Wiang Kum Kam   ancient of north of thailand; Shutterstock ID 138558194; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: Sights

Shutterstock / Anirut Thailand

Wiang Kum Kam

Chiang Mai

The first attempt at founding a city on the banks of Mae Ping, Wiang Kum Kam served as the Lanna capital for 10 years from 1286, but the city was abandoned in the 16th century due to flooding. Today, the excavated ruins are scattered around the winding lanes of a sleepy village 5km south of Chiang Mai.

The centuries haven't been kind to Wiang Kum Kam, but the brick plinths and ruined chedi give a powerful impression of its former magnificence.

The landmark monument of the ruins is Wat Chedi Liam, with a soaring stucco chedi divided into dozens of niches for Buddha statues, an architectural nod to India's famous Mahabodhi Temple. In fact, this spire was created as part of a rather fanciful restoration by a Burmese trader in 1908. Over 1300 inscribed stone slabs, bricks, bells and chedi have been excavated at the site and some pieces are displayed at the visitors centre. The most important archaeological discovery was a four-piece stone slab, now housed at the Chiang Mai National Museum, inscribed with one of the earliest known examples of Thai script.

Most people explore the ruins by horse cart or tram, starting from the visitors centre on Rte 3029; if you come with your own transport via Th Chiang Mai–Lamphun (Rte 106), follow the signed road past a small roundabout with a fountain and turn left at the T-junction to reach Wat Chedi Liam.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Chiang Mai attractions

1. Ginger Farm

1.77 MILES

Head about 20 minutes south of Chiang Mai proper to visit Ginger Farm's verdant rice paddies, vegetable gardens, farm animals and rustic cafe. Catering to…

2. Art in Paradise

1.91 MILES

Just a whole lot of fun, this museum has a range of 3D optical-illusion art displays, from cliff faces and movie sets to a levitation room and a magic…

3. Weave Artisan Society

2.14 MILES

A brand new culture centre, gallery, coffee shop, bookstore and immersive theatre space south of the old city, where you can attend a performance or just…

4. Wat Srisuphan


It should come as no surprise that the silversmiths along Th Wualai have decorated their patron monastery with the same fine artisanship shown in their…

5. Pratu Chiang Mai


One of the gates to Chiang Mai's old town that bustles with a lively fresh market in the early morning and is set up with food stalls every evening.

7. Iron Bridge

2.45 MILES

This picturesque steel bridge looks old but is actually a modern creation, built as a homage to the old Nawarat Bridge, which was demolished in the 1970s…

8. Wat Jet Lin

2.58 MILES

This friendly wát was used for the coronation of Lanna kings in the 16th century; today you can see a collection of giant gongs, a big old mon·dòp-style…