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The Perfect Chiang Rai 2 Day Itinerary & Travel Guide

Chiang Rai, a beautiful city in Northern Thailand, is a must-visit on any Thailand itinerary.

With unique architecture and world-renowned temples, stunning natural beauty, buzzing markets and rich local culture, it’s a great place to visit either on a day trip from Chiang Mai, or for two or three days to really get to know the city.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

It’s such an underrated city, but those who take the time to visit instantly fall in love with it and its laid-back charm. There aren’t too many tourist sights here, but all of the sights that are here are completely stunning and so unique.

Here is the perfect Chiang Rai itinerary, which includes the best temples, cafes, markets, day trip ideas and more!

How Many Days Should You Spend In Chiang Rai?

Many people wonder how many days is enough to visit all there is to see in Chiang Rai. After a bit of research, they often see there aren’t too many sights in Chiang Rai, and so try to cram in a day trip to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai (a 3 hour drive away!) such as one of the below tours:

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While this is possible, it does make for a tiring day, and it’s really best to explore Chiang Rai at a slower pace. Therefore, two or three days is the ideal amount of time to spend in Chiang Rai. 

lalitta cafe chiang rai

This means you’ll get to visit all the best places in and around Chiang Rai, from magnificent temples to unique cafes, beautiful tea plantations, quirky cafes and the night market!

Best Things To Do In Chiang Rai On A 2 Day Itinerary

Day 1: 

Wat Rong Suea Ten (The Blue Temple)

Chiang Rai Blue Temple - Wat Rong Suea Ten

Wat Rong Suea Ten, commonly known as The Blue Temple due to its striking blue and gold colours, is a stunning temple full of intricate carvings and vibrant murals.

Chiang Rai Blue Temple - Wat Rong Suea Ten

The interior houses a large white Buddha statue, and outside the temple you’ll find unique sculptures of mythical creatures and skulls! It’s a beautiful place that you definitely don’t want to miss!

Chiang Rai Blue Temple - Wat Rong Suea Ten 

The Blue Temple is open from 7am and entrance is free.

Lunch at Cat ‘N’ A Cup Café

If you love cats, then Cat ‘N’ A Cup Café is the ideal place to visit for a couple of hours to enjoy some lunch and spend time with the most beautiful cats!

I have been to several cat cafes in my time – including in Mongkok, Hong Kong and Bethnal Green in London, this is honestly the best one I have been to, and these cats at Cat ‘N’ A Cup are the most stunning cats I’ve ever seen in my life!

beautiful cat with blue eyes

They are also so lovely, curious, chilled and friendly, and you can tell they are very well looked after!

The café offers a variety of drinks, desserts, and lunch meals, and the great thing is that you don’t need to pay for entry – you just need to purchase some food or a drink to be able to go in!

cat 'n' a cup cafe chiang rai

This is so much better than many cat cafes that charge you a huge entrance fee (that’s often timed!) and then you need to buy food and drinks on top!

The cafe has two levels so there is plenty of space, and it has such a cosy atmosphere. You can just sit and relax with the friendly cats – it’s so unique!

beautiful cat lying down like a dog

Cat ‘N’ A Cup Cafe is centrally located in Chiang Rai city centre near the bus station and the Night Bazaar.

Wat Huay Pla Kang

Wat Huay Pla Kang is one of the most stunning temples in Chiang Rai. It features a giant statue of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and the most impressive steps leading up to the temple with white dragons on either side.

Wat Huay Pla Kang Chiang Rai Goddess of Mercy buddha temple

The temple is situated on top of a hill and is known for its serene atmosphere (as not many tour groups visit here!) and panoramic views.

There is also a beautiful colourful 9-tiered pagoda at the complex that you can explore.

Wat Huay Pla Kang Chiang Rai Goddess of Mercy buddha temple

Entrance to Wat Huay Pla Kang is free, and it is open from 7am until 9pm daily. It’s a great place to watch the sunset, and the temples are lit up beautifully at night.

Wat Huay Pla Kang Chiang Rai Goddess of Mercy buddha temple 

Lalitta Café

Lalitta Café is a new restaurant in Chiang Rai that has become wildly popular on social media, and it is quite the experience!

Located just down the road from Wat Huay Pla Kang, it features a man-made waterfall, lots of fairy statues and mystical fog – it looks straight out of a fairy tale!

There are hundreds of orchids everywhere, and it’s a great place to cool down from the Chiang Rai heat as there are lots of sprinklers!

lalitta cafe chiang rai

The food and drinks here are really nice, and you can get some incredible photos here – it’s definitely one of the most Instagrammable cafes in the whole of Thailand!

Lalitta Cafe is open from 8am until 8pm every day. It does get quite busy with people coming just to take photos, so the best time to visit is either first thing in the morning, or in the couple of hours before it closes in the evening, when there will be hardly any other tourists around.

Entrance is 60 THB but you then get this money taken off any food or drinks you have, so technically it is free to visit as long as you purchase something.

lalitta cafe chiang rai  

Chiang Rai Night Bazaar

And now to visit the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar in the evening. The Chiang Rai Night Bazaar is a lovely market located in the heart of the city and is popular with both locals and tourists.

There is lots of cheap and delicious street food here for you to try, as well as live entertainment and lots of handicrafts, clothing, and souvenirs to purchase.

Day 2: 

Choui Fong Tea Plantation

Choui Fong Tea Plantation is a beautiful tea farm located in the rolling hills one hour drive from the centre of Chiang Rai.

chuoi fong tea plantation chiang rai

It is known for its high-quality tea and picturesque landscapes – there are rows of tea trees as far as you can see! They look similar to the rice terraces in Bali and Vietnam, and make for some fantastic photos.

Entrance is free, and you can walk amongst the tea fields, or have a tea-tasting session and learn about the tea-making process if you wish. It’s a great place to relax and unwind and enjoy the natural beauty.

 chuoi fong tea plantation chiang rai

Lunch at Choui Fong Tea Plantation Café

After enjoying the grounds of Choui Fong Tea Plantation, make sure to visit their cafe where you can purchase some lunch, as well as fresh tea and delicious cakes.

The cafe is open air and has absolutely stunning views of the tea fields.

chuoi fong tea plantation chiang rai smoothie

Baan Dam Museum (The Black House)

On your way back from the Chuoi Fong Tea Plantation, head to Baan Dam Museum, also known as The Black House. Here is a collection of nearly 40 buildings created by Thai artist Thawan Duchanee.

The buildings are predominantly black and house a diverse array of dark  themes including contemporary artworks, artifacts, and animal remains.

Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple)

Wat Rong Khun, also known as The White Temple, is the most famous attraction in Chiang Rai. It is actually a privately owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple, designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

The temple is known for its unique contemporary art style, blending traditional Buddhist motifs with modern elements.

The all-white exterior represents purity, the hands reaching out from the ground represent our never-ending desires, and the mirrored glass mosaics symbolize wisdom.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

The temple’s interior features murals with pop culture references, illustrating the battle between good and evil.

As The White Temple is the busiest and most popular tourist attraction in Chiang Rai, it’s best to visit either first thing in the morning or one hour before closing, after all the tour groups have gone.

This way you’ll be able to enjoy with less crowds and really appreciate the beauty of this incredible place.

Entrance is 100 THB and it is open from 8am until 6pm daily.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun  

This is a very relaxed itinerary of Chiang Rai, however if you want to fit in more activities, you can visit the local hilltribes, as well as The Golden Triangle, Singha Park, Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong and Wat Phra Kaew.

Other recommended places for food include the Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House, Kunda Cafe and Barrab Restaurant.

Top Tips For Visiting Chiang Rai:

Dress Appropriately When Visiting Temples

Remember to dress appropriately when visiting temples – this applies to both women and men. Always have your shoulders and knees covered, and it’s wise for women to pack a shawl in their bag just in case (some temples are stricter than others on dress code).

Also it’s good to keep in mind that if you’re visiting independently, it’s best to visit the temples either first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening before they close (this especially applies to The White Temple!) if you want to avoid the crowds and have a more relaxing experience.

Chiang Rai Blue Temple - Wat Rong Suea Ten

Carry Some Cash

While card is accepted in the majority of places, you’ll always want to carry some cash around for when you visit the markets to buy some food or souvenirs, or when you want to hop in a taxi.

Use Grab Taxis

Grab is South East Asia’s equivalent of Uber, and the fares here are very reasonable. Make sure to download the app so you can always get a ride and won’t get ripped off.

If you plan to be in Chiang Rai for a couple of days and want someone to drive you round, you can always get the contact number of a Grab driver you have used and then negotiate any further trips with them in cash.

This will ensure all the money goes to the driver and a third party doesn’t take commission from the driver.

How To Get To Chiang Rai

If you’re travelling to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai, the cheapest way is to get the public bus which takes three hours.

If you plan to take the bus, it’s definitely advisable to buy your bus ticket in advance on 12.go Asia as there is only one company that operates between the two cities (Green Bus Thailand), and tickets do sell out.

12.go offer the best prices – you can get bus tickets for as little as 271 THB one way and you get emailed the tickets instantly.

It’s a smooth and direct bus ride, with one toilet/snack stop on the way. Buses start at 8am and run frequently throughout the day.

Alternatively, Chiang Rai does have an airport so you can take a flight to Chiang Rai from Bangkok or Phuket.

Where To Stay In Chiang Rai

We stayed at the 777 Food & Bed Hotel right opposite The White Temple for one night and it was amazing to see the temple from our balcony!

The room was basic but certainly did the job and the million dollar views were absolutely worth the insanely cheap price tag! Staying in this hotel also meant we got the chance to see The White Temple lit up at night, which was amazing!

We also stayed at the Blue Lagoon Hotel in the centre of Chiang Rai which I can also recommend.

It was in such a great location – within walking distance of the Night Market, the bus station and the Cat ‘N’ A Cup Cafe, the breakfast at the hotel was incredible, and the outdoor pool was so lovely!

Summary

This Chiang Rai itinerary includes all the best bits Chiang Rai has to offer, from temples to tea plantations, to local markets and cosy dining spots. It gives you the perfect taste of Chiang Rai’s unique charm and beauty.