The peaceful city of Chiang Rai is one of the most enchanting cities in Thailand, located in northern highlands. Although often overlooked in favor of the neighboring Chiang Mai, this city is fascinating due to its ancient culture and beautiful landscape. Discover Chiang Rai tourist attractions and top things to do.
These are the top tourist attractions in Chiang Rai that are worth including into your must-visit list.
White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
The White Temple, often referred by the local name Wat Rong Khun, is the tourist attraction that must be first visited in Chiang Rai. The name "White Temple" itself is inspired by the color of the building complex which is dominated by bright white, representing the purity and light of the Buddha.
This temple was built in 1997 by the famous Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Besides that, Wat Rong Khun was created in a modern style, so it is very different from other temples in Thailand. Photos are not allowed inside, so you will have to visit it in person to see this extraordinary piece of architecture.
The White Temple is located 15 kilometers from the city on road No. 1 in the direction of Chiang Mai. You can reach the temple by the local bus from Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1 or by one of the day tours that bring tourists to visit the most famous Chiang Rai tourist attraction.
Black Temple (Black House/Baan Dam)
Despite the well-established name, this Chiang Rai tourist attraction is not really a temple. The Black Temple or Black House, by local people more commonly referred to by the name "Baan Dam", is an exhibition or an open-air museum of nearly 40 traditional style houses. While the White Temple symbolizes heaven, Baan Dam could be hell. There are a number of works of art inspired by Buddhist teachings about death, age, illness, and suffering through the media of animal bones, skulls, animal skins, hunting tools of primitive peoples in the houses. The Black Temple is surrounded by trees that create a mysterious and dark atmosphere. Most of the things you will see at this place were built by Thai artist named Thawan Duchanee.
Blue Temple (Wang Rong Suea Ten)
The Blue Temple is more often referred by local with the name "Wang Rong Suea Ten”, which means "Dancing Tiger Temple". This temple, the construction of which started in October 2005 and ended in January 2016, consists of very vibrant blue colors. The temple is a masterpiece of Phuttha Kabkaew, a student of Chalermchai Kositpipat, the creator of the White Temple. The purpose of the blue color in the temple is that blue means wisdom, eternity, healing and purity in Buddhism teaching.
You can travel with ease to visit each destination at your own pace and time with Chiang Rai Private Car Charter. By choosing this way of traveling, you can easily explore the best of Chiang Rai including Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), Baan Dam (Black House), Golden Triangle, and more.
Singha Park (Boon Rawd Farm)
Singha Park is a huge park in Chiang Rai with a giraffe, zebra and other animal farm under the open sky. The name "Singha Park" itself is inspired by a giant golden yellow lion statue that stands proudly on the beautiful grass in front of this park and from the company that produces the famous Singha beer. There are also the tea plantations, flower fields, strawberry flower beds, exotic fruit gardens. Besides that, the tourists can also enjoy some rides in Singha Park such as zipline rides, and others. The popular events such as the festival of hot air balloons, mass touring tourism shows and others are also organized here. To explore this huge park, it is possible to rent bikes for 100 baht per hour and 400 baht per 6 hours, or to take advantage of the free service of electric cars.
The Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is the geographical point where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet with the Mekong River as the border. This area was once an important center for the production and trade of opium. Nowadays, these illegal drug productions have been recovered and are used for planting fruits, flowers and vegetables. You will find the “House of Opium Museum “, where you can learn a little more about this history.
At the Golden Triangle you can take the photo from the observation point to look beyond the three countries and admire the scenery. Alternatively, you can enjoy a traditional boat trip along the Mekong River that gives you the chance to see these 3 countries. You can even set foot on Laos' Donesao Island without a visa for half an hour. Going to the northernmost point of Thailand next to Myanmar is another option.
Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew is the most important temple in Chiang Rai, where the Emerald Buddha is housed. The legend says that the lightning split the temple in two and the Buddha was found. The original Emerald Buddha statue is currently residing in Bangkok, in the temple of same name that is located in the territory of the Grand Palace. In Chiang Rai, you can see the copy made by Chinese artist.
Next door, there is a wooden building, which houses a small museum where you can admire objects from the Lanna culture and the history of Buddhism.
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh is the Buddhist temple, which was built in the 14th century with the typical wooden structure of Northern Thailand and the low but sloping roof. In the past, this temple held a highly revered Buddha statue, which over time was moved out and is now kept in the temple of the same name in the city of Chiang Mai.
Wat Ming Meuang
Wat Ming Meuang is the ancient temple, built in 1262, and is thought to be dedicated to the mother of King Mengrai, who often came to pray here. The temple itself is fairly small and it is not remarkable for tourists but for locals Wat Ming Meuang temple is very important.
Chiang Rai Clock Tower
Chiang Rai Clock Tower is located at the intersection of the two main streets of Chiang Rai. It is covered entirely in gold with splendid decorations. This clock tower was built in 2008, in honor of the King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. The structure serves as a traffic circle.
If you can, visit the clock tower at night, more specifically at 19:00, 20:00 and 21:00. At these times, the light and music show is taking place there.
King Mengrai Monument
King Mengrai Monument is an important monument, which is dedicated to the King Mengrai the Great, who founded the city of Chiang Rai. For local people this place is very important and is considered just like a temple, where they bring donations and pray.
Chiang Rai Night Bazaar
Chiang Rai Night Bazaar is city’s main night market, located near the old bus station. Here you will find a wide range of goods for tourists from handmade items, clothes, jewelry, shoes to many other items embroidered by the hill tribes of Northern Thailand. We would recommend negotiating with a smile on your face for getting the best price.
Even if you are not into shopping, Chiang Rai Night Bazaar is still worth visiting as this night market is also a great place to eat dinner. There are several bars and a large food court, where you can try authentic Thai food. There is also a big stage for evening shows such as live music played by local artists, and dancing in national costumes to keep you entertained.
Doi Tung Royal Villa
Doi Tung Royal Villa is a villa belonging to Thai royal family. This villa was once inhabited by Srinagarindra, which is one of the members of Thai royal family that is highly respected. Doi Tung Royal Villa is built on the hill and almost all of the villa's buildings are made of wood.
Mae Fah Luang Garden
Mae Fah Luang Garden is a park located in the same complex as Doi Tung Royal Villa. In fact, you can directly visit this park on foot from Doi Tung Royal Villa. Previously, Mae Fah Luang Garden was an opium field in Chiang Rai but now this 12-hectare land has been changed into a garden that has a variety of beautiful flowers.
Ethnic Minority Villages
In addition to temples and outdoor activities, when visiting Chiang Rai and Northern Thailand, a very popular place to go is ethnic minority villages where you can meet the hill tribes that inhabit this region. Altogether, ten-twelve ethnic groups are recognized in the region. Each of them with different histories, habits, forms of ornamentation, crafts and languages.
One of the most famous ethnic minorities in Chiang Rai province is Karen Long Neck Tribe. You can visit the village where they live for a fee. There you will see the Red Karen women with long necks who pass large rings made of brass to their necks from the age of 5.
You can join Chiang Rai Doi Mae Salong Mountain & Padong Long Neck Hill Tribe Half Day Tour to reveal the natural picturesque beauty of Doi Mae Salong Mountain and its lush greeneries as well as visit Padong village and experience the cultural imprints of their long necked women.
Another type of tourist activity that always generates ethical debates, especially in Thailand, is activities involving animals. More specifically elephants. You can visit some of the ethical rescued elephant camps where you will be their caretaker. When visiting Elephant Camp in Chiang Rai, you will know more about Asian Elephants' long and fascinating history and will learn to cook healthy herbal treats for them to eat for a snack. You will also feed the handmade treats to them and walk along their side through the beautiful lush forest.
If you want to have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the night with Thailand’s elephants, consider staying at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort. This luxury resort is nestled amongst bamboo forest, lush gardens and rice paddies. Each room features a balcony with views of the Mekong River and you can enjoy one of the three activities offered by the resort including spa treatment, elephant camp experience or countryside tour.
Use our guide to Chiang Rai Travel to find other useful information for exploring this wonderful land in Northern Thailand.