Best Travel Time
Best travel time to visit Chiang Mai
The weather in Chiang Mai and most of Northern Thailand is different to the traditional divisions of spring, summer, autumn and winter - the northern region basically only knows three seasons: cool season, hot season and rainy season.
Chiang Mai is also known as the "cool capital" and has a far more mediterranean climate compared to the often very sweaty heat of Bangkok and Chiang Mai is possibly one of the most beautiful and chilly areas in Northern Thailand and a perfect destination to visit - not for nothing Chiang Mai is also entitled "The Rose Of The North".
The best travel time for Chiang Mai is November to April.
The rainy season is over and the days are pleasantly warm with temperatures similar to the ones of a warm European summer. However the nights in December and January can become pretty chilly and it is recommended to bring a seater or light jacket and some long pants, especially in higher regions in the mountains temperatures can drop pretty low at night.
Chiang Mai is about 1.700 m above sea level and is quite wind-proteced by the mountains surrounding it and the Ping river that is running through the city is lined with many restaurants and bars and adds to the fairly pleasant and relatively mediterranean climate from November to April.
In January the weather is almost perfect making it a very popular month to visit the North as during that time you can expect temperatures that are similar to warm summer days in Europe with quite chilly nights.
During the day the temperatures will get up to around 30°C (86°F) but you better also bring a sweater or a light jacket as the temperature can drop to as low as 10°C (50°F) during the night - especially in the mountains or higher regions.
January is also considered the high season for the North and so the prices for accommodation are at their highest and booking early if you are looking for a specific hotel is recommended.
February in Chiang Mai almost is like January regarding the weather allthough it can get quite hot in the valleys during midday. There is basically no rain at all and the landscape gets quite dry.
Temperatures will easily rise to around 33°C (91°F) during the day with nights temperature around 16°C (61°F) so it still is a good idea to bring along a warming sweater or light jacket.
February will bring less tourists and accomodation prices getting back to normal. Rural burn off (crops and forests) will sometimes affect the pollution levels in and around Chiang Mai, usually starting late in the month.
March may be the worst times to visit Chiang Mai since the air is thick with dust and micro-particles from widespread rural burning removing almost any view of the mountains. You start to feel the heat and there is not much of a breeze.
By the middle of March the hot season is in full swing with temperatures as high as 35°C (95°F) or higher and this heat is not a dry one either and during the nights the temperatures remain around 20°C (68°F).
If you like mangoes, it is the right time to come and enjoy the fruit traditionally served with sticky rice and coconut milk. The yearly burn off on the fields can be quite bad during March so you might want to look up air pollution levels.
Although April being the hottest month for the Chiang Mai area, the annual Songkran festival (Thai New Year) that is lasting for about five days is a popular reason to visit and which is best enjoyed in Chiang Mai – hotels are filling up around mid-month.
The Chiang Mai weather during April gets very hot with temperatures peak around 37°C (99°F) or even hotter with the lows at night staying at around 23°C (73°F) and the landscape remains dry with only very little rain falling during this time.
During Songkran you often don't feel the heat because you will most likely be drenched with loads of water (not always the cleanest) thrown by everyone from dawn to dusk. It can be difficult to find transportation/accommodation during the festival time as Thais come from all the provinces around.
In May you can expect sunny skies during the days but the accumulated heat also leads to (much welcomed) regular thunderstorms in the afternoons and evenings to cool things off.
The temperatures in Chiang Mai will often reach around 35°C (95°F) during the days and you can expect tropical nights with 24°C (75°F) so chill-outs in the evenings with a cool drink are a good choice.
Although the tourist season in Northern Thailand is in decline, there are quite a few genuine celebrations in the many temples and you can join them even if you don't know the local customs - just don't be shy.
June is very similar to May: it is still hot (unless the rainy season comes early) and as the weather moves into the full rainy season it is also bringing 90 % humidity which are heavily adding to the immense feeling of warmth.
For Chiang Mai you can expect temperatures around 33°C (91°F) during the days and tropical nights with 24°C (75°F) as well and the days will be sunny and often clouds will be gathering during the afternoon bringing rain showers later or in the evenings.
June may not be the best time for jungle trekking as the landscape is of rather brownish color and dried out after being so dry for many months without proper watering. If you are loving fruit then June absolutely is your month as there are many choices - do not miss the Mangosteens and jumbo Lychees.
In July the first heavy rainfalls can lead to spectacular flooding due to the dry soils, lower roads in Chiang Mai (like the night bazaar area) often suffer from this but the flooding never lasts long and you still can expect to get a majority of dry days - although they are not always sunny.
The temperatures in Chiang Mai will be at an average of 32°C (90°F) during the days and approx. 24°C (75°F) at night so a stroll through the night bazar or the sunday night market is a pleasure.
July is the low season for Chiang Mai, the room rates are cheap and there is far less tourists. Still, the experience in July is just as pleasant and skies can be very dramatic and result in perfect photos, especially when the sun sets behind Doi Suthep.
In August the northern area is at its lushest state with green exploding everywhere making it the perfect time for jungle trekkings (beware: slippery when wet) and you can still get plenty of sunshine - even if the weather is pretty humid and sometimes cloudy.
Chiang Mai temperatures in August will reach an average of 32°C (90°F) during the days and stay at still pretty warm 24°C (75°F) at night and the dry days and rainy days are pretty even so it is up to your luck which you end up with.
In August you will find mainly backpackers visiting Chiang Mai looking for low season deals. As the rivers are filling up again, August also is a good time to do some rafting or take great pictures of the many waterfalls that you can reach on daytrips (like the Mae Ya Wasterfall in Doi Inthanon National Park).
September is a rather quiet month for tourism in Chiang Mai and it is statistically also the month with the most rain so you should expect a cloud covered sky (with warm temperatures) and still a good chance of sunshine but showers almost every day and very high humidity.
The temperatures will reach an average of 32°C (90°F) during the mostly cloudy days and the nights will still be tropical ones with temperatures around 23°C (73°F) and high humidity.
During September you can find the best bargains on accomodation prices. Due to September being the wettest month floods can occur quite often due to the soils being saturated with water and trekking tours are not really recommended and bathing at waterfalls can be very dangerous because of the high water level.
October possibly is one of the prettiest times to visit Chiang Mai and it also is the time when the rainy seasons is getting to an end although it still might rain on a regular basis but days remain mostly sunny, are less humid and temperature begin to cool down and the many rice fields in the mountains create a magical green landscape.
Temperatures in Chiang Mai in October will average at approx. 31°C (88°F) during the day with nights still rather warm at 22°C (72°F) and chances are high that you just wake up one day with the sky being bright blue and it will most likely remain like this for months then.
Only a few tourists are in the area to enjoy all this and you might want to prefer late October if you have the choice.
During November the weather dries up and the tourist season starts to get going. One of the highlights is the Krathong festival (maybe the most picturesque festival) in early November with the whole city being decorated with many, many colorful lanterns, daily parades and lots of sky lanterns during the three days of the festival. Otherwise the city is not very busy yet but chances are high to get some of the best weather with perfect clear views of the mountains.
Chiang Mai in November will offer sunny skies, cooler days and the lush remains of almost six months of rain with temperatures around 30°C (86°F) at daytime and 19°C (66°F) at nights.
As November is not the high season yet (although you can expect some more tourists around Krathong festival), prices are still fair with quite good weather making November one of the best times to visit Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai in December you can expect great weather and it also probably is the busiest month for tourism in northern Thailand in general with nice clear mountain views, chilly evenings, and sunny skies.
You can expect a max temperature of around 28°C (82°F) during the days with little or no rain and the nights starting to get chilly with around 15°C (59°F) but from December on (and lasting until February) is the most popular time to visit Chiang Mai, weather-wise.
Expect full hotels and busy roads during long weekends, prices on the rise reaching their highest around mid December and Christmas and New Years in Thailand does not only sound cool - it truly is.
You will fall in love with Chiang Mai
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