Chiang Rai is a city in Northern Thailand. Chiang Rai is a quieter neighbour of Chiang Mai, where you can avoid the crowds while exploring nature of the region, visiting remote hill tribes and checking out the Golden Triangle, famous for being the former centre of the world’s opium trade.
Chiang Rai was established by King Meng Rai in 1262 as the first capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The capital was later relocated to Chiang Mai and since then Chiang Rai has been overshadowed by its sister city.
Nowadays, Chiang Rai is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area. In the region you can find ancient temples, wonderful nature in the jungle, magnificent mountain scenery and hill tribe villages.
Attractions in Chiang Rai
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) is located outside the city of Chiang Rai. It’s a unique modern temple designed and built by a famous local artist. A beautiful white temple is decorated with silver glittering pieces of mirrors. There are large mural paintings of Buddha and unusual icons from modern culture, such as spaceships and superman inside the temple. Work on the temple is not completed as new elements and structures are constantly added up.
The Golden Triangle (locally known as Sop Ruak) is a place where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) come together on the banks of Mekong River. This area once was the hub of opium production and trading.
The Golden Triangle is known for its beautiful scenery as from the viewpoint you can see the three neighboring countries and the mighty Mekong River. There’s also a large golden Buddha image on a boat, an ancient temple on a hill and the House of Opium Museum in the area. It’s possible to take a boat trip on the Mekong River or a short boat ride to an island in Laos Don Sao, where local market can be visited without a visa of Laos.
Hill tribe villages
Jungle trekking is a very popular experience in Chiang Rai province as you can explore the mountains along various hiking trails. Most of these trails lead to the villages of diverse hill tribes, many of whom maintain their traditional lifestyles.
Where to Stay in Chiang Rai
If you want to explore surroundings of Chiang Rai conveniently, you should stay in the center of the city - best hotels of Chiang Rai are located there. For places to stay in Chiang Rai check Hotels in Chiang Rai on Booking.com or Hotels in Chiang Rai on Agoda.com.
How to get to Chiang Rai?
You can reach Chiang Rai by air or by bus.
Flights to Chiang Rai
Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport (CEI) is about 10 kilometres from the city. The airport receives international flights from China and Hong Kong as well as domestic flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai. Domestic low-cost and full service carriers serve Chiang Rai airport offering good variety of flights. Flight deals can be found here:
From the airport you can reach the city by a public bus service CR Bus.
Buses to Chiang Rai
Long-distance buses of various companies connect the bus station of Chiang Rai with Chiang Mai, Bangkok and other major cities in Thailand. Buses to Chiang Rai leave from Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok. Bus schedules can be found and tickets can be booked here:
Buses of the company Greenbus from Chiang Mai arrive at the centrally located Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1. However, most of long-distance buses end their trip at Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 2 which is situated few kilometers out from the city center. CR Bus connects both bus terminals with the city center and airport.
Weather in Chiang Rai
Between November and May the weather is mostly dry with little rain expected for much of this time. The dry season in Chiang Rai is broken up into the periods of cool season (November to February) and hot season (March to May), when it is not unusual for the temperature to reach up to 40°C.
The wet season in Chiang Rai is from May to October. The rain usually comes in the form of short showers, lasting an hour or two. As the rainy season progresses, the rain can become heavier and more constant, traditionally reaching peak levels in August and September.
For the best time to visit Chiang Rai check our Northern Thailand weather ratings chart.
Planning to travel down south after visiting mountainous region of Chiang Rai? Check when is the best time to visit Thailand's other destinations.