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The best time to visit Chiang Rai for outdoor activities is from October to February. This period belongs to the cool season in Thailand (although to many westerners the weather in this period can seem pretty hot). This season provides blue clear skies with cool and refreshing weather.
Nevertheless, Chiang Rai is an all-year-round tourist destination, so visitors may come at any time. Chiang Rai has three seasons in a year. If October to February is the cool season, then March to May is the hot season, and June to September is the rainy season. The hottest temperature is 36oC (97°F) and the lowest temperature is 10°C (50°F).
Chiang Rai is 1280ft above sea level and surrounded by grassy plains, jungle canopies, and rivers which keep the valley cooler with lower humidity than other places in Thailand. The annual average temperature is 24°C (75°F), but it can go as high as 36°C (97°F) and as low as 10 - 15°C (50 - 59°F) at night in cool season.
The length of the daytime in Chiang Rai may vary over the year. Nevertheless, we can say that the average sunny day of the dry season (cool and hot season) is about 12-13 hours, but it will be shorter in the rainy season, about 10 hours.
Rainfall is usually heaviest in August and September, with the average precipitation of 250 mm (9.8 inches). It is rare to have rain in the cool and the hot season. The annual average rainfall is 173.7 mm (6.8 inches).
Below are two graphs of Chiang Rai’s average temperatures and average rainfall.
Average Temperature in Chiang Rai
Average Rainfall in Chiang Rai
The cool season in Chiang Rai lasts from late October to February. The temperature between daytime and evening is remarkably different during the cool season. The daytime temperature average is 21°C (70°F), but at night time the temperature can drop to 10 - 15°C (50 - 59°F).
December and January are the coldest months in Chiang Rai. The weather is cool and very pleasant with light breezes. You can see clear skies, perfectly matching the beautiful green landscape. Rain in the cool season is rare, so the humidity in this season is low.
In the cool season you can do many outdoor activities like trekking in the national park, taking care of elephants in the Elephant Nature Park and cruising the Golden Triangle region. You can feel the refreshing air while enjoying the blue clear sky and green countryside. Walking around to explore the city at night is also an interesting way to end the day.
What to pack for Chiang Rai in the cool season: Bring a jacket, as temperatures at night can be very cool. Besides, you might need sunscreen as well as body lotion to protect you from sunburn.
It’s essential to take long-sleeved shirts and pants for temple visits as you are required to cover your shoulders and knees. You can also buy a light silk scarf locally for such an occasion and some temples, such as the Blue Temple, offer scarves for free when entering.
Avoid tourist crowds in the cool season: If you love photography and want to take as many beautiful pictures as you can, it is best to arrive at your targeted place in the morning, because by about 11 a.m. there will be lots of tourists.
Akha hill tribe performance (every month): On the second Saturday of every month you can enjoy a performance from the Akha hill tribe which costs about US$ 4.8 per person. This performance highlights the culture and daily life of the Akha hill tribe.
Dok Sieo festival (February): From 13 to 15 February there will be Dok Sieo festival at Pu Chi Fah, where you can see the spectacular sight of trees in white and pink blossom, which makes your Valentine’s Day become more romantic. During the festival, visitors will have the privilege to enjoy performances from hill tribe people such as a beauty contest, an archery show, and a top spinning show.
The hot season lasts from March to May, with May being the hottest month of the year. The average temperature in March is 27°C (81°F) but then rises in April, and by the end of May it can reach 36°C (97°F).
During the hot season you can visit waterfalls like Huai Kaew waterfall and Huai Mae Sai waterfall to stay away from the heat; you could enjoy a traditional style Thai lunch out in a bamboo hut at the banks of the Kok River or visit the local market to get a cool drink.
What to pack for Chiang Rai in the hot season: If you plan to visit Chiang Rai in the hot season, please ensure you bring sunblock and sunscreen to protect your skin from the scorching heat. It is also advisable to bring your hat, an umbrella, or even a thin long-sleeve cardigan if you are afraid that the sun might damage your skin. Asia Highlights will prepare enough drinking water, wet tissues and an air-conditioned car for you, if you book a private tour with us.
Songkran Festival (April): The popular Songkran Festival is held in April. It is also known as Water Splashing Festival, which is held to celebrate the Thai New Year. This water splashing tradition represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck. During the festival you can see people having fun splashing water on each other and you can also join them and feel the euphoria!
Chiang Rai Lychee and Souvenir Fair (May): Lychees are one of Chiang Rai’s famous fruits. At the fair you can see agriculture exhibitions and many unique competitions such as the Miss Lychee Orchard Contest, a pineapple-peeling competition, a papaya salad competition, a dancing-cooking competition, and many more. You can also buy lychees at a very reasonable price.
The rainy season lasts from June to September in Chiang Rai. August is the wettest month, with average rainfall of 250 mm (9.8 inches). The average temperature is around 27°C (81°F). Many travelers will visit Chiang Rai to spend their summer holiday during July and August.
Since the rain generally falls for only one or two hours in the afternoons in a short burst, it won’t have much influence on your travel experience. When the rain stops, the air becomes a bit cooler and cleaner. As the temperature is quite high, the rain will be like a warm shower. Aside from the rain, the weather is quite warm and muggy during this season.
Many tourists go for an indoor visit as an optional plan if it is raining outside. Chiang Rai has many temples and cultural places to visit, such as The White Temple, Baan Dam Museum (The Black Temple) and the Hill Tribe Museum. Many rural communities in Chiang Rai are well-known for their handicrafts, so it is a good idea to visit their workshops and observe their craft skills before picking up one of the souvenirs.
Check with the local tourist information office before venturing into remote, potentially flooded areas.
What to pack for Chiang Rai in the rainy season: It is recommended to bring mosquito repellant, and be careful with dengue infection. Also, don’t forget to bring your umbrella and a lightweight waterproof jacket.
You should investigate the best travel insurance for Thailand.
Pang Sida Butterfly Watching Festival (May-July): Pang Sida National Park is known for a home to many species of butterfly. During a certain season, hundreds of butterflies will gather within two kilometers of the entrance. Pang Sida Butterfly Watching Festival will be held mid-May to late July every year. Travellers can go to certain spots at about 9 a.m. and enjoy seeing these alluring insects. You can also feed them by spraying water on the ground and the butterflies will come and feed on the minerals in it.
Pomelo Festival (September): During this festival, there will be a competition of different types of pomelo, to find the best taste and shape. It also features arts and cultural performances, such as a top spinning show, swinging on the giant swing, music performances, dances, and cultural performances from seven hill tribes.
Visit the right places in Chiang Rai at the best time with correct advice from our travel experts — make an inquiry about an Asia Highlights tailor-made tour. Your quality travel experience in Thailand is guaranteed!