Before the 1920s, one had to take an arduous river trip or ride an elephant trek through the jungle to reach the beautiful temples of Chiang Mai. Fortunately, this northern gem is much more accessible today. However, decades of seclusion have had the advantage of preserving Chiang Mai's traditional charm, and the city is a wonderful place to get a glimpse into the history of the Thai way of life.
Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand and is known by locals as the cultural capital. It is located on the Ping River, which in the past was an important artery for trade routes. Today it is still an important center for beautiful handmade goods, umbrellas, silver jewelry and wood carvings. There are many opportunities for shopping at the local markets, including the bustling Sunday market where you can find beautiful local fashions and handmade artwork.
Surrounded by dramatic mountains and lush countryside, Chiang Mai is a greener and quieter version of the capital Bangkok, with a cosmopolitan feel. Although Chiang Mai translates as "New City," this city is anything but new. Its rich and storied history dates back to 1296 AD. Once the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, it is home to temple after temple dating back to these early foundations, in impressive Burmese, Sri Lankan and Lanna-Thai designs.
A peaceful oasis of culture
Chiang Mai is one of the few cities in the world that still has a traditional moat around the city. Lined with trees, grassy banks, beautiful fountains and historic ramparts, the moat is ideal for exploring by bicycle. At night, when the moat is illuminated in bright colors, it creates a completely different atmosphere.
With its quiet and relaxed atmosphere, this historic city appeals more to the discerning traveler than the young backpacker chaos of Bangkok. There are a growing number of upscale hotels that offer visitors the opportunity to stay here in style and comfort. Chiang Mai has attracted a high percentage of expats and retirees who have made this affordable, unspoiled and more traditional city their home.
A whole new world of tastes
One of the highlights of your stay in Chiang Mai is definitely the food. Thai cuisine is famous for its aroma and flavor, rich curries, spicy soups and hearty noodle dishes. Especially in the north, spicy chili dips known as "naam prik" are often used. Why not try yam woon sen noodles with curry powder and turmeric?
The traditional northern Thai meal is known as Khan Toke. It is served at a small round table and consists of several small dishes to share, such as beef and chicken curry, crispy fried pork skin and naam prik, served with sticky rice. An authentic Khan Toke meal is part of your bike tour and is a great opportunity to catch up with your new friends. If you have adventurous tastes and love exotic and spicy flavors, you'll be delighted by the many new culinary sensations you can try here in Chiang Mai.
The cycling experience of a lifetime
Chiang Mai is ideal to explore by bicycle. The roads here are excellent and among the best maintained in Southeast Asia, as the Royal Thai Government has prioritized the condition of the roads. In the dry season, the climate is pleasant and cool, creating the perfect conditions for a long bike ride through the surrounding green hills, lakes, flower fields and quiet forests. To protect the sacred mountains, the roads are not blasted through the mountain passes, but are gently routed around them, allowing for fantastic curves and spectacular views. Within Chiang Mai city, bicycles and motorcycles are a common means of transportation for locals. There is not as much traffic in Chiang Mai as in Bangkok, which makes cycling through the old alleys and streets of this ancient city a relaxing experience.
Experiencing Chiang Mai firsthand by bike is the best way to truly take in the sights and sounds of the city. Wind your way through the narrow streets and alleyways, admiring the traditional wooden houses and the array of quirky stores. The spicy aroma of simmering noodles, the ringing of prayer bells and the colorful rainbow of traditional Thai clothing: Cycling immerses you completely in the colorful hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai.
Choose Your Own Adventure
We offer three distinct tours which visit Chiang Mai, each with a different theme and pace to them.
The Chiang Mai Family Multisport tour is based in a boutique lodge within the heart of the old city in Chiang Mai and takes you on many day trips by bike, canoe, raft, foot around the city and surrounding countryside, also includes an option to learn a little Thai cooking as well. The Chiang Mai Family Multisport tour is suitable for casual travelers who want a relaxing yet experiential time.
The Northern Thailand Bike Tour tour is a week long adventure that takes you from Chiang Mai up into remote mountain resorts, lush isolated forests, and breathtaking temple caves. On this journey, selected by National Geographic Traveler as one of the 50 Tours of a Lifetime, you will never be far from excitement.
The Bangkok to Golden Triangle Bike Tour tour is two weeks long, and takes you all the way from central Thailand into the beautiful north, exploring fascinating ruins along the way. If you want to learn more about the rich history of this area, and discover how the ethnic tribes of Thailand live, this adventure is for you!