Chiang Mai: City of Temples
How many temples are there in Chiang Mai? I’ve read there are over 300 temples in and around the city. Chiang Mai was established in the late 13th century as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. But there are temples that existed long before the founding of this culturally rich city.
With so many temples it’s understandable for some visitors to become “templed out.” But for those who take the time to notice the nuances of of the ones you do visit, you will be rewarded with learning the unique stories each holds and how each have shaped the Chiang Mai of today.
Some are very old, centuries old in fact. Some are plain and simple. While others gleam with exuberance. Others have become main tourist attractions that charge a foreigners fee to enter. With so many possibilties and difference characteristics, it is easy to find one to visit, learn something, reflect, and enjoy a great sense of mindfulness.
Visiting the Temples in Chiang Mai
I have been to Chiang Mai a dozen of times to visit my mom and family. This is a list of some of my favorites. Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Prat Singh charge a 50 baht entrance fee. If you take a tour to Wat Doi Suthep, fee is often included. But if you go super early in the morning when no one is around and you will have the temple to yourself. I went arond 5:30 am and there was no one at the ticket booth. Some people will start showing up to see the spectacular sunrise. But the hordes of people will start flowing in once the sun rises and the atmosphere of a peaceful temple changes dramatically.
Wat Doi Suthep
One of the most sacred temples for the people in Chiang Mai. It is named after the mountain that the temple sits, Doi Suthep. Doi meaning mountain in the Thai language. During the annual Buddhist holiday, Visakha Bucha Day, thousands of Thais make the trek by foot to the temple.
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang can be found in the center of the old city. The name itself mean large chedi. This a 15th century temple with a magnificant ancient chedi. The temple once housed the Emerald Buddha but was later moved to the Temple of the Dawn in Bangkok.
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh, also know as the Temple of the Lion Buddha, is probably the second most sacred temple in Chiang Mai after Wat Doi Suthep. The temple was built in 1345. It is one of the most visited and recognized temples in Chiang Mai.
Wat Jed Yod
Wat Jed Yod is an ancient temple outside the old city. The temple gets is often refered to as the “seven peaks temple.” The temple is in the tradition Lanna style. The grounds of the temple are very peaceful and often does not get many tourists visiting. It is a great place for reflection.
Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dok can be found on the west side of the city. Wat Suan Dok is a royal temple. Right outside of the main hall there are white mausoleums that hold the remains of the royal family of Chiang Mai. Visitors interested in learning more about buddhism can attend the weekly Monk Chats and also are invited to attend a Buddist mediation retreat.
Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli sits on the north side of Chiang Mai on the outside of the moat that surronds the old city. This is another ancient temple built around 1360s. This is another often overlooked temple. But it is worth the visit for the intrinsic details and Lanna style artwork. Inside the main temple, the walls and ceilings are covered with Buddha mosiacs. The ashes of some some of the several of the Meng Rai Dynasty, the founding family of Chiang Mai.
Wat Doi Kham
Wat Doi Kham is thought to have been built sometime in the 680s. The name translates into the Temple of the Golden Mountain. Though not as high up as Wat Doi Suthep, visitors are rewared with a beautiful views looking south onto Chiang Mai. At the front of the temple grounds is a 56 foot sitting Buddha. legend says that the Buddha visited the area and met two large giant cannibals. The Buddha convinced the giants to give up this lifesyle and convert to Buddhism. Having done so, the Buddha gave the giants a strain of his hair. That relic of the Buddha’s hair is enshrined at the temple’s chedi.
Have a favorite temple you have visited?
Whether it is in Chiang Mai, other parts of Thailand or anywhere in the world, share your favorite ones in the comments below.