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5 Best Things To Do In Chiang Rai When You Don’t Have Much Time!

white temple in chiang rai as seen from the air

The 5 best things to do in Chiang Rai that will be covered in this post and expanded upon are (in no particular order);

  • White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
  • Khun Korn Waterfall
  • Wat Huay Pla Kang
  • Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)
  • Black House (Baandam Museum)


What Makes These The 5 Best Things to do in Chiang Rai?


These are considered the 5 best things to do in Chiang Rai due to their closer proximity to the city centre, and more inclusive feel that they have as opposed to some of the more challenging and far out hikes and waterfalls around town.

This post will explain what each activity is, where it is, the cost, how long to spend there and more.

To navigate to 1 of the 5 best things to do in Chiang Rai, click the table of contents above.

*This post is best viewed on a desktop to display the images in their more impressive, full sized format.


What’s Chiang Rai All About?


To read more about Chiang Rai in general terms, such as: where it is, how to get there, how expensive it is, and where to eat, then check out this Chiang Rai travel guide instead.

Chiang Rai is a city in the north of Thailand, where you will also find places like Chiang Mai and Pai.

Although Chiang Rai isn’t as popular as the two cities mentioned above, there is still plenty to do here. Read on to see the 5 best things to do in Chiang Rai. This list is not an extensive list of all activities.

There are numerous other things to do and see in Chiang Rai, but covered here are the 5 main things that are close to the city centre, and are on everyone’s to-do list before they come to Chiang Rai.



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5 Best Things to do in Chiang Rai Video

5 Best Activities of Chiang Rai in 7 minutes || Chiang Rai, Thailand 4k

White Temple (Wat Khun Rong)


What is it?

White Temple is a Buddhist temple designed by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. He is a Chiang Rai local, who has funded the construction of the temple himself as well as design it.

The temple opened to tourists in 1998 but the construction is not expected to be finished until 2070 for the buildings that remain to be built.


How much does it cost?


However if you come when it is closed you are still able to see a large portion of the outside architecture. To go inside and get a closer look though, you will need to pay the fee during opening hours.


Opening Hours?

06:30 – 18:00


What do you do here?

Admire the architecture, take photos, but be respectful as it is still a place of worship.


How do you get here?

The temple is 13km from the centre of town as you head south.

You will ideally rent a scooter during your stay, the ride will involve some freeway type roads, but it is safe to hang out to the left and let the cars overtake you. The ride can get cold if it is early morning or late afternoon.

It will take you between 20-25 minutes each way.


How long will I spend here?

Depending on how much you like to pay attention to detail will effect how long you stay. I think it is safe to say most people stay for roughly an hour or just under.

Those wishing to take photos may very well spend a few hours here.


When to come?

I came twice, once at sunset and again in the early morning. If you want to go inside, then you will need to visit during opening hours. But it is still good to visit at sunset for photos.


Do you recommend it?

Definitely. As far as Thai tourist attractions go, ฿100 is very reasonable.

It is also unique enough to stand out amongst the vast array of other temples you will see during your trip throug Southeast Asia.


(Shot with the Sony A7R III using the Sony FE 70-300mm f4.5/5.6).

Khun Korn Waterfall


What is it?

Khun Korn waterfall is one of many that surround the mountains of Chiang Rai. It makes the list of one of the 5 best things to do in Chiang Rai thanks to its impressive height, consistent year round water flow, and its ease of access.

This means that it can be enjoyed by those even with moderate fitness levels.

The waterfalls themselves flow year round, you will hear the fall of the water long before you see the water falling, such is the power of the water falling from 70 metres!


How much does it cost?

Entrance is free, but you will need a scooter to get out here.


Opening Hours?

08:00 – 16:30


What do you do here?

Once you park the scooter there is a 1.4km jungle track to the waterfall. There are toilets at the start of this track, which is well maintained for the entire length and never overly difficult.

You can bathe in the pool beneath the waterfall and have a swim until you are ready to go again.


How do you get here?

The waterfall is further out of town than the other activities listed here, but well worth the trip. It is a 28km ride out to the southwest of the city centre. Once you arrive you will have a walk of 1.4km from the car park.

The trail is wide and well maintained, you will not get lost because it is not like a true jungle track, it is wide and very clear to find your way.


How long will I spend here?

The walk may take about 20 minutes each direction, then it depends on how long you stay at the waterfall swimming. Most people will spend about 90 minutes here, not including the drive in and out.


When to come?

Early morning if you wish to avoid the humidity of the trail as best as possible. If you come early you may get the entire waterfall to yourself.


Do you recommend it?

Yes, the ride is not bad and will be over before you know it. This is the largest and most impressive waterfall in the near vicinity of the city centre.


(Shot with the Sony A7R III using the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4).

Wat Huay Pla Kang (Big Buddha)


What is it?

Wat Huay Pla Kang is sometimes called “Big Buddha” but it is not a statue of Buddha, but rather of the goddess of mercy.

Alongside the large statue is also a 9 level pagoda, with another temple building in between the two, so the grounds are quite large (as seen in the drone shot below).

 The top of the statue stands 90 metres high and can be seen from very far away.


How much does it cost?

฿40 if you wish to ride the elevator to the top of the  statue’s head. From there you can see out the windows and look down on the surrounding area.


Opening Hours?

07:00 – 21:30


What do you do here?

When you get here you will normally head to the big statue, you can climb the stairs to the foot of the statue in only a few minutes, but there is also access for the disabled with roads that go to the foot of the statue.

Walk around, take photos and then if you want to there is the option to go up the statue, the cost is minimal, there are viewpoints from within the goddess of mercy’s head.

Don’t forget that you can also go look inside the 9 level pagoda that is closer to the car park.


How do you get here?

The temple grounds are 7.5km from the city centre and it will take you about 20 minutes to ride here on a scooter. The temple can be found to the northwest of the city centre.


How long will I spend here?

If you go to the top, as well as decide to go inside the 9 storey pagoda, then allow for at least 2 hours.


When to come?

Sunset is a great time to come for photos. Coming early is the best way to avoid crowds though.


Do you recommend it?

Yes, it is super impressive. The manager on duty let me fly my drone before 7am when the visitors arrive and it was quite the experience.


(Shot with the DJI Mavic 2 Pro using PolarPro Filters).

Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)


What is it?

The Blue temple, in Thai Wat Rong Suea Ten, is the newest addition to Chiang Rai’s “big 3” that includes the white temple and the Baandam museum.

Finished in 2016, it is not as large as the white temple, nor the Baandam museum (Black house) but it is very catching. The temple is obviously very blue, with trimmings of bright gold throughout.

The name Wat Rong Suea translates to ‘House of the dancing tiger’  in reference to the area formally being home to many tigers who bathed in the river.

The design of the temple resembles that of the White Temple, thanks to it being designed by a student of the artist Chalermchai  Kositpipat, who designed the White Temple.


How much does it cost?

Entrance is free.


Opening Hours?

07:00 – 20:00


What do you do here?

Walk around, eat or drink at the cafes and restaurants nearby. Take photos, walk through the inside of the temples and look at the architecture.


How do you get here?

Blue temple is the closest of the 5 best things to do in Chiang Rai to the city centre. It will take you 10 minutes on a scooter to ride the 3.5 kilometres.

It is just across the northern side of the river that runs through the city.


How long will I spend here?

1 hour will be enough for the majority of visitors who are not enthusiasts. The buildings are great and covered with intricate details, but any longer than that and you will have seen everything.


When to come?

Come early to beat the heat and the crowds.

Come at sunset for the best light and the best photograph opportunities.


Do you recommend it?


It is close to town, easy to get to, free to enter and interesting enough to justify the short trip.


(Shot with the Sony A7R III using the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4).

Baandam Museum (Black House)


What is it?

Baandam museum is the work of artist Thawan Duchanee who is also a Chiang Rai local.

As opposed to the White Temple to the south of Chiang Rai, this Black house sits almost equal distance from the city centre but to the north. The themes are very different.

Black house is a museum, the place is demonic and tribal in nature. It is beautiful, but with a dark twist, like the reception area for hell.

It is not just one house, there are more than 10 separate houses or buildings, but not all can be entered. Scattered throughout are the remains of animals, skin and bone, thrones of horns and arrangements of stones that look like ancient summonings took place there.


How much does it cost?

฿80 entry fee.


Opening Hours?

09:00 – 17:00


What do you do here?

This is a museum full of art from Thawan Duchanee, the theme of the place is essentially death and the evil side to the afterlife.

There are about 15 buildings scattered across the grounds, not all can be entered but those that can’t be entered can still be looked inside.

Walk around and enjoy the well kept grounds, as well as the strange art, take photos and have a gander.


How do you get here?

Black house is almost exactly the opposite to White Temple in location and design.

Head north from Chiang Rai city centre on your scooter for 12 kilometres. The trip will take you 20-25 minutes each way.


How long will I spend here?

About an hour if art does not interest you, there are still things that will grab your attention and plenty of stuff to photograph.

If art is your jam, then you could probably spend hours here analysing everything, but for most people an hour will be plenty.


When to come?

I think early morning at opening time is the best way to avoid crowds in Thailand.


Do you recommend it?


For only ฿80 you can spend as long as you want here and it is a good contrast to the White Temple.


(Shot with the Sony A7R III using the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4).



So those are the 5 best things to do in Chiang Rai, or at least they are 5 activities that are worth your time and close to town. This is by no means an extensive list of every activity to do in Chiang Rai, but rather for those who are only coming for 3 or 4 days in Chiang Rai.

All of these activities will be worth your time, they are some of the most popular things to do in Chiang Rai for a reason. Chiang Rai may not have as many temples as Chiang Mai or have the same tourist appeal as Pai just yet but it is still worth a visit.



Activities Other Than the 5 Best Things to do in Chiang Rai


Besides the things to do in Chiang Rai that have already been mentioned there are a number of other activities that can be done in Chiang Rai such as;

There are lots of physical activities to do around the mountains of Chiang Rai and a lot of waterfalls to see as well. Each of these are a lot further out of town and can involve scooter rides in excess of 70 kilometres.

These activities won’t interest those who are travelling through quickly, but they are there to do for those who like to get off the beaten path and are wondering what to do in Chiang Rai?

A Map Showing The Activities Locations


See the locations of the 5 best things to do in Chiang Rai below. The longest distance of the activities listed is Khun Korn Waterfall, whilst the shortest is Blue Temple.

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