Choosing a Time to Visit Chiang Mai – The City for All Seasons.
Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s top tourism destinations. The city is located in the northwest corner of Thailand in a valley surrounded by lush, forest-covered mountains. Although it’s not particularly high, sitting at only 310 meters above sea level, the surrounding mountains and forests do play a part in the city’s climate.
The topography means that, seasonally, it differs a bit from Thailand’s cities to the south. Not a lot, but a little. The higher latitude also plays a role in defining the climate.
Thailand basically has two seasons – a wet, or monsoon season and a dry season. However, in Chiang Mai you can also divide the dry season into two sub-seasons, the cool season and the hot season. But, let’s look at the wet season first.
Chiang Mai’s Wet Season – Names can be Deceiving
When foreign tourists hear the word ‘monsoon’, they often think of torrential, pounding rain for days on end. In truth, the definition of ‘monsoon’ has nothing to with rain. It’s defined as the annual southwest-wind blowing in off of the Indian Ocean.
This wind does bring rain, but you can also have days of sunny weather as well. When it does rain, it rarely lasts for more than a day at a time.
This means that it can be a great time to visit the city, if you’re not bothered by a little rain. The city is less crowded with fair-weather tourists and the airfare and accommodation prices are lower. The countryside turns a brilliant green as the rains bring new growth to the surrounding mountains and forests.
The wet season in Chiang Mai runs from around May to October. So, if you’re willing to bring an umbrella, you can enjoy a cheaper, less crowded visit.
The Cool Season
From October to around February the city really gets hopping with tourists, as the temperature drops and people use this cool season to get outdoors and see all the attractions in the area.
It’s generally a little cooler than the weather you would experience in Bangkok. Bring at least a light jacket with you for evenings and early mornings. If you plan on going up into the mountains surrounding the city, it definitely can get downright cold after the sun goes down and you should be prepared for temperatures as low as 10 degrees Celsius. If you go up to the top of Doi Inthanon, the highest spot in Thailand, it might even drop to about 0 degrees Celsius! Bet you didn’t know that!
During the day, however, the weather in Chiang Mai is incredibly pleasant and breezy. It’s no wonder that this is the most popular time of year to visit.
If you plan to take advantage of the fine weather, you won’t be alone, so be sure to book your accommodations ahead of time.
The Hot Season
The dry and hot season can be somewhat fickle in Chiang Mai. It can start some years as early as the end of January or as late as the end of March. It can end at the beginning of May or last well into June.
However, when it arrives the weather is still dry with a low humidity factor. For people who enjoy hot weather and basking around a pool, it can be the perfect time to visit. For those who’d rather get out and enjoy the sites around Chiang Mai, it’s probably best to plan your excursions earlier in the morning. Just remember to wear light cotton clothes and put on plenty of sunscreen or a hat.
Outdoor dining is really enjoyable as well at this time of year. The temperature drops a few degrees and the low humidity also makes roaming through the food stalls and markets after dark a very pleasant experience.
Choose the Season to Match your Activities
If you look at it objectively, there really is no reason for terms like ‘high’ season or ‘low’ season when it comes to holidays. It just depends on what you like to do. If you’re an active hiker, the cool dry season would logically be the time to visit Chiang Mai.
If you don’t enjoy crowds, maybe the wet season is your cup of tea. And if you just like to lie around a pool, sipping a tall cool drink, we have the dry and hot season you’re looking for.