Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai Road Trip: Explore the Best of Northern Thailand
Traveling to Thailand and wondering how to make the most of your trip? Plan a road trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, which could be one of the best self-drive of your life with the comfort of your rental car. Once the capital of the Lanna kingdom, Chiang Mai nowadays is a haven for digital nomads who work from the many cafes that dot this town. While Chiang Mai itself has plenty of things to do, the trip to Chiang Rai from here is a must-do. Chiang Rai is Thailand’s last city, and the journey to this destination is stunning. You can soak in the beauty of mountains as you make your way into the heart of this tropical paradise.
The road from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is in excellent condition, making a self-drive experience so much more memorable. By renting a car through Thailand Cars Rentals, you can visit all the main destinations between both the cities and get the most out of your one-way car rental. Along the way, you’ll also get a chance to visit many hot springs, the captivating White Temple or Wat Rong Khun, and the Blue Temple or Wat Rong Suea Ten. Continue reading our complete itinerary to make the best out of your trip. You can hire a rental car at Chiang Mai Airport and plan a road trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.
Start your Journey from Chiang Mai and head to Doi Angkhang
Pick up your rental car from Chiang Mai downtown or airport and head to Chiang Dao, home to Chiang Dao mountain. It is the 3rd highest mountain in Thailand and is popular amongst trekkers and adventure seekers. The main attraction here also includes the Chiang Dao Cave, located at the base of the mountain. It is open to visitors to explore via a tunneled lit walkway. Sounds, amazing right?
From here, you can head towards Doi Ang Khang in your rental car. It is kind of a hidden gem to foreign tourists, but a popular destination. Lies at the edge of the Thai-Myanmarese border, it is a wild and mountainous frontier range. Royal Agricultural Project Centre is one of the main attractions here, where you can find beautifully manicured gardens filled with a colorful variety of flowers, greenhouses for the cultivation of crops like strawberries, rhubarbs, and persimmons.
Visit Thaton and Mae Salong
Next, head towards Thaton, nestled between the Kok River and the border of Myanmar. On arrival here, visit Wat Thaton, a striking hilltop temple that offers spectacular views of the Mae Kok River Valley, and you can also see the Thai-Myanmarese border mountain range from this point. The hill is surrounded by large Buddha images of different styles, such as Chinese, Thai, and Myanmar.
Get your rental car and head up north to the Chinese village of Mae Salong, alternatively known as Santhiriki. This village is filled with Chinese restaurants and shops selling teas and wares. Mae Salong is also a popular destination for its terrace tea plantations and their trademark oolong tea, which is grown here. Places of interest in Mae Salong include Martyrs Memorial Museum and Phra Borommathat Chedi.
Explore Mae Sai, Golden Triangle, & Chiang Rai
After Mae Salong, head back down towards Mae Sai, the most northerly point of Thailand. On the way, make a fun stop off at Fish Cave Tham Pla. Here you can find lots of fish, and the main reason that will draw your attention here are the roaming monkeys, which you can see scaling the side of the cave and swinging from the trees. At the other end of the temple grounds is the Ku Kao (Turtle Cave) worth exploring. The cave is several hundred meters long, dark so bring your torch, with a hard-packed chalk floor which is wet and slippery.
After Mae Sai, take your car from Thailand Cars Rentals and to head back south on the main tourist track towards the Golden Triangle. While driving to the Golden Triangle, you will pass through the Golden Triangle Park Hall of Opium, which offers an exciting history and background to the area.
The Golden Triangle is a popular tourist place located at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet. The area spans across 950,000 km that overlaps the mountains of the three adjacent countries. The region has been the largest and popular trading point for opium since the 1950s. After the Golden Triangle, head to Chiang Rai in your rental car via Chiang Saen, which was once the ancient capital of Thailand.