Nicknamed the Rose of the North, Thailand's laid-back second city is a world away from the bright lights & bustle of Bangkok, so if you're looking for a more relaxing vacation away from all the chaos, this is the place to go. Sitting scenically amidst the mountains of northern Thailand on the banks of the Ping River, Chiang Mai often seems untouched by the modern world — there are no skyscrapers and few shopping malls, and the city retains a very traditional Thai feel. There are charming temples on virtually every street, and the city's former status as the seat of the ancient Lanna Kingdom in the 1200s gives it a fascinating history which is explained at the city's various museums. By night, Chiang Mai really comes alive with its superb night bazaars and some of the best street food in the world, let alone Thailand.
Chiang Mai is also the perfect base for adventurous travelers who want to try trekking in the surrounding mountains and rainforests, meeting the colorful local hill tribes in their villages, or encountering elephants at the numerous camps that surround the city. The city's laid-back vibe also makes it the perfect place for relaxation and recharging, and its many boutique and luxury hotels — and countless spas — are the perfect spots to unwind. If you're more into history, check out Chiang Mai's many ancient temples and its historic center, which manages to give off a calm residential air unlike most city centers around the world. There are also numerous cultural experiences, such as Thai massage and cooking classes, so you'll be able to keep the experience alive even after you leave the country and go home. Whatever your travel style may be, you'll be quickly seduced by the diverse and plentiful charms of Chiang Mai.