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Akha hill tribe village, Chiang Rai
Akha Hill Tribe
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Is 3 Days in Chiang Mai enough?

Ask any visitor to Chiang Mai, and they would probably agree that you could spend weeks in Chiang Mai and it would still not be enough time. However if you’re limited on time, then with 3 days in Chiang Mai you can still experience the best of what the capital of Northern Thailand has to offer.

How to spend 3 days in Chiang Mai

If you only have 3 days in Chiang Mai, how should you spend them ? Here are some ideas for a 3 Day Itinerary in Chiang Mai

3 Day Itinerary

Day 1) Explore Chiang Mai’s Hill Tribe Culture

Get out into the lush sub-tropical countryside that surrounds Chiang Mai, to discover it’s colourful hill tribe culture. There are around seven different hill tribe groups in northern Thailand, who make up a large part of northern Thailand’s culture and history. The best way to learn about them is to visit their villages, observe and learn about their daily life. In Chiang Mai there are lots of day trips to hill tribe villages. For the most authentic and ethical visit to a hill tribe village, opt for a private tour with a guide who is sensitive and familiar with the ethics of visiting a village. There are many group tours and treks to hill tribe villages, but in large groups there’s limited opportunity for cultural interaction, so it feels much more voyeuristic than engaging. For more information and sample itinerary visit  1 Day Responsible Hill tribe Tour  

A visit to Baan Tong Long Eco-Agricultural Village on the outskirts of Chiang Mai city, is also a great and educational experience to learn about hill tribe culture. This village is a fabricated one, set up for tourists to visit. However if you’re short on time, then it’s the best way to see a variety of hill tribe groups, and learn about how they once lived. Here you can see tribes such as the;  Palong, Karen, Lisu, Lahu, Mien/Yao and Kayan Long neck women. For more information about the ethics of visiting a Long Neck village, check out our post Should you visit a Long Neck Village ?

1 Day Hill tribe tour

1 Day Hill tribe tour

Day 2) Visit an Elephant Sanctuary

At the top of bucket-list and the most popular activity in Chiang Mai, is a visit to an elephant camp or sanctuary. The chance to get up close and personal to these majestic animals, is a unique opportunity. Over the years due to rising concerns about the ethics of elephant tourism, there has been a move by local elephant camps towards making this activity more elephant friendly, therefore many camps no longer offer elephant riding. Instead you can spend the day interacting with these mammals, through activities such as feeding and bathing them. This is a full day trip from Chiang Mai, and most sanctuaries will provide complimentary transfer to and from your hotel and include lunch for the day.

For the lowdown on the most popular elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai visit this post

Visit an Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai

Visit an Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai

Day 3) Explore the City

Get a sense of Chiang Mai city by exploring some of the ancient Lanna style temples (Wats). The most popular ones in the old city are Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phan Tao. The most famous temple however and religious landmark of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep Temple, located on a hill just north of the city. Most tourists visit during the day, but we recommend visiting in the early morning or at sunset. You’ll avoid the crowds and heat of the daytime sun. Other activities you could include on your second day, depending on what you’re interests are…..

Doi Suthep Temple

Doi Suthep Temple

Cooking School

Learn how to cook your favourite Thai dishes and northern Thai curries,by taking a half or full day lesson at a cooking school. Most cooking classes start with a trip to the market, to buy and learn about the local ingredients to be used. And some include a visit out into the countryside to a farm, with a focus on using organic produce. Popular cooking schools include:  Thai Farm Cooking School (tel:081 288 5989), Sammy’s Organic Thai Cooking School (081-5709279/ 087-6596438)


If handicrafts are your thing, then you’ll enjoy Chiang Mai’s Borsang Village, where you can see Chiang Mai’s cottage industries at work such as; lacquer ware, hand painted mulberry paper umbrellas,  silk and ceramic. The Borsang Village (or Borsang Handicraft Centre) is located approximately 8km south-east of the city in San Kampaeng district. It is essentially a handicraft zone , located around a 2km stretch of road  lined with small factories and outlets. For example, at the silk factory here, you can learn about how famous Thai silk is produced, and the stages it goes through from silk worm to being handwoven on a loom. This is a great place to purchase handicrafts and souvenirs for friends. For larger items, many factories will even arrange shipping to your home country.

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