Looking for things to do in Chiang Rai? Chiang Rai is a lovely city located in northern Thailand that has a lot to offer its visitors.
It’s one of the most charming cities I’ve visited in Thailand. It’s a city that’s packed with beautiful places, old temples, lively markets, and kind locals.
One of the best things about Chiang Rai is that it’s not a super touristy city, which means that you’ll get a genuine experience in Thailand. Here are my best tips of things to do in Chiang Rai as a tourist:
Visit the white temple – Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun, also known as the white temple, is one of Thailand’s most unique and popular temples. It’s incredibly beautiful with its white exterior, stunning details, lush garden, and ponds.
It’s free to visit the temple and it’s open from 06:30 to 18:00 every day. The best time to visit is during the morning or before it closes to avoid the crowds.
A visit to the white temple is a must to add to your bucket list of things to do in Chiang Rai.
Stroll around at the night market
One of the most popular things to do in Chiang Rai is to spend the evenings at the night market.
In this market you can eat local food and shop both clothes, souvenirs, and local crafts. The market is very cozy in an environment with lights hanging over the streets and with performances of traditional Thai dance and singing.
In one of the corners of the market you’ll find a food market where you can buy local food, drinks and snacks. “Hot Pots” are popular to eat here, as well as the various fruit drinks and smoothies that cost only 30 bath.
Visit Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew is a beautiful place with lush nature, colorful orchids, and a beautiful temple. It is one of the oldest and most respected Buddhist temples in Chiang Rai.
This temple is also known by the name “Temple of the Emerald Buddha” because it was once home to the famous Emerald Buddha.
Wat Phra Kaew is a peaceful and beautiful place with a quiet and calm atmosphere. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai, so make sure to stop by when you’re in the city.
See the clock tower in Chiang Rai
One of Chiang Rai’s biggest attractions is the clock tower that stands in the middle of the crossing where Phaholyothin Road and Banpaprakan Road meets.
It’s a golden clock tower with spiers and shiny details – it’s beautiful to see during the day and at night. Every night at 19:00, 20:00, and 21:00 this clock tower comes to life and invites you to watch a show of lights and music.
Since the clock tower is centrally located in Chiang Rai, you will probably pass it a few times during your stay. Just make sure to visit during the evening to see the show, which is one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai with kids.
Go to the Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is the place where Laos, Thailand and Burma meet. From the vantage point in Thailand you can see all three countries at the same time, as well as the Mekong river.
In addition to the view point, there are a few other things to do at the Golden Triangle as well. You can visit an ancient temple, see the big gold Buddha statue, and shop for Thai souvenirs along the river.
Visit the Choui Fong Tea Plantation
The Choui Fong Tea Plantation is a hidden gem in Chiang Rai. This tea plantation is located on the outskirts of Chiang Rai and is a place that’s not usually offered by tour operators in the city.
This means that it’s less touristy than the more well-known tea plantation Doi Mae Salong.
For those who like photography, there are good opportunities to take nice pictures of the plantation and the ladies who pick the tea leaves. In addition to that, you can also enjoy a good cup of tea and some sweets overlooking the tea plantation.
Visit the Monkey Cave
The Monkey Cave is one of the most popular attractions outside of Chiang Rai. This is often a stop when going on a guided tour to the Golden Triangle.
At this place you can see some cute monkeys playing, swinging in trees and swimming in the turquoise lake. If you’re in good health, I can recommend climbing up the steps to the cave and view point.
Explore the Black House
The Black House, also known as the Bandaam Musuem, was home to the Thai artist Thawan Duchanee and is today one of the biggest attractions in the city.
In Chiang Rai, the locals call this place for hell, while they call the white temple for heaven.
The artist’s home consists of creative buildings with high ceilings decorated with skulls, animal parts and animal skins. This place feels very dark and mysterious, but at the same time impressive when you consider that he built all this himself.
If you are planning to visit the white temple then you simply have to visit this house as well to see the “dark” side of Chiang Rai.
Go shopping in Mae Sai
If you like going shopping for souvenirs, clothes, accessories, and jewelry, then you must visit the shopping paradise Mae Sai.
Mae Sai is located an hour and 15 minutes by car from downtown Chiang Rai and is a stop you do not want to miss if you’re planning to visit the Golden Triangle.
Above all the shops and markets you’ll also find a temple area with a lovely view of Mae Sai.
Stroll around at the Saturday Night Market
The Saturday Night Market is a 1-kilometer long market held every Saturday in the heart of the city. The market is open from 17.00 until midnight.
At this market you can buy everything from souvenirs and clothes to street food and traditional Thai massages. The locals also come here to sing and dance traditional dances at the big stage.
It’s a market with a happy atmosphere that’s a must to visit during your stay in Chiang Rai.
Visit the blue temple – Wat Rong Suea Ten
In Chiang Rai, there is another temple that is known worldwide for its beautiful and unique architecture. Wat Rong Suea Ten, also known as the Blue Temple, is one of the city’s biggest attractions.
It’s somewhat similar to the white temple, and that may be because it was created by Putha Kabkaew who was a student to the person who built the white temple.
Unlike the white temple, this temple is painted in a beautiful blue color.
Hike to the Khun Korn waterfall
If you like to visit beautiful nature sites then I can recommend hiking up to the Khun Korn waterfall. It’s a 70 meter tall waterfall, which makes it the tallest waterfall in the region.
It takes about 30 minutes to walk through the forest to reach the waterfall, and once you’ve arrived you can go for a swim in the refreshing water.
Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring bathing suits, as well as a water-resistant bag where you can store your valuables.
Things to do in Chiang Rai with kids
Chiang Rai is a great destination for those who are traveling with kids. There are plenty of things to do in Chiang Rai with kids that varies from visits to temples and cozy markets to fun activities and museums.
- Visit the white temple
- Explore the mysterious Black House
- Visit the blue temple
- Stroll around at the markets
- Go see the show at the clock tower
- Go to the Golden Triangle
- See the monkeys at the Monkey Cave
Things to do in Chiang Rai when it rains
If you’re traveling to Thailand during rainy season, do not worry, there are plenty of things to do in Chiang Rai when the weather is bad. You can stroll around in shopping malls, visit museums and take cooking classes to learn how to cook local food, among other things.
- Go shopping in CentralPlaza
- Spoil yourself at the spa
- Eat delicious Thai food at a restaurant indoors
- Visit the Hill Tribe Museum
- Take a cooking class
- Buy an umbrella and explore Chiang Rai in the rain
What are your favorite things to do in Chiang Rai? Leave a comment below!