Chiang Rai is home to some of the most unique and photogenic temples in all of Thailand. Most notably, the unbelievably Instagrammable White Temple! While Chiang Rai is an increasingly popular tourist destination and one that has been firmly on the backpacker trail for years, it is still less explored than Chiang Mai and many other big cities in Thailand.
This Chiang Rai itinerary will focus on helping you make the most of your time by providing some of the best things to do in Chiang Rai while avoiding the crowds as much as possible!
No trip to Thailand would be complete without visiting Chiang Rai. While not exactly a secret, it is probably one of the best-known hidden gems in Thailand. Located in northern Thailand, it still sees fewer tourists than many other areas but has lots to offer.
Whether you have a 3-week Thailand itinerary, or more (or even less!), it’s worth budgeting a day or two to visit Chiang Rai. It’s one of my favorite places in Thailand and should definitely be on your travel bucket list.
This Chiang Rai itinerary is designed to take two days. According to Chiang Rai times allowing a couple of days in Chiang Rai will give you plenty of time to explore some of the best temples in Southeast Asia!
However, it is possible to visit Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai as a day trip. I don’t recommend this option as it is a 3-4 hour drive each way along windy roads. With this in mind, I’d suggest spending at least one night in Chiang Rai if your schedule allows it. If you’d prefer to do a tour, then I’d recommend checking out some of these tour options.
Chiang Rai is typically slightly cooler and less humid than the rest of Thailand. It has three seasons; cool season, hot season, and rainy season. The dry season incorporates both the cool and hot seasons. While you can enjoy traveling to Chiang Rai year-round, there are pros and cons to each time of year.
Cool season is from November to February and is generally considered the best time to visit Chiang Rai. December and January are the coldest months, with day time temperatures averaging 21°c (70°F) and dropping to a chilly 10-15°c (50-59°F) at night.
Pros: The weather is cooler and less humid, and the landscape is lush and green following the rainy season.
Cons: It is peak season for tourism in Thailand, so you may find larger crowds and increased prices.
Hot season is from March to May. April is usually the hottest month of the year with temperatures of around 36°c (97°F).
Pros: It is low season so is less busy and prices are often reduced.
Cons: It can be extremely hot. According to Chiang Rai time, It is also the time of year when the farmers burn their fields, creating some of the worst air quality in the entire world. It’s worth taking this into consideration if you’re planning to visit during these months, particularly if you have any respiratory conditions. We visited at the end of April, just as the air quality was nearly back to normal.
The rainy season lasts from from May to October, with the wettest weather typically occurring from mid-July to mid-August.
Pros: Lush green landscapes and fewer tourists.
Cons: You are likely to get wet! However, it is worth keeping in mind that even during wet season you are likely to have sunshine for most of the day, accompanied by an hour or so downpour of rain in the afternoon.
GETTING TO CHIANG RAI FROM CHIANG MAI
While it is possible to reach Chiang Rai by bus (or even boat!) from Northern Laos and Myanmar, as well as other locations within Thailand, the most common route to Chiang Rai will be from Chiang Mai.