Chiang Mai vs Phuket - Which of Thailand’s Famous Destinations is Better?

Without a doubt, Chiang Mai and Phuket are two of Thailand’s most famous destinations for both local and international tourists. Both destinations are unique and have plenty to offer in terms of activities and tourists attractions, but most travelers are forced to choose one over the other due to budget or time constraints.

So, which is better? Chiang Mai or Phuket? Let us offer you some helpful tips when it comes to choosing Chiang Mai or Phuket for your next holiday.

Beaches vs Mountains

If a beach holiday is what you’re after, than this is a one of the reasons to visit Phuket. Phuket has fabulous beaches with soft white sand, incredibly clear turquoise sea, and plenty of options to relax with a massage right on the beach! Is Phuket worth visiting? The Pearl of the Andaman Sea, Phuket is a nice option for a chilled, beach-focused holiday.

If you are looking to immerse yourself in wonderful nature, and perhaps hike up a mountain trail or two, then Chiang Mai is your choice. While the region offers no beaches, there are plenty of outdoor activities in the wild nature of Northern Thailand to keep you busy.

The Culture

Phuket has a unique culture which stems from the island’s tin mining days. The island’s population is predominantly Thai-Chinese and a multicultural melting pot. In Phuket Town, for example, you can find Buddhist temples, Chinese shrines, Mosques, a Catholic Church, and even Hindu shrines. Phuket’s local people living in harmony and respect the diverse mix of cultures. Is Phuket worth visiting for its culture alone? The answer is absolutely yes!

Chiang Mai’s roots are inspired by Lanna culture, and the city boasts distinctive arts, festivals and traditions. Lanna culture is evident everywhere in Chiang Mai, and the city has many interesting museums and temples to explore. Not as developed as Phuket, Chiang Mai has an every day Thai town feel with lots of nature and simplicity. If you are looking to slow down during your holiday, Chiang Mai is the right choice.


Both Chiang Mai and Phuket host a large array of activities for outdoor enthusiasts. When it comes to Chiang Mai or Phuket, you just need to decide if want beaches or mountains.

In Phuket, most tourists take advantage of the good weather and spend their days on the beach. Snorkeling, swimming and scuba diving are some of the island’s popular activities.

Most of Chiang Mai’s activities center around the region’s mountains. There are trails to hike, mountaintops to explore, rivers to go rafting in and plenty of elephant sanctuaries to visit. Chiang Mai is also a hub of arts & crafts activities.

Local Food

Thai food is some of the best cuisine in the world. It’s salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy and with almost every single dish, each of these flavors are present.


Phuket’s local food is inspired by the island’s heavily influenced Chinese culture, and some of the most famous dishes are Hokkien noodles and fresh spring rolls. These dishes are not spicy and easy on the foreigner’s palate.

Chiang Mai’s local food is a blend of Yunnanese, Shan and Burmese cuisines. Compared to Thailand’s south, the food is mild and not spicy but still has signature salty and sour flavors. One of Chiang Mai’s most famous dishes is Khao Soi, a Thai curry noodle soup served with pickled vegetables.

When it comes to choosing Chiang Mai or Phuket, please do not make your decision based solely of food, as both destinations have wonderfully delicious local cuisine.


Reasons to visit Phuket include its fabulous choice of accommodations, suitable for all budgets, but if you would really like to splash out, Phuket has awesome luxury hotels with modern conveniences and top-tier amenities.

In Chiang Mai, accommodation options are more quaint and include boutique hotels and affordable luxury hotels, and plenty of fresh air from the nearby mountains.

Chiang Mai or Phuket, Which Destination to Choose?

Chiang Mai vs Phuket … it is not an easy decision, is it? Both destinations have many wonderful reasons to visit. If you are seeking nature, fresh air, culture and mountains, Chiang Mai is best.

Is Phuket worth visiting? Yes, especially if you are in need of a relaxing beach holiday, tropical cocktails and beautiful sunsets.