Best hotels and hostels in Chiang Mai

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    Dhara Dhevi

    At first sight it's hard to tell if Dhara Dhevi is a resort or an ancient temple complex. In fact the structures were built in the 2000s, yet they're jaw-droppingly opulent with amazing attention to detail. The re-created traditional Lanna village sprawls over grounds full of whitewashed colonnades, teak pavilions, antiques and landscaped ponds and rice terraces.

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    Tamarind Village

    This refined, atmospheric Lanna-style property sprawls across the grounds of an old tamarind orchard in a prime location off Th Ratchadamnoen. Walkways covered by tiled pavilions lead to secluded and beautiful spaces, and tall mature trees cast gentle shade around the huge pool and gardens. Design-magazine-worthy rooms are full of gorgeous tribal fabrics and artefacts.

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    Na Nirand

    A magnificent, giant, century-old rain tree anchors this romantic boutique property perched at the edge of Mae Ping. A restored teak house contains the spa and a small library, while posh villas flank a relaxing swimming pool and are defined by ornate woodcarvings, Lanna textiles and rattan furnishings made by local artisans. Bathrooms are huge, with freestanding tubs and rain showers.

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    Awana House

    The pick of the guesthouses around the medieval city gate of Pratu Tha Phae has rooms for every budget – all kept spotless – and a mini swimming pool under cover on the ground-floor terrace. Rooms get more comfortable and better decorated as you move up the price scale and there's a rooftop chill-out area with views across old Chiang Mai.

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    Baan Orapin

    Set within the historic Wat Ket district, Baan Orapin has been a family affair since the owner's relatives first occupied the stately teak house and surrounding gardens in 1914. Today, two elegant villas situated in the front and rear of the property contain 15 guest rooms full of graceful furniture and fabrics.

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    Hotel des Artists Ping Silhouette

    An elegant, minimalist boutique hotel channeling the Chinese and European roots of its neighbourhood with chinoiserie details throughout, including two Tang Dynasty–style horse statues perched beside a rectangular koi pond. The on-site cafe mimics a Chinese merchant shophouse, while the accommodation is plush and modern with high ceilings and relaxing terraces. The saltwater pool is divine.

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    Banthai Village

    True to its name, Banthai does indeed resemble a country village transported to the modern city. The hotel sprawls over a series of wooden buildings with broad balconies, surrounding an idyllic pool and gardens overflowing with birds-of-paradise flowers. Rooms do the heritage thing, but subtly, with low wooden beds, dark-wood furniture, and scattered cushions and triangular Thai pillows.

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    Sri Pat Guest House

    A standout flashpacker guesthouse with all the trimmings: wi-fi, pool, wood-decked communal areas, scattered Buddha carvings and smart tiled rooms with flat-screen TVs and little Thai details. You get plenty of personality for your baht and staff members are cheerful and friendly.

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    Anantara Resort & Spa

    Where James Bond would stay if he came to Chiang Mai, the Anantara sprawls across the grounds of the handsome former British Consulate, and it offers a perfect blend of cutting-edge modern design and period elegance. Rooms are simply gorgeous – natural timber in varied tones, floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screens, balconies with divans – and all overlook the Zen-inspired grounds and river.

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    Raya Heritage

    This new, 38-room beauty is still ironing out kinks with service and construction, but its charming setting on the bank of Mae Ping 20 minutes north of the city is reason enough for a visit. The design is a contemporary interpretation of the Lanna lifestyle, delivered in earthy tones, natural materials and furnishings handcrafted by local artisans.

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    Chai Lai Orchid

    If you've ever wanted to be woken up by an elephant at your window, here's your chance. This collection of comfortable jungle huts is planted in the middle of the forest, just beside an elephant camp, and is reached via a suspended footbridge across Mae Wang. Well-run by an NGO, the resort provides educational and professional development for at-risk women.

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    Tri Yaan Na Ros

    South of the main tourist bustle on Th Wualai, and tucked away behind a restaurant, this charming boutique hotel features elegant period decor – perhaps the best re-creation of a traditional Thai home in Chiang Mai. Rooms come with four-poster beds, flowing drapes, oodles of dark timber and antique Buddhas. There's also a peaceful courtyard pool.

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    Mo Rooms

    Mo Rooms is designer in the urban mould, all exposed concrete and sculptural timbers juxtaposed with natural materials. Each of the Chinese-zodiac-themed rooms was decorated by a different Thai artist, ensuring some unique visions in interior decor – our top picks are 'Monkey' with its woven pod bed and 'Horse' with its surreal bed-tree.

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    Hostel by Bed

    Although you can find a room in Chiang Mai for the same price as these dorm beds, you get a lot of flashy facilities for your baht here, including a good breakfast, a chic kitchen, high cleanliness standards and a big bed with a curtain. Common areas inspire meeting people and it's in a decent location near cheap street food.

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    Thanatee Boutique Hotel

    In a quiet residential setting southeast of the old city, this four-storey oasis will please travellers looking for luxury at an affordable price. Rooms are small and dim and bathrooms are cramped, but the dark wood, lovely Thai art and fabulous design choices throughout the hotel more than compensate, and the koi pond is a stunner.

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    U Chang Mai

    Tucked efficiently into the heart of the old city, this graceful boutique hotel stands out for its excellent service and stellar location. The apartment-style accommodation surrounds a 19th-century former governor's mansion housing the spa, library and reception, and two plunge pools are tightly squeezed between buildings. The onsite restaurant serves good Thai food and burgers.

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    Buri Gallery

    Seconds from Wat Phra Singh, Buri Gallery is a perfect base for exploring the old city. Rooms, set around a lovely pool that's ideal for families, are tucked away behind the coffeeshop and garden in a series of converted teak buildings. Although pricey, the villas have bits and bobs of Lanna art and the best have balconies where you can sit and enjoy the sunset.

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    Diva Guesthouse

    An energetic, vaguely bohemian spot on busy Th Ratchaphakhinai, Diva offers the full backpacker deal – dorm beds, budget boxrooms, adventure tours, net access, ambient tunes, and fried rice and sà·đé (grilled meat with peanut sauce) in the downstairs cafe. Accommodation ranges from dorms to family rooms and comes with either fan or air-con.

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    Villa Duang Champa

    In a prime piece of real estate for the Sunday Walking Street market, the airy rooms here have polished-concrete floors, antique wooden French doors, eclectic furniture, lots of colonial charm and small nooks that catch the sun. The staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful, which only brightens the space more.

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    137 Pillars

    This elegant resort is built around Baan Borneo, an old teak house once managed by Louis Leonowens, Rajah Brook and others as a timber trading centre. Rooms continue with the colonial luxury theme with lots of teak, period tiles and spacious bathrooms. The grounds contain several towering trees, a chic pool, two restaurants and a small museum.