Chiang Mai: City of Temples
Chiang Mai was established in the late 13th century as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. Some of the temples in Chiang Mai are older than the city.
With so many temples it’s understandable for some visitors to become “templed out.” But if you take the time to notice the nuances of each, you will be rewarded with a culturally immersive understanding of the strong influence buddhism has on the people of Chiang Mai.
Some are very old, centuries old in fact. Some are plain and simple. While others gleam with exuberance. There are the main main tourist attractions that charge a foreigners fee to enter. While others are an escape from the crowds. It is easy to find one to visit, learn something new, 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. You will not pay a fee if you’re part of a touring group.
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.
Go super early in the morning when no one is around and you will have the temple to yourself. I went around 5:30 am and there was no one at the ticket booth and I had the entire temple to myself for an hour. Some people started to show up a few minutes before the sunrise. If you love sunrises, this is one not to miss. You may even have the chance to take part in the alms giving. The hordes of people will start flowing in once the sun rises and the atmosphere of a peaceful temple changes dramatically.
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang is located in the center of the old city. The name itself means large chedi. This a 15th century temple with a magnificant ancient chedi. Wat Chedi Luang was once the home of the famous Emerald Buddha. The King later moved it to the Temple of the Dawn in Bangkok. This is another of the tourist temples that you will need to pay an entrance fee but it is still worth visiting for its unique structures.
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, often refered to as the “seven peaks temple.” The temple is a tradition Lanna style temple. It is one of my favorites for peaceful reflection. Each time I have visited (about 5 different times), there were not many other people on the grounds.
Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dokis located on the west side of the city. It 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 can learn more more about buddhism at the weekly Monk Chats. The monks also run a Buddist mediation retreat.
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. The ancient temple was built around 1360. It is worth the visit for the intrinsic details and Lanna style artwork. Inside the main worship hall, Buddhist mosiacs cover the walls and ceilings. 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 was built sometime in the 680s. The name translates into the Temple of the Golden Mountain. The temple is not as high up on the mountain as Wat Doi Suthep. Even so, the view over Chiang Mai is still beautiful. At the front of the temple grounds is a 56 foot sitting Buddha.
There is a legend 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. The temple’s chedi houses this relic.
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.
**This post contains an affliate link. You won’t pay extra if you make a booking for your next vacation through this link. I may just earn a small commission which in turn will help sustain The Kindred Traveler.