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Top things to do in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Rai is one of Thailand’s northernmost cities and home to some of the country’s most famous temples. Discover the top things to do in Chiang Rai in this article! I’m sharing my 8 favorite must-do activities !

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Chiang Rai was one of my greatest discoveries of Thailand. Between the temples, the nature and the friendliness of the people, Chiang Rai has become one of my favorite places in Thailand. The city and region are bursting with things to do. There’s so much more to see and discover than just the famous White Temple.

I’ll let you discover the 9 activities/places I recommend you experience on your next trip to Chiang Rai in Thailand.

Top things to do in Chiang Rai

Blue Temple – Wat Rong Suea Ten

Located in the north of Chiang Rai, the Blue Temple is one of my favorite places in the city. This Buddhist temple is distinguished by its sapphire-blue color. The blue temple takes its name, Wat Rong Suea Ten or the home of the dancing tigers, from the tigers that danced in this area at the time.

It’s easily accessible from the city center by cab, Grab or tuktuk.

I recommend you try the blue-colored coconut ice cream right next to the temple. Not only does it make a great photo, it’s also super tasty.

The blue temple is a stunning place in Thailand Chiang Rai

White Temple – Wat Rong Khun

Visiting the White Temple or Wat Rong Khun is one of top things to do in Chiang Rai. The temple was renovated in the late 90s by a local artist. It is now known the world over for its white color and all the details present.

You can easily get there from Chiang Rai by local bus or cab. You can also take a tour that will give you a good understanding of this magical place.

If you’d like to see the White Temple for yourself, I recommend going when it opens to avoid the crowds as much as possible.

The white temple is one of the top thing to do in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Big Buddha – Wat Huay Pla Kung

Slightly out of the center of Chiang Rai, the Big Buddha or Wat Huay Pla Kung is one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai. The site actually houses 3 distinct temples.

Firstly, the Big Buddha, which you can’t miss, then a miniature replica of the White Temple and finally a Chinese pagoda. Entrance to the temples is free. For a fee of 40 baht (approx. 1CHF/EURO), you can access the observation platform in the head of the Big Buddha.

Unfortunately, this complex is not accessible by public transport. The best way is by cab / Grab. It’s very easy to get a ride from downtown. But it can be a bit more complicated to find a driver for the return journey.

I know that many people ask their driver to wait while they visit. Personally, I used Grab and it took me about 20 minutes to find a driver.

big buddha in Chiang Rai is one of the top things to do in Chiang Rai.

Black House – Baan Dam Museum

The black houses that make up the Black House complex are one of the most mysterious places in the region. It’s not really a temple, but rather a kind of art museum in temple-like buildings.

Personally, I didn’t find it a great place, but it’s interesting. I’d recommend a visit if you have a bit more time or if you’re an art fan.

You can easily get there by bus. The journey takes about 30 minutes.

This is the black temple in Chiang Rai which is now more a museum than a temple

Night Bazaar

I think this is my favorite and top thing to do in Chiang Rai: eat at the Night Bazaar. You’ll find menus to suit all tastes at extremely reasonable prices and, above all, very, very good!

This market is open every evening from around 6pm.

the night market in Chiang Rai

Clock Tower

The Clock Tower is located in the center of Chiang Rai. It’s very easy to find. I recommend going there at sunset. The light is magical then.

One of the top things in Chiang Rai is this beautiful clocktower

Khun Korn waterfall

If you’re a fan of nature, visiting the Khun Korn waterfall is one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai. This 70m-high waterfall is one of the most beautiful in northern Thailand, in my opinion. It’s even possible to swim there, depending on when you go. You be the judge!

The best way to get to the Khun Korn waterfall is by scooter. The waterfall is a 40-minute drive from Chiang Rai. Most of the journey is on the main road. Only the last few minutes are a little more intense, but nothing complicated if you’re used to driving scooters/motorbikes. Once there, all you have to do is walk for 20-30 minutes, depending on your pace, to reach the foot of the waterfall. The path is relatively flat and easy.

Khao Soi

Khao Soi is one of Northern Thailand’s, if not Thailand’s, finest culinary specialties. In Chiang Rai, you can find it on every street corner.

The dish consists of a noodle soup served with meat or tofu, sprinkled with fried noodles. It costs between 40-120 Baht, depending on where you eat it.

The best food of northern Thailand

Getting around Chiang Rai

There are several options. It all depends on what you want to do when you get there.

Cab – Grab

Grab, which is Asia’s equivalent of Uber, makes it easy to get from point A to point B in Chiang Rai. You have the “car” and/or “motobike” option, which I recommend if you’re traveling alone.

You’ll also find numerous cabs and tuc-tucs all over the city. Prices can vary according to the customer’s head, so be sure to agree with the driver before you get in.

Public transport

Personally, I don’t have much experience of public transport in Chiang Rai. I’ve only once taken the bus to the White Temple, located a few kilometers from the center of Chiang Rai.

Very easy to use and above all super-cheap, at around 10 baht for 30 min, I can only recommend the bus to get to the White Temple.

Scooter rental

Scooter hire generally costs between 200 and 250 baht per day. This option is perfect for exploring Chiang Rai’s surroundings with total freedom. The roads are fairly well maintained. I found that there was slightly less traffic than in other parts of Thailand.

Where to stay in Chiang Rai?

Chiang Rai is a city full of accommodation to suit all budgets. Whether you’re looking for luxury accommodation with a swimming pool or a youth hostel, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Hostel – Baan Mai Kradan Hostel

This is the hostel where I stayed. I can’t recommend it highly enough! The common areas are really nice and friendly. The staff are great! They also have private rooms if needed!

$ – Sleepy House

The Sleepy House is a small hotel located near the Night Market, with a modern design. All rooms are en suite and air-conditioned.

$$ – Nak Nakara Hotel

Located in the center of Chiang Rai, this hotel is a haven of peace in the heart of the city. The Nak Nakara Hotel boasts a magnificent swimming pool, perfect for a refreshing swim!

$$$ – Meridien Chiang Rai Resort

Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort is a haven of peace by the river. The hotel boasts a magnificent infinity pool!

Where to eat in Chiang Rai

There are many places to eat in Chiang Rai, as well as a large number of cafés where you can relax for a while. Of course, it’s impossible to visit all these places in 2 days in Chiang Rai, Thailand. As I like to eat locally, I can only recommend the Night Bazaar Market. You’ll find plenty of street food stalls to suit all tastes and at very low prices!

I recommend you try the Khao Soi (noodle soup) or the Gaeng Hang Lay curries. Both dishes are specialties of northern Thailand!

Here are a few recommendations from other travelers that I’ve seen or not tried!

Surf and Turf
Fika Caffee
Moommai Restaurant
Ran Lab Sanam Keela

How to get to Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is easily accessible from many parts of Thailand, and even from Laos. Here’s a quick rundown of the possibilities, whether by bus or plane.

Many people also discover Chiang Rai via day trips from Chiang Mai. These tours usually include a stop at the famous White Temple, as well as other places of interest in the city.

From Chiang Mai

This is the most common route used by travelers. The journey from Chiang Mai takes around 3 hours and is possible throughout the day. The journey costs between 5-10 CHF/EURO depending on the bus you choose.

Click here to book your tickets now!

From Bangkok

As Chiang Rai has its own airport, it’s possible to fly there from Bangkok. The flight takes around 1h30 and arrives fresh in Chiang Rai.

Option 2 is to take the night bus between the two cities. The journey costs around 24 CHF/EURO and takes between 10 and 12 hours, depending on traffic and the company chosen.

Personally, I chose the latter option and everything went very smoothly. I recommend you check prices and available buses on the 12.go.com website.

From Laos

Another popular option for backpackers is to travel from Laos. There is a bus route from Luang Prabang that takes around 16-18 hours, depending on traffic. The other option is to take the Slow Boat. The journey is a little longer, however. It takes 2 days to connect the two places.

Book your bus tickets here.

This is the platform I use to book all my bus tickets in Asia. I can’t hide the fact that there’s sometimes a small difference between the price (1-2 CHF/EURO) on 12.go compared with the companies’ direct sites. I’ve tried several times to go directly through the companies, but the sites are very poorly translated or not translated at all into English…

I hope this article about the top things to do in Chiang Rai, Thailand has given you plenty of ideas and, above all, the desire to discover this magnificent region!

Want to discover Thailand?

🏞 Chiang Rai I How to spend 2 days in Chiang Rai – Visit the White Temple of Chiang Rai
🐘 Pai I The best things to do
🗺️ Itineraries I
🇹🇭 General information I How to move around Thailand – Visiting Thailand as a solo travele

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