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September 1, 2017
Lawa hill tribe women
Lawa (Lua) Hill tribe
September 26, 2017

7 Non-Touristy Things to do in Chiang Mai

Do you want to get off-the-beaten-path, and to experience a more authentic side to Chiang Mai? If so, here are our top suggestions for some lesser-known attractions, and non-touristy things to do in Chiang Mai.

1) Wat Prathat Doi Kham

Located 10km south of Chiang Mai city, this relatively unknown temple perched on a forested hill top offers a wonderful 360 degree view overlooking Chiang Mai. At the front of the temple grounds is a striking 16 metre high image of a golden sitting Buddha. Inside the temple itself, is a courtyard and it’s chedi (pagoda), dating back to the 7th century. From the foot of the hill you can drive up 1km to the top, or hike up.  The hike trail up takes around 30 minutes. This traditional temple sees few tourists, and is mostly a place for religious worship for the locals.

Non-touristy things to do in Chiang Mai

Visit Wat Doi Kham- a non touristy thing to do in Chiang Mai

2) Monk Chat

As the name suggests, you get to chat to a monk, and ask him all about Buddhism and life as a monk.. Many are novice monks, and some will leave ordained life to get regular jobs.  This informal chat is a great way for monks to practice their English. Held at various temples around the city, at the time of writing:

  • Wat Suan Dok: Mon,Wed,Fri 5-7pm
  • Wat Umong: Mon, Wed, Fri 5.30-7.30pm
  • Wat Chedi Luang: daily 9am-6pm

3)Doi Suthep Temple at dusk

Most tour groups visit Doi Suthep temple during the day, but we like to visit at dusk after the crowds have gone. It’s so much more serene, you might even catch the hum of the evening chants by monks. At this time of day, Doi Suthep feels like a religious place of worship, not just another Chiang Mai tourist attraction.

Non Touristy Things to do in Chiang Mai

View from Doi Suthep Temple at night

4)Bua Tong Waterfall (Sticky waterfall)

Located around one hours drive (60km) north of Chiang Mai city, this is a beautiful 100m high waterfall – a natural staircase of limestone, with water cascading down it. It’s nicknamed ‘Sticky Waterfall’ because the rock formation, actually feels sticky not slippery ! This makes climbing the waterfall a lot of fun, and a suitable activity for children. It’s mainly popular with expats and locals as a day trip out of the city, so you won’t see many tourists here. To learn more check out this guide to Bua Tong ‘Sticky’ Waterfalls in Chiang Mai.

Bua tong waterfall chiang mai

Bua Tong waterfall Chiang Mai

5)Pha Chor Canyon

This naturally occurring canyon inside Mae Wang national park, is an impressive sight. As the topology and Ping River shifted over time, it carved out this impressive natural formation. From the staircase in the canyon you can marvel at the towering 30m high yellow sandstone cliffs.

6)Authentic Hilltribe Villages

Visiting a hill tribe villages in Chiang Mai is a popular tourist activity, but you can experience this in a non-tourist way, by travelling to authentic villages (not set up for tourists) with a local hill tribe guide. A good hill tribe guide can open up opportunities for cultural immersion, and help you to interact with the villagers. For the full experience you could even stay overnight in the village at a hill tribe homestay. For more info on how you can arrange this, contact us

Hill tribe village Chiang Mai

Hill tribe village Chiang Mai

7)Pa Pong Pieng Rice Terraces

Located 90 minute’s drive from CM, sitting at 1,000m above sea level, you’ll be greeted by an impressive postcard scene of rolling rice terraces against a mountain backdrop. This area is home to the Karen hill tribe who farm rice and other crops. The best time to visit is during the rainy season (June-Sep) when the terraces are a lush green, or during October just before harvest time, when the terraces will turn golden-yellow.

Do you have any recommendations for non-touristy things to do in Chiang Mai? If so…please let us know below !


  1. Mohana says:

    I hadn’t heard of most of these places until now. I’d definitely like to check out the Sticky Waterfalls– sounds fun, doesn’t it?– and the Pha Chor Canyon. It’d be a learning experience to engage in dialogue with the Buddhist monks. Thanks for this list!

  2. Nic says:

    Chiang Mai is definitely one of our favourite places from our travels through South East Asia! So many amazing unique things to see and do! We loved the hill tribe villages, it was such an amazing experience!

  3. lisa says:

    Oh wow this is fantastic and came at the perfect time. We are headed in this direction in October for 2 weeks and there are some great things to do here that you have mentioned.Those Hilltribe villages are calling me. Great Post Thanks!

  4. What a fresh perspective of Chiang Mai. These are some pretty unique and interesting things beyond the run of the mill activities in Chiang Mai. I like the look of the Wat Prathat Doi Kham, the views must be really great from there. The other thing I thought was something really interesting and different was Chatting with the Monks. Have always been fascinated by Buddhism, the Buddhist monks, and their lives in the monasteries. Would find this a really wonderful activity.

  5. Mel Butler says:

    I have not been to Chian Mai before but I have been close to it, just ran out of time. It is definitely on my bucketlist and you have some great off the beaten tracks tips here for Chiang Mai that I would definitely do. That Bua Tong waterfall looks a little surreal.with the limestone that must have been a site to see. I like your tip too about how to visit an authentic village and to use a local hill tribe guide.

  6. tif says:

    I have never been, but I love the idea of non-touristy things!! I would love to see hat sticky waterfall!!

  7. YUKTI says:

    I love to do non touristy things to do. Chatting to monk and view from temple at night is on my priority. I would love to enjoy Chiang Mai uniquely as written by you.

  8. Becca Talbot says:

    I’ve not made it over to Chiang Mai yet – but it is definitely on my bucket list! I love how bright and colourful everything is, it would certainly make for some Instagram-worthy pics 😉 and great to read about the less touristy things there! x