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Chiang Mai is what I like to call Thailand’s “hidden gem city.” This small, mountainous city is neither as stunningly beautiful as the islands, nor as lively and cosmopolitan as Bangkok, but it’s the kind of place that gives you warm, fuzzy feelings inside. Chiang Mai is quaint, relaxed and friendly; it makes you feel right at home. Chiang Mai luxury travel isn’t so much about glitz and glamor as it is about peace and tranquility, which makes it the perfect destination for anyone seeking a little rest and relaxation. With its rolling hills and jaw-dropping temples, this city never fails to win the hearts of travelers.
What’s more is that Chiang Mai is quite possibly the digital nomad capital of the world, thanks to its charm and affordability. As I mentioned in a previous article, it’s one of the best places in the world to live and work in luxury. So let’s dive into all things Chiang Mai luxury travel to help you prepare for the trip of a lifetime.
I’d say that anywhere between three and seven days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Chiang Mai. It works great as a quick stop on a tour of Thailand, but there’s lots in the city to enjoy if you’ve got time to hang around a little longer.
November – February are the best months of the year to visit Chiang Mai. The weather is ideal during this time as it’s dry and the temperatures drop to the mid-seventies. It’s the Goldilocks season when it’s warm enough to lounge by the pool, but not so hot that you’re uncomfortable.
I don’t recommend visiting Chiang Mai in March because this is usually the burning season. During this month, forest fires and crop burning mean that a smoggy haze descends on the city, which isn’t good for views or your lungs. If you’re concerned about this, I recommend checking out the Chiang Mai Air Quality Index.
The weather gets hot, hot, hot from April – June, and I mean uncomfortably so. Average temperatures during the hot season are upwards of 100 degrees, so things get sweaty, to say the least.
However, April could be a wonderful time to visit Chiang Mai if you’re interested in participating in the SongKran festival. To mark the Thai new year, the population takes to the streets with water guns and buckets to soak one another in a giant water fight. It’s all very good-natured and friendly, not to mention a great relief from the scorching temperatures.
July – October is the wet season. These months are hot and humid, with frequent rainstorms. However, it’s not as though it rains all day every day, and it does cool things down a little. If you can’t make it to Chiang Mai during the cool season, I’d say the wet season is your next best bet.
So now that you’ve figured out when to go to Chiang Mai, the next step is deciding where to stay. Here’s my top pick of the best Chiang Mai luxury hotels so that you can enjoy your vacation in the utmost opulence.
This all-white boutique hotel feels as though it belongs in a fairytale storybook. With intricate decorations, light airy rooms and beautifully marbled private pools, you’ll want for nothing at this gorgeous 1920s property in the heart of the city.
If you’ve read my Bali luxury travel guide then you’ll know I love the Four Seasons. This wonderful hotel comes with all the class and elegance you’d expect from the Four Seasons and incorporates local influences with its polished teak floors, authentic Thai silks and traditional art pieces. The hotel overlooks the lush Mae Rim valley, which is a stunning sight to wake up to.
137 Pillars House is one of the most exclusive hotels in Chiang Mai. This gorgeous teak wood property was built in the 19th century as the headquarters of the Borneo Company Limited. Back then, the more pillars a property had, the more of a status symbol it was – hence the name. In addition to its historical clout, this hotel boasts exceptional gardens, a stylish lap pool and second-to-none service.
Whew, that’s a mouthful! But Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most significant temples in the whole of Thailand and you just can’t miss it on a visit to Chiang Mai. This exquisite golden temple sits atop Mount Suthep, overlooking the city below. The intricate details of the building really are astounding and you’ll get to enjoy an unparalleled panoramic view of Chiang Mai as you explore.
Generally speaking, animal tourism is a pretty unethical industry. For decades, Thai elephants have been exploited for tourists’ enjoyment but fortunately, things are slowly changing and there are increasing number of ethical elephant sanctuaries that rescue these animals from logging workshops, circuses and riding camps.
In 1995, leading conservationist Lek Chailert founded one of Thailand’s first ethical elephant sanctuaries, Elephant Nature Park. It’s home to over 75 rescued elephants which are allowed to roam free. As a visitor, you help prepare fruit for the elephants and get to take a mud bath with them, too.
The Bua Tong Falls are a 1.5 hour drive from the city centre, but they’re definitely worth the trip. What’s unique about the falls is that the mineral deposit on the rocks offers a lot of grip, making it possible to climb up the waterfall against the oncoming flow of water. Pretty cool, no?
As a digital nomad hub, Chiang Mai is home to some unique and stylish cafes. My Secret Cafe is a sleek, upmarket spot that serves delicious fruit sodas and smoothies alongside delicious baked goods. Roast8ry Lab has a reputation as the best spot for speciality coffee lovers, or Fahtara is a stylish cafe that serves up literal pints of Thai milk tea and coffee.
There’s ample opportunity to pamper yourself in Chiang Mai. There’s a spa – or three – on every street. Fah Lanna is among the best Chiang Mai luxury spas and has a string of awards to prove it. They make their own artisan products using sustainably sourced local ingredients and support numerous local charities, such as the Build a School project in the Mae Son province. The service here is fantastic and you’ll leave feeling like you’re floating on a cloud. There are three branches of Fah Lanna in the Old Town, Night Bazaar and Ninman neighborhood.
Oxygen is a fine-dining restaurant housed in a glass building under the canopy of the tamarind trees along the Mae Ping river. You’ll fall in love with it upon first sight, and that’s before you taste the deliciously innovative French-Thai fusion cuisine.
David’s Kitchen is another excellent restaurant offering a blend of French and Thai cuisine. Whilst this place undoubtedly offers a fine dining experience, it prides itself on the warm, friendly and informal atmosphere. It also claims to be the only place in Chiang Mai to offer sticky toffee pudding, which is perfect for travelers missing their home comfort food.
The Gallery is an open-air restaurant overlooking the Mae Ping river. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink and a traditional Thai meal as the sun goes down over the city. Only the finest, freshest local ingredients go into the Gallery’s northern Thai dishes. Try the Khao Soi – Chiang Mai’s famous curried noodles – for something truly delicious.
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Your Luxe Lifestyle was founded by luxury world traveler Isabella Garofanelli bringing you the very best the globe has to offer in travel, lifestyle, and wellness.
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