Weather in Chiang Mai Climate, Temperatures, and Rainfall
Chiang Mai is a popular place to live with its year-round comfortable weather. Thailand has three seasons - cool, hot, and rainy. Retirees especially love Chiang Mai because its warm weather is favorable for those with arthritis and joint pain. The cool “winter” season is frequently perfect sunny weather with a light breeze. The rainy season brings life to the quiet city with lush greenery, and the humidity keeps the skin moisturized, healthy, and fresh. Moods are happy and light, joyful and friendly as the sun shines down on the city with its beautiful natural surroundings. Between these two most popular seasons is the Thai summer. Let’s look more closely at these three seasons, and some of their pros and cons.
The Cool Season | Winter in Chiang Mai
(October - January)
The most pleasant time to be in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand is during the winter months between November - January when it is cool to slightly warm, and sunny. On average, it rains only 0-1 times per month, with an average temperature of 72℉ (22℃).
December is usually the coolest time of the year. The center of the city stays fairly warm in the evenings but the further into the mountains you go, the temperature drops and is surprisingly cold. Early in the morning before the fog clears and the sun comes out, local Thais can be seen wrapped up in snow jackets and wool hats, a comical and endearing sight for those that have lived in cooler regions.
This is the favorite time to travel to Chiang Mai for expats and tourists. The ideal weather is great for hikes, outdoor activities, and local explorations. Many of our clients enjoy going to (link to activities/things to do tab) hot springs, waterfalls, and local attractions, and cool nights are perfect for wandering around holiday markets bundled up in a winter sweater.
The Hot Season | Summer in Chiang Mai
(February - May)
The cool winter days slowly start to get hotter and signify the change in seasons by February. April is known to be the hottest month of the year, with the blistering sun at an average of 86℉ (30℃). Most people don’t mind the hot afternoons as they crank up the AC in their homes or head to the mall for a movie and shopping. There are few tourists at this time of year, meaning there are more opportunities for deals.
One of Chiang Mai’s popular festivals, Songkran (the Thai New Year and water festival), usually marks the first rain in mid-April. This is a country-wide celebration when all Thais, young and old, take water guns and buckets to the street to cool down and wet passerbyers with a water blessing. This joyful celebration is enjoyed by all, and many tourists flock to the city for the weekend to partake in the festivities.
This is also when Chiang Mai experiences what is known as the “smoky season,” when farmers in Northern Thailand burn the crops to repropogate for the next season, and the smoke drifts into Chiang Mai and other cities in the northern region. This is an ancient and natural method of preparing the soil for the next season’s crop. We won’t downplay the poor air quality that results, creating a smoky haze, and we advise clients to arrive before or after this time.
During the smoky season you will see many motorcyclists and pedestrians wearing thin little masks outside, as is common in cities in China with high pollution, and more time is spent in inside homes or malls, where the air is filtered and air conditioned.
While the smoky season’s air quality saddens us, we accept it as the price of living in such a beautiful region. Most expats take it as an opportunity to travel. Some people elect to visit family in their home country, or vacation in other parts of the world. Many others stay in Thailand, or explore other parts of Southeast Asia, often using this time as a beach holiday. With inexpensive beach-front housing easily accessible a $50 plane ride away, time on an island away from the smoke is a great opportunity to travel and enjoy a change in scenery.
The Rainy Season | Quiet time in Chiang Mai
(June - October)
Rainy season is one of our favorite times to be in Chiang Mai. A peaceful energy captivates the city and fewer tourists roam the city center.
The rainy season usually starts in June and lasts until October. The beginning of the rainy season starts with late afternoon downpours from passing clouds, gracing us with clean air and foreboding clouds against picturesque sunsets. July and August are the wettest months with frequent, but light, rain that is rarely consistent. Much like Hawaii, there are usually short periods of rainfall, with much of the day still sunny. The temperature is warm and humid, and the land becomes lush and vibrant.
Everything slows down when it rains. Thais have a relaxed and understanding attitude and accept the hindrance the rain brings. Their reliance on motorbikes and their susceptibility to the environment are used as an excuse to cancel or arrive late to appointments. This is the least crowded time of the year and the green surroundings bring a sense of peace to the city, making it one of the best times to live in Chiang Mai.