One of northern Thailand’s biggest highlights, Chiang Rai draws tourists for its lush green landscapes and majestic temples. It sees fewer visitors than its provincial neighbour and de-facto northern Thai capital Chiang Mai, but those who do come head here for photogenic caves and waterfalls, hiking opportunities, and of course temples like the mesmerising Wat Rong Khun. If you’re in town in search of something mildly off the beaten track, these Chiang Rai hotels are some of the best places to call home.
Closer to the city centre than most of the area’s more peace-and-quiet-oriented hotels – Chiang Rai proper is just a five-minute walk away – Chat House is a small but long-standing and family-run hotel. Simple and traditional but comfortable, both fan-cooled and air-conditioned rooms here are especially budget-friendly, and come with a mix of private and shared bathroom facilities (all have hot water). There are even dirt-cheap dorm beds if you’re really looking to make your money go further. There’s an on-site restaurant, and Thai massage and cooking classes are available.
The Akha River House, alongside a tributary of Chiang Rai’s Kok River, is a simple, peaceful option within walking distance of downtown Chiang Rai. Unique in being run by people from the area’s ethnic minority hill tribes, Akha River House bills itself as a retreat – and it’s certainly somewhere to get away from it all. Don’t expect ultra-luxe vibes, but rooms are tastefully designed using materials that blend into the surroundings; some of the best have large river-view balconies, and the chilled-out restaurant has tables right beside the water’s edge.
Chiang Rai’s out-of-town Baan Soontree Resort has a mix of traditional-feeling but well-appointed and comfortable rooms that give off something of a chalet vibe thanks to the heavy use of pine-like wood panels. Guests get use of a large and inviting outdoor pool and sun deck as well as an extensively equipped gym (a real bonus for this level of hotel), and both the exterior of the handsome property and the surrounding grounds are well kept.
Don’t expect much local charm but, for somewhere affordable, reliable and centrally located to rest your head, B2 Chiang Rai Hotel could be just the ticket. B2 Boutique and Budget Hotels is a growing chain of low-cost properties across Thailand, and this is in fact just one of two in Chiang Rai. The other is billed as the Night Bazaar location, but they are actually both about equally close to the bazaar, and only around a 20-minute walk apart themselves. Standardised interiors include simple but surprisingly stylish rooms with smoothed concrete walls and pops of orange.
Affordable Nak Nakara Hotel is a city centre option that’s within easy walking distance of many of Chiang Rai’s most famous downtown attractions, including the night bazaar and walking street area. Traditional-feeling rooms are bright and well maintained, with pops of colour courtesy of Thai mythology-inspired murals, and amenities are plentiful. The well-sized swimming pool is a draw, and there’s an on-site restaurant, plus a bar.
In a location that’s peacefully outside of the city centre and yet just about close enough to be reachable on foot, Chiang Rai’s Laluna Hotel and Resort has well-tended grounds and a large, attractive pool that means it offers surprisingly good bang for your buck. The larger-than-expected property’s pool and garden-view rooms feature relatively low-key but charming decor that veers towards the traditional. Amenities are plentiful for the price point, and there’s even 24-hour room service.
The Grand Vista Hotel is a refreshing spot for more bright and contemporary decor than is common in many properties of a similar level in Chiang Rai – yet even here there are pleasing pops of Lanna-style traditional northern design. Around a ten-minute drive from the city centre, the 80-room Grand Vista’s accommodation options range from those with direct entry to the attractive pool through to impressive duplex suites. Pale wood and subtle hints of calming dark blue tones are common throughout, while there’s also an on-site spa and restaurant.
The former Dusit Island Resort is an ultra-luxe option that wows from the word go with its enormous romantic pool and manicured gardens. This five-star resort got its old name from its fairy-tale-like location on an island in the middle of Chiang Rai’s Kok River, yet the hotel is only around a 20-minute walk from the city’s downtown heart. The selection of classic yet bright and cheery accommodation options are of course beautiful, and the property’s facilities are seemingly endless: as well as the pool, there’s a spa, whirlpool, gym, three restaurants, two bars, and more.
The expansive, lovingly tended grounds of the Legend Chiang Rai Spa Resort combine lush greenery with northern Thai-inspired buildings that house the 78 rooms. Spacious bedrooms feature a luxurious-feeling blend of white walls and linens and plenty of handsome dark wood, while many rooms have partly outdoor bathrooms plus enormous, comfortable terraces that look onto the verdant gardens. Of course, there’s no shortage of facilities either, including a stunning riverside infinity pool, spa, and gym, plus two outdoor restaurants and a wine bar.
There’s little doubt that this sprawling five-star property is among the finest hotels in Chiang Rai, or indeed in the north of Thailand as a whole. An out-of-the-city location affords seclusion and peace and quiet, while facilities include a spa, gym, enormous pool, and two restaurants. Contemporary yet charming rooms – and especially bathrooms – are as plush as you would expect at this price point, and there are stylish, luxury touches throughout the hotel. If your budget reaches this far, Chiang Rai’s Méridien is a stunning stay.