As any traveler that has been to Thailand knows, there are plenty of amazing activities to partake in. This is especially true in the beautiful ancient city of Chiang Mai. This magnificent place, commonly referred to as the “Jewel of the North,” has some of the best activities in all of SE Asia. One thing that visitors shouldn’t miss is the abundance of glorious temples, or Wats, that are scattered all throughout the city.
There are well over 200 ancient Wats in the city of Chiang Mai, but there a few that stand out more than the other as popular tourist destinations.
Just remember that these holy sites are active worship locations so the upmost respect for locals should be followed at all times. Also, you are expected to wear modest clothing and keep quite during your visit.
Here are the top 10 must-see temples in Chiang Mai.
Located in the north-east corner of the old walled city
Built in 1292, it is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, and it houses the Crystal Buddha which is considered to be one of the greatest treasures in all of Thailand, along with other important Buddha images.
This active temple was built during the original foundation of Chiang Mai by King Mengrai who actually lived in the temple during the construction of the new capital of the Lanna Kingdom.
Located 1km west of the old walled city
Built in the 14th century, this beautiful Wat was built by King Keu Na and the name of the temple roughly translates to “field of flowers” because it was originally a royal flower garden built for the visit of a very revered monk from Sukhothai.
A unique feature about this temple is that it has a large number of white pagodas on the grounds, and it is also home to a 500 year old bronze Buddha- one of the biggest in Thailand.
Located on the westerns side of the old walled city
Wat Phra Singh roughly translates to “Temple of the Lion Buddha” and is an important Buddhist temple that was founded in the 14th century.
The temple was built by King Pha Yu so that he could house the ashes of his father, King Kham Fu. The temple was named after the medieval Lion Buddha image that is located within the temple.
One interesting feature about the wat is a small library that dates back to 1477. The library was built with a stone base in order to protect the valuable manuscripts inside from flooding.
Located 2km west of the old walled city
Also built in the 14th century for a revered monk, this temple is much different than the other temples in Chiang Mai because a large portion of it is located inside of a large hill. A large mount was built in the heavily forested foothills of Suthep Mountain, and it was then crisscrossed with tunnels.
Legend behind the temple says that the monk that the temple was built for was a bit crazy so the maze-like tunnels kept him from wandering away from the grounds.
Located on the north-west outskirts of the city
Built in 1455 by King Tilokkarat for a revered monk, the name of the Wat translates to the “Temple of the Seven Spires” because of the famous centerpiece a seven-spired stupa.
The temple is also the location of the Theravada Buddhist reunion which was held in 1477. The temple began reconstruction in the 18th century, and there have been recent excavations as recently as 2002.
Located 500 meters east of Tha Phae Gate
This Wat was built in the 15th century by King Muang Kaaew. There are three major Buddha images housed in the temple and the grounds are filled with statues and flowers. There is also a well that supplies the holy water used during the anointing of the King.
Located in the center of the old walled city
This Wat was built in 1391 and it once stood as high as 90 meters tall, but due to being damaged during an earthquake, it was later reduced in height.
Construction was started by King Saen Muang Ma to house his father’s ashes, King Ku Na. The building was expanded to its final form until about 1475 by various other kings.
This Wat was also once the site where the Emerald Buddha, the most important Buddha image in Thailand, was held. After the damage received during the earthquake, the Buddha was moved for safety reasons.
Located next to Wat Chedi Luang
Like Wat Chedi Luang, this temple was also built in the 14th century. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the temple is the wooden chapel that was once used as a royal residence.
Located 3 kilometers south of the old walled city
This Wat was built in 1287 by King Mengrai and it is still used today by local monks. Its name translates to “Temple of the Square Chedi” because of the large step pyramid stupa on the temple grounds.
Located near the top of Mount Suthep
This Wat was built in 1383 by King Keu Nanone and it is considered to be the most magnificent temple in all of Chiang Mai. This beautiful temple is covered in gold and was originally constructed to be a Buddhist monastery.
Inside you will find a perfect replica of the emerald Buddha along with other important Buddha images. No trip to Chiang Mai is complete until you have visited this remarkable site.