Religion is entrenched in the lives and culture of the Northern Thai people. With a history dating back centuries, Chiang Mai is home to hundreds of temples, all beautifully designed and elegantly adorned in a traditional style.
While your stay at the all-new Aleenta Retreat is one of relaxation and wellness, a visit to some of the temples in the area can only add to your overall experience and you will leave with a deeper understanding of the traditions and beliefs of the Buddhist people.
Temples in Chiang Mai that are definitely worth a visit:
Wat Umong Suan
The natural, forested setting of this late 13th century temple definitely promotes calm and mindfulness. Surrounded by nature and away from the demands of modern living, Wat Umong Suan is an oasis of peace and serenity. It’s renowned for being a centre for meditation and attracts people from all over the world. It’s not uncommon to see Buddhist monks walking around the grounds, mingling with the public and visitors to the area.
Another notable feature of Wat Umong Suan is the network of underground tunnels built in the late 14th century. The tunnels and temple grounds feature various artefacts and relics that reflect the interesting history of this notable place of worship.
Wat Ram Poeng
Wat Ram Poeng was built late in the 15th century in the vicinity of Doi Kham, a hill surrounded by beautiful mountainous vistas. The history of how this temple came to be is a colourful one, but very indicative of the values and beliefs of the kingdom in days gone by.
Like Wat Umong Suan, Wat Ram Poeng lends itself to meditation and mindfulness, to the extent that it has become a Buddhist meditation retreat offering courses in Vipassana meditation. The retreat is open to people from all walks of life and any religion, who wish to learn the art of meditation and access the power that it yields.
Wat Suan Dok
Although this temple doesn’t attract the tourists like some others in the area do, it holds great historical significance for the local people. Translated, Wat Suan Dok means Flower Garden Temple, a name indicative of its location as it was built in the grounds of the royal flower garden.
The temple compound contains several chedis. The tallest of these stands at 48 metres and is entirely covered in gilt, which allows it to shine brightly among the other smaller, white chedis. Other notable structures are the large viharn and various Buddha images that are scattered throughout the grounds.
Wat Pa Daeng
This lesser-known temple is located on a hill to the west of Chiang Mai’s old walled town. It’s out of the way location makes it more of a challenge to reach, which is possibly why it’s not generally at the top of many sightseeing lists.
Wat Pa Daeng dates back to around the mid-15th century and features a stone chedi inlaid with Buddha images. The name means temple of the red forest, and it was traditionally the religious centre of the Aranyavasi sect of forest-dwelling monks.
Wat Pha Lat
This secluded temple is one of the hidden gems of Chiang Mai. Built to blend into the lush jungle environment, it was previously a resting place for monks making the arduous pilgrimage to the larger Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The natural beauty of the forest adds to the allure of the temple complex, which contains a viharn, pagodas and a series of caves built into the mountainside holding robed statues and other historical artefacts.
A hiking trail leads from the city to the temple, mirroring part of the monks’ journey, however Wat Pha Lat is also easily reachable by vehicle.
Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli was built sometime in the 14th century, making it one of the oldest Wats in Chiang Mai. It is also one of the only Buddhist Wats not facing in an easterly direction.
Although its chedi is one of the largest in the region, it’s also rather plain with none of the stucco decoration so prominent at other Buddhist temples. It does, however, have great historical importance as it contains the ashes of a few members of the Mangrai Dynasty. The chedi has undergone some necessary restoration over the years, but remains one of the only original structures in the complex.
Two impressive stone elephants stand guard at the gateway to the temple grounds. Inside the compound, you’ll find a large prayer hall, numerous Buddha images, statues and intricate mosaic designs.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Ratchaworawihan
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Ratchaworawihan sits regally on the Doi Suthep Mountain, about 15km from the Aleenta Retreat, and with unsurpassed views across the countryside and over Chiang Mai. This sacred site dates back to the 14th century and is one of the most visited temples in the Chiang Mai area.
Every aspect of the temple complex tells a story about the Buddhist culture and beliefs, from the seven-headed serpents that line the steps leading up to the temple, to the exquisite golden chedi that is the centrepiece of the complex. There is plenty to see at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – pagodas, pavilions, statues, Buddha images – and a visit here is well worth the trip from Chiang Mai.
All of these temples are within easy reach of Aleenta Retreat Chiang Mai, some are a short walk from the hotel and our concierge can arrange trips to slightly further temples.
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