There are hundreds of interesting Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. Some are historically significant, some contain beautiful artwork, some are popular with local Buddhists and some offer foreigners a chance to learn about Buddhism. Here are five worth a visit.
When you go, remember that a temple (called a wat in Thai) isn’t just a tourist attraction. Most of Chiang Mai’s Buddhist temples are there to serve Buddhist and the community, so you’ll be expected to wear modest clothing and be quiet. Nearly all Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai are free or ask for a donation.
Wat Chiedi Luang
Although the front of the grounds houses new, ornately decorated temple buildings, Wat Chiedi Man is home to the ruins of a 600-year-old temple that was once home to the Emerald Buddha that now resides on the Grand Palace grounds. The brick and stone structure, surrounded by carved elephants, has not been fully restored but was once the tallest building in Chiang Mai.
Wat Pan Tao
This small temple right next door to Wat Chiedi Luang is notable because it’s made entirely of wood. Though it lacks the “bling” many of the city’s other temples are covered in, the elegant wood carvings that decorate Wat Pan Tao are worthy of a visit.
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh means “Lion Buddha” and that’s what this 600-year-old temple in Chiang Mai’s Old Town is best known for. The large temple grounds also house numerous ornately designed buildings with impressive roof lines and intricate mural work.
Wat Doi Suthep
Nestled into the side of Doi Suthep, the large mountain to the west of central Chiang Mai, is this temple filled with hundreds of images of the Buddha, a gleaming gold chiedi and scores of followers praying. Climb the few hundred steps from the base of the temple to get to the top, or take a 30 baht cable car.
Wat Chiang Man
Chiang Mai’s oldest temple was built in 1292 and is a exceptional example of Lanna-style architecture. The golden chiedi surrounded by carved elephants is a favorite among visitors but the ornate red roofs and gold carvings on the newer temple buildings are also exceptional.