How to Explore Phu Chi Fa For Sunrise 2023
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.
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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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Hi, Eshamz here from Malaysia. Thanks for the info and detail about Phu Chi Fa. Again thanks for the head up about the cool temp. My wife and I with a couple of friends will go there next month and we still searching for any information about Phu Chi Fa.
Our trip will begin by flight from Malaysia to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Loei by bus… we will be hiking Phu Kra Dueng Mountain and will camp on the peak for 2 nights before heading to Chiang Mai by bus and stay for one night. After that we will be heading to Chiang Rai by bus for the awesome Phu Chi Fa. From Ching Rai we will heading back to Bangkok by bus and stay for one night in Bangkok before take a flight next morning to Malaysia. 😀
That is absolutely awesome!! If you have any questions at all, please let me know! best of luck and enjoy!
My wife and I succeed on our Phu Kradueng and Doi Inthanon hiking trip. Camping on the Phu Kradueng peak for 2 days. But sadly we could not get to Phu Chi Fa. We managed arrive at Chiang Rai but the bus terminal is closed for renovation and there is only a temporary bus terminal next to the old one. There is no more van services that go to Phu Chi Fa directly. We ask the local people there and they said “no van to Phu Chi Fa anymore” and only the local bus. The local bus will take us 1 more day to reach Phu Chi Fa. Due to the limited time, we just settle down in Chiang Rai town for 1 night before heading back to Bangkok. 🙁
We will go back to Phu Chi Fa someday. Hopefully… 😀
Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that! Yes, one day you must make it up to Phu Chi Fa. I would suggest renting a motorbike and riding up there from Chiang Rai next time 🙂
Hi Laura, after 2 years my wife and I finally set foot on the peak of Phu Chi Fa. The Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1 is finally finished it renovation and easier to find the minivan ticket counter to Phu Chi Fa but when we got there, the ticket was sold out. We rent a bike and rode it to Phu Chi Fa and it was the best choice and wonderfull journey. I had wrote about it in my blog but its in Malaysian Language. You can browse the photo..hihihihi..
Super awesome! Happy for you guys. A bike ride up to Phu Chi Fa would be incredible. Glad you got to experience that 🙂
I am so happy I’ve found your site. It is so detailed. I was a bit troubled on how to get there, and thank goodness you gave me the pointers.
So, any advice – should I be adventurous and stay at the campground – that means colder, right, or bungalow? I am worried about finding a place to crash… there should be enough accommodation, right?
What about morning breakfast or water refill? How did you solve that?
I am so excited now about this trip – thanks to your blog.
P/S: Bus – USD3, from Bangkok to Chiang Rai??
Hello! Thanks for the feedback! Glad you are enjoying my blog and so happy to hear you will be going to Phu Chi Fah!
As far as where you should stay, it completely depends on what kind of equipment you will bring. If you don’t bring your own extra warm sleeping bags, I would probably opt to staying in a bungalow. There will be plenty- you can ask your driver on the way up if he has any suggestions on specific bungalows.
At the bungalows, about 99% sure they won’t serve breakfast. You will have to figure that out on your own. I would suggest packing some stuff while you’re in chiang rai or finding a small convenient store (it won’t be a store, it’ll be a small shack with a few snacks). What we did was eat a big dinner (which we ordered from the lady at our bungalow) and didn’t eat again until we reached chiang rai the next morning. The hike isn’t vigorous to the point where you won’t survive without food or water. It’s about a ten minute walk. But at the trailhead there will be people selling coffee, hot chocolate, and some noodles. That’s always an option too!
Best of luck!!
We are an old aging couple close to 70 years old. Physically fitness about average.
Do you think we can survive the climb or is the trip too tough for us.
Money is not an issue and we appreciate a bit of comfort if available
Thanks for your input.
You will absolutely be able to make the climb. It can be done by anyone of any age or fitness level. You will get a ride to the trailhead where the hike will start. From there you will be able to see the top of Phu Chi Fa; it’s only a couple hundred meters ahead. Be sure to pack the warmest clothes as it is FREEZING in the early mornings hours!
Best of luck! If you have anymore questions don’t hesitate to ask!
hai laura, it’s a nice place
Thank you for this post, super helpful. Is there room for a carryon size suitcase? I’m trying to decide if I have to leave my luggage in Chiang Rai or whether I could just bring it along and save the cost of booking 2 different rooms. Thank you!
You could bring your suitcase, just beware that many places don’t have a lot of security measures or supervision. I would bring the carryon at your own risk, but honestly I think you will be just fine.
I just wanted to say thank you for such great information! This was the best blog post I’ve found about the mountain by far. My friend and I are in Chiang Rai completely winging it, and your information was extremely helpful. Thank you so much!
Of course! I was a bit lost trying to find information about Phu Chi Fa before I went as well so I figured why not simplify it for others looking to do the same thing! Enjoy 🙂
This place looks great, seriously considering doing it. What time of year were you there? I was in Chaing Mai and Pai in March a few years ago and it was really hazy — do you know if it’s the same there?
I was at Phu Chi Fa at the end of February. As far as the weather, it is hazy in the mornings, which is why it is so awesome to visit! It clears up an hour or two after sunrise. Just like the weather in Pai and Chiang Mai, it will be hot so be prepared for that! Enjoy!
Hi Laura! I like your information here. Thanks for sharing. I just want to ask if you have an idea about the camping area at the foot of the mountain. Is there toilet or water area? I am going there on the 15 of April. I don’t have problem about camping coz i have my tent and cooking utensil for camping but I want to know the area so that I can give options to my companions who maybe are not adaptable to camp. Is there any store where we can buy dinner or breakfast?
So sorry for the late response. It looks like you already visited Phu Chi Fa? If not, here is some insight:
I didn’t actually camp at the campgrounds in Phu Chi Fa, but I did camp at another campground in Thailand. If it’s anything like that campground, there will be a restroom and running water, however, I would NOT drink the water. Strictly for washing hands, etc. The restaurants near Phi Chi Fa are pretty non existent so definitely pack food from your previous stop (Chiang Rai). Best of luck!
Hey, I am in Chiang Rain for about 2 or 3 days and really want to visit this beautiful place!
I just wondered could i get there and back in a day? Is it worth it?Also how much is the bus from Chiang Rai?
Thank you for your help!!!
So sorry for the late response; i hope this message gets to you in time! Phu Chi Fa is not a day trip. The vans only leave from Chiang Rai twice a day and the ride there is quite long. Going for only a day trip would not be worth your time. Also, the best part of Phu Chi Fa is sunrise or sunset. During the day, I do not suspect that Phu Chi Fa would be very special. The sun rising or setting over the mountains is what travelers are looking for. The ambiance is absolutely breathtaking. I would definitely not recommend this for a day trip, however you could spend just one night here- that is what my friends and I did!
Hi, this is such a great guide! I stumbled across Pu Chi Fa and now really want to visit it. I’m sure to stay in Chiang Mai for 3 nights and wanted to know what the best way of seeing the best of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pu Chi Fa would be and if there are any tours etc from Chiang Mai that incorporate Pu Chi Fa and Chiang Rai. Thanks!
Thanks for your message! So from what you said, I’m under the impression that you will only be spending 3 days total in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Phu Chi Fa? Or do you have extra time to spare?
If you only have three days, I would recommend to just stay in Chiang Mai for those three days considering there is so much to see in that beautiful city and you won’t be disappointed. If you have a couple more days to spare, I would suggest hopping on a plan (NokAir or AirAsia are your best bet for CHEAP flights) and visiting Chiang Rai and Phu Chi Fa. I would spend a night in Chiang Rai and take the van up to Phu Chi Fa the next morning. Spend the night in Phu Chi Fa and drive back to Chiang Rai the next morning. From there you can take a van or a flight back to Chiang Mai!
Unfortunately I do not know of any tours that take you through all three places. To do all of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Phu Chi Fa, I would recommend a minimum of 7 days. That way you will give yourself time to actually see the sights of each place instead of being constantly on the move which is exhausting. All in all, if you have three days you will want to choose between visiting Chiang Mai or visiting Chiang Rai and Phu Chi Fa.
Best of luck Amar! Let me know what you decide 🙂
Thank you for your post, may i know the bus to Phu Chee Fah is at CR bus station 1 or 2?
Thank you for your post, may i know the bus to Phu Chee Fah is at CR bus station 1 or 2?
Thanks for your reply in advance!
Hi! I mean bus station #1!
thanks for this super helpful post! We went up Phu Chi Fa, and had checked your website before.
We created a video with the sunset, and included a link to your blog post here as well, as it is really helpful!
Here you can find the the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZwOQAKXYK0
Maybe you want to include it as well in your article? 🙂
All the best and thanks again,
Thanks Matt! Appreciate it 🙂 I’ll be back to blogging here soon and will definitely add the video! All the best!
Thanks for very informative post.my friend and i will be going to phu chi fa this coming mid october i just want to ask if tent rental is still available and how much?if not.what place can you suggest?. Thank you very much.
There will be camping available as far as I know. You can rent tents in the village for about 200 baht. You can also rent equipment (sleeping pads, etc). If that doesn’t spark your interest, there are lots of other places you can stay. They won’t have websites and they typically won’t have phone numbers to call but if you get on a bus to phu chi fa and stop in the town, you will easily find a place to stay by asking around. That is what we did and it worked perfectly.
Thanks for your question, Bella!
Thank you very much for the reply
Hi… Thanx for the info… I wish to go there by motor. From ur blog. Its around 3hours by bus. So maybe it takes 4hours by motor? How abt the road. Is it winding road like thousand corner from pai to mae hong son.
Other choice is, hire private van from chiang rai to phu chi fa… I cant take the bus bcoz no time. I need to return back to chiangmai b4 1 noon by bus. I need to catch train from chiang mai to bangkok. I will be there this dec. Tq again.
You will definitely be able to reach Phu Chi Fa by motorbike. Although the roads have some wind to them, they are NOTHING like the road to Pai. If you had to choose between renting a motorbike and renting a private van, I would suggest motorbike simply because it would give you the freedom to arrive and leave when you please. Always remember to wear a helmet and be very careful driving! Enjoy!
one more thing, i will be there on friday and get back on saturday.
from ur experince, in the area, how many guest available.
i plan to gamble but i am looking for a cheap GH, around 500 bhat to max 1000 bhat per nite for 2 pax. Is it safe to gamble on weekends…
in the peak is there any toilet? if no choice i can camping but i need to use toilet for sure.
There should still be guesthouses available on the weekend. That’s when we went and it was during peak season in February. At our guesthouse there was a toilet (Thai style) and we each paid around 250 baht per person! 🙂 Hope this helps!
Hi Laura, from what you remember, are there any trees there that are hammock worthy? Me and my partner are thinking of hammocking around that area for a night.
From what I remember, I would have to say no. I remember a lot of open space, but not recalling many trees. Don’t quote me on that but that’s just what I’m remembering. Best of luck!
I’m sure you must’ve had an amazing time up there.
Just an insight on our trip in early Feb next year.
We are planning to do 4 nights in total in Chiang Mai & Rai, so that would be 2 each in both these places.
Also since the shortage of time, I’m sure we wont be doing the 1:00 bus from Chiang Rai to Phu Chi Fa as that would waste a whole day.
These are some ways that i thought i could do, definetly we would have our hotel back in Chiang Rai only and are not looking for any place during the night as we wanted to camp, stargaze by renting a tent etc. Are the tents up in the peak or in the base before the short trek?
1) Catch a bus to Thoeng from Chiang Rai and then hire a motorbike to Phu Chi Fa. However i wanted to know if its safe to drive using a scooty as I’m not an experienced driver with automatic motorbikes and surely scooty would do. This is going to be a night driver around 11 pm.
2) Hire a car with a driver and leave Chiang Rai by midnight 1′ AM and get back early morning after sunrise. However this would cost us a lot of money.
What do you think we should do?
*Please describe the night view with the stars, heard they are amazing.
Thanks for your message. To answer your questions, I want to apologize in advance because I might not be much help. I haven’t been back to Phu Chi Fa in 4 years and somethings might have changed.
About the camping gear.. I believe it’s at the top of the mountain if I remember correctly. However, even if it is at the “base” like you asked, the base is only a 10 minute walk down.. or at least where we stayed. So I wouldn’t worry much about that.
Second, I really wouldn’t recommend driving a motorbike in Thailand if you haven’t before. It is very dangerous, especially at night. So if it were me, I’d go for your second option. If you’re looking to hire a driver, you might consider looking into the Grab app. They have discounts for hiring drivers that might help you cut costs! The app is just called Grab and it’s just like Uber but for SE Asia.
The night view is very unspoiled. So incredibly beautiful. It’s like you can just reach up and grab the stars. It gets very chilly up there, especially at night and at sunrise so don’t forget to pack warm clothes.
Have so much fun!