When Is the Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai?

  January 14, 2022 travel posts 🕑 6 minutes read
best time to visit chiang mai

Doi Suthep Non Hunting Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The best time to visit Chiang Mai coincides with a little known fact about the city outside of the tourist circuit.


Even frequent travelers seem blindsided by the odd climate pattern for a place appearing to be in the tropics.


Chiang Mai gets quite chilly at night from November through February.


The best time to visit this digital nomad haven runs from November to January.


Experiencing pleasant temperatures in the 70’s during the day and comfortable temperatures in the upper 50’s at night makes for an agreeable environment.  Factor in the absence of humidity during this time frame and you have picture perfect weather in the region.


The best time to visit Chiang Mai arrives just before the worst time to visit the city. Burning season kicks in at full force from March to April on most years. Farmers raze crops to register some of the highest levels of pollution on earth. Making matters worse, stifling heat reaching 100 degrees assails the valley. Combining blistering heat with heavy smog creates nightmarish conditions.


Most people do not bother spending time outside during burning season. Brave souls wear high quality masks to weather the air quality storm. The majority of travelers avoid Chiang Mai as burning season kicks in.


Do yourself a favor. Enjoy those few cool, clear months void of humidity.


Chilly Temperatures


I meditated wearing a sweat shirt during many trips to Chiang Mai, Thailand.


I pulled up my hoodie.


I looked like Gandalf. A little bit. He did not don sweat shirts. But he did wear long robes during meditation sessions. Or was it Sauruman? Whatever.


Chiang Mai, Thailand – where I visit often – gets chilly at night. 50 to 60 degree F type chilly.


This stunned me nearly 10 years ago during my first trip to Chiang Mai. People picture the tropics as being hazy, hot and humid. The best time of the year to visit town is dry, cool and clear.


I recall strolling down the road in town during the evening. Up and at ’em at 9 PM. Walking outside shocked me; I expected warm temps. Maybe a smidge of humidity.  Thailand appeared to be a hot, humid paradise to me as I researched this digital nomad haunt. Palm trees, white sand beaches and toasty climates pop up on page 1 of a “Thailand” Google search.


Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand


The cool, crisp, dry air surprised me as the chill cut to my bones.  I did feel the chill more than expected because Kelli and I had flown in from Phuket a few hours prior.


Folks in Chiang Mai dress for the cool weather. I never knew though if the long pants, heavy jackets, gloves and scarves were cool weather or light skin motivated.


Oh yes; this is another thing you may not have known about Chiang Mai or Southeast Asia in general.


Folks tend to wear long sleeved shirts and long pants even in brutally hot climes.


SE Asians do this for a few reasons:


  • light skin effect; people crave lighter colored skin as it indicates the individuals didn’t have to toil in the fields all day long (darker skinned folks)
  • avoid nasty skin injuries during motorbike accidents
  • keep warm during chillier evening hours


I slowly adopted the local custom of covering up with long sleeves and long pants during cooler times. After being in a wicked motorbike accident in Bali and seeing my arms slowly evolve into a California raisin like tan I stopped wearing cut-offs. Sometimes I even wore long sleeves during 100 degree weather to protect my skin from the sun.


This was intense guys. During our first trip to Jimbaran, Bali, I was involved in a motorbike accident. Hit an oil slick and slammed into the pavement Superman Style. Stabbing pains, skin peeled from shoulder. Unfortunately, I did not recover as quickly as the Man of Steel.

Motorbike in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


Why Cooler Temperatures?


Chiang Mai sits in a different clime than the hot, humid weather of Bangkok. Working southward, you get even more humid weather in the jungle regions of Southern Thailand where islands like Phuket and Koh Lanta introduce you to steamy settings.


Chiang Mai is Northern Thailand. Picture a region not too far from mainland China. Moving north introduces clearer lines between seasons.


Experiencing low 70’s during the day and low 50’s at night feels pleasant for most people. No one needs to sweat it out during day time hours. No one needs to bundle up with heavy clothing to be comfortable during evening hours.


December in Chiang Mai is brilliant; 50’s and chilly at night, low 70’s, clear, crisp, dry and cloudless during the day.  Picture autumn-like weather in the Northeast United States.


February sees a quick shift. Night time temps feel cool enough but day time temps soar to near 100 on some days. Dry conditions evolve into more humid deals but far from the steamy climes of say, Phuket, way down in Southern Thailand.


Be prepared to experience a dramatic temperature swing from cool to hot as burning season slowly unfolds in Northern Thailand. Farmers begin to burn crops the moment fields need to begin anew. This introduces a can of worms for travelers; do you travel to Chiang Mai during burning season?


Travel Preparations


I enjoy finding the proper mix between researching travel locations and not researching travel locations.


Wise digital nomad prepare a bit for travels to avoid facing stiff resistance. Anyone can purchase sweat pants and sweat shirts on arriving to cold, chilly Chiang Mai nights in December but arriving prepared removes some shock concerning your travels.


However, being open to the unexpected also makes for a fascinating trip. Travel loses all flavor if executed firmly inside of your comfort zone. Being blind-sided a wee bit keeps you alert. Being surprised makes you feel alive.


Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand


Learn how to spot the difference between preparing yourself adequately and over-preparing because you fear leaving your comfort zone.


Chiang Mai, Thailand is a digital nomad haven in part because culture meets comfort meets convenience in this part of the world. Traveling bloggers can pretty much have it all in the Chiang Mai complex of the city proper and surrounding villages.


Traveling becomes more freeing the moment you edge outside of your comfort zone into the unexpected. Nudging into the unexpected moves you past your preparations into unprepared circumstances. This is where fear begins. This is also where fun begins.


I had to add this insight because way too many travelers obsess over preparing everything down to a T to avoid facing fears. Some fixate on buying the proper insurance in case things go south. Others travel with so much stuff that the tonnage weighs them down, holds them back and spoils their trip. Others travel solely with people who:


  • look like them
  • speak like them
  • sound like them
  • eat like them
  • think like them
  • feel like them


Why would you travel if you bring your home country with you to the seemingly exotic location?


Let go some preparations to be pleasantly surprised by people, places and things during your world travels.


Chiang Mai, Thailand. Roasted chicken.


Feel free to pack your sweats for a Chiang Mai trip during cooler months but be open to new things, new people, new cultures and all that unfolds outside of your comfort and preparedness zones.


Your Turn


Have you visited Chiang Mai during chillier winter months?


Or have you only visited this gem during warmer months?


When do you think is the best time to visit Chiang Mai?

  1. Joanna Finch says:
    at 2:03 am

    Thanks for this amazing blog. This is a complete guide for travelers who expect fun! This blog is a savior which saves us from traveling to Chiang Mai during the hot burning seasons. Thanks for the awareness on packing clothes according to the climatic conditions. Reading your blog before planning a tour will definitely be useful. I’ve planned to visit Thailand soon and after reading this blog, decided to visit only during December. Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

  2. John Ravi says:
    at 2:47 am

    Hi Ryan,

    All of my travel plans are on hold, but I have been collecting ideas to visit places as soon as the situation goes back to normal. Chiang Mai has been on my list for some time, and I am so grateful that you shared the best time to visit this place. Some family members visited and did not have a good experience. I will try to keep your tips in mind and visit the place at the best time. Thanks a lot for sharing, it was a great read!

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 11:14 am

      I love Chiang Mai John but it can be a bit much depending on your actual location in town. Some spots are overrun. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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