Known as Thailand’s second city and northern capital, Chiang Mai is an entrancing city filled with vibrant life and has more to offer than most people think. Chiang Mai is one of Thailand's most significant cultural cities; this walled old city on the banks of the Ping River, once the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lanna, has surpassed Chiang Rai as a trade hub and significant cultural site. Surrounded by some of the highest mountain peaks in all of Thailand, adventure abounds as within minutes of the city you can be surrounded by nature, taking in waterfalls, jungles, and mystic mountain temples.

Old Chiang Mai is where most of the sites are and it is an extremely easy cycle as the old walled city has somewhat of a grid pattern, which makes for multiple quiet lanes and streets to take you off the main tourist paths. There are over 300 temples, or wats, in Chiang Mai so you never have to look far to see them. Chiang Mai is also home to one of Thailand's largest night markets with thousands of vendors spread over a mile and spilling into multi-level shopping malls and plazas. Chiang Mai is one of the world's most significant centers of Buddhist faith, so take time to immerse yourself in it with temple tours, and take the time to chat up the many monks you’ll see going about their day in the city.

Chiang Mai, unlike Bangkok, seems more relaxed, is more manageable in size and intensity, and makes a great place to do day tours into the surrounding hills and jungle. There are dozens of operators in the city that can take you to meet interesting hill tribes, or on a gastronomical adventure through the farmlands, all in mellow rides from the city. If mountain biking is your thing, there is a network of spectacular trails on the outskirts of the city, up the slopes of Doi Suthep-pui National Park, or choose a longer adventure into the high mountains to the north of the city. Chiang Mai is a vibrant, safe, and perpetually inspiring city that’s definitely worth a stay when you’re in Thailand.