Surrounded by mountains and valleys, Phayao sits in a peaceful, though modestly developed, area. The town was the centre of an independent city state until it was folded into the Lannathai kingdom in the mid-14th century.
The modern town covers most of the eastern shore of Phayao Lake.
Buses run regularly from Bangkok's northern bus terminal (Mo Chit). The bus from Chiang Rai costs 60 baht (July 2017) and takes 2 hrs. The Greenbus to Chiang Mai costs 111 baht and takes 3 hrs. The nearest railway stations are in Lampang and Chiang Mai.
- Phu Langka Forest Park, Pong Rd., Pha Chang Noi, Pong. Daily, 06:00-18:00. Phu Langka Forest Park is the only viewpoint spot to admire the sea of fog in Phayao Province. It is at Pha Chang, Pong, at an elevation of 1,700 m, covering an area of 7,800 hectares. The Yao hilltribe call the summit of the mountain "Fin Cha Bo", meaning an "enshrining venue of angels". It has been told that on full moon days, there will be a white aura at the summit. Most of the area is hill evergreen forest with plenty of large trees, as well as, wild flowers and rare plants. It is a venue for the study of the original ecological system of the hill evergreen forest and the source of rivers along the nature study route where there are more than 100 species of fauna and a splendid sea of fog.
- Wat Si Khom Kham (วัดศรีโคมคำ). A highlight of the temple is the largest Chiang Saen-era statue in Thailand. Local people call it Wat Phrachao Ton Luang (วัดพระเจ้าตนหลวง). The statue is not only a Phayao Province signature sight, but also typifies the Lanna Thai Kingdom style. There is a ceremony to pay respect to Phrachao Ton Luang during Visakha Puja Day of every year, which is called "the ceremony to pay respect to Phrachao Ong Luang in the 8th Northern Lunar Month". Another thing that makes the place interesting is the sculpture garden which contains a collection of statues representing heaven and hell.
- Pho Khun Ngam Muang Memorial. It is inside a public park. It commemorates a former king of Phayao, or Pho Khun Ngam Muang Memorial Pho Kam Yao, who was in power some 700 years ago. During his reign, the state flourished and expanded its territory. It was often said the wherever the King travelled, the weather obeyed his desires.
- Phayao Cultural Exhibition Hall (Walk north along the lake for about 10 minutes and it will be on the left side). It displays the fishing techniques along with the fish and lake information. There are also collections of Buddha images and inscriptions from the 13th century on. The hall consists of two floors, most of the displays have an English translation.
- Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong Woraviharn (Formerly Wat Phra That Sri Chom Thong). It is on a mud hill called Doi Chom Thong. The relics, right part of the head of the Buddha, have the size of corn kernels. Wat Phra That Sri Chom Thong is believed to be the temple of the year of rat, by the Lanna people. The base is white smooth colour (similar to the colour of the luff and dried bullet wood). One of the important spots is inside part of the temple, there are paintings showing the goddess and legend of Phra That Si Chom Thong on the wall. The entrance of the temple was filled with sacred items as the tradition of Lanna, so females are not allowed to go in. The second important spot is Tripitaka Hall, which is located behind the Buddhist temple. It is the two-floor building for keeping the Tripitaka. The third spot is Phra That Noi, which was assumed to have an age of 300 years. There are lots of sacred items inside, but there are no Buddha’s relics. The last important spot is Phra That Si Chom Thong. It is covered with gold, has a square base, with the width of 4 meters and length of 8 metres. This temple contains the Chom Thong Insight meditation centre. The meditation classes are open to both Thai people and foreigners, and are conducted in Thai and English.
- Hwy 1202 Garden Cafe & Guest House, Hwy 1202 km9.5 (Travelling N at intersection of Pra Tu Chai at Hwy 1 and Hwy 1202 turn right (to Pa Daet), go approximately 9.5km to location on right), ☏ . Hours variable.
- Wood Oven Pizza (A block from the waterfront). Authentic American-style pizza with homemade sausages and real fountain drinks. All profits are reinvested in local projects. Pizzas are quite large and are available by the slice. 200+ baht.
A long stretch of cheap (roughly 50 baht) night eateries starts about 200m from the bus station. Buy (and open) beer at the 7-Eleven across the road and take it to your stall of choice.
- Norbulingka Coffee, 637/2 Phahonyotin Rd, ☏ . 07:00-19:00. Tibetan-style Thai coffee shop with Theravadan bookshelves, Nepalese murals, and prayer flags fluttering. 50 baht.
- Gateway Hotel, 7/50 Pratugakong Rd (Turn left from the bus station, it is about 200m on the left), ☏ . Modern, air-con, 10 storey hotel, with great views of the lake from the upper floors. Thai or Western buffet breakfast included. Hot showers. Staff are friendly and some English is spoken. 800 baht.
- 1 Tharn Thong Hotel, 55-59 Donsaman Rd, ☏ . Unostentatious concrete building in the city centre, friendly staff, simple and clean rooms with fan or air-con and TV, Wi-Fi, free drop-off at the bus station, bike hire. Not quite as nice as staying at the lake front, but really OK. No English language sign. Good for the price. Up to 300 baht for double room with air-con, cheaper rooms with fan.