<strong>Top 10 Things to Do in Chiang Rai Thailand: Ultimate Travel Guide (Updated 2024)</strong>

Chiang Rai, a captivating city in northern Thailand that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and off-the-beaten-path experiences. In this ultimate travel guide, we’ll take you through the top 10 things to do in Chiang Rai, ensuring an unforgettable adventure in this enchanting destination.

Top 10 Things to Do in Chiang Rai Thailand

From exploring serene temples to immersing yourself in the local way of life, Chiang Rai has something for everyone.

1. Take a Cyclo Tour around the Town

Taking a cyclo tour around the Chiang Rai town offers you a chance to immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of Chiang Rai. During a cyclo tour around Chiang Rai, you’ll have the opportunity to see stunning temples, including Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Phra Singh, admire the iconic Chiang Rai Clock Tower, explore the vibrant Night Bazaar, pedal through charming neighborhoods, enjoy lush gardens and parks like Mae Fah Luang Garden, glimpse riverside views, discover local markets and street food, and appreciate the city’s vibrant street art scene. It’s a delightful way to immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of Chiang Rai.

2. Take a Long-tailed Boat Trip to the Golden Triangle

Hop on a long-tailed boat trip to the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar converge. As you cruise along the river, breathe in the fresh air and witness the floating houses of local fishermen. Arriving at the exact point where the three countries meet is a remarkable experience that showcases the cultural diversity of the region.

A short boat trip often around 20 minutes, offers you a glimpse of the exact point where three countries are connected, give you the fresh air from the river, and see floating houses of fishermen along the river.

Long-tailed Boat Trip to the Golden Triangle
Enjoy rural atmosphere in Long-tailed Boat Trip to the Golden Triangle (image: Four Season Press Room)

3. Visit the Hall of Opium Museum

Located in the Golden Triangle, this museum offers a comprehensive understanding of the opium industry, drug production, and efforts to combat addiction. Through interactive exhibits and informative displays, you’ll delve into the history and impact of the opium trade, and gain insights into the complex past of this region and its ongoing efforts for a brighter future.

4. Trekking in Doi Mae Salong and Tea House Visit

Trekking in Doi Mae Salong offers scenic hiking trails through tea plantations, hill tribe villages, and breathtaking panoramic views. Doi Mae Salong is famous for its tea plantations, primarily known for producing high-quality oolong tea. During your trek, you’ll have the chance to witness the tea cultivation process, learn about tea production, and enjoy breathtaking views of the tea-covered slopes.

Trekking in Doi Mae Salong and Tea House Visit
Doi Mae Salong with marvelous landscape (image: Tourism Authority of Thailand)

5. Visit Akha Village of Ban Lorcha

Step back in time and visit the authentic Akha village of Ban Lorcha, which is preserved authentically and worth a tour on foot. Visit here, you’ll learn about the ritual of the ‘giant swing’ and witness the intricate weaving techniques used to produce vibrant, handmade textiles. Gain a glimpse into the daily life of the villagers by exploring their houses and kitchens, making for an enriching and immersive experience.

Local people in Akha Village of Ban Lorcha
Local people in Akha Village of Ban Lorcha (image: Thailand Hilltribe Holidays)

6. Explore the Market in Mae Sai

Discover the vibrant market in Mae Sai, a bustling town located on the Thai-Myanmar border. Here, you’ll find an intriguing mix of people, including Chinese businessmen, Burmese day-trippers, and Thai families seeking affordable Chinese products. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere, browse through a variety of goods, and sample local delicacies for a true taste of the cross-border culture.

7. Enjoy Dinner at a Restaurant on the Maekok River

A memorable dining experience at a riverside restaurant along the Maekok River will be one of the best experiences to enjoy in Chiang Rai. Relish delicious food while being surrounded by the serene ambiance and picturesque views. As the sun sets and paints the sky with vibrant hues, immerse yourself in the tranquility of the river, creating a truly enchanting evening.

Restaurant in Maekok River
Restaurant in Maekok River

8. Discover the Unique White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

No visit to Chiang Rai would be complete without exploring the extraordinary White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun. This contemporary masterpiece stands out with its intricate details and gleaming white facade. Step inside to admire the stunning murals, which blend traditional Buddhist art with modern pop culture references. The White Temple is a visual feast that will leave you in awe.

9. Marvel at the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)

After visiting White Temple, don’t forget to stroll around Blue Temple (or Wat Rong Suea Ten) nearby. This mesmerizing temple is adorned with shades of blue and gold, creating a serene and ethereal atmosphere. Marvel at the intricate designs, including the magnificent blue Buddha statue that forms the centerpiece of this spiritual sanctuary.

Wat Rong Suea Ten
Blue Temple (image: This Human Tribe)

10. Experience the Serenity of Wat Huay Pla Kang

Visit Wat Huay Pla Kang, a majestic temple complex that boasts a towering white statue of the Goddess of Mercy. Ascend the staircase inside the statue, which offers panoramic views of Chiang Rai and its surrounding landscapes. Explore the temple grounds and admire the intricate artwork and sculptures that adorn this captivating site.

Ideal time to go

The best time to visit Chiang Rai is from November to February when the weather is cooler and less humid. During this period, you can enjoy pleasant temperatures and clear skies, making it perfect for exploring outdoor attractions and enjoying the city’s festivities.

However, Chiang Rai can be visited year-round, with each season offering its own unique charm.

How to get there?

Chiang Rai is easily accessible by air, and road from Bangkok or Chiang Mai.

From Bangkok by Air

The city is served by the Mae Fah Luang Chiang Rai International Airport, which receives domestic and international flights. There is a direct flight of about one hour with Thai Vietjet Air, Air Aisa, Nok Air, Thai Airways. Then, from the airport, you can take a taxi or a pre-arranged transfer to reach your accommodation.

Travel in Bangkok but want to find hidden gems? Read our Discover Hidden Gems: 9 Unusual Things To Do in Bangkok & Travel Guide

From Chiang Mai by private car or by bus

You can take a bus or hire a private car from Chiang Mai. The journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai takes approximately three hours by road and costs about US$ 110- US$ 120 for two people.


  • You also can take a private car to Chiang Rai from Bangkok but the distance will be longer and take more time.
  • Although Chiang Rai doesn’t have its own train station, you can travel by train to the nearby city of Chiang Mai and then continue your journey to Chiang Rai by bus or car.

How to Stroll Around?

Getting around Chiang Rai is relatively easy, thanks to its compact size and well-developed transportation options.

  • Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Chiang Rai and can be hailed on the street or booked through ride-hailing apps. Ensure that the meter is used or agree on a fare before starting your journey.
  • Tuk-tuks: Tuk-tuks, three-wheeled motorized vehicles, are a popular mode of transport for short distances within the city. Remember to negotiate the fare before getting in.
  • Songthaews: These shared, converted pickup trucks serve as a local form of transportation. They follow fixed routes and can be flagged down along the road. Songthaews are an affordable option for exploring nearby attractions and villages.
  • Rental Bicycles: Chiang Rai is a bicycle-friendly city, and renting a bicycle is a great way to explore at your own pace. Many accommodations offer bicycle rental services, or you can find rental shops within the city.

What to Eat?

Chiang Rai is a haven for food lovers, offering a diverse range of culinary delights. Here are some must-try dishes:

  • Khao Soi: Egg noodles in a fragrant curry broth topped with crispy noodles.
  • Sai Ua: Flavorful Northern Thai sausage made with ground pork, herbs, and spices.
  • Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiao: Spicy tomato-based broth with rice noodles and tender pork or beef.
  • Pad Thai Thamadaa: Chiang Rai’s twist on Pad Thai, featuring banana flowers and deep-fried minced pork.
  • Northern Thai Curry: Aromatic and slightly spicy curries like Gaeng Hang Lay (pork belly) and Gaeng Khae (vegetable).

Recommended Perfect Itineraries

One Day Tour from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

If you have limited time, you can still experience the highlights of Chiang Rai on a day trip from Chiang Mai.

  • Morning: Depart from Chiang Mai early in the morning and make your way to Chiang Rai by road. Enjoy the scenic journey through the countryside.
  • Mid-Morning: Visit the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and marvel at its intricate design and unique art.
  • Lunch: Indulge in a delicious Northern Thai meal at a local restaurant.
  • Afternoon: Explore the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten) and soak in its serene ambiance. Then, head to the Golden Triangle and take a long-tailed boat trip to witness the meeting point of three countries.
  • Evening: Return to Chiang Mai, taking with you memories of Chiang Rai’s enchanting attractions.
From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Two Days from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Day 1: Chiang Mai – Elephant Camp – drive to Chiang Rai, Golden Triangle boat ride, Mae Sai border, overnight in Chiang Rai

  • Morning: Visit an Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai for activities and elephant interaction.
  • Afternoon: Drive to Chiang Rai. Take a boat ride at the Golden Triangle and explore Mae Sai border town.
  • Evening: Overnight stay in Chiang Rai.

Day 2: Black and Blue Temple, Akha village of Ban Lorcha – drive back to Chiang Mai

  • Morning: Visit the Black and Blue Temples in Chiang Rai.
  • Afternoon: Explore the Akha village of Ban Lorcha.
  • Evening: Drive back to Chiang Mai.

Note: It’s advisable to check the opening hours and plan your itinerary accordingly.

Where to go next?

After exploring the wonders of Chiang Rai, many travelers opt to continue their journey to Chiang Khong and embark on a memorable slow boat adventure to Luang Prabang. Here’s what you can expect on this captivating route:

  • Chiang Khong: Located on the Thai side of the Thailand-Laos border, Chiang Khong serves as a gateway for travelers continuing their exploration into Laos.
  • Slow Boat to Luang Prabang: From Chiang Khong, you can board a slow boat that traverses the scenic Mekong River, winding its way through the picturesque landscapes of northern Laos.
  • Pakbeng: Nestled along the Mekong River, Pakbeng offers a peaceful retreat for travelers on the slow boat journey.
  • Luang Prabang: The final destination of this river adventure is the enchanting city of Luang Prabang. Known for its rich cultural heritage, ornate temples, and French colonial architecture, Luang Prabang exudes a captivating charm.
  • Kuang Si Waterfalls: While in Luang Prabang, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the stunning Kuang Si Waterfalls.

Chiang Rai offers a delightful blend of cultural heritage, natural beauty, and unique experiences. From exploring stunning temples to immersing yourself in the local way of life, this enchanting city has something to offer every traveler.

By following this ultimate travel guide and incorporating the safety tips mentioned, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your visit to Chiang Rai, creating unforgettable memories along the way.

If planning to travel to Chiang Rai or Thailand but don’t know where to start, you could consider to contact Indochina Voyages. As one of the best Southeast Asia Tour Companies with active team that include various local travel experts (more than 500, we are specific in tailor-made journey. Take the first step towards creating unforgettable memories by dropping us a line below!

From Van Do – Travel Consultants and Indochina Voyages Team

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