9 Unique & Beautiful Temples In Chiang Mai Unlike Anywhere Else In Thailand

Interesting temples in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has been a popular province for outdoor attractions for many, from its beautiful mountains to nature trails. Some travel here to find peace with nature, and others find them in temples.

Aside from its natural appeal, Chiang Mai has some of the most magnificent temples equal to Bangkok


1. Wat Pha Lat – hidden jungle temple

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When one of his elephants died, King Kuena of the Lanna Kingdom ordered temples to be built where the elephant had rested during its journey, and Wat Pha Lat was one of them.

Image credit: @withlauraamy

Wat Pha Lat is a temple that looks like a location out of Tomb Raider. It’s covered in moss and statues worn down by weather, hidden away in a jungle.

It is an ideal place for meditation and pilgrimage for monks due to being hidden away in the jungles and located on the way to the much much bigger Wat Doi Suthep.

Image credit: @oddkrub

This temple is also a hiking trail for those travelling to Wat Doi Suthep, the place at which the elephant died during its journey. Remember to dress appropriately as this is still a temple, but feel free to imagine yourself as Indiana Jones or Lara Croft for a moment.

Wat Pha Lat (วัดผาลาด)
Address: Sriwichai Alley, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Opening hours: 7:00AM-6:00PM
Entrance fee: Free

2. Wat Sri Suphan – silver temple

Image credit: @totay168

Wat Sri Suphan‘s current design is actually from 2008, while the temple itself is nonetheless centuries old. Parts of the temple were replaced over time with silver or aluminum until they finally covered it fully in silver, making it the gorgeous “silver temple” as it is known today.

The temple building is brightly lit at night
Image credit: @aummiiaymn

The temple was built by locals from the Wua Lai community, which has a history of silversmithing continued over generations. You will also spot a Buddha statue sitting in front of the temple, which is also covered with silver.

Image credit: @totay168

The inside of the shrine hall is marvellously crafted in silver, with a golden Buddha statue at the center of the room, with lighting giving the hall a bronze hue. The temple walls have finely-detailed murals carved onto them, with depictions of the Buddha as well as screaming souls in Hell.

Eagle-eyed visitors will also spot the Avengers on the temple’s corner
Image credit: Tripadvisor

There are some little changes added over time that will make visitors do a double-take. Some will remind you of Wat Pariwat in Bangkok – like spotting an etching of Iron Man and his team on the silver walls.

Note: Women cannot enter the temple shrine itself due to an old Buddhist belief about active ordination halls. However, female travellers can still visit the grounds.

Wat Sri Suphan (วัดศรีสุพรรณ)
Address: Wua Lai Rd, Tambon Hai Ya, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100
Opening hours: 9:00AM-9:00PM
Entrance fee: ฿50 (for entry into the silver temple); women will need to wait outside

3. Wat Umong – forest temple with tunnels

Not your typical Thai temple facade
Image credit: Citytours

Wat Umong sits at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain, about 2 hours on foot to Wat Doi Suthep. Like Wat Pha Lat, Wat Umong’s location is overshadowed by Wat Doi Suthep and because of its remote location and unassuming exterior.

Image credit: SiamPictures

Legend has it that there was a mad monk who’d wander from the temple grounds. The temple is built with tunnels and were once painted with murals to keep the monk from wandering off when the king needed his advice.

Although the murals themselves are mostly lost due to a botched restoration effort, the tunnels still serve the same purpose as they did back then. Monks no longer use these tunnels for meditation and are instead frequented by visitors.

Image credit: ActivityFan

In the forest, you will find rows of broken Buddha statues and one huge Buddha head sitting beside them. These were brought here from abandoned monasteries from Phayao province during the last restoration period last century. The statues themselves, however, are as old as the 15th century.

Statue of an emaciated Buddha
Image credit: George Mann Photo

Nearby are animals to feed on temple grounds such as catfish, turtles, and ducks. The temple has an Asoka’s pillar replica as well.

Wat Umong Suan Puthatham (วัดอุโมงค์ สวนพุทธธรรม)
Address: 135 Moo 10 Suthep Subdistrict, Chiang Mai 50200
Opening hours: 4:00AM-8:00PM
Entrance fee: ฿20

4. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – golden temple and long naga stairs

Image credit: Matteo Colombo Travel Photography

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of northern Thailand’s most sacred and famous temples in the region, and its rich design brings this point across.

Image credit: @naiinew

The centerpiece of the temple is its gold-plated stupa surrounded by more golden Buddha statues, and at night, illuminated by a golden glow.

Image credit: Asia Travel Guide

Before you get to the temple itself, you have to climb the Naga Serpent Staircase, which is a long and gradual 300 steps upwards. There is a cable car available if climbing the steps is too challenging.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพราชวรวิหาร)
Address: Mueang Chiang Mai District, Doi Suthep 50200
Opening hours: 5:00AM-9:00PM
Entrance fee: ฿30

5. Wat Chiang Man – oldest temple in Chiang Mai

Image credit: Chiang Mai Culture Office

Wat Chiang Man‘s roots date back to 1297 CE, a year after Chiang Mai was founded. The temple grounds was the former site where King Mangrai oversaw the capital city being built.

The wihan (shrine hall) pictured above is not as old as and was only built some time around the 1920s. Nonetheless, its design is fairly faithful to the temple’s Lanna roots and has interior murals accompanied by Lanna script. The murals depict King Mangrai’s founding of Chiang Mai and up until his death by lightning strike. 

Image credit: Trover

Today, the oldest surviving building is the Elephant Chedi, a gold-topped but weathered stupa that has 16 elephant statues circling around its base.

Wat Chiang Man (วัดเชียงมั่น)
Address: 171 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Opening hours: 5:00AM-9:00PM
Entrance fee: ฿20

6. Wat Suan Dok – a garden of white stupas

Image credit: @lissaxlissa

Wat Suan Dok (translated to “Flower Garden Temple”) was built on a former site of a royal Lanna flower garden during the 14th century.

Buddha statues standing on a multicoloured base atop the pagoda’s top
Image credit: Chiang Mai – Bangkok

It is here that a monk found a relic believed to be the Buddha’s shoulder bone, which broke in two as it was being brought to the king. The bigger relic piece was sent on the back of one of King Kuena’s white elephants, who then died on Doi Suthep mountain, where Wat Doi Suthep is now located. The smaller piece was enshrined in Wat Suan Dok.

Image credit: @babebass

The temple has an ethereal feel thanks to its garden of white stupas – come dressed to match and get some pretty shots while you’re here.

Wat Suan Dok (วัดสวนดอก)
Address: 139 Suthep Rd, Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Opening hours: 6:00AM-9:00PM
Entrance fee: ฿20

7. Wat Buppharam – temple with Lanna and Burmese style blend

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Wat Buppharam‘s design has mixes of Burmese and Lanna, giving it a uniquely sharper, glittery look than most temples. It is also slimmer-looking and taller unlike other ordination halls of other temples.

Image credit: Trover

There is a Burmese-style stupa not far from the hall. This was due to Chiang Mai’s history under Lanna Kingdom and being under Burmese rule at one point. The temple was rebuilt during the Burmese rule, and adopted the characteristics of their temples.

Image credit: @ear_library

For reasons unknown, Donald Duck is standing next to the temple, eating a bowl of noodles, giving yet another quirky touch.

Wat Buppharam (วัดบุพพาราม)
Address: 143 Thapae Rd, Tambon Chang Moi, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300
Opening hours: 8:00AM-5:00PM
Entrance fee: Free

8. Wat Lok Molee – wooden temple with elephant statues

Image credit: @martinamancini___

Wat Lok Molee is one of the older temples in Chiang Mai, and less visited by tourists. The shrine hall has two white elephant statues and a gold and silver tree outside as you make your way to it.

Make a wish and hang these colourful scrolls for good luck

The shrine hall’s interior isn’t covered in gold like some other temples. But its modest wooden interior has a rustic, cleansing vibe fit for meditation.

Image credit: @sarapdh

On the way out of the shrine hall, don’t forget to take a photo by the gateway. And don’t forget to make a wish on those gold and silver trees, as they are actually wishing trees.

Wat Lok Molee (วัดโลกโมฬี)
Address: 298/1 Manee Nopparat Rd, Tambon Sri Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Opening hours: 6:00AM-6:00PM
Entrance fee: Free

9. Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat – mountaintop pagodas (Lampang)

Image credit: @sunny_rung

This temple is actually located in Lampang, which lies only an hour away from Chiang Mai. The mountain temple’s full name is Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn and is located on top of Pu Yak mountain, giving it a view like no other.

Image credit: Go To Thailand

It is 800 meters up the mountain’s iron steps, which some say can be steeper than 36 degrees.

Image credit: @obruch

On the neighbouring peaks are pagodas of various sizes, and are collectively called Chedi Loi Fah or “Floating Pagodas”. Despite their aged appearance, they are actually only as old as 2004, and were built to commemorate 200 years since King Mongkut’s reign.

Not a temple you should miss
Image credit: @zehravictoria

Driving there is not allowed and you have to take a songthaew truck for ฿100

It takes two and a half hours to get there from Chiang Mai, but the view above is worth the trip. With a gorgeous view from atop the mountain range, serious photographers can consider getting some drone shots for one-of-a-kind memories to bring home.

Note: Do abide by the temple rules and check if drone usage is allowed.

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Worawihan (วัดเฉลิมพระเกียรติวรวิหาร)
Address: Wichet Nakhon, Chae Hom District, Lampang 52120
Opening hours: 6:00AM-6:00PM
Entrance fee: ฿20 for local, ฿200 foreigners

Chiang Mai’s temples: beauty in faith

Temples such as these make us think about the ways we find peace through faith – no matter religious or not – including awe-inspiring temple architecture. 

Remember to treat these temples with respect when visiting, so others can also enjoy the serenity of temple grounds.

Featured images adapted from: @naiinew, @totay168, @sunny_rung

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