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Unwrapping the Ultimate 3-Day Chiang Mai Itinerary for an Unforgettable Trip

Unwrapping the Ultimate 3-Day Chiang Mai Itinerary for an Unforgettable Trip 

I had a friend from Bangkok who was staying there for over a month and wanted to experience the countryside for three days. Naturally, I suggested Chiang Mai since it fits her travel goals—and I had to come, of course!

Cut to the end of the trip, and I’m happy to report that we had the time of our lives! If you’re saying, “Really? Can you explore the best of Chiang Mai in just three days?”

Well, that’s why I’m here! As someone who has had his fair share of travels (mainly in a time-crunch because, work and life), I can say I’m pretty great at fitting the most important things in very little time (low budgets considered)!

So, without further ado, here’s how you can also enjoy Chiang Mai in all its glory in as little as three days! Let’s go!

Day 1: Exploring Chiang Mai’s Old City

For your first day in Chiang Mai, you’ll be exploring a lot of attractions in the Old City.  

We suggest arriving the day before to give yourself time to prepare for this 3-day trip and start the day with our breakfast recommendation.

Otherwise, begin your journey with our lunch recommendation. With that said, you must plan your trip ahead of time so you won’t have to waste the hours. 

Start your day with a breakfast at the Blue Diamond (The Breakfast Club)

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Address: 35/1 Moon Muang Road Soi 9, Si Phum Sub-district

Operating Hours: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Monday – Saturday)

Contact Number: +66 53 217 120


Prices: ฿–฿฿

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes

Blue Diamond is a well-known breakfast spot for those visiting Chiang Mai City. It’s an excellent place to grab tea, coffee, sandwiches, fried rice, and hamburgers.

 You can even enjoy the restaurant’s relaxing garden dining area, where they have a koi pond which is pleasing to watch when eating breakfast. 

The restaurant’s bestsellers are their vegan options. Think: vegan burger, vegetable juice, gluten-free salad, bread roll, and a bagel with vegan cream cheese.

Aside from that, Blue Diamond is also within walking distance of Wat Chiang Man which is one of the city’s must-visit temples. That makes it the perfect place to energize yourself before heading to your first stop.

Make your first stop at Wat Chiang Man

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Address: 171 Ratchapakhinai Road, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District 

Operating Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Daily)

Costs: Free

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes

Wat Chiang Man is only a 5-minute walk from Blue Diamond, so it’s definitely the best place to start your temple-hopping experience in Chiang Mai’s old city. This temple is popular for its ancient chedi with gold accents.

Though the chedi’s timeworn base makes the intricate elephant carvings look uninteresting, it causes the golden dome and spire to stand out instead. These modern and vintage elements make it one of the more unique temples in Chiang Mai.

Aside from that, this temple is packed with ornate prayer halls, ordination halls, and shrines, so there are plenty of things to see. Be sure to visit during its opening hours to enjoy sightseeing without worrying about huge crowds.

Drop by Wat Saeng Mueang Ma Luang

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Address: 175 Prapokkloa Road, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Daily)

Costs: Free

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes

Wat Saeng Mueang Ma Luang is one of the less touristy temples in Chiang Mai, but we think it’s definitely worth checking out. In fact, this hidden gem is perfect for pleasant morning strolls since it doesn’t get many visitors during the day.

Here, you can see elegant ivory-white temples with intricate golden carvings and patterned roofs. There are also structures with vibrant red accents which we think make the entire temple complex a sight to behold.

If you enjoy snapping photos of religious structures, you’ll most likely place Wat Saeng Mueang Ma Luang on top of your favorite temples list.

See Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang’s traditional Lanna architecture

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Address: 13 Intrawarorot Road, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 6 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 81 022 8626

Costs: Free

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes

This black and gold temple in the heart of the old city is definitely worth adding to your Chiang Mai 3-day itinerary. Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang features traditional Lanna architecture, so expect elegant dark teakwood walls and motifs.

Our team was particularly a fan of the temple’s darker hue because it makes the golden accents stand out. Meanwhile, Wat Inthakhin Sadua Muang’s gorgeous interiors are filled with intricate murals and wall carvings.

The temple’s outdoor red clay shrine, in particular, is a must-see. Its ceiling has some of the best-looking golden floral patterns from any Buddhist structure we’ve ever seen (and yes, this right here is IG perfect for a selfie.)

Check out Wat Phantao’s intricate teakwood architecture

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Address: ตําบล พระสิงห์, 105 Prapokkloa Road, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 53 814 689

Costs: Free

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes

If you enjoy looking at intricate teakwood architecture, you’ll love visiting Wat Phantao. This monastery has plenty of structures made with dark teakwood, so it’s great for tourists who enjoy looking at gilded wooden walls and prayer halls.

Our favorite is Wat Phantao’s principal golden Buddha image because it looks more vibrant inside the temple’s dark teakwood halls. This statue follows the late Chiang Saen style, so it has an extended flame-like finial and finer hair curls.

But, you’ll still see numerous Buddha images within Wat Phantao with the classic Chiang Saen style designs. Think larger hair curls, orb-shaped finial, plump face, and highly curved eyebrows to make you stand out even more. 

Explore Wat Chedi Luang’s temple complex

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Address: 103 Prapokkloa Road, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 5 a.m. – 10 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 97 195 4695


Costs: ฿

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes

Wat Chedi Luang is arguably the most popular temple in Chiang Mai’s old city, so it’s definitely a must-visit. This 600-year-old temple complex is also the city’s largest, so expect to see many structures: Buddha images, Naga statues, staircases, and more.

The temple complex has already undergone numerous reconstructions, so you’ll also find a lot of modern and vintage structures. The main chedi is the most ancient-looking structure inside Wat Chedi Luang since it’s already full of gaps where pigeons roost.

Its staircase is blocked off so you can’t walk up to the golden Buddha image, but it’s still the most visited part of the temple. That tells you you need to move fast if you want to have a selfie with the whole gang or people will be swarming in no time. 

Visit the Lion Buddha at Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan

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Address: 2 Samlarn Road, Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 99 249 9395


Costs: ฿

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes

This temple is popular because it enshrines the relic of the Phra Buddha Singh, also known as the Lion Buddha. That’s why it attracts huge crowds of locals and tourists who want to see or pay their respects to this important religious relic.

Aside from that, Wat  Phra Singh Woramahawihan is also famous for its beautiful temple structures. This includes its golden bell-shaped chedi, gilded ivory-white ordination hall, reclining Buddha image, and several Naga statues.

It’s also popular among pilgrims because it houses other sacred relics and statues. Think Buddha footprints, carved stone tablets, and statues of revered monks.

=Explore Chiang Mai’s top-rated restaurants for lunch 

For lunch, the nearby Baan Buri Café & Restaurant is a solid choice if you’re up for some reasonably priced Thai dishes. Think pad Thai, pad see yue, khao pad, red curry, khao soi, and Thai basil chicken.

Don’t forget to get one of their incredible dessert options, from pannacotta to affogato, banana split, and ice cream sundae.

Or you can head to Khao Soi Khun Yai if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option. A satisfying bowl of khao soi is only 50 baht. This place is popular among tourists and locals, so be sure to get here early or you won’t secure a seat.

Otherwise, the Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee Kao Soy Nimman is an excellent alternative if you like to eat khao soi and other classic Thai dishes. Just don’t come here when you’re famished because orders sometimes take at least 30 minutes to arrive.

Enjoy a relaxing massage at Fah Lanna Spa – Old City

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Address: 57, 57/1 Wiang Kaew Road, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chang Wat 

Operating Hours: 12 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 88 804 9984


Costs: ฿฿

Duration: 1 to 4 hours

If you’re a fan of relaxing massage and spa treatments, Fah Lanna Spa is the place to go. This spa opens at noon which makes it ideal to visit after enjoying your lunch in Chiang Mai’s old city.

It has a relaxing garden setting so it feels like you’re away from the buzzing city. Fah Lanna Spa offers numerous treatments that last between 1 and 4 hours, so understand that your choice will affect how many activities you can do afterward.

We recommend their signature Fah Lanna Wisdom treatment. It’s a 3-hour spa treatment consisting of an herbal steam bath, traditional wai kru ceremony, body balance checking, betel leaf skin detox, and face and body massage.

Get your afternoon caffeine fix at Fahtara Coffee

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Address: 57 Wiang Kaew Road, Sripoom Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 88 804 9984


Costs: ฿

Duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour

The coffee lovers on our staff swear by this cafe in the heart of the old city. It’s certainly a great place to get your afternoon caffeine fix in the middle of your 3-day Chiang Mai itinerary.

Fahtara Coffee has a charming rustic interior with a small garden dining area. That makes it ideal if you enjoy sipping coffee in a pleasant natural setting and atmosphere.

This cafe is also popular for its organic and premium tea leaf selections which are served by the pot. The black Ceylon is their best afternoon tea, but we also love the Emperor Sencha which is a refreshing Japanese green tea.

Shop your way through the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

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Address: Changklan Road, Chang Moi Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 5 p.m. – 12 a.m. (Daily)

Costs: Free

Duration: 2 to 4 hours 

Exploring this buzzing night market is one of the more exciting experiences you can get out of your 3-day itinerary in Chiang Mai. It’s packed with lively street vendors, so there are plenty of options for food, clothes, souvenirs, accessories, and handicrafts.

Our favorite thing to do is hop between stalls to try numerous Thai street foods. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hit the stalls selling exotic Thai snacks like deep-fried scorpions, centipedes, ants, and more. 

There are also live concerts in the market, so expect a fun atmosphere during your entire time here. Aside from that, you’ll also see street painters, beauty salons, and bars, so you won’t run out of things to do if you decide to stay until the market closes.

Have Dinner

If you tried numerous food stalls in the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, you should already be covered for dinner. Otherwise, The Vorra Bistro is a great place if you like to go for Italian and Mediterranean dishes.

It’s an elegant but casual restaurant where you can enjoy dishes like high-quality pasta, pizza, risotto, and wine while listening to a live band.

The Happy Frog is also worth checking out if you want to sample a variety of Thai and Western dishes. This restaurant is particularly known for serving premium cheese, cold cuts, and fresh oysters.

Listen to live music at the North Gate Jazz Co-Op

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Address: 91 1-2 Sri Poom Road, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District 

Operating Hours: 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. (Daily)

Contact: Number: +66 81 765 5246


Costs: Free

Duration: 1 to 2 hours 

The North Gate Jazz Co-Op is one of the hottest live music bars in Chiang Mai’s old city, and we think it’s definitely worth a visit if you don’t want to be at the bazaar all night.

This place is a casual jazz music bar, so they typically only have local musicians playing. Plus, it’s not always the same band performing, so you can expect to get different tunes and vibes while you’re here. 

Just know that the place gets packed as the night goes on which is great if you plan to meet new people.

Day 2: Have a Cultural-Centered Experience in Chiang Mai

After hitting the temples and leisure spots in the old city area, spend your second day in Chiang Mai on cultural experiences. 

Learn how to cook Thai food at the A Roi Dee Cooking School

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Address: Singhraj Road, Tambon Si Phum, Muang 

Operating Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 87 175 2872


Costs: ฿฿

Duration: 4 hours

A Roi Dee Cooking School is one of the best places to learn how to cook Thai food. Plus, they have a half-day class from 8 a.m. until noon which makes it ideal for the first half of your second day in Chiang Mai.

Here, they’ll put you on a farm tour where you can harvest fresh ingredients you’ll use for your cooking lessons. Their cooking menu includes curry (red, green, Panang), khao soi, deep-fried minced chicken toast, pad kra pao, pad Thai, and mango sticky rice.

And, you’ll even learn how to make Thai curry paste from scratch so you can make the authentic version at home. But that’s not all—you also get to eat your food which means you’re already covered for brunch or early lunch.

Grab some lunch

The 7 to 8 dishes you made at A Roi Dee Cooking School should be good enough for your lunch in Chiang Mai. Otherwise, you could still go for some dessert options at Fruiturday, from fruit smoothies to sliced fruit bowls and ice creams.

Our favorite was the coconut smoothie. It has a well-balanced and natural sweetness since they don’t add any sugar to it, not to mention it’s a great natural energy booster. 

Visit Doi Suthep’s mountain temple

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Address: Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Daily)

Costs: Free

Duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of Thailand’s holiest temples, so it’s definitely worth the 32-minute commute from Chiang Mai City. That’s why it attracts crowds of locals, tourists, and pilgrims who want to visit its pagodas, golden stupas, and museum.

Moreover, this temple is well-known for its sweeping Naga staircase which is one of the most photographed temple structures in Chiang Mai. It has over 300 steps, so it’s also great for travelers who like to hike or challenge themselves.

Or you can pay 20 baht for a cable car at the base of the mountain if you only want to explore Wat Phra That Doi Suthep’s beautiful temple complex. Aside from Buddhist structures, the temple has numerous vendors, so you’re covered for food and souvenirs.

Hike to Wat Pha Lat via the Monk’s Trail

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Address: บ้านห้วยผาลาด 101, Sriwichai Alley, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Daily)

Costs: Free

Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours

If you enjoy hiking through nature trails, you’ll love the journey to Wat Phat Lat via the Monk’s Trail. It’s a straightforward trail from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, so you won’t get lost even without a tour guide.

Since this is a downhill path, the hike is forgiving to beginners. Plus, it’s perfect for nature lovers since the Monk’s Trail is one of the best birdwatching spots in Doi Suthep.

Once you reach Wat Phat Lat, you’ll find that it’s one of the most visited jungle temples in Chiang Mai. It also has numerous Naga statues, Buddha images, and prayer halls, so expect to see many locals who visit to pray or pay their respects.

Go cafe-hopping on Nimmanahaeminda Road

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Address: Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 24/7

Costs: Free

Duration: 1 to 2 hours

The best way to end your hiking trip from Doi Suthep is by visiting the popular cafes on the Nimmanahaeminda Road, also known as Nimman. Here, you can relax at some trendy coffee shops like Graph One Nimman and Ristr8to Original.

Aside from that, this stylish road is packed with restaurants, clothing stores, and art galleries, so there are plenty of things to see and do if you stroll around its neighborhood.

Have dinner in Nimman

Go for The Rock Me Burger and Bar in Nimman if you want somewhere close that offers a great selection of beef burgers that can make even the hardest meat lover cry. You can even challenge yourself with their triple patty burgers or massive steak and ribs.

Or head to Crazy Noodle for a mindblowing bowl of rice or egg noodles in spicy tom yum broth. And, you can upgrade it with numerous topping options: fish, shrimp, squid, pork cutlet, fried egg, salted egg, sausage, chicken, and more.

Join the intense party at Zoe in Yellow

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Address: 48, 1 Ratvithi Road, Si Phum Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Operating Hours: 5 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 95 695 6050


Costs: Free

Duration: 2 to 4 hours 

For avid partygoers, Zoe in Yellow is an excellent nightclub where you can dance to electrifying DJ music and drink beer in buckets. Just know this nightclub is in the old city, so it’s a great option if you’re still booked at your previous hotel.

That’s why it attracts huge crowds of tourists vacationing in Chiang Mai. The DJs here play chart-toppers and hip-hop music so it’s one of the more trendy nightclubs in the area.

If you’re still on the fence on where to go, take note that your days are numbered in the walled city so meeting people and going out would be a plus.

Day 3: Explore a unique attraction

To complete your 3-day itinerary in Chiang Mai, we recommend two options. You can spend the day exploring Thailand’s most popular national park or book a day tour to spend time with elephants.

These are solid options, but you can only choose one since you can’t juggle between the two in one day. For now, you can scratch one from your bucket list and reserve the other for your next visit to Chiang Mai.

Doi Inthanon National Park

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Address: 119 Ban Luang, Chom Thong District

Operating Hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 53 286 729


Costs:  ฿–฿฿

Duration: 10+ hours

A Chiang Mai itinerary won’t be complete without a visit to Doi Inthanon National Park. It has the highest peak in Thailand, so it’s definitely worth the trip if you like to watch picturesque hilltops and cloudy mountainscapes.

Moreover, it’s well-known for its numerous nature trails and lush forests which makes it a must-visit for hikers, campers, and animal lovers. In fact, it’s a top-tier bird watching spot in Chiang Mai, with over 500 recorded bird species within its borders.

The park also has a Royal Agriculture Project which is nice for those who enjoy strolling around colorful flower beds. 

You can also spend the night here if you want to experience camping in the park’s stunning hillsides and wake up to its awe-inspiring sunrise.

Elephant Nature Park

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Address: 289 Kuet Chang, Mae Taeng District

Operating Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Daily)

Contact Number: +66 53 286 729


Costs: ฿–฿฿

Duration: 9+ hours

This ethical animal shelter is great for tourists who want to spend a day observing or walking with rescued elephants. Elephant Nature Park is a vast reserve, so the animals here can roam freely and enjoy their day foraging, playing, and bathing.

Since the park is an ethical shelter, you won’t see elephant shows or be allowed to ride them. Instead, you can spend the day participating in feeding, bathing, and walking activities.

Their tours include a private shuttle service, so you only need to wait from your hotel in Chiang Mai City. This shuttle service should also take you back to your hotel at 5:30 p.m.

Refuel at a nearby restaurant

If you go to Doi Inthanon National Park, Inthanon Restaurant Chom Thong Chiang Mai is one of your best options. This restaurant serves classic Thai dishes for reasonable prices.

Or, you can drive to the nearby King of Noodle for an affordable and filling bowl of Thai noodles. However, that may not be enough if your stomach is aching to have a solid meal (if you’re like me).

Meanwhile, lunch is included in Elephant Nature Park tours, so you’re already covered if that’s where you decide to go. So you can have more time with the animals, not to mention walk through the jungle with your precious companions. 

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