The Temples Of Chiang Mai
With over three hundred temples in Chiang Mai, how do you decide which ones to visit?
Hopefully, the information below may help you decide.
First of all, Buddhist temples are called Wats which is a Sanskrit word meaning enclosure.
They can be very simple or really elaborate but all will have the main prayer room with an image of the Buddha.
The best way to discover the Wats of Chiang Mai is to explore the city for yourself just by wandering around.
You may come across a gem hidden away down a side street that hardly anyone knows about.
But here are the favourites that we recommend.
Hidden Temples In The Old City
Wat Phan Tao
This is probably our favourite Wat in all of Chiang Mai.
It’s one of the only timber Wats and is less glitzy than some of the other temples but is absolutely beautiful.
You’ll find it slap bang in the middle of the Old City on Soi Phrapokklao
If we were in town we’d often go and just sit in the main prayer room to take some time for contemplation and quiet.
Be warned though, Wat Phan Tao gets very busy with visiting tourists and they even turn up by the busload.
Pick the time of day you visit carefully to avoid the crowds.
The evening is a nice time to be there and sometimes you may be lucky to turn up when the monks are in prayer.
They also pray outside around a statue of Buddha by a small pond and have special events that are just magical as the monks walk around the temple with lit candles.
This Wat is probably one of the oldest in Chiang Mai and was first built in the 14th century.
The name Wat Phan Tao means the temple of a thousand kilns.
In the grounds of the temple, you’ll find a beautiful golden Stupa
Monks In Prayer At Wat Phan Tao
Monks In Prayer By The Pond At Wat Phan Tao
Wat Chedi Luang
Next door to Wat Phan Tao you’ll find the remains of the huge Chedi ( stupa ).
At certain festivals, it’s traditional to walk around the chedi in a clockwise direction.
It’s great to join the local Thai people in this tradition rather be an observer.
The Huge Stupa At Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Outside of town, in a beautiful position, in the Doi Suthep mountains, overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep.
This is a very sacred place for many Thai’s to visit and can get quite crowded at times.
You’ll need to catch a Songthaew from the city, and it’s quite a good idea to get the driver to wait for you to take you back again.
You should arrange the price beforehand so that you’re not surprised by an inflated fare for the journey back.
The first stupa was built on the site around 1383 and has expanded quite a bit since then.
There are quite a few steps up to the temple but, once up there the views are wonderful.
The Staircase Up To Wat Prathat Doi Suthep
The Surroundings Of Wat Prathat Doi Suthep
Wat Sri Suphan
The Silver temple is a very special place to visit.
Located just South of the Old City is the silver temple.
The entire temple is covered in silver, inside and out and was built in 1500 to serve as the main temple for a silversmiths village.
Unfortunately, women aren’t allowed to enter the interior of the temple but can walk around the outside.
The temple looks amazing especially in the evening when it’s lit up by coloured lights.
If you get a chance to join the free, monk walking meditation don’t hesitate.
We joined in the meditation by following the lead monks who while chanting will walk around the temple three times.
You hold candles and a flower while walking, then at the end put your candle by the image of Buddha outside the temple.
We loved the experience and found it very insightful.
The Amazingly Beautiful Wat Sri Suphan
Silver Buddha At Wat Sri Suphan
Wat Sri Suphan
Wat Saen Mueang Ma Luang
We found this temple almost by accident just walking around the Old City.
There weren’t any tourists to take away from the lovely peaceful atmosphere of the place.
We just saw a few locals and a couple of sleeping dogs laying in the shade.
You’ll find it near to the North gate of the Old City on Soi
It’s easy to spend some time here just taking it easy or sitting in the shade somewhere,
The temple buildings are very ornate and beautifully decorated.
The Lovely Wat Saen Ma Luang
Decorative Buildings At Wat Saen Ma Luang
Painted Doors At Wat Saen Ma Luang
Wat Chiang Mun
Dating back to 1296, this is Chiang Mai’s oldest Wat.
It’s located in the North West corner of the Old City fairly close to Wat Saen Ma Luang.
The oldest part of the temple is the Chedi and is known as the elephant chedi as you’ll see 15 elephants carved into the stone base.
The walls of the interior of the temple are covered in paintings depicting the life of the Buddha.
We found this Wat to be less visited, and peaceful to look around.
Wat Chiang Mun And The Elephant Chedi
Beautifully Decorated Walls Depicting The Life Of Buddha
Another beautiful but tiny gem lies right in the heart of the Old City near to the three kings monument on Thanon Intrawarorat.
It’s pretty small but is just amazing in its beauty.
Take a look inside and you’ll be blown away by the decoration.
Being so small I think it gets passed by without too much notice from tourists but stop a while and you’ll fall in love with it.
The Small But Lovely Wat Inthakhin
The Interior Of Wat Inthakhin
Also in the Old City, you’ll find Wat Jetlin.
The temple here is nothing special but there is a nice fish pond out the back where you can buy fish food to feed them.
There’s a walkway over the pond and as you feed the fish, you’ll see big catfish come to the surface as well as all the grey pigeons that come to steal the food.
The special thing that happens at this Wat, is the chance to join in a monk chat.
It’s a chance to sit down with a group of Buddhist monks ( mostly novice monks ) and is absolutely free opposed to some of the other monk chats in town that have quite high charges attached.
With about five other people we sat down with three monks and were able to ask anything we wanted about their lives and Buddhism.
It was such an eye opening experience and we learnt so much about the Buddhist way of life as well as monk life.
The monks are very easy to talk to and relish the chance to get to practice their English so it’s a win-win situation for all.
We think it’s so important to get good insight and background into Buddhism when staying in a place like Chiang Mai with all of its culture.
The Stupa At Wat Jetlin
Chatting With Monks At Wat Jetlin