This quaint old city, the second largest in Thailand, dates back to around 1296 and is 700km north of Bangkok near the Burmese border. The city has over 300 temples enclosed within the ramparts that belie its rich and modern dynamism.
It is a great centre for shopping and dining within easy reach of many cultural sites and stunning mountain scenery.
The old town features many temples, or wats, and traditional houses constructed from teak, shops, markets and stalls. You can visit the theological university at Wat Sang Duk temple where, from 5pm onwards, you can go and have an informal chat with the student monks whilst giving them the opportunity to practice their English.
There are also various excursions to be experienced amongst the mountains. A visit to one of the highland villages is highly recommended, where you can see true rural communities and the renowned Karen women who proudly wear their traditional dress that features their long, adorned necks and ear decorations.
Another interesting visit is to the lost city of Wiang Kum Kam, about 3km to the south of Chiang Mai, which was buried for 200 years following floods and has been undergoing restoration work since 1984. Then there is the Elephant Nature Foundation that cares for rescued elephants whilst offering a hands-on educational experience feeding and washing these majestic creatures.
There are also many opportunities to go cycling, trekking, quad-biking and bungee-jumping, as well as various animal attractions. Visit orchid and botanical gardens in the Mae Sa Valley to the north.