Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, also known as simply Doi Suthep, is an ideal place to visit if you wish to seek spirituality during your trip to Chiang Mai. Located 25 km away from the main city and situated atop the Doi Suthep mountain amidst the dense forests of the Doi Suthep National Park, the holy shrine occupies a pious corner in the hearts of Thai people due to the history associated with it. Further, the stunning view of the Chaing Mai downtown region from the Doi Suthep temple makes it an ideal sightseeing destination to plan a visit to.
Known as the 'Monastery of the Lions and Buddha', Wat Phra Singh is one of the most popular temples in Chiang Mai. Constructed in the 14th century, it houses the Phra Singh Buddha, giving the temple its name. The viharns are intricately designed, with gold details of mythological beings. The walls depict mural paintings of local scenes and Buddha's past lives.
Wat Chedi Luang or ‘the temple of the Great Stupa’ is a Buddhist temple inside the old city in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The current temple grounds originally consisted of three temples — Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham and Wat Sukmi. The construction of the temple started in the 14th century under King Saen Muang Ma who planned to bury the ashes of his father there, due to prolonged issues the Wat was finally completed in the 15th century under the reign of King Tilokaraj.
Nestled near the Doi Suthep mountain, Wat U Mong Thera Jan is a holy site located about a kilometre from the city centre. It is among the more easily accessible temples in Chiang Mai. Wat Umong is also called the Tunnel Temple due to its labyrinth network of tunnels set within the forest. It offers a wholesome experience of Buddhism, complete with ancient stone structures, Dhamma teachings, meditation sessions and prayer chants reverberating in the air.
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Built in 1296 during the inception of Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Mai is the oldest temple in the city. It has two decorated viharns, which contain the oldest and highly venerated Buddha images. The temple is decorated with elaborate golden structures and intricate engravings. The compound also has a scripture library called the Ho Trai, and a lovely lotus pond.
Since it is constructed completely out of silver, Wat Srisuphan makes for one of the most breathtaking temples in Chiang Mai. The glistening interiors of the temple are also decorated from wall to wall with mirror work, silver and bright colours, along with a silver Buddha. The temple conducts monk chats, wherein visitors can converse with monks about Buddhism.
Wat Phra That Doi Kham, also known as the Golden Temple, is a temple housing a 17 metre tall golden statue of Buddha atop a hill. Set against the picturesque Doi Pui mountains with a panoramic view of the city below, the temple is said to preserve a lock of Buddha's hair. The complex is decorated with bells and gongs, as well as ancient sculptures of mythical creatures.
Wat Phan Tao, literally translating to 'temple of a thousand kilns' was originally used as a king's palace in the 19th century before being fully converted to a temple. The viharn is one of a kind, being made only of wood, carved perfectly with stunning details. The interiors contain a Buddha statue, sacred Buddhist scriptures and a Buddha throne. The temple grounds also have a kuti where monks reside.
Rich with history of its origin, Wat Lokmoli is a temple that dates back to the era of the Mengrai Dynasty during the 14th century. It is known most significantly for its chedi, which is among the largest of all the temples in Chiang Mai. The alluring temple is decorated with structures of traditional serpents, wooden carvings, ornamental gateways and even a statue of a Lanna queen.
Wat Phakhao is a small, quiet Buddhist temple located along Ratchapakhinai Road. Since it isn't very popular, it offers a respite from noise and crowds. The temple structures are simply built, with interiors decorated with red and gold designs, and the exteriors flanked by lovely gardens. The place holds also holds monk chats, where visitors can converse with learned monks about Buddhism.
Wat Ku Tao is a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai with traditional Burmese, Chinese and Confucian influences. Also known as Temple of the Gourd Pagoda, it borrows its name from its chedi that resembles a gourd or a stack of watermelons, which actually represents the lives of Buddha. It is a quiet temple with few visitors, making it perfect for some peaceful meditation and prayer.
Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang, literally meaning 'temple of the city navel' is a temple named after the city pillar called Sao Inthakin, which was situated close to the temple. The viharn, intricately detailed with woodwork and gold structures, houses the image of the Buddha known as Luang Pho Khao. The Inthakin Museum next door exhibits relics from the era of the Lanna Kingdom.
Located deep within a forest, Wat Pha Lat is among the few temples in Chiang Mai that merges the spirituality of Buddhism with the beauty of nature. It can be reached after a delightful hike along the monk's trail, completing which the temple offers a rewarding experience. One finds that stone images and carved statues are set amidst freely flowing waterfalls, sounds of birds and a peaceful atmosphere.
With a stunning white chedi guarded by four lifelike sculptures of lions, Wat Buppharam houses the largest teakwood statue of Buddha. On the compound is a Dhamma hall for prayer, where the walls and panels narrate the life and teachings of Buddha through murals and carvings. Heavily influenced by Burmese architecture, this temple is a hotspot of multiculturalism.
With a Burmese style chedi, viharn with Lanna architecture, and motifs of Hindu mythological creatures, Wat Mahawan is a temple rich in the cultural heritage of Thailand. The complex also has an ubosot, the prayer hall where monks are ordained. The Ho Trai, which once contained scriptures with teachings of the Buddha, now serves as the residence of the temple's abbot.
Situated in Mae Rim, Wat Phraphutthabat Si Roi is among the holiest Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai, since the temple grounds are said to contain footprints of Buddha. The temple structure itself is magnificently carved with bright colours and golden panels, along with a refreshing dose of greenery beautifying the compound, making it a feast for the eyes as well as the soul.
Wat Tha Ton is an important Buddhist temple in the village of Tha Ton. It is well-known for its stunning crystal pagoda, or Chedi Kaew, which is strikingly visible from afar. Adorned with inscriptions and sculptures of mythical stories, the compound houses a school, meditation centre and community outreach programs for the hill tribes, while also offering a scenic view of the country below.
Surrounded by thick jungles and lush vegetation, Wat Tham Pha Plong is a forest temple not far from the Chiang Dao mountains. The striking golden pagoda of the temple standing tall is visible even from a distance. The ascent to the temple is not easy, since it is reached after a hike up some 500 steps. The temple is known for the peaceful vibe and magnificent view it offers.
Though Wat Phan On is a small temple complex, it houses the most stunning golden chedi/stupa, made in 2007 by the King of Thailand, Rama IX. The architecture of the temple is a beautiful mix of rich gold detailing and wooden carvings depicting traditional myths and motifs. Complete with a large viharn and a kuti where monks reside, this temple represents authentic Thai culture.
The Wat Tham Chiang Dao is a Buddhist temple situated at the mouth of the Chiang Dao Cave. Its location within the thickets of a forest lend it an aura perfect for silence and meditation, aided only by the beautiful sounds of nature. The Tanjai Buddha image that sits within the cave temple is believed to grant all prayers and wishes.
Wat Jet Lin, also known as Wat Chedlin, is one of the quieter temples in Chiang Mai. The temple interiors are bathed in bright red and pink colours, save the large golden Buddha sitting towards the end. In contrast, the outer complex has an idyllic feel, complete with a rustic stone chedi, an ornamental bridge, a pond, and an organic coffee shop.
Wat Chomphu is a 600-year old temple located in the Chang Moi area. While Wat Chomphu figures among the more lesser known temples in Chiang Mai, its sparsely populated compound lends it a peaceful aura where one can pray in silence. The temple is gilded with intricate designs, and has a remarkable golden chedi which makes it visible from the road itself.
More than 300 years old, Wat Ou Sai Kham is a temple best known for its stunning Buddha sculptures made of jade brought from Myanmar. They sit among the display of other Buddha statues of different sizes and styles. The viharn is elaborately decorated with sacred motifs of flowers and serpents, while the murals on the walls depict the past lives of Buddha.
Wat Thung Yu is a Buddhist temple situated in the Si Phum district in Chiang Mai. It is a fine example of classic Thai architecture, with a simple temple structure adorned with murals and embellished with traditional motifs from Buddhist traditions. The main hall is decorated in red and gold, covered by a massive two-tiered roof.
Wat Chai Phra Kiat is a small Buddhist temple, located close to the more famous Wat Phra Singh. Literally meaning 'temple of renowned victoryäó, it is rich historically and architecturally. Grand structures of mythical lions welcome strangers at the entrance, while inside, the hall is decorated with the Buddha image called Chai Phra Kiat, and murals narrating ancient tales.
One of the smaller and quieter temples, Wat Si Koet has a graceful white structure embellished with gold details. The temple has several artefacts from Buddhist culture such as the cannonball tree and decorated statues. There are bamboo massage stalls, and shops selling handcrafted tidbits on the compound where visitors can stop for a little recreation.
Wat Sum Pow is a Buddhist temple situated along the Rachadamnoen Road. The structures are built in traditional Lanna style, with magnificent dragons adorning the entrance to the temple, and a large golden Buddha image sitting inside. The compound is known for the Thai massages it offers, and stalls where visitors can buy tiny souvenirs or merchandise.
Located in Si Phum, the Wat Ratchamonthian temple is a 15th century structure which was recently restored. At the entrance, a large seated Buddha greets devotees, while inside there are several other Chakravartin Buddhas, which are heavily ornamented and decorated in gold. It is a quiet, colourful temple with few tourists, perfect for some relaxed meditation and prayer.
Wat Dokkham is a Buddhist temple, located on Moonmuang Road through the Tha Prae Gate. It is a simple temple structure, with a glistening gold pagoda, and stunning interiors engraved with images from the Buddhist tradition. The main hall is installed with several statues of Buddha, where visitors can offer their devotions.
Now that you have an idea of which temples in Chiang Mai to go see, the next step is to book your tickets and head on to Thailand!