The Best One-Day Itinerary for Chiang Rai, Thailand

Authored By:

Lauren S.

     Whether you are looking for serene temples, bustling markets, and breathtaking scenery, Chiang Rai offers a perfect blend of ancient wonders and modern charm. According to 12 Go Asia, the most visited cities in Thailand are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Ayutthaya. However, no matter your interests or hobbies, a day in Chiang Rai is a day well spent. You could stay a week in this magical city and still not see all its hidden gems. If you only have a day, here's how to make the most of it. 

     My fellow teachers and I recently traveled to Chiang Rai for Christmas. Although we visited for 3 days, our first day in the city was jam-packed and would make for the perfect one-day itinerary. 

Four girls pose in a field of tea plants with rolling hills in the background

     Our day began at 4:30 a.m., but yours does not have to! We took the night bus from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and arrived before sunrise. Nothing is open that early in the morning, so we waited in the bus station for about an hour before catching a tuk-tuk to Cafe Amazon close to our hostel. 

     After some much-needed caffeine, we walked to our hostel, Get Hi Hostel (would highly recommend staying here), right when it opened at 7 a.m. The owners were kind enough to let us shower and enjoy some free breakfast. As we ate, we noticed some suggested itineraries on the wall and asked how to sign up for them. One of the owners was Thai and helped us arrange a driver to take us on the perfect day-

4 monkeys sit on a water tower with a mountain in the background

BEST One-Day Itinerary 

  • 11 a.m. Hostel pickup and drive to Choui Fong Tea Plantation
    • Marvel at the rolling hills of tea plants
    • Divulge in some green tea-flavored cheesecake
    • Cozy up to the best jasmine tea you've ever had
    • Take stunning, Insta-worthy pics
  • 1 p.m. Drive from Choui Fong to Monkey Temple/Tham Luang Cave
    • Grab a poking stick to ward off monkeys!
    • Experience the gorgeous bright red temples
    • Climb the tall stairway (carefully) up to the cave
    • Explore the cave where a junior league football team got trapped for 10 days in 2018
  • 2:30 p.m. Drive from Monkey Temple to Hall of Opium
    • Walk down the long, creepy yet iconic hall that leads to the museum
    • Learn about the Opium Wars that shaped our world today
    • Watch the short documentaries throughout the museum
    • Read stories about those affected by the outbreak of opioid addiction
  • 4:00 p.m. Drive from Hall of Opium to the Golden Triangle
    • See Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand all from the same spot
    • Buy local goods and souvenirs for a cheap price
    • Enjoy the many public artworks and Buddha statues in the area
    • Stroll along the Mekong River
  • 5:00 p.m. One hour-ish drive back to central Chiang Rai city!
  • 7:00 p.m. Back in Chiang Rai
    • Grab some dinner (I recommend the Northern Thailand dish Khao Soi!)
    • Shop at the Chiang Rai night market
  • 9:30 p.m. Get some much-needed rest!


5 people hold walking sticks and smile in front of an opening of a cave with tall trees in the background

    Of course, if you get an earlier start than 11 a.m., you can probably visit some of Chiang Rai's iconic temples like the White Temple, Blue Temple, and Big Buddha. This is still a very full day! Take time to rest along the way and drink lots of water to avoid getting overheated. 

   Hope you enjoy! Wishing you safe travels!