20 Best things to do in Chiang Rai | Travel Guide
Chiang Rai, a city with 70,000 inhabitants in Northern Thailand, is one of the country’s most interesting spots to visit. It is located about 190 kilometers from Chiang Mai and the city is really worth seeing, which you should definitely plan on a round trip through North Thailand. Many travelers are surprised, as both the city and the Chiang Rai province offer a variety of truly beautiful activities and attractions. On a trip there are so many amazing things to do in Chiang Rai: You will discover the famous Golden Triangle, explore the unique White Temple, marvel at beautiful green tea plantations, you can do unforgettable trekking tours, or simply visit the best night markets in the country.
This blog post is the ultimate travel guide for Chiang Rai. We have put together all the important information for your travel, what are the best places to visit, how to get there and where to stay in Chiang Rai.
Best things to do in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai has a surprisingly huge selection of amazing things to do and places to visit. 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.
Walking through the city center of Chiang Rai, you will almost always somehow come to the Clock Tower, the city’s golden belfry. The lovely landmark of the city shines beautifully in a golden color. Around the Clock Tower are some cozy cafes and restaurants that overlook the golden clock tower and city life of Chiang Rai.
Travel Tip: In the evening there is a ten-minute light show every day at 7:00 pm, 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
The White Temple in Chiang Rai
The White Temple, also named as Wat Rong Khun, is undoubtedly the most famous attraction in Chiang Rai. Created by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, many daily visitors flock to see this beautiful, white-glittering holy site. The special feature of this facility: You will walk along a one-way system from hell, passing temptations, towards heaven. On your way are many really special statues and very unusual murals to explore. More about this temple highlight can be found here: Wat Rong Khun – White Temple in Chiang Rai
Entrance fee: 50 baht | Opening hours: 08:00 am to 5:00 pm
Travel Tip: In Chiang Rai it is best to stay in the city center. A truly ingenious and beautiful accommodation is the Mora Boutique Hotel. Above all, the delicious breakfast, the free afternoon snack and the gorgeous pool thrilled us. As a cheap alternative, we can recommend the Hostel Baan Mai Kradan just around the corner.
Black Temple – Baan Dam
Another really interesting attraction in Chiang Rai is the Black Temple, better known as the Black House. This sight is actually a kind of spooky open-air museum, which consists of many different black houses. But be warned, the visit is not for the faint of heart, because the partly quite bizarre exhibits are almost all from animal remains.
Entrance fee: 80 baht | Opening hours: 09:00 to 17:00
A nice change to the city center is the beautiful green Singha Park. Here in the huge park area you will find many highlights like zebras and giraffes, a zipline, tea plantations and even a swan pond. The best way to explore the Singha Park is to borrow wheels (150 baht per hour) or cross the park, including its tea plantations and lakes, by shuttle bus. A really lovely thing to do for a leisurely afternoon in Chiang Rai.
Travel 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!
Admission: free | Opening hours: 09:00 to 17:00
Rai Mae Fah Luang – Art & Culture Park
A walk through the Rai Mae Fah Luang is one of the absolute insider tips for Chiang Rai, and especially nature and culture lovers will enjoy their time here inside the quiet park. During a visit you marvel at a beautiful park with countless flowers, a pond and a museum, which exhibit very valuable exhibits from the Lanna period. If you want to relax for a few hours, then the Rai Mae Fah Luang is the perfect place to visit in Chiang Rai.
Entrance fee: 200 baht | Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Blue Temple – Wat Rong Seur Ten
Highly recommended is also a visit to the Blue Temple, the Wat Rong Seur Ten. This temple is one of the highlights in Chiang Rai and should definitely not be missed on any sightseeing tour. The fascinating thing is that the entire temple was kept in shades of blue on the inside and outside. Impressive are also the many ornaments and the huge white sitting Buddha, which decorate the temple interior.
Entrance fee: free of charge | Opening hours: 06:00 am to 8:00 pm
Hill Tribe Museum
If you want to know more about the Thai hill tribes, then check out the Hill Tribe Museum of Chiang Rai. In this museum you will learn about the former lives of the various hill tribes living in the mountains (Akha, Karen, Lisu, and Meo), and if you’re interested, you have the possibility to book trekking tours and excursions for visiting the hill tribes.
Entrance fee: 50 baht | Opening hours: 08:30 am to 6:00 pm
King Mengrai Monument
If you travel to Chiang Rai, you will surely pass this attraction. The King Mengrai Monument is particularly interesting in the evening, when locals bring their offerings and thus honor the king.
Entrance fee: free of charge
Wat Huay Pla Kang – 9 Tier Temple
Another spectacular thing to see in Chiang Rai is the 100-meter high white Buddha of the Wat Huay Pla Kang Temple. Already from afar you can admire this wonderful temple! The lift takes you up to the head of the Buddha, which is richly decorated on the inside walls and offers a view of the wide landscape. This temple complex is one of the new temples of the city and a visit to this extraordinary attraction is highly recommended.
Entrance fee: free of charge
More amazing temples to visit
On a city tour to Chiang Rai, one should not only visit the usual visitor magnets, such as the White Temple, Blue Temple and Black Temple, also a few other temple jewels are really worth a visit. Wat Phra Singh, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Klang Wiang, Wat Jed Yod, Wat Phra Non, Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong and Wat Ming Muang are just some of the highlights.
More about the most beautiful temples: The 10 Most Beautiful Temples of Chiang Rai
Oub Kham Museum
The Oub Kham Museum is a privately-owned museum dedicated to the history of northern Thailand and the neighboring countries. In a confined space, many very valuable exhibits are exhibited. For those who are interested in art and history this museum is worth seeing.
Entrance fee: 300 baht | Opening hours: 08:00 am to 5:30 pm
Haad Chiang Rai – River Beach
Haad Chiang Rai is the city beach and is located on the Kok River, 4 kilometers outside the center. Locals come here for swimming, and this place is also a popular meeting point for eating out and having some cool drinks. Especially beautiful is the view of the river and the opposite Wat Tham Phra temple. If you are traveling by scooter, then you should definitely stop here for a short break.
Things to do around Chiang Rai
As you can see, the city Chiang Rai has so many amazing sights to discover. But also the province has some spectacular highlights to offer. In our opinion, almost more than the area around Chiang Mai. Many of the attractions can be connected by a day trip to the Golden Triangle. Here are the best excursions from Chiang Rai:
Tea Plantations – Choui Fong Tea Plantation
Visiting the tea plantations is definitely one of the absolute best things to do in Chiang Rai. We can recommend going to see the Choui Fong Tea Plantation. They are so photogenic and only 40 kilometers away from Chiang Rai. Here one marvels over deep green, hilly tea fields and you can try delicious teas in one of the many tea shops. The incredibly beautiful views over the green tea plantation landscape are just amazing and shouldn`t be missed on any trip to North Thailand.
Tip: In the vicinity of the tea plantations is the mountain village Mae Salong, which is also famous for its tea cultivation and the Hill Tribe Village.
Monkey Temple – Wat Tham Pla & Fish Cave
About 1 hour away from Chiang Rai is the Monkey Temple Wat Tham Pla with its sacred cave, the Fish Cave. If you are on the way towards the Golden Triangle, then you should definitely stop here. But not only the countless monkeys in the area make the Wat Tham Pla so special. The ascent to the big cave and the temple itself is really worth the trip.
Mae Sai – border Myamar and Tachilek market
On the way to the very north of Thailand you should also visit the border town of Mae Sai. A special highlight here is the Scorpion Temple, the Wat Phra That Doi Wao, from which one has an incredibly brilliant view of the border region between Myanmar and Thailand. But also the market of Tachilek is well worth seeing. This market is already in Myanmar and offers a lot of bits and pieces at really low prices.
The Golden Triangle is perhaps the most popular destination in northern Thailand and therefore Chiang Rai is the ideal base for exploring this famous landmark. Here at the Golden Triangle the countries Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet. In Chiang Saen at the “Golden Triangle Viewpoint” you have a wonderful view over the golden triangle and the Mekong River. This area is home to a large number of ethnic groups whose villages are known as Hilltribe Villages. This area is also famous for the former opium plantation, which is illustrated in the Opium Museum at the Golden Triangle.
Phu Chi Fa
The Phu Chi Fa is a mountainous region located about 2 hours from Chiang Rai. For nature lovers, trekking in this enchanting landscape is a must do in the region. Most of the tours start early in the morning, because the highlight of this trip is to experience the beautiful sunrise at Phu Chi Fa mountain.
Markets in Chiang Rai
As in many places in Thailand, Chiang Rai has a vibrant market life. Here in the city there are several interesting and original markets to discover. The absolute must do for any trip to Chiang Rai is a visit to a night market:
- Chiang Ria Night Bazar: A special highlight is the daily night market of Chiang Rai. This takes place every day from 18:00 clock and offers in addition to the shopping pleasure countless culinary experiences. Really cool is the live music in the evening, which makes the market really pleasurable. This night market you will find right next to the bus terminal 1 in the city center.
- Chiang Rai Saturday Night Market: Every Saturday from 16:30 at Thana Lai Road is a huge night market. This walking street is one of the biggest markets in the region. If you’re in town on a Saturday, then you should definitely put this night market in Chiang Rai on your Chiang Rai travel list.
- Chiang Rai Sunday Night Market: There is another night market every Sunday from 17:00 on Sankhongnoi Road (near Chiang Rai Hospital). This is a bit quieter than the night market on Saturday, but still not less worth seeing!
- Central Day Market: The Central Day Market takes place early in the morning. Here, especially locals buy their food. Tourists, on the other hand, can hardly be found at this market. The Central Day Market takes place daily at the old bell tower and is really very authentic and therefore worth seeing.
Although the nightlife here in Chiang Rai is much quieter than, for example in Chiang Mai, you will still find some cool bars, very good cafes and restaurants inside the city center. Perfect to round off an unforgettable day full of adventure and sightseeing. The best nightlife with bars and restaurants can be found in the Yetjod Road and its side streets.
Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai by bus
The best way to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is by bus. Between these two places there is only one company, the GreenBus. Here you can choose from 3 different booking categories. First, Second and Third Class. The first is naturally the most expensive, but also the most comfortable and fastest. The third class is the cheapest. The travel time is about 4 hours, no breaks are made, but toilets are in the bus.
Tip: The easiest way for booking the tickets for the bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai is online at 12go.asia.
Tours from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
If you are in Chiang Mai but don’t have time to travel to Chiang Rai, you can still explore the most famous sights on a day trip from Chiang Mai. Here are the best tours:
Where to stay in Chiang Rai?
In Chiang Rai you can find a really lovely selection of accommodations. Compared to Chiang Mai, the hotels in Chiang Rai are partly cheaper, but not less great. As a special hotel tip, we can recommend the Mora Hotel. This boutique hotel thrills its guests with a gorgeous pool, wonderful stylish rooms, amazing breakfast and free afternoon snack. And all for a reasonable price.
Further accommodation tips:
- Hostel: The Mercy Hostel is a perfect choice for backpackers. As a hostel it offers even a pool and a gym!
- Guest House: The Baan Jaru is a super central guest house with nice clean double rooms and free bikes.
- Luxury Hotel: The Riverie by Katathani provides plenty of luxury for guest who are looking for a very special stay in Chiang Rai. It enchants with a quiet location right on the river and beautiful pool area.
Conclusion: Chiang Rai and the surrounding area is really impressive. It is much less busy than in Chiang Mai, but still there is a lot to do here. In our opinion this is one of the most beautiful regions of Northern Thailand and we can recommend Chiang Rai to anybody who wants to explore North Thailand. Also the stay at the Mora Boutique Hotel was an extra plus on our trip to Chiang Rai.
Find the best Accommodation & Hotel in Chiang Rai:
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