9 Best Temples in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Get ready to delve into the mystical world of Chiang Rai, Thailand, as I take you on a journey through nine can’t-miss temples to visit in this enchanting city. From the iconic White Temple to the serene Wat Huay Pla Kang and the jaw-dropping Blue Temple, Chiang Rai will leave you speechless.

Let’s explore the best temples in Chiang Rai together and uncover the beauty they hold! I’ll also share my best tips on when to visit to avoid crowds, plus links to their locations on Google Maps.

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Map: Best Temples in Chiang Rai

I’ve included an interactive map of the best temples in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and you can find all of the additional details in the post!

1. White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

Prepare to be dazzled by the beauty of the White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun. Located a few kilometers outside the city, this Buddhist temple is a masterpiece created by the local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. He designed and constructed the temple all by himself, using his own funds! Its intricate white façade and symbolic design make it a must-visit attraction and one of the best temples in Chiang Rai.

White Temple after sunrise in Chiang Thai, Thailand - one of the best temples in Chiang Rai

When to Visit: Go early in the morning when it opens to avoid crowds and capture the temple in its pristine beauty. We arrived quite a bit before the gates opened, and the ticket taker actually let us in about 10 minutes early! I don’t know if that is common, but I would definitely recommend giving it a shot to have a few minutes to enjoy the temple by yourself.

Google Maps Location: Here

Recommended Tour (if you are starting in Chiang Rai): Sightseeing Tour of Chiang Rai

White Temple on a foggy morning in Chiang Thai, Thailand - one of the best temples in Chiang Rai
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2. Golden Temple

Discover the Golden Temple, which is conveniently located within the White Temple complex. While small, it offers a unique experience as you walk across the bridge and enter a little museum. There’s not much inside, so your visit will be quick. In my opinion, the real beauty lies in the breathtaking view from the outside!

When to Visit: Since it’s part of the White Temple complex, visit after you finish up at the White Temple.

Google Maps Location: Here

Golden Temple in Chiang Thai, Thailand
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3. Wat Huay Pla Kang

Rising majestically on a hill, Wat Huay Pla Kang offers panoramic views of Chiang Rai. The elements of Chinese architecture shine through in the color scheme, boasting bright reds, yellows, golds, and greens.

Wat Huay Pla Kang Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand
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Check out the impressive Guan Yin statue (often mistakenly called the Big Buddha), which is actually the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.

When to Visit: We visited mid-morning to enjoy the brilliance of the sun shining on the bright colors of the temple, enhancing its beauty and creating a magical atmosphere. There were other groups at the temple, but it didn’t feel overly busy. However, there is very little shade, so by the time we were finishing up, it was getting quite warm. I’d shoot to visit early morning or evening to avoid large crowds.

Google Maps Location: Here

Recommended Tour (from Chiang Mai): Chiang Rai Temples: Private Tour from Chiang Mai

4. Wat Ming Muang

This was one of my favorite off the beaten path temples in Chiang Rai. Nestled amidst the city, the Temple of the Crouching Elephants captivates visitors with its whimsical statues of elephants. Don’t miss the chance to admire the intricate details and serene ambiance of this lesser-known gem. Once you visit, you’ll understand why I consider it to be one of the best temples in Chiang Rai!

When to Visit: You can come at anytime. We visited later in the afternoon, and nearly had the place to ourselves! Make sure to check the hours online before you go, because the gates were closed when we walked by later in the evening.

Google Maps Location: Here

5. Wat Phra Kaew

Discover the historical richness and serene beauty of Wat Phra Kaew, known for originally housing the stunning emerald Buddha that is now located in Bangkok. This temple is not only historic, but also incredibly peaceful. The temple has beautiful gardens and offers a tranquil retreat from the bustling city.

When to Visit: You can visit anytime as it doesn’t get too busy, allowing you to fully appreciate its beauty and historical importance. We went around 4:30pm and had no issues with crowds.

Google Maps Location: Here

Wat Phra Kaew Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand
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6. Wat Klang Wiang

Wat Klang Wiang is located in the heart of the city and boasts stunning architectural details. Take a leisurely stroll around the temple grounds and appreciate the craftsmanship that went into its creation. The dragons guarding the entrance were incredibly ornate – make sure to get up close to really get a feel for the artistry!

When to Visit: You can visit anytime. We went around 5pm, and it wasn’t very busy at all.

Google Maps Location: Here

Wat Klang Wiang Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand
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7. Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)

My personal favorite among all the best temples in Chiang Rai is the famous Blue Temple. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the stunning blue and gold facade, which was like no other temple we visited! The entrance is guarded by the famous blue ‘Nagas’ statues, enhancing the temple’s enchanting atmosphere.

A fun fact: ‘Rong Seua Ten’ in Thai translates to ‘House of the Dancing Tiger,’ reflecting the temple’s historical connection to the area. Legend has it that tigers used to roam where the newly built temple stands today.

Blue Temple (Rong Suea Ten) in Chiang Rai, Thailand

When to Visit: For the best photo opportunities and a more peaceful experience, aim to visit before sunrise. Avoid visiting around midday; it will get very crowded due to all of the tour busses arriving from Chiang Mai. We went a bit before sunrise and it was so stunning – I would 100% recommend it!

Google Maps Location: Here

8. Wat Mung Muang

Although not considered one of the best temples in Chiang Rai, I can’t resist mentioning Wat Mung Muang due to its intriguing history and one specific captivating features As we passed by, the huge golden Buddha statue caught my eye, so we wandered in to explore, and learned about its really unique history! Wat Mung Muang stands as the only temple that survived the bombings of Chiang Rai in WWII. Legend has it that eight bombs dropped on it and failed to explode, making it quite the miraculous escape!

When to Visit: You can visit whenever the gates are open. This isn’t on the radar of most folks visiting Chiang Rai, so you shouldn’t expect to see crowds.

Google Maps Location: Here

Wat Mung Muang Temple in Chiang Rai

9. Wat Saeng Kaew Phothiyan

Note that this temple is located pretty far outside of town (approximately 1 hour), so we visited it on our way from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. The vibrant hues and intricate details of the temple make it feel like a scene from a cartoon brought to life. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this lesser-known temple during your time in Chiang Rai.

When to Visit: As it’s a bit off the beaten path, consider visiting Wat Saeng Kaew Phothiyan during your journey to or from Chiang Mai. We were there around mid-day and there were small groups of people, but it did not feel overly crowded.

Google Maps Location: Here

Wat Saeng Kaew Phothiyan near Chiang Rai, Thailand
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Where to Stay in Chiang Rai

While some opt for a day trip to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai, I suggest staying a couple of nights in Chiang Rai. We snagged an AirAsia flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, which was a surprisingly pleasant experience, and spent a couple nights in the city to give ourselves plenty of time to explore the best temples in Chiang Rai. Here are my recommendations on where to stay in Chiang Rai:

Budget: Busket Hostel has a great location, good wi-fi, and helpful staff always willing to go the extra mile. A major plus is the water bottle fill station, which is stocked with cold water.

Mid-Range: Sleepy House Chiang Rai is just a ten minute walk from the Clock Tower, and has a beautiful garden to welcome its travelers. Plus, there are cute kittens you can play with at the hotel!

Luxury: Le Patta Hotel was where we chose to stay in Chiang Rai and it was a perfect choice. It had the most delicious breakfast, a delightful swimming pool, and was located right in the middle of everything. We could easily walk to Saturday Night Walking Street, and there were tons of nearby spots for dinner.

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