With travel starting back up again with quarantine rules and safety regulations, it’s time you can finally start planning your much-needed getaway to Thailand. With this past year having its share of ups and downs, a long-needed vacation is on all of our minds. For 2021, take a moment to hit pause, reflect, and rewind, while envisioning the moment you can travel the world again.
When planning your dream vacation, one destination to add to your travel wish list is Chiang Rai. This historically prominent city of Northern Thailand is the first capital of Lanna Kingdom, established in 1262. Compared to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is more known for its Northern Lanna culture and art with historical museums and exquisite temple creations.
Once travel picks back up again and you can visit Chiang Rai, the Thailand Insider team has you covered for all of the hidden gems in this wonderfully historical city!
Main Attractions of Chiang Rai
While there are many hidden gems we are about to explore, two of Chiang Rai’s most popular and main attractions are Wat Rong Khun and Wat Rong Suea Ten. These beautiful white and blue temples embody exquisite design and wonderful architecture. Be sure to add these main attractions to your travel wish list!
Wat Rong Khun
Better known as the ‘White Temple,’ Wat Rong Khun is located in the Muang district. The temple was designed by renowned visual artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Open since 1997, the temple holds artisan significance to Thai culture and belief, with the bridge symbolizing the crossing from hell to heaven.
Wat Rong Suea Ten
Twin to the ‘White Temple,’ Wat Rong Suea Ten is known as the ‘Blue Temple’ due to its exquisite blue color with striking gold. This monastery complex was masterminded by Mr. Puttha Kabkaew. Inside the temple, you’ll find breathtaking beauty with the main Buddha image in pearl white as well as elaborate mural paintings with shades of dark blue to match the theme of the temple.
Explore the Hidden Gems of Chiang Rai
Known for its down-to-earth ambiance, Chiang Rai has many historical and cultural attractions preserving its Lanna identity with an impeccable collection of temples, art, and cuisine. The slow and relaxed pace of Chiang Rai is just what the doctor ordered. Let’s take a look at some of Chiang Rai’s most extraordinary hidden gems.
1. Doi Bo Viewpoint
Become one with nature by visiting the gorgeous scenic destination, Doi Bo Viewpoint. Do Bo’s scenery is unlike any other, with lush forestry, bamboo, dipterocarp trees, ferns, orchids, and more.
The views are unmatched as you look over hilly mountains under blue skies, surrounded by only the sounds of nature itself. The trek to the Viewpoint is off the beaten path, straightforward yet adventurous, and met with a breathtaking scenic ending. Don’t miss out on this adventure-filled hidden gem when visiting Chiang Rai.
2. Huay Mae Sai Village
A quaint little village in the hills sits off the beaten path for those searching for a calming, relaxed stay, and its name is Huay Mae Sai Village. This rural nook in Chiang Rai offers a getaway for reflection, peace, and quiet for a truly tranquil stay.
On one end of town sits an ice cream shop to cool off from the sun’s rays. Nearby sits an uninterrupted waterfall for a refreshing swim. The locals are welcoming to those that enter their little haven, greeting everyone with a smile. If you’re looking for an escape, Huay Mai Sai Village is the perfect place for you.
3. Doi Chaang Coffee
If you’re a coffee-lover, you will not want to miss out on this hidden gem in Chiang Rai. Surrounded by nature, Doi Chaang Coffee boasts premium Arabica coffee straight from the plantation located right outside the coffee house. Upstairs you’ll find a pleasant outdoor seating area to enjoy a cup of coffee while taking in the fresh mountain air.
Once you’ve savored a delicious cup, you can meander through the coffee plantation, where you’ll find coffee trees with coffee beans and a beautiful landscape. Individual families own little plots where most of the coffee is farmed. The coffee is organic and single-origin, produced with the highest quality for that perfect cup of coffee.
4. Wat Huay Pla Kang
A visit to Wat Huay Pla Kang is a must during your vacation in Chiang Rai for a true cultural experience. Known as “Big Buddha of Chiang Rai,” this cultural landmark boasts an enormous statue of Guanyin the Bodhisattva of Compassion, a nine-tiered pagoda, and a Thai temple.
The statue of Guanyin rises 90 meters into the sky. Once inside the statue, you can travel up to 25 floors, where you will be met with white stucco depictions of Guanyin. When visiting this hidden gem in Chiang Rai, you’ll want to be there around sunset to experience a magnificent view on the 25th floor. The serenity is so calming, and the views of the forests, valleys, and mountains are unparalleled.
For an outstanding view of the Guanyin statue, climb to the top floor of the pagoda. While climbing each floor, admire the wood-carved statues of the Buddha, Guanyin, and monks.
5. Doi In Cee
Fifteen kilometers outside of Chiang Rai sits Doi In Cee, a Buddhist temple off the beaten path unknown to tourists. What’s special about this Buddhist temple is that it is not a single building like most Thailand temples. Instead, it is made up of buildings, stupes, and shrines, and of course, the statues of Buddha.
There are multiple Buddha statues throughout Doi In Cee, including ones left for nature within the forests. The beauty of the statues surrounded by nature is a sight worth seeing. From the exquisite landscape to the abundance of history within the temple, a trip to Doi In Cee will be one for the books.
6. Khun Korn Waterfall
When chasing waterfalls, don’t forget to add Khun Korn Waterfall to the list. Deep into Khun Korn Forest Park’s forest, this breathtaking waterfall stands 70 meters high, making it the biggest waterfall in Northern Thailand. The hike to get there is pleasant and peaceful as you walk through nature surrounded by tall bamboo, guided by the waterfall’s small stream leading up to the masterpiece itself.
Once you begin to hear the rush of water grow louder, you know you’re almost there. If you’re feeling up for it, take a dip in the waters below the falls and admire the water rushing down from this phenomenal waterfall.
How to Get There
When traveling to Chiang Rai, visitors can travel by bus, car, or air. Traveling by bus from Chiang Mai is a popular way to get there with the trip taking a little over 3 hours.
Nakhonchai Air operates 12 hour-bus services between Bangkok and Chiang Rai. It costs 725 Baht or about $24 USD. Call +662 939 4999 Monday to Saturday between 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM local time, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sombat Tour provides the service too using different bus types. From Chiang Mai, Green Bus operates daily service to Chiang Rai. Call +6653 266 480 or check the schedule here.
THAI Smile, Nok Air, and AirAsia provide daily flight service between Bangkok and Chiang Rai.
Begin Planning Your Vacation in Chiang Rai Today!
Now that you are well-equipped with the hidden gems in Chiang Rai, start planning the getaway of your dreams. What’s special about Chiang Rai is that there is something for everyone. Whether you’re an adventure-lover looking to chase a waterfall or you’re a lover of rich history and culture, there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered by you. Stay updated on Thailand travel news here!