanna Folk Life Museum
  • Chiang Mai Historical Center
  • Suan Buak Hat Park
  • Wat Chiang Man
3 days chiang mai
3 day itinerary chiang mai


Among all those wonderful places, do not forget to visit the Terracotta Garden, a totally cool hidden gem in Chiang Mai as this secret garden is often overlooked by travellers who are so focused on the wonderful temples around.

But a visit to this garden will take you out of this world, making you feel like you are in an ancient city. A perfect escape from the buzzing streets and heat of Chiang Mai. And while you're already here, take your lunch at Clay Studio Coffee In The Garden.

Continue your temple hopping around Chiang Mai or have a rest at your Chiang Mai accommodation.


In the evening, you definitely need to pay a visit to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar or any of the weekend night markets, if you happen to be here on a weekend that is!

Make sure you don't only spy for amazing artsy souvenirs, which are by the way probably the best souvenirs you can find in Thailand, but be sure to eat your way around as there are some incredible yummy food stands service up chicken skewers, Northern Thai style salad, spring rolls, curries, pancakes, mango sticky rice and fresh juices.

chiang mai 3 days itinerary
3 day chiang mai itinerary
what to do in chiang mai for 3 days

Day 2: Unleash Your Creativity & Sunset In The Mountains


If you not only like to eat Thai food but also like to learn how to make it yourself, go for a cooking class in Chiang Mai, it's absolutely awesome!

You can take a cooking class right in the Old Town or opt for a class on a farm just outside of Chiang Mai and visit a traditional market with a local guide on the way to get all your fresh ingredients before cooking.

I choose the farm cooking class and loved it!

Book Your Chiang Mai Cooking Class Here.

If you aren't into cooking, you can also try a photography tour or jewellery class, Thai massage or art workshop instead.

Want to do a photoshoot instead and get some awesome shots of you, with your partner or friend around town? Book your personal photoshoot here.


In the afternoon, take a ride up by scooter or in a shared Songthaew up the mountain about an hour before sunset and visit the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple located up here.

Stay until after sunset and you'll be part of the daily ceremony and hear the monks chanting. A beautiful sight and sound to witness, so make sure you don't leave too early to get back to the city.


The best way to end your second day is with a soothing massage and some Thai food and a good nights sleep as tomorrow it's another full day of activities!

itinerary chiang mai
things to do in chiang mai in 3 days
chiang mai three days

Day 3: Discover Beyond Chiang Mai City

Morning To Afternoon

For your last day, I recommend you don’t stick to the city itself but visit some places outside of Chiang Mai, simply because that's where the real adventure lies.

I recommend you check out some the following:

  • Go on a scooter trip through the mountains (check out my Chiang Mai day trips article for this)
  • Visit the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park and see the amazing work being done at this elephant sanctuary and rescue center. It pays to book ahead as it has become very popular to visit and if want to book upon your arrival you might not get a spot. This is one of the most popular activities in Chiang Mai and regularly booked out in high season, so make sure you book ahead if you want to visit the most reputable and ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand. 
  • Try water-water rafting or rock climbing.
  • Go on a zip lining adventure, Flight of the Gibbon Eco Zip Line Adventure is the best, book it here.

Book you adventure activities a little ahead of time since 3-days is not long in the city and you don't want to miss out or waste time organising tours on the spot.

Best Chiang Mai Tours


In the evening, upon your return, have a taste of the best coconut mango curry in possibly all of Thailand which you'll find at Cooking Love Restaurant in the Old Town. And then, if you are ready for some drinks and good vibes visit the THC Rooftop Bar.

Alternatively, join a Chiang Mai evening street food tour and enjoy a 2.5-hour culinary tour of Chiang Mai as you learn how to order and eat real Thai street food.

Book Your Chiang Mai Food Tour Here.

Thailand Must-Pack Items

Goodbye Chiang Mai

This is my perfect three-day itinerary to Chiang Mai and exploring everything this city has to offer. Or well, at least you get a taste of many different things.

The combination of history & culture, modern Thai life, and fun-filled outdoor activities, delicious and fresh food, workshops and great views will surely make you want to return to Chiang Mai in no time.

If you are visiting Chiang Mai as part of a trip around Northern Thailand, also check out my 7-day itinerary or if you have more time to see Northern Thailand, read up on my 14-day travel itinerary, you will be wanting to come back for more!

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