If you look up facts about this beautiful Northern Thai city, one of the first things you’ll find is that there are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai! Even though we were in Chiang Mai for quite some time, we didn’t even scratch the surface at all the amazing temples in the area. However, we did make it to 11 Temples in Chiang Mai and I wanted to share some of the amazing spiritual and architectural beauty of this amazing place.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Left: The Nāga figure that makes up the banister to the 309 steps // Right: The Golden Stupa that contains a relic of the Buddha
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (or just Doi Suthep as it’s often referred to) is undoubtedly the most famous of the temples in Chiang Mai. This temple sits atop a mountain just outside of the city. You can get here by tuktuk or taxi, you can hike the monk trail or if you’re a total beast you can walk or bike up the hill. The original temple was founded in 183 after a monk had a dream and found Buddha’s shoulder bone.
Here you can see some practitioners circling the stupa with offerings.
When you get to the top, it’s a climb up the 309 steps to the top. Here there are so many small stupas – including the big golden Buddha, loads of Buddha figures and more to explore. In addition to the gorgeous temple, golden chedi and many opportunities for offerings, you get a pretty incredible view from the top.
Wat Hmong Maha Thera Chan
Wat Hmong Maha Thera Chan is most well-known for its stupa that sits behind the temple. The stupa contains a cutout (seen in the photo on the left, above) is often referred to as the Monk Cave where monks went to meditate. This is perfect because this temple still offers meditation courses. Admission is free.
Wat Chiang Man
Left: Inside of the older worship center // Right: The Emerald Buddha inside the newer worship center
Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. It was constructed when the city was founded back in 1297. The oldest piece of architecture on this site is the Elephant chedi in the back. It’s said to contain a holy relic – the Buddha’s eyelash.The chedi is surrounded by 15 life-sized elephant figures. It’s seriously impressive.
Left: The Elephant Chedi // Right: Exterior of the new worship center
This temple has several famous sites on its grounds. There are two worship rooms, one is older and larger and one contains the Crystal Buddha.
Wat Phuak Hong
Wat Phuak Hong is tucked away down some small alleys in old town. It’s sort-of tucked away, but worth the visit. We didn’t get to go inside as we were too early, but admission is free if you’re there during opening hours. It’s still worth the visit because of the lanna-style of temple, the Buddha figures outside and the more unusual chedi that sits behind it. It’s rounded and has figures in the small alcoves of the chedi.
Left: Detailed shot of the temple doors // Right: The chedi that sits behind the temple
Wat Pahn Tao
This beautiful 19th century temple is made completely of wood. Even more interestingly, it was actually the palace of a 19th century king first! It sits right next to Wat Chedi Luang. There are many figures sitting outside of the temple and the complex also has a row of meditation bells leading to a pond. It’s absolutely beautiful and admission is free.
Left: Meditation bells // Right: Offering bowls inside of the temple
Wat Chedi Luang
The translation of Wat Chedi Luang is the ‘temple of the royal stupa’. It’s interesting that this temple shares part of its name with the city of Luang Prabang because this temple used to hold the Emerald Buddha that now sits in the Temple of the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang.
Photos from the inside of the temple.
Wat Chedi Luang Prabang is absolutely stunning and it has a massive grounds with other smaller temples, the giant chedi and monks wander all through the grounds. This is extra-cool because Wat Chedi Luang has daily monk chats where you can talk with monks about Buddhism or even Thailand. This makes this one of the unique temples in Chiang Mai.
Inside of the men’s only temple.
As I said, there are many other temples in the complex including this stunning example. Luckily, Matt was with me, so he got to visit this temple and share a little of what he saw.
The big chedi is huge and absolutely stunning! Originally built in the 14th century, the upper part was damaged by an earthquake in 1545, which is what led to the Emerald Buddha to be moved. Since then, the chedi has been partially reconstructed and a replica made of black jade was placed in the chedi.
I love the elephants on the exterior of the big chedi.
Left: The big chedi with a look into the black jade Buddha up top // Right: Entering the vihara
Wat Chai Phra Kiat
This beautiful temple is one that we didn’t get to really explore much because a service was about to start. It’s most standout part to me was the big white and gold Burmese-style stupa.
Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dok sits outside of old town, but is on the way back from a trip to Doi Suthep should you choose to take a private taxi, it’s easy to ask them to stop here. This is a royal temple and even has a royal cemetery. It’s so big it was impossible for me to get the entire exterior in one shot. Pretty cool huh?
Left: The main Buddha inside the temple // Right: the largest, gold stupa outside.
Wat Sri Kerd
This tiny temple in old town is just sitting on a street corner. It sits back into a more wild-looking grounds, but it has a really spiritual feel to it. Because there wasn’t a massive crowd of people shuffling through, you could really sit, take in and experience this tiny little gem.
Wat Loke Molee
This 14th century temple sits on the outskirts of old town. It’s one of the older temples in the city. I love the dark look of the outside of this temple. These little offering trees really moved me. Each of those leaves are wishes and prayers. When the wind blows, each one shimmers in the sun and the little bells ring.
Behind the temple is a very large stupa with lots of Buddha figures + opportunities for offerings all around the base of it. This is one of my favorite temples in the city.
Wat Phra Singh
The last on my temples in Chiang Mai post isn’t last because it’s least. This massive 14th century temple is one of the big beauties! This temple contains a Buddha figure that’s very special to Chiang Mai. During Song Kran (Thai New Year) it’s brought out into the street for a religious procession.
Although this is only scratching the surface of the literally hundreds of temples in Chiang Mai, it’s easy to see just how beautiful the temples in Chiang Mai are. For those who haven’t visited, there are 300+ to choose from. For those who have, which temple was your favorite?
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