The Top Most Instagrammable Temples in Chiang Rai, Thailand!
Updated: Nov 16, 2019
When i say Thailand, what really comes to your mind?
Ummm, well, if you ask me, i can only think of its larger-than-life nightlife at nightclubs, gin bars, beach parties, even on the streets! It's remarkable to see how this country comes alive, when the clock strikes and the lights are out!
Thailand, in general, is so full of life! No wonder why, of all the countries we have been so far, Thailand has been visited the most!
But, seeing the extravagant colorful temples of Chiang Rai, came as a shock to us. It is fascinating to see how this northern part of Thailand takes on a whole new avatar! For a very long time, mystical pictures of the temples in Chiang Rai took our breath away, and we, therefore, couldn't wait till the eleventh hour to book our flight tickets to this heavenly land of temples! It only took coming to Thailand thrice, but we are so happy that we finally got a chance to see this side of Thailand! Honestly, what we have learnt so far is that if you are into spellbinding architecture, you will most definitely hit the jackpot in Thailand!
To be honest, it could take a lifetime to visit all Chiang Rai's temples. So, after exploring a couple of temples, we have put together a list with the most incredible temples around the city!
How to Dress when visiting temples in Chiang Rai
When visiting the temples in Chiang Rai, try to dress as conservatively as possible, in order to respect the culture!
Make sure your shoulders and knees are completely covered.
If you plan to wear shorts during the day and also visit a few temples, we would advise on carrying a sarong, which can be tied around the waist.
If you are wearing a dress that exposes your shoulder and back, we would advise you to carry a shrug, which will also help defeat the summer tan ;)
1) White Temple/Wat Rong Khun-
The award for the best temple goes to- White Temple/Wat Rong Khun!
YES! You have to see this one to believe it :)
Located 18 kms from the Chiang Rai city center, is this unbelievable glistening White Temple, which is one of Chiang Rai's most visited attractions! We have to say that this is the best temple we have seen so far, in our entire lives, hands down!
This one-of-a-kind example of heroic artwork was designed and constructed by Chalermchai Kositpitat, with his own funds, back in 1997!
This other-worldly temple stands out through the white color, which signifies the purity of Buddha. Not just this, it is made out of fragments of reflective glasses in plaster, which signifies Buddha's wisdom. This is also where the temple gets it's shimmery property from. Out comes the sun, and this one starts to sparkle looking like a piece of heaven!
We were stunned on seeing the intricate details of this temple in person, for it looked as beautiful in real life as it looked in pictures, with every detail symbolizing something we all deal with, on an everyday basis. It's a perfect synthesis of art and conceptualization.
The mean-looking severed heads and hands sticking out from the depths of the underworld, depict sufferings and hell caused by the worldly desires, temptations, envy, greed etc. You can only reach the main temple once you cross the bridge, which symbolizes rebirth into a world of happiness, that is free from all kinds of sufferings! Photography inside the temple is not allowed, but the internal artwork is really a sight to behold.
We legit got goosebumps standing there realizing how shallow we humans can be sometimes. So, no matter how big a schmuck you are, you will surely come out as a better person. This temple somehow helps you attain self-realization, and that's the kind of impact it has on you. We still can't get over the fact that we saw this mind boggling architecture in person! What an absolute marvel!
Outside of the main temple is an impeccable free art gallery featuring a variety of Chalermchai's paintings. There are also a number of restaurants and cafes around the vicinity, which are surprisingly cheaper than what you could find in central Chiang Rai.
TIMINGS- 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
ENTRY- Admission for Thai nationals is free. Foreigners are required to pay 50 baht per person.
TIP- Since this temple is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Chiang Rai, it starts to get crowded right after it opens in the morning. All the tourist buses from Chiang Mai also reach here during the opening hours. So, it is almost impossible to visit the temple at peace and also get some decent pictures, with people jostling you.
We would suggest you to visit this temple around 4, that is, one hour before it closes. This way, you can ditch the crowd and and get some amazing pictures too. Although, we visited the temple in the morning at 8, we were shocked to see the number of visitors that early. But, we somehow weathered the storm, and got pretty decent shots! What do you think? ;)
2) Blue Temple/Wat Rong Seur Ten-
Blue Temple, located a few kilometers outside of Chiang Rai, is the most recent edition to Chiang Rai's tasteful and holy panorama.
This extravagant temple was only recently opened in 2016, and hence, it's not very popular among the tourists. All the more reasons to visit this hidden gem. Right?
Unlike the Black and White temples, the creator of this temple is not named anywhere around the temple, nor in the brochure.
We were enthralled looking at the exterior and interior walls of the temple, covered in vivid indigo hue embellished with gold! You could easily lose track of time observing the intricate paintings and artwork, all over the ceiling and walls. We spent almost an hour inside the main hall where the big white statue of Buddha is placed. The vibe of the temple is not just calming, but also very strong. It felt like a healing process :)
TIMINGS- 6:00 am - 7:00 pm
FACT FILE- Since the Blue Temple is not as popular as the White Temple, the chances of spotting a lot of people is quite unlikely. But yes, we talked to the locals and learnt that its popularity is gradually increasing, with more and more people visiting it everyday. So, the chances of temple getting overcrowded in the coming months is comparatively higher. One of the many reasons to visit it soon ;)
3) Wat Huay Pla Kung-
Wat Huay Pla Kung, situated 6 miles north of Chiang Rai city, is a temple complex comprising of three different temples, all unique in their own ways.
What we loved the most about this temple other than it's gigantic size was, how it is relatively undiscovered by the tourists at the moment. We visited this temple twice, and that too, at different hours, but it was never crowded. In fact, we spotted 4 to 5 people at the most. This definitely played a major role in not only getting an authentic temple experience, but also clicking some incredible photos ;)
Visiting this complex is absolutely free, but small donations are very much appreciated!
Now, let's talk about the three temples, one of which is our absolute favorite!
A) Guan Yin- The Goddess of Mercy
This temple was the only reason for us to visit Wat Huay Pla Kung, not just because of its majestic size, but also because it looked so different from the rest of the temples we visited. I vividly remember how we saw the statue from miles away, while driving towards it.
This enormous 23 stories high statue of The Goddess of Mercy (someone who has reached a state of nirvana, and decides to reach out to people who cry out for help) is mostly mistaken for Big Buddha. You can reach the base of the statue either by climbing the flights of stairs, or by taking the free shuttle from the parking lot.
From there, you can take the elevator up to the viewing deck at the 25th floor, for just 40 baht. The 'Third Eye' of the statue is actually a circular window to have a bird's-eye view of the city and the 9 tier pagoda.
B) The 9 Tier Pagoda
After exploring the Guan Yin temple, we headed to see The 9 Tier Chinese pagoda. The pagoda is protected by giant golden-green dragons. As you go inside, you will notice that the ground floor is extremely commodious and roomy, but with every tier, the balcony keeps getting smaller. All in all, we loved the architecture and details here.
C) The White Temple
Situated between enormous Guan Yin and the 9 tier pagoda, is this beautiful White Temple, which seemed like a miniature version of Wat Rong Khun. It looks heavenly with a lot of details involved!
4) The Black Temple
This is another, slightly less visited and more off the beaten path type temple- Black Temple or Black House.
FYI, it is not really a temple. It is a museum instead. Most people mistake it for temple because of its shape and how it's built.
The Black House isn't just one structure, but a collection of around 40 buildings of varying shapes and sizes dotted around a peaceful garden. The cluster of mysterious and almost sadistic houses accommodates Thawan Duchanee's (National Thai Artist) collections of paintings, sculptures, animal bones, silver and golden items from around the world. Although, not all exhibits are open to public.
That's it for this post! Hope this article helped you in narrowing down the list of temples.
Don't forget to send us pictures when you visit this northernmost city in Thailand!
HAPPY TRAVELS xoxo