14 Extraordinary Activities in Chiang Mai

You are planning a trip to Chiang Mai in the beautiful north of Thailand or you have fallen in love with the city, like me, and just stay a little longer? Now you’re wondering what to do in Chiang Mai?

Then don’t miss out on these fourteen extraordinary activities in Chiang Mai and much more!


Chiang Mai is known for its laid-back lifestyle and is very popular among many backpackers and travelers.

Visitors that stay in the old town (which is still squarely surrounded by the remains of the city wall) often find Chiang Mai to be relatively small.

However, it is (after Bangkok) the second largest city in Thailand with over 1.6 million inhabitants.


Don’t be afraid to leave the old town and the old city walls, because the surroundings of Chiang Mai also have a lot of extraordinary activities to offer.

I myself have spent almost a complete month here and now I would like to show you my Top 14 of the most extraordinary activities in Chiang Mai and much more.



1. Get a massage by prisoners

Throughout Southeast Asia massages are a very popular activity. BUT usually you cannot get a massage by prisoners. But in Chiang Mai this is possible. But don’t worry, these ladies are not imprisoned for murder and manslaughter, but for minor offences.

Furthermore, they are under surveillance of the guards during the whole time. However these are usually not needed, because the inmates act absolutely professional.

A 1-hour full body Thai massage or foot massage costs 220 Baht each (approx. 6,50€).

I got a lot of massages while traveling through Southeast Asia and the massage from the prisoners in Chiang Mai was by far the best.

Click here for Google Maps Location



2. Downhill with wooden go-karts

If you have already been in Thailand or Asia for some time, you might think you’ve already seen enough temples.

Do you need some more adrenaline now? Well, what’s better suited for this than driving down a mountain in handmade wooden go-karts.

First you will hop on a truck, which takes you up the mountain, while the go-karts are pulled behind you. Then you get the desired adrenaline rush – downhill in a wooden go-kart on a stony gravel path.

The wooden go-karts cost 50-80 Baht (about 1,50€ – 2,40€).

It is recommended to wear closed shoes and long clothes, because the go-karts are handmade and obviously there is some risk in taking part in this activity.

Click here for Google Maps Location



3. Muay Thai course and/or fight

Image by Christopher Chiu from Pixabay

Another adrenaline filled activity would be to take part in a Muay Thai course, but if you don’t want to take part yourself, you can of course “just” watch a fight.

Muay Thai courses are offered everywhere in Chiang Mai. One gym that offers Muay Thai classes is the Santai Muay Thai Gym Chiang Mai.

A private Muay Thai training costs 800 Baht (about 23€). But there are plenty of other and cheaper offers, so ask at your accommodation, I’m sure they can recommend you some places.

Click here for Google Maps Location



4. Visit the Ladyboy cabaret

A visit to the Ladyboy Cabaret has to be a must-see on every Thailand visit. Not only are Ladyboys part of the Thai culture, but the Ladyboy Cabarets will also sweeten your evening.

Great outfits, a lot of naked skin, dancing and a bit of comedy are part of an evening at the Ladyboy Cabaret.

The Ladyboy Cabaret is open daily from 9:30 – 10:30 PM and costs 350 Baht (approx. 10,40€) with a free drink.

Click here for Google Maps Location



5. Elephant sanctuaries

The subject ‘elephant’ is a very sensitive issue, because on the one side they are simply part of Thailand, but on the other side we do not want to support organizations that treat these animals badly.

Fortunately, the past few years there are more and more elephant sanctuaries, which are mainly located in the north of Thailand and not far away from Chiang Mai. These protected areas are home to elephants that have been rescued from tourist attractions where they have been mistreated.

In these sanctuaries the elephants are being rehabilitated and allowed to move freely, without cages or foot/neck cuffs. When visiting these elephant sanctuaries, you can feed them, bath them and simply spend some time with the gentle giants.

However, if the animals get tired and want to leave, they are not forced to stay with the visitors.

In 2019 I was in ‘Doi Inthanon Elephant Sanctury‘ because there was a baby elephant there.

The half day tour with lunch costs 1.700 Baht (about 50€).


Click here for Google Maps Location



6. Thai cooking course on an organic farm

To get to know Thailand in a culinary way, there is no better way than cooking the dishes yourself. The Smile Organic Farm offers half-day, full-day and evening Thai cooking courses which include a lot of food.

First you will learn about the ingredients at a local market (no other tourists!). Then you will be equipped with an apron and basket to go to the organic garden with your cooking teacher and pick the ingredients.

And now it’s time to heat up the stove. You will cook and eat between five and eight dishes. Everything you can’t finish anymore, you can take with you.

Full day courses cost 1200 Baht (about 35,70€), half day and evening courses cost 800 Baht (about 23,80€).


Click here for Google Maps Location



7. Cliff jumping in the canyon

The Grand Canyon (Hang Dong Canyon) in Chiang Mai is not nearly as big and impressive as its American big brother, but it has a lot to offer.

With a water depth of up to 40 meters, the Canyon is especially popular among cliff jumpers. If you don’t want to throw yourself off the cliffs, you can of course have a lot of fun in the ‘Grand Canyon Water Park’. The large air cushion park offers many sliding, climbing and jumping activities.

The entrance to the water park costs 450 baht (approx. 13,30€).

Click here for Google Maps Location



8. Visit the many great cafés

What I really love about Chiang Mai is the huge variety of cafés, because there is a café for every taste, and by that I don’t just mean the coffee taste, but also the interior and location.

In Chiang Mai and the surrounding area you will find cafés in tree houses with hammocks, in a Peter Pan setting, a church or in tepee tents.

Tip: Don’t forget to try the Butterfly Pea Tea. It is made from the petals of the Butterfly Pea flower and has a blue color. If you dribble some lime into the tea, the drink turns purple. Butterfly Pea is also said to help against stress and depression and to improve memory.


My Top 6 favorite cafés in Chiang Mai (also suitable for digital nomads):

    1. Into the Woods – Fairytale café with good Wi-Fi
    2. Artisan Cafe’ – Hipstar Café with delicious breakfast
    3. Jungle De cafe – Adrenaline café above a waterfall
    4. Whimsical Mermaid Lagoon – Café in a fairytale Peter Pan setting
    5. Daddy’s Antique Cafe & Restaurant – Café in a building that reminds one of an old church
    6. Catmosphere Cat Café – Café with many furry four-legged friends



9. Explore the Sticky Waterfalls

The Bua Tong Waterfalls, also called Sticky Waterfalls, are located about one hour from Chiang Mai.

To be independent you can rent a scooter in Chiang Mai for a few bucks (more about scooter rental in the section From A to B in Chiang Mai) or you can take part in a tour.

The entrance to the Bua Tong Waterfalls/Sticky Waterfalls is free, but there is a donation box at the entrance. Tours cost around 30€.

Click here for Google Maps Location



10. Stroll through the many regular markets

When it comes to markets, Chiang Mai probably has one of the largest selections, whether it is a night market, flea market or fruit and vegetable market – every day a different market is going on.

The Chiang Mai Night Market is open daily from 5:00 pm until midnight. The Saturday Market is open on Saturdays from 4:00 – 11:00 pm. For clothes and souvenirs I can recommend the Sunday Night Market, which is open every Sunday from 5:00 – 10:00 pm.



11. Party with many other travelers

Image by Vivek Chugh from Pixabay

Among backpackers Chiang Mai is known for its relaxed atmosphere and of course for its parties.

I would describe the area around the bar Zoe In Yellow as a party mile, but here everything closes at midnight. Those who still want to party in the morning hours should head to the Spicy Club once everything else is closed. Spicy is also open after midnight and only then it gets really crowded.

Click here for Google Maps Location



12. Enjoy local cuisine in the street restaurants

Image by Sang Hyun Cho from Pixabay

As everywhere in Thailand and South East Asia I can really recommend you to try the food stalls on the streets.

Especially here in the north of Thailand you should definitely order Khao Soi at least once. Khao Soi is a hot soup consisting of curry, coconut milk, chicken and of course rice noodles. Half of the noodles are soft boiled, the other half is fried and used as a topping on the soup.



14. Weekend trip to Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is famous for the White and Blue Temple, but there are many places worth seeing – some of them are even on the way from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.

For example the temple Wat Saeng Kaeo Phothiyan or the lake Mae Suai Dam also the museum Black House is worth a visit.

I recommend you either book a guided day trip or take a scooter or bus to Chiang Rai. If you decide to drive yourself make sure to stay in Chiang Rai for one night in order to have enough time for everything.

Attention: Please don’t make the same mistake as I did and drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai on a rented scooter in one day, because on the way back it will be dark and this is when I had a scooter accident. I don’t want something like that happening to one of you!

From the left: Black House, Wat Saeng Kaeo Phothiyan

From the left: Blue Temple, White Temple



14. Weekend trip to Pai

Fancying a small town surrounded by beautiful nature? Then take a weekend trip to Pai. This small town is perfect to relax during the day and explore the nature and party with like-minded people in the evening. There are plenty of things to do in Pai – find my favourite activities in Pai here.

The best way to get from Chiang Mai to Pai is by bus for about 5-6€. I used this website to book my tickets.

I wouldn’t recommend renting a scooter and driving to Pai yourself, because the way from Chiang Mai to Pai consists of hundreds of curves, 762 curves to be exact. In my opinion the curves are not the problem, but all the buses and locals on this road are driving like crazy.


Transportation in Chiang Mai

Short distances

The easiest way to get from A to B in Chiang Mai is to walk or rent a bike. Many hostels and hotels offer bikes for rent, but you can also find bike rental shops everywhere. Bicycles usually cost around 80 – 150 Baht (about 2,40€ – 4,50€) per day.


Long distances

For longer distances I recommend either renting a scooter or using the App Grab.

You can rent a scooter at any corner. The whole process is usually fast, easy and cheap. To rent a scooter for a whole day in Chiang Mai you pay between 100 Baht and 250 Baht (about 3€ – 7,50€).

Some scooter rentals keep the passport as a deposit, others offer the possibility to leave a certain amount of money as a deposit instead, which you will get back after returning the undamaged scooter. Personally I have never left money as a deposit, but I have heard that it can be between 2000 Baht and 5000 Baht (about 60€ – 150€).

Almost no scooter rental company will ask you for your driving license when you rent a scooter, but you should never drive without a license, because in case of an accident you will not only be blamed for not having a license, but also your insurance (you should have insurance in any case!) will most likely not reimburse you in this case.


As in most countries in Southeast Asia, Grab is an easy way to call a taxi, scooter driver, tuk tuk, truck, etc. With this app you can even book the well-known and popular Red Trucks (Songthaew) in Chiang Mai.

What I like about Grab is that you enter your departure and arrival location in the app and immediately see the different options along with the final prices. This saves you the nerve-racking negotiating process, which is usually the case with normal taxis here.



Where to stay in Chiang Mai

If you, like me, are on a budget during your trip, hostels are probably always your first choice. My absolute favorite hostel is the OnPoint Hostel. I spent almost a whole month here.

The hostel is relatively small compared to other hostels in Thailand, but for me this is rather a positive aspect. The atmosphere here is amazing, you will feel like a family and you are welcomed with open arms.

The OnPoint Hostel has a large garden with a pool, a living room with a dining table and a huge couch. The dorms are also big enough for all backpacks and the beds are very comfortable (I think I am able to judge that, because I slept here almost 30 nights, hahaha).