9 Must Visit Chiang Rai Temples

If you travel to Northern Thailand, then you’ll probably want to visit at least a few of the temples located in Chiang Rai.

Despite being often overshadowed by its bustling sibling, Chiang Mai, the city is home to many sacred religious sites, including two of the most spectacular temples in the entire country: Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) and Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple).

For this reason, I compiled a list of the most beautiful Chiang Rai temples that are worth your time. Pick and choose which ones to add to your itinerary, but do know that to see them all, you’ll need to spend one or two nights in the city.

white temple chiang rai

01. Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)

white temple

The Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, is an architectural masterwork located on the outskirts of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

The main structure of the temple takes the form of a traditional Thai-style Buddhist temple, but its facade and rich decorations are what really make it stand out. With its striking white exterior and intricate detailing, this temple is unlike any other in the country.

For these reasons, it swiftly gained popularity with visitors from all over the world and became one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai, as well as an Instagram hotspot.

Elaborate carvings and paintings depict scenes from popular culture, including superheroes like Superman and Batman or movie characters like Matrix’s Neo (unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, just on the outside).

Now, as you would expect given its fame, Wat Rong Khun is usually pretty busy. So if you want to avoid the crowds as much as possible, then a good option is to spend the night in Chiang Rai and visit it in the morning, before all the day trippers come.

Speaking of which, did you know that you can use your temple ticket for multiple entries? During our visit, we quickly crossed the narrow bridge, taking a few photos without lingering too long, because we didn’t want to obstruct the path for others.

However, after exploring the temple’s interior, I wanted to return to the bridge to take a better look at its intricate details, but the staff informed me that to do that I’d have to enter again.

Initially, I was confused and hesitant, thinking I’d have to pay again, which of course I wasn’t very happy to do. However, he assured me that I could re-enter using the same ticket, and sure enough, when I presented my ticket at the entrance, they allowed me back in without any issue.

This isn’t explicitly mentioned anywhere, so it’s a handy tip to remember if you feel rushed or miss out on any details due to the crowds (but maybe ask beforehand to make sure the rules don’t change in the meantime).

White Temple opening hours and entrance fee

The temple is open all week long from 8 AM to 6 PM and you will need to pay an entrance fee of 100 THB per person to visit it.

02. Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple)

Wat Rong Suea Ten temple (Temple of the Dancing Tiger) in Chiang Rai is another fascinating site. This beautiful religious complex is known for its striking blue architecture, which is highlighted by complex details and beautiful decorations. For this reason, it is also called the Blue Temple.

In contrast with its white “sibling”, Wat Rong Suea Ten is a bit less busy and not as well known, but its popularity is quickly growing. Especially since it’s also a bit better located: right inside the city and only a tuk-tuk ride away from Chiang Rai’s city center.

Both the interior and exterior of the Blue Temple are equally stunning and colorful. Not to mention that the level of detailing is truly incredible.

In all honestly, I actually loved this temple more than the white one, and I regret not lingering around the complex for a bit longer than I already did.

Blue Temple opening hours and entrance fee

The Blue Temple has no entrance fee and is open from 7 AM to 8 PM all week long.

Wat Huay Pla Kang temple

03. Wat Huay Pla Kang

Wat Huay Pla Kang temple (sometimes referred to as Big Buddha of Chiang Rai) is located on the outskirts of Chiang Rai, on a hilltop that offers great panoramas of the surrounding scenery, and it’s most famous for its huge, white statue of Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy.

This temple is built in a mix of Thai Lanna and Chinese styles and aside from Guanyin’s statue, there’s also a 9-tired pagoda on the compound. The assembly hall (viharn) is positioned between the two and it’s also white like the statue.

You can get to the top of both the pagoda (by stairs) as well as the statue (by elevator) for great views of the city and the surrounding hills.

Wat Huay Pla Kang temple opening hours and entrance fee

The temple is open every day from 7 AM to 9:30 PM and while there’s no entrance fee, visitors need to pay 40 THB to use the elevator inside Guanyin’s statue (to the 25th floor).

Wat Huay Pla Kang is an impressive and beautiful temple and one of the best places to watch the sunset in Chiang Rai. You will surely enjoy your visit there!

04. Wat Phra Sing

Wat Phra Sing is conveniently located in Chiang Rai’s city center and is one of its oldest temples. While on the smaller side, Wat Phra Sing is built in the traditional Lanna style and impresses the visitor with its beautiful carvings and tranquil atmosphere.

Wat Phra Sing temple opening hours and entrance fee

The temple is open every day from 6 AM to 6:30 PM and admission is free for everyone.

Wat Phra Sing is a perfect choice if you are looking for a quiet and peaceful visit. Besides, it’s located in the heart of the city, so there’s really no reason not to stop by.

wat mung mung temple chiang rai

05. Wat Mung Muang

Wat Mung Muang is another small temple located in Chiang Rai’s city center. It is often confounded with Wat Ming Muang, but that is actually an entirely different temple, a few blocks away.

The temple is located near a market, so it may not be as tranquil as you’d expect, but it is still really worth a visit. Built in Lanna style, it features the same intricate carvings as other beautiful temples, as well as a huge golden statue of Phra Sangkachai (also known as the Fat Monk).

Wat Mung Muang temple opening hours and entrance fee

The Wat Mung Muang temple is open all week long from 8 AM to 5 PM and there’s no entrance fee.

Whether you want to see the statue of Phra Sangkachai or add another lovely temple to your Chiang Rai’s to-see list, Wat Mung Muang is a good choice.

06. Wat Ming Muang

Wat Ming Muang (The Crouching Elephant Temple) is a richly decorated and somewhat larger temple in the heart of Chiang Rai. As I already mentioned, it is not to be mistaken with Wat Mung Muang temple.

The temple was built during King Mengrai rule and it also serves as a memorial to his mother, who used to come to practice meditation here.

Despite its beautiful colors and carvings, it’s not extremely visited by tourists, so you can enjoy a peaceful stroll around the complex. To be honest it was my favorite temple out of the ones located in the city center.

Wat Ming Muang temple opening hours and entrance fee

The Wat Ming Muang temple is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM and admission is free.

If you only have time to visit just one temple in the city center, I recommend this one! The carvings and colors are really amazing and while it’s built in the same Lanna style, it still looks a bit different from other temples.

Wat Khua Khrae temple

07. Wat Khua Khrae

Wat Khua Khrae is located in the northern part of Chiang Rai, very close to the airport. For this reason, it can be a great choice for a last-minute visit before you leave the city (assuming you fly of course).

Despite being a bit out of the way and not as well-known as other temples in Chiang Rai, Wat Khua Khrae is richly decorated and has exquisite statues, that are definitely worth a visit. One of its unique features is the stainless steel around the temple door, which reflects the light and the sky in a beautiful way.

Wat Khua Khrae temple opening hours and entrance fee

Wat Khua Khrae is open every day from 7 AM to 6 PM and there’s no entrance fee.

If you fly in/out of Chiang Rai, do consider making a trip to Wat Khua Khrae temple, I guarantee you will not regret it!

Wat Klang Wiang temple

08. Wat Klang Wiang

Wat Klang Wiang is a beautiful and richly decorated temple right in the heart of Chiang Rai.

Although Wat Klang Wiang is fairly old, many of the buildings and structures inside the complex were built in the 20th century. This is because a powerful storm damaged most of the temple at the beginning of the 1900s and it had to be rebuilt.

An interesting fact about this temple is that since it is located at the precise center of Chiang Rai it contains the city pillar, which is kept in a specially built shrine.

Wat Klang Wiang temple opening hours and entrance fee

The Wat Klang Wiang temple is open every day of the week from 8 AM to 5 PM and there’s no entrance fee.

Whether you want to see the city pillar or explore a quiet and beautiful temple, Wat Klang Wiang is definitely a good choice.

Wat Phra Kaew temple chiang rai

09. Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew is a Royal temple and one of the oldest in Chiang Rai. It is conveniently located in the city center, so it’s really easy to pay it a visit.

The temple is famous for being the place where The Emerald Buddha (Phra Kaew Morakot) resurfaced when lightning struck the old chedi where it was preserved. The original is now kept at the Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok.

Wat Phra Kaew temple opening hours and entrance fee

The Wat Phra Kaew temple is open every day of the week from 7 AM to 6 PM and there’s no entrance fee. However, donations for the upkeep of the grounds are highly appreciated.

Due to its central location and historical value, Wat Phra Kaew is really worth a visit. Besides, the temple is very beautifully landscaped.

Dress code at the temples in Chiang Rai

While some temples are more strict than others, in general, both men and women should cover their shoulders and also wear clothing that covers their knees. See-through fabrics and leggings are not acceptable.

Some of the temples will have cover-ups that you can borrow during your visit, sometimes for a small fee. Also, make sure you take off your shoes before entering any of the buildings. Do the same with your sunglasses and your hat, if you wear any.

How to get to Chiang Rai

You can get to Chiang Rai by car, bus, tour, or plane. To be honest I’d advise against renting a car if you’re not confident you can navigate the traffic which tends to be pretty crazy most of the time.

Bear in mind that scooters are used a lot in most of the Southern East Asia countries, Thailand included, and there’s a certain disregard for traffic rules.

If you want to get to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai, I recommend either taking the GreenBus like I did (check here for timings and prices), getting a private transfer, or booking a tour.

Both of these tours leave from Chiang Mai and include a visit to both White and Blue temples, as well as a stop at the unusual Baan Dam (Black House) museum.

Final thoughts

Chiang Rai is very popular with visitors for its incredible religious sites. So if you are planning a trip to this northern city, then make sure to add as many of the temples listed above to your itinerary as you can.

However, if your time is limited and you can only see a few, then I highly recommend visiting the White and Blue temples and maybe Wat Huay Pla Kang.

Happy travels~


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