Thailand Heritage & Hill Tribes
Immerse yourself in Thailand's rich cultural heritage and familiarize yourself with ethnic hill tribes that live in remote locations.
Chiang Rai is a sweet, sleepy town in the far north of Thailand, often overlooked in favour of its sister city Chiang Mai.
Although smaller and less developed, Chiang Rai holds its appeal in its tranquil atmosphere, cultural treasures, and adventurous activities in the mountainous countryside.
Flanked by Laos in the east and Myanmar in the west, Chiang Rai sits within the stunning Golden Triangle region. The area is rich in culture and history, and smothered in forested hills, traditional villages, coffee plantations, elephant sanctuaries and winding rivers.
Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Mengrai of Ngon Yang. It was the capital of the north for around thirty years in the midst of centuries of fighting between the Lao, Burmese, Khmer and Thai for control over the fertile hills.
Today, this charming town is the perfect gateway into a region filled with adventure. You can go trekking through evergreen mountains, cycling along lush rice paddies and white water rafting along the mighty Mekong river.
Visit magical waterfalls, taste local jungle food and enjoy a picnic in the forest on a trek to see an authentic hill tribe village. You'll get to explore the village and engage with the locals, learning about hill tribe culture and customs.
Take a longtail boat journey along the Kok River towards Ta Thon. Here, you'll disembark and make the drive to Mae Kampong, a beautiful district with hill tribe villages.
You'll meet the colourful hill tribe people and can opt to stay the night in a traditional homestay. It's a special experience offering an enriching insight into their unique lifestyle.
Visit Wat Phra Kaew, the oldest and most revered temple in the city. It was struck by lightning 1434 revealing the Emerald Buddha, the most significant symbol in the country. It is now on display in Bangkok and a replica lies in Wat Phra Kaew.
Marvel at the incredible architecture of Wat Rong Khun. This blazing white complex shimmers in the sunlight from the millions of tiny mirrors, and the inside is filled with surreal, contemporary artwork.
In the evening, head to Chiang Rai's night bazaar, a bustling market where locals and hill tribe villagers come to sell their handicrafts. It's also a fantastic place to sample some of the mouthwatering northern Thai cuisine.
The best time to visit Chiang Rai is between November and February, when temperatures are dry and much cooler, averaging around 25°C. Crowds reach peak levels around December and January, so avoid these months for a quieter trip. You may experience hazy air in February and March as the agricultural region is burnt out.
The hottest season runs from March to May, bringing steaming temperatures of around 35°C. The rainy season begins around April and eases in October. The wettest months are August and September and heavy downpours can bring a halt to the region's outdoor adventures. October is a beautiful time to visit as the countryside is lit up in lush greenery after the rains, although you'll still experience some showers.
Chiang Rai is featured on most of our suggested luxury itineraries in Thailand. It's a fantastic stop for anyone venturing to the north of Thailand and combines well with a trip to its larger sister city of Chiang Mai. Immerse yourself in the stunning countryside of the Golden Triangle on our Thailand Explorer and get to know the unique culture of Thailand's hill tribe regions on our Thailand Heritage & Hill Tribes holiday. Families will adore Chiang Rai with it's relaxed atmosphere and adventurous activities on our Thailand Family Adventure. Experience the best of Chiang Rai before heading to Thailand's pristine beaches with our Northern Thailand Adventure with Beach and Thailand Culture & Koh Samui Holiday.
Chiang Rai is home to mountainous retreats and eco-friendly lodges surrounded by the stunning countryside of the Golden Triangle. Stay at Phu Chaisai Mountain resort, a unique accommodation designed harmoniously with its environment, allowing guests to immerse themselves within nature. Venture to the hills to Lanjia Lodge, a small, community based lodge, constructed with traditional styling. The lodge is located close to hill tribe villages and beautiful hiking trails.