Wat Chiang Man: 7 Incredible Experiences for Foreign Tourists

Wat Chiang Man is a significant Buddhist temple located within the old city walls of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. As Chiang Mai’s oldest temple, it dates back to the 13th century and holds historical importance as the residence of King Mengrai during the construction of Chiang Mai in the 14th century. The temple’s rich history and striking architecture make it a must-visit destination for travelers exploring the cultural and spiritual heritage of the region.

The temple’s architecture showcases some of the best examples of Lanna-style design, with its intricately carved wooden structures and beautiful chedis. Wat Chiang Man is also home to an impressive collection of Buddha images and statues, each with a unique story behind its creation and symbolism. Furthermore, the temple is not only favored by tourists but also by local Thai people who attend various ceremonies and festivals throughout the year to pay their respects and engage in age-old traditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Wat Chiang Man is Chiang Mai’s oldest temple, dating back to the 13th century.
  • The temple features stunning Lanna architecture and a collection of unique Buddha images and statues.
  • It is a site of both historical and cultural significance, hosting various ceremonies and festivals annually.


Wat Chiang Man, situated in northern Thailand, is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. It was founded in 1297 CE by King Mangrai during the construction of his new capital city, Chiang Mai. The temple stands on the location of Wiang Nopburi, a fortified town of the Lawa people, which King Mangrai used as a camp during the city’s construction ^1^.

As the first temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Man played a significant role in the establishment of the Lanna Kingdom, in which King Mengrai ruled. The Lanna Kingdom eventually spanned across Northern Thailand, Laos, and parts of what is now Myanmar. The kingdom witnessed the reign of numerous kings, including King Ramraj, who also contributed to the development of Chiang Mai ^2^.

Wat Chiang Man is closely associated with the Three Kings Monument, which can be found near the temple. This monument symbolizes the unity between King Mangrai, King Ramraj, and King Ngam Muang, who worked together to establish the Lanna Kingdom ^3^.

Throughout its history, the temple has undergone several restorations and transformations. Initially, the temple was used as a residence for King Mengrai before it was converted into a Buddhist temple ^4^. Nowadays, Wat Chiang Man is not only a great historical site for tourists but also a reminder of the rich heritage and unique culture of Chiang Mai.

We highly recommend stopping by Wat Chiang Man while exploring Chiang Mai, as its historical significance and magnificent architecture provide travelers with a true taste of the city’s vibrant past.



The architecture at Wat Chiang Man is incredibly impressive, showcasing the best of Lanna-style design. One of the key structures within the temple complex is the Ubosot, also known as the ordination hall. This sacred building is where monks are ordained and take their vows. The Ubosot is adorned with intricate wood carvings and guarded by powerful Naga serpents, a prevalent symbol in Lanna architecture.


Another important building within Wat Chiang Man is the Wihan, a hall used for Buddhist rituals, sermons, and prayer. The Wihan at Wat Chiang Man is an excellent example of Lanna architecture, with its multi-tiered roof and elegantly curved beams. The entrance to the Wihan features an impressive Kirtimukha, also known as “the face of glory.” This ornamental motif is often found in Lanna temples and serves as a symbol of protection and prosperity.

Chedi Chang Lom

Located within the grounds of this ancient temple is the Chedi Chang Lom, which translates to “Elephant-surrounded Chedi.” This stunning landmark can be recognized by its octagonal base, which is decorated with 15 life-sized elephant statues that appear to support the structure. The Chedi Chang Lom is both an architectural marvel and a sacred monument, which exemplifies Lanna design influences.

Elephant Chedi

Aside from Chedi Chang Lom, there’s also the Elephant Chedi, which is the oldest structure within Wat Chiang Man. It is said that the chedi was built to commemorate King Mengrai’s victory against the Lawa people. Its unique design and historical relevance make it an essential stop for anyone visiting the temple.

Ho Trai

Last, but certainly not least, is the Ho Trai, the temple’s library for Buddhist scriptures. This beautiful wooden structure exudes serene elegance, with its intricately carved golden gables and protective Naga serpents lining the stairway. A must-see attraction, the Ho Trai at Wat Chiang Man is both an architectural gem and a testament to Lanna intellectual heritage.

Buddha Images and Statues

At Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, there are several incredible Buddha images and statues to admire. We’ll take you through the most significant and awe-inspiring ones in this section.

Crystal Buddha

One of the most remarkable Buddha images housed at Wat Chiang Man is the Crystal Buddha, also known as Phra Kaew Kham Sanit Chedi Si Hing. This small image, carved from quartz crystal, dates back to 1306 and holds a significant historical importance. The beautiful transparent Crystal Buddha has been well preserved over the centuries, allowing visitors to capture a glimpse of its exquisite craftsmanship.

Phra Sila

Next up in our journey through the amazing Buddha images at Wat Chiang Man is the Phra Sila, a revered marble Buddha image. This statue, believed to have originated from Sri Lanka, is highly respected in the Buddhist community. It is said to possess the power to grant rain, making it an essential figure in Thai culture and ceremonies. The Phra Sila is housed in a separate building within the temple grounds, further highlighting its prominence and significance.

Phra Sae Tang Khamani

The Phra Sae Tang Khamani, an ancient and rare Buddha image, also calls Wat Chiang Man its home. This magnificent brass statue is believed to represent one of the earliest depictions of Buddha and is considered highly valuable due to its significance in Buddhist history. Carefully preserved, the Phra Sae Tang Khamani Buddha image showcases the intricate Thai artistry and gives visitors a unique perspective on ancient Buddhist sculpture.

As we explore the fascinating Buddha images and statues of Wat Chiang Man, we can’t help but appreciate the cultural depth and rich history embedded within these expressive works of art. From the transparent Crystal Buddha to the rare Phra Sae Tang Khamani, Wat Chiang Man offers a captivating encounter with ancient Buddhist heritage that is unforgettable for travelers.

Location and Transportation

Wat Chiang Man is situated in the heart of Chiang Mai, right inside the historical Old City. Surrounded by ancient city walls and a picturesque moat, it’s an essential destination for anyone looking to explore the rich cultural heritage of northern Thailand.

To reach Wat Chiang Man, you can start your journey from Chang Puak Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City. Once you’re within the city limits, it’s easy to find your way to the temple. Follow Ratchaphakhinai 1 Road, a major thoroughfare that runs through the heart of Chiang Mai, and Wat Chiang Man will be just a short stroll away.

As for transportation options, getting to Wat Chiang Man is a breeze. If you’re staying in Chiang Mai, you’ve got several choices to reach the temple:

  • By taxi: A convenient way to travel in Chiang Mai is by using a taxi. Don’t hesitate to ask your hotel to hail a taxi for you, or simply flag one down on the street.

  • By tuk-tuk: For an authentic Thai experience, hop on a tuk-tuk. These colorful three-wheeled motorized taxis are abundant throughout Chiang Mai and offer a fun way to get around the city.

  • By songthaew: A common mode of transport in Chiang Mai is the local songthaew. These red pick-up trucks, also known as “red cars,” have two rows of seats in the back and operate like shared taxis. Simply flag one down, tell the driver your destination, and enjoy the ride.

  • On foot or by bicycle: If you’re in the mood for a leisurely stroll or a leisurely bike ride, Wat Chiang Man is easily accessible on foot or by bicycle from most parts of the Old City.

No matter your mode of transportation, Wat Chiang Man is well worth the journey. Immerse yourself in the history and beauty of this ancient temple as you explore the enchanting city of Chiang Mai, and make your visit to this incredible destination an unforgettable experience.

Ceremonies and Festivals

At Wat Chiang Man, we can witness and partake in several intriguing ceremonies and festivals that showcase the rich culture and traditions of this ancient temple. One of the most significant festivals celebrated here is the Songkran Festival, which typically takes place from April 12th to 16th. During this time, we immerse ourselves in the unique Lanna culture while participating in the exciting water-splashing and cleansing rituals.

Each morning, the devout and respectful visitors at Wat Chiang Man can engage in the daily alms-giving ceremony. As the sun starts to rise, we gather around the temple grounds to present food offerings to the monks, who collect them in their alms bowls. It’s a humbling experience to be part of this centuries-old tradition, wherein we share our gratitude and support to the spiritual community.

While exploring the temple grounds, we also have the opportunity to witness the tranquil chanting of the monks. Quite often, these sessions take place in the mornings and evenings, when we can experience the soothing and meditative ambiance these chants create.

When visiting Wat Chiang Man, it’s essential to remain respectful of the customs and practices. We make sure to dress modestly, covering our shoulders and knees, and remove our shoes before entering the temple. This way, we can engage in the temple’s unique rituals and ceremonies with an open heart and mind, truly appreciating the beauty and heritage of Wat Chiang Man.

As we join these ceremonies and festivities, we not only deepen our understanding of Thai culture but also create lasting memories that enrich our travel experiences in the enchanting city of Chiang Mai.

Surrounding Attractions

When visiting Wat Chiang Man, it’s worth taking some time to explore the nearby attractions to make the most of your Chiang Mai experience. Here are some must-visit places that we found while exploring the area.

Just a short distance away, we came across Wat Phra Singh, another beautiful temple worth visiting. Like Wat Chiang Man, this temple also features a serene lotus pond, making it a tranquil spot for meditation and reflection.

Of course, no trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without a visit to the majestic Doi Suthep. This famous temple on the mountainside offers stunning views of the city below, as well as a chance to witness the rich cultural heritage of the region. If you’re up for some adventure, consider embarking on a guided hike or renting a motorbike to reach the summit.

In addition to the temples, Chiang Mai boasts a wide variety of attractions for all sorts of travelers. The Tourism Authority of Thailand offers a comprehensive guide to the many activities and attractions available in the region. From family-friendly activities like visiting the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park to exploring the bustling Sunday Night Market, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city.

Here are some more attractions we discovered during our visit, which we think you might also enjoy:

  • The Chiang Mai Night Safari, perfect for family outings and wildlife encounters
  • The adventurous and scenic Chiang Mai Zipline Experience, sure to get your adrenaline pumping
  • The Chiang Mai National Museum, offering a glimpse into the region’s rich history and culture
  • Various cooking classes and workshops, where you can learn to prepare authentic Thai cuisine

So, while visiting Wat Chiang Man, don’t miss out on the chance to explore the many surrounding attractions that Chiang Mai has to offer. With a range of activities catering to various interests, this city presents a unique and enriching experience for all its visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the historical significance of Wat Chiang Man?

Wat Chiang Man was built in 1296 by King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, making it the oldest temple in the city. It holds great historical significance as it was initially the residence of King Mengrai while he supervised the construction of the new capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The temple is rich in history and offers a glimpse into the early days of Chiang Mai.

What are the key features of Wat Chiang Man?

The prominent features of Wat Chiang Man include a beautiful lotus pond which is a rarity among Chiang Mai’s temples, and a collection of ancient Buddha statues. The temple also has a Chedi adorned with 15 elephant sculptures, symbolizing power and wisdom. Visitors can explore the beautiful architecture while absorbing the peaceful ambiance.

How do I get to Wat Chiang Man?

Wat Chiang Man is located inside the old city of Chiang Mai. Getting there is relatively easy, as it’s just a short walk from many of the city’s popular attractions. You can also rent a bicycle, motorbike, or hop on a songthaew (red shared taxi) to reach the temple.

What are the opening hours of Wat Chiang Man?

The temple is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm, offering ample time for visitors to explore the grounds and experience its serene atmosphere. Keep in mind that it is still an active place of worship, so please be respectful of the monks and locals who come to pray.

Are there any festivals or events at Wat Chiang Man?

While Wat Chiang Man doesn’t host any unique festivals of its own, it is still an integral part of Chiang Mai’s vibrant cultural scene. During the city-wide festivals like Songkran, Loy Krathong, and Makha Bucha, the temple is often bustling with activity, and visitors can join in the celebrations and observe traditional rituals.

What other attractions are near Wat Chiang Man?

Being situated within the old city, several other iconic temples such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang are within walking distance. Moreover, the Tha Pae Gate, Three Kings Monument, and the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center are nearby, providing ample opportunities for a fascinating day of exploration.