More than 5 million visitors go on Chiang Mai holidays, a provincial capital and major cultural center in mountainous northern Thailand. Called the nation’s “Rose of the North,” the city is located in a sprawling valley along the Ping River. An important historic trading hub, it is famous for its jewelry, carvings, colorful umbrellas and other handicrafts. Tourists today especially enjoy the city’s many festivals and fireworks.
While no traveler has time to explore Chiang Mai’s diverse treasury of attractions, several sites are not to be missed.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Many of Chiang Mai’s more than 300 Buddist temples inspire visitors with reverential awe. The most eminent, the ornate Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, dates to the 14th century. Situated on a distant mountain overlooking the city, it provides expansive views. The hardiest travelers ascend more than 300 steps to reach the height; others take advantage of a cable ride. According to legend, leaders selected the temple site by having a Buddhist artifact lashed to the back of an elephant and watching the animal wander until it fell dead.
Chiang Mai Zoo
Also on Doi (Mount) Suthep is the Chiang Mai Zoo. A panda couple are visitor favorites among the 200-plus animals native to Asia and Africa. An aquarium and Thailand’s largest aviary also are on the premises, housing fish, reptile and bird species from remote habitats in Thailand and around the world.
Elephant Nature Park
One of several elephant parks, farms and camps in the Chiang Mai vicinity, the 60-hectare (150-acre) Elephant Nature Park is a haven for injured and otherwise endangered elephants. Tourists gain unexpected insights into the animals’ lives, observing them in a natural setting. Volunteer activities include helping feed and wash the elephants; overnight and weeklong activity packages are available.
The Dokmai Garden, set within a scenic savannah, encompasses 4 hectares (10 acres) containing some 1,200 tracheophyte, vegetable and fruit species. Visitors also observe resident butterflies and moths as well as some 70 species of wild birds that are attracted to the garden.
Hilltribe Research Institute Museum
The museum depicts the life ways of Thailand’s nine hilltribe groups and the diminishing Mlabri ethnic group. Artifacts include costumes, farm and household tools, musical instruments and religious items. The museum also features interesting photographs and video presentations.
Chiang Mai attractions have plenty to offer tourists and is certainly a destination that you must visit when holidaying in Thailand.