The Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai

Choosing when to visit Chiang Mai can turn into a difficult moment especially for first-timers due to the big number of events all year round as well as the different kind of seasons and weather that can make or break your trip to the city. We wrote this guide as the definitive resource you’ll need to understand what are your options and what you can expect from the city regarding the weather, the events, the tourists crowds, and all the little details you’ll have to take into consideration to choose the best time for you to go to Chiang Mai.


Chiang Mai is a popular destination for tourists year-round. The city offers many activities, festivals, and amazing weather. The average temperature is in the high 20 degrees Celsius 68 degrees Fahrenheit all year, which makes it an ideal destination for those looking to vacation in a warm climate.

Chiang Mai has many attractions for many travelers: shopping, outdoor activities, stunning temples, and cultural exploration with different ideal times to visit for each activity.

There is no wrong time to visit this northern city, so how can you choose the right time to visit? This article will break down the various seasons and months in Chiang Mai and what time is best for different kinds of travelers.

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Quick Answer:

The best time to visit Chiang Mai is in the months of November through February. This season is the ideal time to visit because of it’s nice temperature with little rain, and the city’s many activities and festivals. The city offers great vacationing weather during this time, averaging 27 degrees Celsius with clear sunny skies and very little humidity.

If you are looking to avoid the busy season, but still want the best time to visit the North of Thailand, choose the bookend months of November and February.

The city is crowded during this time, but the peak visiting months are December to January. If you choose to travel during these months, expect the pricing to be a bit more expensive and for hotels to book fast. The high season offers the most activities and festivals open to foreigners including the most famous festival in Thailand, the Lantern Festival.

Be sure to stay in the best area during your trip and to select the right kind of hotel that you’ll need depending on your budget and on the type of vacation you’ll take. Follow the complete guide here on where to stay in Chiang Mai.

The Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai
Landmark pagoda in doi Inthanon national park at Chiang mai. – by tawatchaiprakobkit/Getty Images Pro

When to Visit Chiang Mai: the Weather

The north of Thailand does not have typical seasons like the western world. Instead of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, Chiang Mai has 3 seasons: cool, hot and smoky, and rainy season.

Hot and Smoky Season: March to June

Smoky season occurs yearly in Thailand and its surrounding countries, and it’s rarely heard of. This season is the hottest, reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius. During this season, the farmers burn the leftover crops and unfortunately, trash.

The air throughout all of Northern Thailand becomes thick and filled with smoke and smog. The government tries to create a burn ban yearly, but it never does much good. The air quality becomes one of the worst in the world during this season, often reaching up to 600 on the AQI. There are days where you can’t even see the surrounding mountains.

During the burning season you can experience the Thai holiday Songkran. This holiday is how locals escape from the heat, with huge water fights throughout the city. Many ex-pats and tourists vacate the North for this season and head to the South for its clearer air, so this season is often the slowest. However, it is strongly NOT recommended to travel to Thailand during the smoky season.

Thai holiday Songkran during Smoky Season in Chiang Mai
The Water-fight in Chiang Mai during Songkran – by John Shedrick (CC BY 2.0)

Rainy Season: July to November

Rainy Season in Northern Thailand is a magical time and personally, it is my favorite time to visit Northern Thailand. The temperature is much milder than during the hot season ranging from 25-35 degrees Celsius, although much more humid.

It rains almost every day, but hardly ever for a full day. Usually the storms last a few hours and the rest of the day is dry to enjoy. If you can escape to the outskirts of the city for a day or two, to enjoy the rainfall from the beautiful mountains surrounding the city.

This time of the year is ideal for those looking for a less busy season with a bit of rainfall to experience the lush greens of Northern Thailand’s jungle.

Views of Chiang Mai can be seen from a balcony on the far side of the Doi Suthep temple
Views of Chiang Mai can be seen from a balcony on the far side of the Doi Suthep temple – by shankar s. (CC BY 2.0)

Cool Season: November to February

The cool season from November to February is the best time to visit Chiang Mai. The temperatures average 25 degrees Celsius and drop to 13 degrees during the night time. The weather is sunny and the skies are clear in the cool season.

These months also have the least humidity so there is rarely any rain. This period is the most pleasant and most popular with visitors due to the perfect weather, so this season will be the most crowded. With the influx of visitors, this season also becomes the most expensive.

Tourists during cool season in Chiang Mai
Cool season tourists make photos near Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand – by Karl Grenet (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tourist Seasons in Chiang Mai

High Travel Season in Chiang Mai: November-February

The high season in Chiang Mai is from November to February.

Because of this season’s ideal weather, thousands of tourists flock to Thailand’s warm climate for vacation and travel. Chiang Mai is known to be one of the coolest places in Thailand during these months, so many locals come to experience the Thai winter in the mountains.

The peak of the tourist season occurs during December and January with many people traveling for their holidays. With the massive influx of tourists, the pricing during this season is at its highest. During high season, the most events and festivals occur throughout Chiang Mai, but you can guarantee you won’t be the only foreigner.

Events you can attend during the high season in Chiang Mai:

  • Loi Krathong / Yi Peng (The Lantern Festival): This is one of the most popular events in Thailand’s high season, attracting tourists and locals alike to set free-floating paper lanterns into the sky from the Ping River.
  • Music Festivals: During the cool “winter” months in Northern Thailand you can find many festivals throughout the Chiang Mai area, including a few western-inspired music festivals such as Woke Folks, Boom at the Canyon, and Jai Thep.
  • Chiang Mai Red Cross & Winter Fair: This is a 10-day festival to celebrate the Thai culture with traditional performances and lots of delicious Thai Food.
Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai is a must-see event during the high travel season – by Beboy_ltd/Getty Images

Low Travel Season in Chiang Mai

Low season in Northern Thailand goes on from March until August.

The beginning of the hot summer months accompanied by the beginning of the burning season results in a much slower flow of visitors to the city. The monsoon season follows shortly after, putting an end to the burning but bringing large storms almost daily.

Although with significantly fewer tourists and intense weather, all activities and tours will still be open but try to remain inside during the peak burning hours. If you are looking to visit Chiang Mai during the low season, it is recommended to wait until late April or June to avoid hazardous air.

Here is what you can do in the low season:

  • Songkran: Chiang Mai is the epicenter of this huge water festival in Thailand. No matter where you are in the city you are within walking distance of a celebration and can expect to get soaked!
  • Mango Season: Despite the dry and smoky air, the hot climate in the low season provides the sweetest mangoes often found on the side of the road selling for less than 30 baht per kilo!
  • Rainy Day Festivals: During the rainy season you can experience intimate local festivals celebrating the first rainfalls. Villages erupt into dance with loud music and drinking throughout the streets.
  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday: The new king of Thailand’s birthday is celebrated throughout the country on July 28th with fireworks, parties, shared food, and good deeds. This is a beautiful way to experience the country’s patriotism.
People celebrating Songkran water festival in Chiang Mai
The Songkran festival is a nationwide water festival in Chiang Mai – by CatEdwards1/Getty Images

Shoulder Season in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has 2 shoulder seasons:

  • May to June
  • September to October

These months are the “shoulder seasons” for tourism in Chiang Mai. The months in between the main seasons are the most ideal time for visitors looking to avoid the huge tourist crowds with more reasonable accommodation pricing.

May to June is the end of the hot summer season and is the ideal time to visit Chiang Mai before the school’s let out for the summer holiday.

September to October is the end of the rainy season, meaning you will experience the refreshed lush jungle of the surrounding mountains and fresh air. These months are just before the huge surge of visitors during high season.

There are not many festivals or activities during the shoulder seasons, but there are plenty of local festivities and religious holidays to observe.

  • Viska Bucha Festivities: This holiday falls on the 6th full moon of the year, and is one of the most important Buddhist holidays. This holiday honors the birth, life, death, and enlightenment of Buddha. It is known as the Festival of Light due to the many candles lit to honor Buddha.
  • Inthakin Festival: This is an 8-day worship festival at the original site of the city pillar, once marking the center of the city and the universe to the Lanna people. There is dancing, offerings, and prayers to honor and connect with the spirits protecting the city.
  • Ork Phansa: This symbolizes the end of the Buddhist Lent. The devotees are honored with new robes and celebrations with music and food are held at various temples and throughout the city.
Monks preparing for Viska Bucha Festivities in Chiang Mai
Monks preparing for the candle-lit ceremony at Wat Phan Tao on Makha Bucha Day – by John Shedrick (CC BY 2.0)

Climate Charts for Chiang Mai

Average Temperatures in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Chart in °Celcius)
Average Temperatures in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Chart in °Fahrenheit)
Rain & Precipitation in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Chart)

Data source: weatherbase.com

When to Visit Chiang Mai . Depending on the Type of Traveler You Are

Best Time to Go Shopping in Chiang Mai

The peak shopping season in Chiang Mai is November-December, right before the holidays. But, shopping is one of the main attractions in Chiang Mai and there is no wrong time to visit. Chiang Mai’s malls, boutique shops, and walking night markets are continuously running no matter the season.

If you don’t mind the crowd, high season might yield the best deals. However, bargaining is expected in Thailand, so you can always find a good deal no matter the time, it just depends on your skills.

Shopping market in Chiang Mai
View on the Chang Cran Road market in Chiang Mai – by kazhiya/Getty Images

The Best Time to Spend Your Honeymoon in Chiang Mai

The best time to take a honeymoon to Chiang Mai is in November. The weather will be a nice cool temperature with warm nights and very little rain. November is the beginning of the high season but right before the peak tourist season begins, so you will be able to escape to less crowded areas for privacy.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival is held on the full moon during this month and is the perfect romantic and symbolic experience to share with your partner.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai
A couple releasing flying lantern during Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai – by NicoElNino/Getty Images

The Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai for Cultural Tourism and Museum Exploration

You can visit Chiang Mai anytime to take advantage of the city’s many temples and museums and the knowledge they have to offer about the nation’s culture. But, nothing quite compares to experiencing Thai culture with the locals.

The best time to visit Chiang Mai for cultural tourism would be in the high season, from November to February. During these months Chiang Mai offers the most cultural festivals that foreigners can participate and learn about.

If you are looking to experience quiet temples and museums free of distraction, visit during the bookend months. You will find the cultural centers significantly less busy than the peak months.

Tourists walking near Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai
Tourists walking near Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai – by [email protected] (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Best Time for Sightseeing and Outdoor Activities in Chiang Mai

The best time for sightseeing and outdoor activities will be in the shoulder seasons, especially the month of October. The weather during this month will be cool and dry, with the occasional bit of rain.

The jungle and natural attractions are lush and picturesque after the rainy season, making this season perfect for trekking and other outdoor activities. Because of the low amount of tourists during the shoulder season, the prices will be low and you will often find tours/activities for significantly less.

Tourist on Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai
Tourist with elephants in Patara Elephant Farm, Chiang Mai – by Bradjward (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Best Time to Go to Chiang Mai on a Budget

The best time to visit Chiang Mai on a budget is during the low season. It is recommended to travel to Chiang Mai after the burning season, and during the rainy season instead. Because of the unappealing nature of vacationing to a country during it’s “rainy” season, the amount of tourists drops significantly. With fewer visitors, accommodation and flight prices decrease, ultimately making this season the best time to visit on a budget.

The Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai with Family and Kids

Chiang Mai is an activity centered destination, making it an ideal place to take your family on holiday. There are plenty of educational and fun activities throughout the city for all types of family vacations.

The most ideal season for a family visit Chiang Mai is during the high season over Christmas. The weather will be warm and dry, and there will be plenty of activities and events throughout the city. This season will give you and your family an insight into the beautiful cultural life of the Thai people through its many kid-friendly festivals.

Happy family jumping on Chiang Mai beach, Thailand
Happy family jumping on Chiang Mai beach, Thailand – by GettyImagesPro

The Best Time for Hiking Near Chiang Mai

The best time to visit Chiang Mai for hiking and trekking in October. October is the ideal month to hike around Chiang Mai because of the low amount of visitors, refreshed nature, and low prices. The weather during this month provides a cool and dry climate with minimal humidity, perfect for hiking.

This month is right before the high season begins and often trails will be empty with only a few other people. The nature is fresh and renewed after the rainy season, leaving the trails with picturesque views and the water features overflowing. This season is perfect for waterfall hunting because you are able to visit waterfalls that are usually dried up during the drier seasons.

Tourists near Wachirathan Waterfall Hike in Chiang Mai
Tourists near Wachirathan Waterfall Hike in Chiang Mai – by geoff dude (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Weather in Chiang Mai by Month

January

It offers the best weather of the year, with an average temperature of 22 degrees Celsius with sunny clear skies during the day, and sweater weather during the night time. This month is part of the peak months of high season, meaning you can expect the city to be crowded with other tourists. Many Thai people visit Chiang Mai from Bangkok and other cities to explore the cool winter temperatures. During this month you can experience Chinese New Year, or other festivals such as Jai Thep Music Festival.

  • Average Temperature: 21°C / 71°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 14°C / 58°F
  • Average High Temperature: 28°C /84°F
  • Average Rainfall: –mm / 1 day

February

February offers fantastic weather through the end of high season, with an average of 23 degrees Celsius throughout the day. During the night, the temperature drops drastically, especially in the mountains. This month is the end of the high season, expect the crowds to be dying out a bit. During this month, you can experience Chiang Mai’s 3-day flower festival and the public Buddhist holiday of Makha Bucha.

  • Average Temperature: 23°C / 75°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 15°C / 60°F
  • Average High Temperature: 31°C /89°F
  • Average Rainfall: –mm / 1 day
Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Thai people demonstrate their artwork on Chiang Mai Flower Festival – by Robbi Baba (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

March

The month of March is the end of the high season and the beginning of the hot burning season. The weather begins to become drier with an average of 27 degrees Celsius and the night temperatures rise to 18. If you choose to visit Chiang Mai in March, expect the air to gradually become smokier as the farmers begin to burn their crops. During March, mango season begins in Chiang Mai. Make sure to pick up some of these sweet fruits for about a dollar per kilo! You can also enjoy kite flying festivals throughout the local villages.

  • Average Temperature: 27°C / 81°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 18°C / 66°F
  • Average High Temperature: 34°C /94°F
  • Average Rainfall: 10mm / 3 days
Farmer with mango in Chiang Mai
Farmer picking and show mango fruit in Chiang Mai organic farm – by Chokniti Khongchum/GettyImages

April

The month of April is the peak of the hot season with the average temperature reaching 29 degrees Celsius. You can expect the air to be at its worst during this month, with the mountainscape surrounding Chiang Mai to be barely visible. Stay inside as much as you can during the peak burning hours. The city will be at its slowest during this month. During the month of April you can experience the world-famous Songkran festival! Locals and tourists alike join into large water fights to escape the heat of the season with a 3-day celebration.

  • Average Temperature: 29°C / 85°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 22°C / 73°F
  • Average High Temperature: 36°C /97°F
  • Average Rainfall: 40mm / 7 days

May

May is the beginning of the rainy season, the first relief from the long-burning season. There is on average 17 days of rain this month. The weather is still quite hot for the beginning of the month before the rains, averaging at 28 degrees Celsius. When visiting Chiang Mai in April expect minimal crowds because it is still low season, and expect to get rained out of at least one of your plans. Luckily there is still plenty to do during the low season, even when it’s raining. When visiting Chiang Mai in April, check out one of the local festivals beckoning the rain, or the Viska Bucha festivities.

  • Average Temperature: 28°C / 84°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 23°C / 75°F
  • Average High Temperature: 33°C /93°F
  • Average Rainfall: 150mm / 17 days
Doi Suthep- relatively uncrowded due to the rains
A less busy view of the golden chedi at Chiang Mai’s celebrated landmark the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep shrine taken in pouring rain. – by shankar s. (CC BY 2.0)

June

Visiting Chiang Mai in June guarantees a beautiful rainy day experience, with an average of 18 days of rain. The accompanying temperatures are warm with an average of 28 degrees Celsius. If you visit Chiang Mai in June you should expect most days of your trip to be rainy. Luckily the day won’t be completely ruined, as it tends to rain only for a short period before the day is left dry and sunny. June is a shoulder month in Chiang Mai, with low prices and only a slight increase in visitors. You can visit the temples, museums, and trendy cafes to escape from the rain during this month. There is also a Buddhist Holiday that occurs nationwide in June called Phi Ta Khon.

  • Average Temperature: 28°C / 83°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 24°C / 76°F
  • Average High Temperature: 32°C /90°F
  • Average Rainfall: 130mm / 18 days

July

The temperatures drop slightly during the month of July as the rains begin to cool down the valley of Chiang Mai. The average temperature is 27 degrees and the rain becomes a more dominant weather feature. If you plan to visit Chiang Mai in July, you should expect to have rain and humidity during most of this month. This month is also the beginning of the US and European holiday season so you should expect a large influx of tourism. In July, the month is filled with Buddhist holidays and the King’s Birthday. July marks the time of Buddhist lent and fasting during Khao Phansa.

  • Average Temperature: 27°C / 82°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 23°C / 75°F
  • Average High Temperature: 31°C /89°F
  • Average Rainfall: 160mm / 21 days
Buddhist on the street in Chiang Mai
Buddhist on the street in Chiang Mai – by Paul Arps (CC BY 2.0)

August

The weather in August is primarily filled by rain, with over 23 days of rain. The temperature is still quite warm with an average of 27 degrees Celsius, providing tropical rain. If you choose to visit Chiang Mai in August, expect there to be many days of rain. August has the most days of rain on average out of the whole rainy season. There are still many things to do, but not many activities or festivals due to this month marking the middle of the rainy season. The only holiday during this month is the nation’s Mother’s Day on the 12th of August, the Queen’s birthday.

  • Average Temperature: 27°C / 82°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 23°C / 75°F
  • Average High Temperature: 31°C /88°F
  • Average Rainfall: 220mm / 23 days

September

September is the heaviest month of the rainy season, with fewer days of rain but heavier rainfall. The temperature is still warm and tropical with an average of 27 degrees Celsius. September is the quietest season for tourism in Chiang Mai, even though there are quite a few days without rain. Expect there to be the least amount of tourists for the year and take advantage of the quiet rainy days. September holds one of the longest Buddhist festivals from September 20 – October 10th, Poi Learn Sip-ed. This season is also known for having bright yellow sunflowers around rice fields thriving from the rain. If you want to see the biggest sunflower field in Thailand, it’s only 72 km from Chiang Mai and makes for a great day trip.

  • Average Temperature: 27°C / 81°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 23°C / 74°F
  • Average High Temperature: 31°C /88°F
  • Average Rainfall: 250mm / 20 days
Sunflower field in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sunflower field in Chiang Mai, Thailand – by GettyImages

October

October is another month of the shoulder season in Chiang Mai. The rain begins to slow down, with heavy rainfalls spread out with an average of 12 days. The weather begins to slowly cool to 26 degrees Celsius. If you visit Chiang Mai in October, you can expect slow tourism before the beginning of the high season the following month. The days will be filled with less rain and less humidity. During October, there are plenty of religious preparations happening for the end of Buddhist lent celebrated by the holiday of Ork Phansa. There are several local Thai festivals and offerings hosted at the local temples.

  • Average Temperature: 26°C / 80°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 22°C / 72°F
  • Average High Temperature: 31°C /88°F
  • Average Rainfall: 130mm / 12 days

November

November is the first month of the high season, and the weather begins to cool to an average of 24 degrees Celsius. There is significantly less rain during the month, making this month appealing to many tourists looking to escape their extreme winter or summer seasons.

If you visit Chiang Mai in November, expect to be a part of the large influx of tourists to the country. The pricing during this month will be more expensive for accommodation.

During October, the largest and most famous festival in Thailand occurs: The Yi Peng Floating Lantern Festival is a must-see event.

  • Average Temperature: 24°C / 76°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 19°C / 67°F
  • Average High Temperature: 29°C /85°F
  • Average Rainfall: 40mm / 5 days
Tourists on lantern festival in Chiang Mai
Women make photos on Lantern festival in Chiang Mai – by Rodney Ee (CC BY 2.0)

December

December is part of the peak tourist season due to its attractive cool weather, with an average of 21 degrees Celsius. The night-time temperatures begin to drop to 15 degrees Celsius as the Thai winter begins. There is rarely any rain or humidity during this month. If you visit Chiang Mai during December, expect the city to be bustling with tourists and foreigners. The prices will be at their highest and most places will be booking up fast! There is no shortage of events during the high season. A major festival is the Chiang Mai Red Cross and Winter Fair is an educational cultural fair with activities, food, and performances.

  • Average Temperature: 21°C / 71°F
  • Average Low Temperature: 15°C / 59°F
  • Average High Temperature: 27°C /82°F
  • Average Rainfall: 10mm / 2 days

The Best Time to Go to Chiang Mai . Final Thoughts

Chiang Mai is a popular city with many different attractions bringing in thousands of different visitors. The city offers attractive weather and activities year round.

The best time to visit Chiang Mai is the bookend months of the high season, November and February. These months offer some of the best weather with less tourists before the peak season.

The month of November has the most popular festival in all of Thailand, the Yi Peng Lantern Festival. This festival is breathtakingly beautiful and is a great thing to cross off your bucket list.