• Wat Chedi Luang is a significant Buddhist temple situated at the heart of Chiang Mai’s Old City in Thailand. Its name translates to “Temple of the Big Stupa”, indicating its importance and the grand structure it possesses.
  • Wat Chedi Luang is over 600 years old, and while parts are damaged and under restoration, it remains one of Chiang Mai’s most revered temples.
  • This temple holds a special place among the many temples in Chiang Mai, attracting a large number of visitors with its unique characteristics and historical importance.
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Wat Chedi Luang is located right at the center of Chiang Mai’s Old City, and stands as a powerful symbol of Chiang Mai’s history. Its enduring legacy and architectural beauty make it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the rich cultural heritage of Chiang Mai.

This ancient temple is frequently featured on medias that promote the city to the world, highlighting its importance as a cultural landmark. This reflects the deep connection between Wat Chedi Luang and the identity of Chiang Mai.

Wat Chedi Luang, which translates to “Temple of the Great Stupa” in English, stands out for its unique Lanna-style architecture, distinct from the styles found in Bangkok and southern Thailand. The most striking feature of Wat Chedi Luang is its massive chedi, or pagoda. This impressive structure once reached a height of 80 meters and had a square base measuring 60 meters across.

Wat Chedi Luang was once a towering structure, measuring 60 meters in width at its square base and reaching a height of 80 meters.

Despite being over 600 years old and showing signs of damage that have yet to be repaired, Wat Chedi Luang’s appeal remains undiminished.

The History of Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang has a rich history dating back to the 14th century. King Saen Muang Ma, who ruled during this time, ordered the construction of the chedi to serve as a grand resting place for his father’s ashes.

Building began in 1391, but sadly, King Saen Muang Ma passed away after only ten years. His determined wife continued the project in his honor. Construction proved challenging and wasn’t completed until 1475, under the reign of King Tilokarat. When finished, Wat Chedi Luang stood as the tallest structure in Chiang Mai, reaching an impressive 85 meters (275 feet) in height and 44 meters (140 feet) in width.

Tragedy struck the temple in the 16th century and caused the top of the pagoda to collapse. There are two main theories about the cause of the damage: a powerful earthquake in 1545 or Burmese conflict in 1775 involving cannon fire. Regardless of the cause, the upper section of the chedi lost at least 30 meters (100 feet) in height. This damage remains unrepaired to this day.

Wat Chedi Luang stands as a testament to both devotion and the passage of time. Its history reflects the dedication of its builders and the impact of historical events.

Wat Chedi Luang also played a significant role in Thailand’s religious history. For almost a hundred years, the temple housed the Emerald Buddha, considered the country’s most sacred object. However, following the partial destruction of the temple, the Emerald Buddha was moved to Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok in 1551.

Today, a replica of the Emerald Buddha sits in a niche at the top of a staircase within Wat Chedi Luang, a reminder of the temple’s past glory.

Chiang Mai University’s lighting technology brings back the glorious past of the Chedi Luang Pagoda that hasn’t been seen for almost five centuries. This laser light show is one of the Loy Krathong Festival event in Chiang Mai.

What To See and Do at Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is a Chiang Mai landmark that draws both tourists and local worshippers. Exploring Wat Chedi Luang offers a window into the deep history and religious traditions of Chiang Mai and Thailand.

Visitors can wander the grounds, marveling at the detailed carvings and sculptures that grace the buildings and the chedi, a tall pagoda. On each side of the chedi, stairways are guarded by mythical serpent creatures called nagas. At the top of these stairs, you’ll find numerous Buddhist statues. The ruined chedi is an impressive sight on its own.

As you enter the gate you’ll see Wat Ho Tham. Behind it is Wat Chedi Luang, which is not visible from the main gate.

The entire temple ground is actually a complex consist of 3 temples i.e Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham, and Wat Sukmin. This temple complex is not just a beautiful site, but also a center for religious ceremonies and cultural events.

As you enter the temple ground, first you’ll see Wat Ho Tham, which is a huge temple built in the 1920s and features a three-tiered roof with beautiful gold decorations. This viharn, or temple hall, is a true masterpiece. As you approach Wat Ho Tham’s entrance, you’ll be greeted by a Buddha statue named Phra Chao Attarot, which dates back to the same time period as the original Wat Chedi Luang.

Further on you’ll find another viharn called Wat Sukmin, located next to a large, towering tree. Wat Sukmin is decorated in a graceful style, featuring intricate wooden carvings and two nagas guarding the entrance stairs. While smaller than Wat Ho Tham, Wat Sukmin boasts an elegant facade and is worth exploring.

Wat Chedi Luang stands out for its unique Lanna-style architecture, distinct from the styles found in Bangkok and southern Thailand.

Beyond the massive chedi, there are several other fascinating buildings and even a museum to discover. The Buddhist Manuscript Library and Museum (closed on Wednesdays) is a treasure trove for those interested in Theravada Buddhism. This well-maintained museum offers a wealth of information about the religion.

Another popular activity at Wat Chedi Luang is participating in the “monk chat club,” which takes place daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. The friendly monks enjoy these conversations with tourists, as it allows them to practice their English while visitors gain insights into the lives of Buddhist monks and their culture. These chats provide a unique opportunity to learn about Buddhism and Thai culture directly from the monks themselves.

In short, a visit to Wat Chedi Luang can easily fill an hour or more. Whether you’re interested in history, religion, art, or simply cultural exchange, this temple complex has something to offer everyone.

Beyond the massive chedi, there are several other fascinating buildings and even a museum to discover, like this Buddhist Manuscript Library and Museum.

Entrance Fee for Wat Chedi Luang

Visiting Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai is very affordable. The entrance fee is 50 Baht for adult and 20 Baht for children below 135cm. This ticket allows you to enter the temple grounds for the entire day, so if you arrive in the afternoon and want to return later at night to see the temple in a different light, you can! Just be sure to hold on to your ticket so you can show it again at the entrance.

How To Go to Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang sits conveniently in the heart of Chiang Mai’s Old Town, making it easy to reach. If you’re staying within the Old Town walls, or perhaps near Tha Phae Gate, then a leisurely walk is all it takes. The temple should be within a 15-minute stroll and you can easily find your way using Google Maps.

For those staying a bit further away, taxis and ride-hailing apps like Grab are readily available. A taxi ride, for example, from Chiang Mai International Airport, would cost around 100 Baht.

Chiang Mai’s Old City is a walker’s paradise! Many fascinating sites, like Wat Chedi Luang, are easily reached on foot. If you get a bit tired exploring, you and sit and relax at this small cafe located inside the temple ground.

The most budget-friendly option is the songthaew, Chiang Mai’s red truck public transport. Simply flag one down and let the driver know your destination is Wat Chedi Luang. The fare should be less than 50 Baht from anywhere within Chiang Mai city.

Another option is to join a temple tour. These tours typically include visits to several of Chiang Mai’s most interesting ancient temples, such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Umong, Wat Phra Singh, and of course, Wat Chedi Luang. This is a great way to see a variety of temples in one go, and the tour company will handle all your transportation needs in a comfortable air-conditioned van.

Best Time To Visit Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang welcomes visitors throughout the day, opening its doors from 6am to 8pm. However, keep in mind that the main temple hall closes at 6pm.

To avoid the heat and large crowds, consider visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon. These times offer a more peaceful experience to explore the temple grounds.

However, if you’re looking for a unique perspective, consider venturing to the temple at night. As darkness falls, a sense of serenity washes over the grounds, creating a perfect atmosphere for reflection or simply enjoying the quietude.

As darkness falls, the temple transforms into a haven of peace and tranquility. This serene atmosphere provides the perfect space for quiet reflection or simply enjoying the stillness.

The nighttime transformation is truly captivating. Bathed in soft illumination, the temple’s majestic architecture seems to glow against the deep blue night sky. This nighttime view offers a completely different experience compared to the daytime.

If you visit during the afternoon, hold onto your ticket because allows you to return at night for free. This allows you to appreciate the temple’s contrasting beauty under the sun and under the stars.

For added convenience, if you happen to be exploring the popular Sunday Night Walking Street Market, you can effortlessly add Wat Chedi Luang to your itinerary. The market stretches along the road right outside the temple grounds, making it a seamless transition from bustling stalls to serene sanctuary.

Half/Full Day Temple Tour – Join Tour with Guide

Chiang Mai captivates visitors with its abundance of stunning ancient Buddhist temples. Unlike those found in Bangkok and southern Thailand, Chiang Mai’s centuries old temples possess a distinct characters and architectural styles, reflecting the unique heritage of Northern Thailand.

Among these are Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Umong, and the Silver Temple, each offering a glimpse into the city’s rich history. Including a visit to these temples in your travel plan is a fantastic way to deepen your understanding of northern Thailand’s past and traditions.

Some tour companies in Chiang Mai offer convenient half-day or full-day tours to these landmarks. These tours typically provide comfortable air-conditioned transportation, picking you up directly from your hotel.

Here are some tips and recommended tours for the best value of money:

Walking Tour around Chiang Mai Old City with a knowledgeable guide that provides insights into the history, architecture, and religious significance of each temple you visit. (check your date & availability here)

Full Day Tour that covers not only the ancient temples in the Old City, but also the stunning Wat Phra That Doi Suthep high up in the mountain, and Wat Umong, the serene forest temple with Buddha statues in tunnels. (check your date & availability here)

Night Tour that offers a unique perspective on Chiang Mai. Explore the mountain temples bathed in the ethereal glow of moonlight while witnessing the breathtaking panoramic views of Chiang Mai at night. This tour promises an unforgettable experience, combining cultural immersion with stunning cityscapes. (check your date & availability here)

Some Tips & Talking Points When You Visit Wat Chedi Luang

When visiting Wat Chedi Luang, visitors should dress modestly. This means wearing shirts or blouses with sleeves that cover your shoulders, and long pants or skirts that go down below the knee. Shoes will need to be taken off before entering any temple buildings.

Exploring Wat Chedi Luang will involve a fair amount of walking due to the temple’s expansive grounds. You might even consider including a visit to its neighbor, Wat Phantao, in your itinerary.

If your explorations leave you feeling weary, there’s a convenient 7-Eleven store located just outside Wat Chedi Luang, perfect for grabbing refreshing drinks and snacks. For those seeking a more relaxed break, a charming cafe situated within the temple grounds also offers hot and cold beverages.

Chiang Mai’s Old City is a walker’s paradise. Many interesting sights, like Wat Chedi Luang, is conveniently within walking distance. For first-time visitors to Chiang Mai, staying inside the Old City walls is a perfect way to experience the heart of this historic area. Read our guide for the best place to stay in Chiang Mai here.

Wat Chedi Luang sits conveniently along the same road as the bustling Sunday Night Walking Street. This means you can easily combine your shopping and sightseeing experiences! So, while you’re browsing the stalls and soaking up the lively atmosphere of the market, take a moment to step inside Wat Chedi Luang and discover its architectural wonders.

If you find yourself weary after exploring the vast grounds of Wat Chedi Luang temple, take a break at Araksa Cafe. You can relax under the shade of a large tree and recharge before continuing your exploration.

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Link Doi Inthanon National Park
Link Kew Mae Pan Natural Trail
Link Loy Krathong and Yee Peng Festivals