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Guide to Phu Chi Fa: Sea of Mist Viewpoint from Chiang Rai

Guide to Phu Chi Fa: Sea of Mist Viewpoint from Chiang Rai

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Phu Chi Fa Thailand is an incredible mountain viewpoint located in the northeast corner of Thailand. The few select travelers who have made the long trip to Phu Chi Fa will likely tell you that it’s the best sunrise viewpoint in all of Thailand!

The name translates to “mountain pointing to the sky“. Although this pointy peak is one of the highest in Northern Thailand, it’s relatively easy to access thanks to the road leading to the summit.

The viewpoint runs along the Thai and Laos border, offering expansive views over the rolling mountain hills far into the Laos countryside. For many, this is an incredible opportunity to witness the sea of mist from above as you watch the clouds light up a golden hue from the rising sun.

Let me teach you how to get there & what to expect.

Monks at the sea of mist viewpoint in northern thailand

Quick Things to Know About Phu Chi Fa

Phu Chi Fa, also written as Phu Chee Fah is arguably one of Thailand's best-kept secrets. Typically, you won't find many tourists at the viewpoint. Instead, it's mostly occupied by Thai travelers looking to see the famous sea of mist and can hence get fairly busy at sunrise. Here's what you need to know.

  • Cost: Free! There is no entry fee for the Phu Chi Fa viewpoint.
  • Distance from Chiang Rai: Approximately 90 km, roughly a 2-3 hour drive.
  • Viewpoint: Known for its breathtaking sunrise views, Phu Chi Fa offers panoramic vistas over a sea of mist, making it a great spot for photography.
  • Altitude: 1,442 m above sea level.
  • Hiking: The hike to the main viewpoint is relatively short and easy, about 760 meters from the base, taking roughly 20-30 minutes.
  • Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit is during the cool season from November to February when the weather is clear and the mist is most prominent. Aim to get to the parking lot by 5:45 am to hike for sunrise.
Young girl in traditional mountain clothing in northern thailand

Where is Phu Chi Fa?

Phu Chi Fa is located in northeastern Thailand, approximately 2-3 hours from Chiang Rai, and sits on the border of Laos in the northeastern end of the Phu Pan Nam Range.

There is a long, winding, hilly road that leads all the way to Phu Chi Fa from Chiang Rai. This entire road is sealed and a moped will get you all the way.

However, after finding out the hard way, I recommend getting one with a bit of power to get you up the hills, especially if you've got a passenger.

Driving map from chiang rai to phu chi fa near laos

How to Get to Phu Chi Fa Thailand

It's honestly hard to beat this mountain sunrise viewpoint in Thailand, and yet, not many tourists seem to make the trip.

  • The total journey is approximately 2-3 hours and covers about 90 kilometers. Read below for detailed directions.
  • For those preferring not to drive, there's a bus from Chiang Rai Bus Station to Phu Chi Fa village at 1:00 pm, with a return trip at 9:00 am the next morning​​. Additionally, you can arrange for a private tour or driver through local services or your accommodation in Chiang Rai​.
Phu chi fa sunrise panorama
Phi chi fa viewpoint at sunrise

My Experience Driving to Phu Chi Fa From Chiang Rai

We decided to do the return trip in one day, leaving at 3:00 am from Chiang Rai in order to get to the viewpoint in time for sunrise. We then decided to drive all the way back in time for complimentary breakfast at our hostel. The trip took us at least 2 hours each way, and you'll need to be pretty confident on a motorbike to drive it yourself.

From Chiang Rai, we took the highway through flat country roads, passing farms and rice fields, before turning onto the forest roads. The last hour of the drive was very steep as we ascended and descended over the mountain ranges.

If you decide to make the drive in one morning like we did, I'd suggest leaving at 3.00 am or earlier and renting at least a 110CC moped since the hills before the viewpoint are steep and winding.

Motorbike rental price in Chiang Rai is 200 -300 Baht per day.

Road Directions

The best way to get here is to use Google Maps to direct you to the "Phu Chi Fa" pin above. Funnily enough, Google actually pins the viewpoint within Laos!

Here are detailed directions for the drive:

  1. Start in Chiang Rai and head east on Highway 1020.
  2. Follow Route 1155 north through Thoeng. Stay on this road for about 60 km.
  3. Turn onto Route 4018 and follow the signs for Phu Chi Fa. This road will take you through several small villages and up steep, winding mountain roads.
  4. Continue on Route 1093, which leads directly to the Phu Chi Fa Forest Park parking area.

Tip: If you're planning to drive from Chiang Rai for sunrise, there won't be any fuel or gas stations open. Therefore, I'd suggest filling up the day before. If you use a lot of fuel getting here, then the last opportunity to fill up is at a vending-style self-use fuel pump in Khun Tan, a small town just before you turn onto the steep forest roads. Keep an eye out for it on the left side of the road.

What to Expect on the Phu Chi Fa Summit Hike

  • Hike Distance: 750 meters (0.47 miles) each way
  • Hike Duration: Approximately 30-45 minutes each way
  • Difficulty: Moderate, with a steady incline and a steep final ascent
  • Total Elevation Gain: 283 meters (928 feet)

Starting from the parking area, the Phu Chi Fa summit hike is a 750-meter trail that begins with a gentle incline before becoming steeper as you approach the summit. The path is primarily dirt, which can become slippery, especially after rainfall, so good hiking shoes are essential.

As you hike, you'll steadily ascend, with the final stretch being the steepest.

Along the way, you might encounter local hill tribe children who perform traditional songs and wearing traditional clothes. Remember that this is quite a remote region of Thailand and a little support goes a long way.

Travelers at the summit of phu chi fa viewpoint

The Sea of Mist Viewpoint

The Phu Chi Fa viewpoint is a cliff on the Doi Pha Mon sub-range and slopes outwards towards the Mekong River in Laos. If you stick around a little after sunrise, or if it's a particularly clear day, you'll be able to see deep into the valleys, mountains, and rivers of Laos.

The top of the cliff is long and flat, meaning that there is plenty of space for everybody to spread out and find a spot to watch the sunrise. However, for some reason, people still crowd around the main area. Instead, we walked a little bit to the left and found a private spot with the same view.

Although the top of the mountain sits at an altitude of 1,442 meters, it doesn't require much of a hike to reach the top. In true Thai fashion, there is a road that has been built nearly all the way to the summit, meaning that you'll gain most of the altitude by car or motorbike.

Phu chi fa sea of mist viewpoint

Can You Stay Near Phu Chi Fa?

If you've got a little more time, then it's also possible to stay near Phu Chi Fa.

Due to the distance, this would be a more reasonable trip than doing it before the free breakfast in Chiang Rai like us. There are a few resorts, hotels and homestays right near the mountain, most of which also offer trips to the viewpoint for sunrise.

  • Homestay: Chill Chill Camp Phu Chi Fa ) is one of the best options that you'll find online. This place has small, private bungalow-style offerings for under $20 a night.
  • Hotel: Maan Fa Hill Phu Chi Fa is a popular bungalow resort with great reviews and free breakfast. The staff will also drive you up to the car park for sunrise.
  • Resort: Ban Chomdoi Resort Pha Tang offers comfortable accommodations with stunning views of the mountains. They provide guided tours to the viewpoint and have an on-site restaurant.
Travelers standing at a viewpoint in northern thailand

More Photos from My Trip to Phu Chi Fa Thailand

In for a serious sunrise mission? Hopefully, these photos will convince you to make the trip to Thailand's best sunrise spot from Chiang Rai! If you have any questions or updates, leave a comment or send me an email!

Below are some more Thailand travel guides with plenty more photos from my visit to Phu Chi Fa below.

Hidden beach, railay beach

Plan Your Thailand Accommodation

Still in the planning stages of your trip? Perhaps you're booking on the fly. The below accommodation guides will help you plan where to stay in Thailand.

Phu chi fa viewpoint sunflower sunrise
Traveler standing on a cliff at phu chi fa viewpoint in thailand
Sea of mist sunrise view, thailand
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

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