Top 20 Amazing Things to Do in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai, a city with 70,000 inhabitants in Northern Thailand, is one of the country’s most interesting places to visit. It is located about 190 kilometers from Chiang Mai and is a particularly popular stop that should not be missed on any tour of the North of Thailand. Many travelers are surprised because both in the city and in the province of the same name Chiang Rai you can find a variety of incredibly beautiful attractions and activities. Among the best things to do in Chiang Rai are certainly a visit to the old town of Chiang Rai, the famous White Temple, the green tea plantations and the unique Golden Triangle. In addition, you can go on unforgettable trekking tours or simply taste your way through the best night markets in the country.
In this travel guide we will give you all the important info about Chiang Rai in Thailand. Moreover, we show you the best things to do in Chiang Rai, beautiful pictures, reveal insider tips and where are the best places to stay.
General info about Chiang Rai
The city of Chiang Rai, with 70,000 inhabitants, is located in the green north of Thailand, about 790 kilometers from Bangkok and 200 kilometers from Chiang Mai. Not least because of the famous White Temple, one of the most interesting attractions in Thailand, Chiang Rai has become a very popular tourist destination. But this city has much more to offer! Situated at an altitude of about 600 meters above sea level and on the banks of the Maenam Kok River, the surrounding area around Chiang Rai is also very attractive and invites for exciting day trips. Highlights like the famousGolden Triangle, impressive tea plantations, picturesque mountain landscapes for hiking and Hill Tribe Villages, Akha, Karen, Lisu and Meo, can be visited from here.
Whether you are an active vacationer, a sightseer, or a culture lover, Chiang Rai is worth visiting for everybody! One day is certainly not enough to explore all the attractions in Chiang Rai and nearby. Make sure you plan a little more time for your trip in the northernmost provincial capital. Grandiose hotels, but also cozy hostels and a cool scene make this place also a popular destination for backpacking in Thailand and long-term travelers.
Best Things to do in Chiang Rai
There is a surprisingly huge selection of amazing things to do in Chiang Rai. Especially the old town, with its unique relaxed atmosphere, the cozy nightlife, the night markets and the many temples, is thrilling. Here we have put together the absolute highlights and the best attractions of Chiang Rai, which should not be missed.
White Temple in Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun)
The Wat Rong Khun, also known as White Temple, is undoubtedly the most famous attraction in Chiang Rai. Created by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, countless visitors from all over the world come daily to this beautiful, white-shining holy site. What makes this site that special is its unique architecture. During a visit, one walks along a one-way system through hell, past temptations, towards heaven. You can admire some exceptional statues and also the interior of the temple with the extraordinary murals should be seen.
Entrance Fee: 100 baht | Opening Hours: 08:00 am to 5:00 pm
Black Temple (Baan Dam Temple)
One of the best things to do in Chiang Rai is a visit to the Black Temple, better known as the Black House or Baan Dam Museum. This attraction is not a Buddhist temple, but a project of the artist Tahwan Duchanee, who dedicated his lifetime to the facets of death. During a tour of the open-air museum, which consists of many different black houses, you will see numerous mystical figures, sculptures and objects. But be warned, the visit is not for the faint of heart because the sometimes quite bizarre exhibits are almost all made of animal remains.
Entrance Fee: 80 baht | Opening Hours: 09:00 am to 5:00 pm
The beautiful green Singha Park is a charming change from the bustling downtown Chiang Rai. It is located about 12 kilometers away and can be reached quickly by taxi, tuktuk or scooter. In the extensive area there are numerous highlights such as an animal enclosure with zebras and giraffes, a zip-line, tea plantations and even a swan pond. It is best to rent bikes, which cost 150 baht per hour, or cross the park, including its tea plantations and lakes, with the Hop-on Hop-off shuttle bus. A really great attraction for a leisurely afternoon in Chiang Rai.
Tip: Once a year in February, the international balloon festival takes place. If you are in Chiang Rai at this time, then you should definitely stop by there!
Admission: free | Opening Hours: 08:00 am to 6:00 pm
Art & Culture Park (Rai Mae Fah Luang)
A walk through the Rai Mae Fah Luang, the art and culture park, is one of the absolute insider tips for the best things to do in Chiang Rai. Especially nature and culture lovers will have their joy here in the quiet park. During a visit, you can admire a stunning park with countless flowers, a pond, and museums, which exhibit very valuable exhibits from the Lanna period. One of the most important attractions is the Haw Kham, the so-called Golden Pavilion, where beautiful Lanna artifacts made of teak are exhibited. If you want to relax for a few hours, the Rai Mae Fah Luang is the perfect place.
Entrance Fee: 200 baht | Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
The Clock Tower is probably the most famous attraction in the old town of Chiang Rai. This work of art was designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Khositpipat and opened in 2008 in honor of the king. Walking through the center, you almost always somehow pass the impressive golden bell tower of the city. It shines beautifully in golden color and is the real landmark of the city. Around the Clock Tower there are some cozy cafés and restaurants, from which you can enjoy a great view of the golden clock tower and the city life of Chiang Rai.
Tip: Especially recommended is a visit towards evening because then a ten-minute light show takes place at 7:00 pm, 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm directly at the Clock Tower.
Markets in Chiang Rai
The markets in Chiang Rai are among the most interesting and authentic attractions of the city. Especially in the center there are several lively and moreover still really original markets. An absolute must is the Chiang Ria Night Bazar, the popular night market of Chiang Rai. This takes place daily from 6:00 p.m. and offers not only shopping pleasure but also countless culinary experiences. In addition, the Chiang Rai Saturday Night Market takes place every Saturday on Thana Lai Road and the Chiang Rai Sunday Night Market on Sunday on Sankhongnoi Road.
Tip: An insider tip is the morning Central Day Market at the old bell tower. In this authentic market, mainly locals buy their food.
Blue Temple (Wat Rong Seur Ten)
One of the most beautiful places to see in Chiang Rai is the Blue Temple, Wat Rong Seur Ten. This temple is definitely one of the highlights of the city and should not be missed. Already the entrance to the temple, which is guarded by two Naga snake heads, is absolutely stunning. The fascinating thing here is that the entire temple was kept both inside and outside in shades of blue. Impressive are also the many decorations, the elaborate carvings and the huge white sitting Buddha, which decorate the temple interior. The play of light is also breathtaking and an experience in itself.
Entrance Fee: free of charge | Opening Hours: 06:00 am to 8:00 pm
Hill Tribe Museum
If you want to learn more about the Thai hill tribes, then you should visit the Hill Tribe Museum of Chiang Rai. It is located on Thanalai Road, right next to the iconic restaurant Cabbages and Condoms. In this museum, you will learn all about the life of the different Thai tribes living in the mountains, such as the Akha, Karen, Lisu and Meo. The history of opium cultivation is also described in detail in the museum. If you are interested, you can book trekking tours and excursions to the hill tribes and buy typical handicrafts in the store.
Entrance Fee: 50 baht | Opening Hours: 08:30 am to 6:00 pm
Wat Huay Pla Kang (9 Tier Temple)
A spectacular attraction of Chiang Rai is the Wat Huay Pla Kang Temple, also known as the 9 Tier Temple. Particularly impressive is the approximately 69 meter high statue of the Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin, but also called “Big Buddha of Chiang Rai”, which can be seen from afar thanks to its imposing size! The elevator takes you up to the 25th floor, to the head of the statue, which is richly decorated on the inner walls and offers a view of the vast landscape. This temple complex is among the new temples of the city, and a visit to this extraordinary attraction is really recommended.
Entrance fee: free entrance, only the lift ride costs 40 baht.
Wat Phra Kaeo
The Wat Phra Kaeo is definitely one of the most beautiful and famous temples in Chiang Rai. In this temple complex, namely the sacred emerald Buddha was kept since the year 1444, which, however, you can currently visit in Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok. Nevertheless, a visit is truly recommended because the entire area is worth seeing and also the temple buildings are interesting. In addition, the complex houses a museum, you can also visit the official replica of the Emerald Buddha made of green jade and also a 700-year-old bronze statue can be admired.
Entrance Fee: free of charge | Opening Hours: 08:00 am to 5:30 pm
Oub Kham Museum
The Oub Kham Museum is a privately run museum dedicated to the history of Northern Thailand and neighboring countries. It is located one kilometer from the city center, on the way to the famous art and culture park Rai Mae Fah Luang. A wide variety of valuable exhibits from the former Lanna kingdoms are displayed in a very confined space. Among them are textiles, Buddha images, historical everyday objects and, as a highlight, the 400-year-old golden throne of the Tai Yai kings from Shan State in Myanmar. For all those interested in art and history, a particularly worth seeing place in Chiang Rai.
Entrance fee: 300 baht | Opening hours: 08:00 am to 5:30 pm
Haad Chiang Rai River Beach
The Haad Chiang Rai is the romantic city beach of Chiang Rai and is located on the Kok River, 4 kilometers outside the center. Locals really love to come here for a swim, and this spot is also a popular place for social eating and drinking. The view of the river and to Wat Tham Phra temple opposite is particularly pretty. If you’re coming by scooter, you can take a break here with a cool drink from the many bars along the river.
Choui Fong Tea Plantation
A visit to the Choui Fong Tea Plantation is definitely one of the absolute best things to do around Chiang Rai. These beautiful, particularly photogenic tea plantations are located about 40 kilometers from the city and the Choui Fong Tea Plantation is one of the largest tea producers in the region. Here you can marvel at deep green, hilly tea fields and not only buy and drink a variety of teas in one of the many stores, but also taste delicious cakes and enjoy an insanely beautiful view over the green landscape.
Tip: Around the tea plantations there is even more to discover, like the mountain village of Mae Salong, which is also famous for tea cultivation and as Hill Tribe Village.
Wat Tham Pla & Fish Cave (Monkey Temple)
The Monkey Temple Wat Tham Pla with its sacred cave, the so-called Fish Cave, is located about 1-hour drive from the city of Chiang Rai and is an insider tip of the region. The temple is known especially for its numerous monkeys, which move freely in the area and can also be fed there. But not only the countless monkeys make Wat Tham Pla so special. Also the ascent to the big Fish Cave and the visit of the temple itself are a really nice experience. If you are on the way from Chiang Rai in the direction of the Golden Triangle, then it is definitely worth stopping at this attraction.
The Golden Triangle is probably the most popular destination in northern Thailand, and so the city of Chiang Rai is the optimal starting point for trips to this famous attraction. Here in the Golden Triangle the countries Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet. In Chiang Saen, in the village of Sop Ruak, at the “Golden Triangle Viewpoint” you have probably the most beautiful view over the landscape and the Mekong River. This area is home to a variety of ethnic groups, whose villages are called Hilltribe Villages. This area is also well-known for the former opium cultivation, which is illustrated in the Opium Museum in the center of the village.
Phu Chi Fa
The Phu Chi Fa is a beautiful mountainous region, about 2 hours drive from Chiang Rai. The 1,628-meter high mountain is located in the Phu Chi Fa Forest Park, a nature reserve, and is a well-known destination for locals as well as tourists looking for that special experience. For nature lovers, trekking tours to this enchanting landscape are one of the best excursions in the Chiang Rai region. Usually, it starts early in the morning because the highlight of this tour is to experience the dreamlike sunrise at Phu Chi Fa.
Mae Sai & Tachilek Market (Border Myanmar)
On the way to the north, you should also visit the border town of Mae Sai. This is located about 60 kilometers from Chiang Rai and is a popular place when traveling through the Golden Triangle. A special highlight of the border town is the scorpion temple, Wat Phra That Doi Wao, from which you have an insanely brilliant view of the border region between Myanmar and Thailand. But also the market of Tachilek is really worth seeing. Nevertheless, this market is already in Myanmar and offers plenty of bits and pieces at really low prices.
How to get to Chiang Rai
For getting to Chiang Rai there are, with bus, train and plane, several options. The most comfortable and fastest way is a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. You can find cheap domestic flights online, like on 12go.asia. Another way to get to Chiang Rai is to take an overnight bus. The travel time from Bangkok is around 14 hours, and often a meal is included in the price.
If you have time, you can take a train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The trip is really impressive, and you can include stops in Ayutthaya, the monkey city of Lopburi and Sukhothai. From Chiang Mai, it’s a 4-hour bus ride on to Chiang Rai.
Tip: The various options for travel to Chiang Rai, including departure times and prices, can be easily searched on 12go.asia.
Tours from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
If you are in Chiang Mai, but unfortunately do not have time to stay in Chiang Rai, then you still have the chance to explore the most famous attractions on a day trip or multi-day trip from Chiang Mai. Most tours include a visit to the famous White Temple and often the Golden Triangle is also visited. On the online portal GetYourGuide you can find great offers for this.
The reviews, which you can compare before booking, are also really great.
Where to Stay in Chiang Rai
In Chiang Rai you can find an excellent selection of accommodation. No matter what budget, from backpackers to demanding individual travelers and luxury vacationers, everyone will find their perfect hotel in this city. If you are looking for a great place to stay in Chiang Rai, then we can give you these accommodation tips along the way…It’s worth a look!
- Boutique Hotel: The Mora Hotel is a chic boutique hotel with a beautiful pool, really great rooms and incredibly delicious breakfast.
- Backpacker Hostel: The Stay In Chiangrai is a perfect and cheap choice for backpackers. The rooms are very clean and the breakfast is delicious!
- Small Guesthouse: The Baan Jaru is a super central guesthouse with nice, clean double rooms and free bikes.
- Luxury Hotel: The Riverie by Katathani is one of the best hotels in Chiang Rai. It scores high on luxury, with a quiet location right on the river and a really nice pool.
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