So you’ve discovered the beauty of the Phu Chi Fa (or “Phu Chi Fah” or “Phu Chee Fah”). Considered Thailand’s best sunrise spot, Phu Chi Fa is a true hidden gem located in the northern mountains of Thailand, right on the Laos border.
A paradise for locals and a secret for tourists, the Phu Chi Fa mountain area is simply enchanting. To make the journey easier for you, I’m going to lay out every detail about Phu Chi Fa: how to this beautiful place, where to stay, and what to see to make your journey as easy as possible.
When To Visit Phu Chi Fa
The best part about this north of Thailand destination is that you can enjoy it all day long. However, there are two specific times of the day that are more magnificent than others:
The most beautiful time to visit Phu Chi Fa is for the rising sun. You’ll truly feel like you’re on top of the world!
Every picture you see of this mountain is most definitely at dawn during a beautiful sunrise; it’s the most popular time of the day for this area and for good reason. The sun will rise up out of a sea of mist, it’s a truly breathtaking sight.
What most people don’t realize though is that Phu Chi Fa is a spectacle at sunset, too.
After we settled into our bungalow, our driver took us up to the top of the mountain to watch the sunset. There were fewer people at night and the sky turned the most brilliant shade of gold.
If you get the chance, I recommend visiting Phu Chi Fa for both sunrise and sunset. You’ll have incredible views of the surrounding mountain range at either dawn or dusk.
How To Get To Phu Chi Fa
Before venturing to Phu Chi Fa, I did hours and hours of research on Google Maps and travel agency websites to figure out the best way to get there.
Trying to find the easiest way to get to this coveted place was difficult; information was very limited. After a successful visit, I learned that there are a number of ways to reach this part of northern Thailand.
You can reach Chiang Rai city from Bangkok or Chiang Mai by bus, train, or airplane. The best option for us was to fly into Chian Rai airport, which was very affordable and it took a fraction of the time compared to the bus or train.
Psst! If you’re looking for the cheapest flight options, check out my recent blog post to find the best ticket price: 7 Skyscanner Tricks for Booking the Cheapest Flights.
We use these simple tricks to save hundreds on plane tickets.
Chiang Rai To Phu Chi Fa
Once you make it to Chiang Rai, you’ll need to figure out how to make it the final two hours to Phu Chi Fa. Here are your options:
1. Rent A Motorbike
The easiest way to get anywhere in Thailand is to have your own transport and rent a motorbike.
Motorbike rentals are easy to find, especially in a city like Chiang Rai. Renting for a day or two will be very affordable; rates typically don’t exceed $6 USD per day. Be sure to bring cash and your passport!
The ride up to Phu Chi Fa is approximately two hours from Chiang Rai. Although this doesn’t seem far away, the main roads are very windy.
Take caution around turns and steep grades; the rules of the road in Thailand are much different than what westerners are used to.
Pro-Tip: Be sure to get a helmet with your motorbike rental! Your brain will thank me later!
2. Hire A Private Taxi
Hiring a private taxi seems to be a popular choice among travelers. Since this drive is about two hours from Chiang Rai, you’ll need your driver to pick you up no later than 3:30am in order to make it for a spectacular sunrise.
Although this is a convenient option for many tourists, it isn’t ideal for budget travelers. Taxi drivers ask for 2,500-3,000 baht ($80-100 USD) to make this drive.
You can find a private taxi up to Phu Chi Fa through your accommodation hosts or through the Grab app. If you haven’t yet used the Grab app in Thailand, I highly recommend downloading it. It’s the easiest way to find regulated taxis.
3. Take The Bus
On a budget? No problem, use public transport. The cheapest way to get to Phu Chi Fa is by bus.
The first thing you’ll want to do is take a bus from Chiang Rai bus station to Doi Luang; a 40-minute ride. From there, you’ll hire a taxi to drive the rest of the way (about 1 hour and 15 minutes).
It’s my understanding that drivers will charge less for a trip up to Phu Chi Fa if you leave from Doi Luang, however, since I have never used this option, I can’t say whether this is true or not.
Where To Stay In Phu Chi Fa
Finding accommodation in the small town of Phu Chi Fa was the most difficult part of planning our trip. There just didn’t seem to be any place to stay in the area, especially online.
Luckily, we learned a lot about accommodation options during our journey and we wanted to be thorough so that finding a place to stay is easier for others:
Here is some information about where to stay during your trip to Phu Chi Fa:
Many tourists choose to stay at the campground the night before and hike up to the viewpoint for sunrise first thing the next morning.
The campground is very close to Phu Chi Fa in the national forest park, therefore you can walk from the campground to the perfect sunrise location. Tents are available for rent and will cost approximately 200 baht.
When we camped at a national park in Thailand, the campground provided a tent, sleeping bag, and a sleeping mat. I would assume this is the case for the camping area at Phu Chi Fa as well.
Prior to visiting Phu Chi Fa, we had no idea where we were going to stay. Instead, we just figured it out along the way.
Luckily, as we arrived in the small village near Phu Chi Fa, we found a nice guest house that offered bungalows for $6 USD per night.
Finding accommodation after you’ve arrived in Phu Chi Fa is an excellent option. We noticed several vacant guesthouses and bungalows during our trip. The fact that they’re budget-friendly is amazing, too!
3. Phu Chi Fa Resorts & Hotels
If you like to have accommodation planned out in advance, I suggest booking a room with U Krist Farm Hill.
This resort is within 5 miles of Phu Chi Fa, making a morning ride up the mountain fairly easily.
A night at this resort will cost approximately $60 USD. So, if you enjoy classier accommodations, you’ll be sure to have the best time here.
4. Stay In Chiang Rai
The last accommodation option for Phu Chi Fa is to stay in Chiang Rai the night before. The town of Chaing Rai is a couple of hours away.
This will require you to hire a taxi driver to bring you up to the mountain during the early hours of the next day. Some people choose this option, however, it isn’t as budget-friendly.
For more details on hiring a taxi driver, check out the transportation section of this guide.
How To Get To The Top of Phu Chi Fa For Sunrise
After settling into our bungalow, we began the trek up to the mountain top for sunset.
The walk from the village to the trailhead is about a half-mile but it is a very steep trek. If walking to the peak doesn’t interest you, ask your guesthouse host about hiring a driver to take you.
The route to the trailhead is a wide dirt road, so it’s difficult to get lost. If you don’t think you’re going the right way, you probably are. You can always ask a friendly local for directions, too!
If you are staying at the campgrounds, the walk to the trailhead parking lot is very easy; only a 5-10 minute walk.
Once you reach the trailhead, the path to the top is very distinct. The trek will be about 800m through Phu Chi Fa forest park and the trail is in good condition. So, although the climb is a little bit steep, it’s attainable by people of all fitness levels.
The View At The Top of Phu Chi Fa
The best view point for sunset is at the very top of the peak. The highest point sits at 1,442 meters (4,731 feet) above sea level. Luckily, there are far fewer people during sunset, so finding a good spot will be easy.
The best location for sunrise is to the right of the peak, about 100 meters down from the tallest part of the mountain. It will be easy to find because the crowds will flock to that great spot.
For the best viewing experience, get to the viewpoint early. This will allow you to choose the best location to see the sunrise.
View of The Mekong River And Laos
As you watch the sun dip below the horizon or rise above the valley, you’ll have the most gorgeous view of the Mekong River that snakes through the small villages below.
The view from the top of Phu Chi Fa gives you the best vantage point to see the border of Laos, located on the opposite side of the Mighty Mekong.
If you’re looking to continue your journey around Southeast Asia, this is a great place to cross the border into the next country.
What To Pack For Phu Chi Fa
Since this is such a unique location in Thailand, you’ll need the proper gear. Here are three important things you’ll need to pack:
1. Warm Clothes
After living in Thailand for several months, I never thought I would need warm clothes. The heat in Thailand is almost too great to handle, so I thought cold temperatures where impossible in this country.
At the top of the mountain in those early morning hours before sunrise, you’ll NEED warm clothes. The temperatures in the north plummet at night. Waiting for the sun to rise while wearing shorts and a t-shirt would be miserable. Check the weather forecast and pack the warm stuff!
2. Toilet Paper
Another item you should bring to Phu Chi Fa (and anywhere in Thailand for that matter) is toilet paper.
Living in Bangkok made me forget that toilet paper is a hot commodity everywhere else in Thailand. Bring a roll of toilet paper or suffer the consequences.
And finally, I suggest that you pack snacks for your trip. Convenient stores in this area close around 6pm; if you can, bring a few sandwiches and treats just in case!
Additional Tips For Visiting Phu Chi Fa
Here are a few more things you should know as you plan your trip to Northern Thailand:
1. Wear Proper Shoes
As you ascend the mountain, the loose gravel can be difficult to walk on. This 800m walk is unmaintained.
Be sure to pack proper athletic so you can walk without issue and reach the top in time for sunrise.
2. Get There Early
I cannot stress enough how important it is to arrive here early.
This is no longer a secret destination for travelers. Plenty of travelers come here each day, so you’ll want to get the best viewing spot.
3. Enjoy The Drive
One of my favorite parts of the entire journey was getting there.
If you are driving yourself to Phu Chi Fa, be sure to stop for beautiful photo opportunities.
If you’re hiring a taxi driver, be sure to settle on a deal or offer a small commission, so that you can stop along the way for pictures.
4. Know Before You Go
One of the more unfortunate parts of Phu Chi Fa is that there is a lot of child labor present.
As you begin to hike to the top of the mountain, you’ll likely see several young children dressed in traditional hill tribe outfits as they sing and dance for the tourists.
It’s encouraged not to give them money because it continues the exploitation of these young children.
Although these kids are adorable, taking pictures and giving them tips will not help them.
5. Visit Anytime
A lot of people believe that Phu Chi Fa is only magical at sunrise, but the truth is that this mountain peak is incredible anytime.
Bypass the crowds of people and enjoy this special location during the day.
The Wrap-Up: Exploring Phu Chi Fa
I hope this post helps you reach Phu Chi Fa, one of Thailand’s most beautiful hidden gems offering some of the best views in the country. It’s one of the best trips I’ve ever been on!
Catch the golden hour as the sun sinks below the surrounding hills at night and watch the sun gently rise above the layered clouds and mountain peaks in the morning.
If you’re looking for the experience of a lifetime, surpass the crowds in southern Thailand and enjoy the charm of its northern counterpart. Phu Chi Fa is truly an area of outstanding natural beauty.
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