Doi Suthep, the complete guide
Doi Suthep plays a huge part in life in Chiang Mai. We truly believe that if you haven't been there, then you haven't experienced Chiang Mai. The mountain is a sight to behold as it overlooks the city from the northwest, thereby bringing a fascinating view from its summit. Boasting temples, waterfalls, jungle, viewpoints, coffee plantations, nature trails, a royal palace, and Hmong Tribal Villages only a 15-minute drive from Chiang Mai’s Old City. Read on to find out everything you need to know about this fantastic national park.
The highest peak of the park is Doi Pui, and it is as high as 1,685 meters, which is 5.528 feet. These numbers bring it up to be the eighth highest mountain in all of Thailand. It would interest you to know that these heights have other surprises such as easily accessible waterfalls which are just by the northern reach of the park and a guaranteed enjoyable sight.
The waterfalls of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui are very popular, they include the Huay Kaew falls, The Mae Sa falls and the Monthathan fall. They are all easily accessible from the main road and getting there wouldn't be of any difficulty. The forest is a big and conducive home to a lot of wildlife of many varieties. From big to small, birds to mammals and the very rare but sort after crocodile salamander which are found in just four parts of all of Thailand.
The temperature is cooler year-round due to its high elevation, making it a comfortable place to come and relax at any time of the year without the constant worry of heat. In the wintertime it can be quite cold, so make sure to bring a warm sweater.
One of the highlights and most popular times to visit Doi Pui is during the Sakura blossom period at the end of January. Thai people love to visit to take pictures pretending that they are in Japan and to experience the colder temperatures.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The Doi Suthep mountain has a lot of natural and stunning beauty, no denying that, but one of the major reasons that it has lots of visitors is because of its temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This venerable temple which is considered one of the holiest Buddhist sights to visit, thus making it a great and popular pilgrimage destination and it gets, even more, visits during the Buddhist holidays of both Visakha Bucha and Makha Bucha.
This temple dates as far back as the 14th century and is based on a Thai myth which is full of both mystery and magic. Therefore, people who are there for pilgrimage or are moved by the spirituality of the temple could decide on taking a meditation course on the temple grounds, which has an international Buddhism center.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is a very sacred place among the Thai people and it is marked by seven-headed serpent statues which go up to the 306 stairs leading to the entrance of the complex. Once you get to the terrace of this temple, you are sure to love the view from the top due to its spellbinding effect.
This inspiring temple is topped with a beautiful monument, which is known as a Chedi. This Chedi is 79 feet tall and completely gold plated from the top to the bottom. These golden exteriors are great for reflecting the sun and giving it a magnificent view on a clear day and at night the bright golden color is visible from the entire city below.
The Phuping Palace
Another interesting part of Doi Suthep is the Phuping palace, which is the vacation home of the royal family. It is also a place for guests who are foreign dignitaries as well when the royal family isn't on vacation. It was built as far back as 1961 and the very first guests in the palace where the king and queen of Denmark. Also known as the Royal Summer Palace, it is a beautiful place to see, and visitors can also visit its surrounding gardens. Please dress appropriately if you want to visit the temples and the royal palace.
The Pilgrims Path or Monks Trail
A great way of visiting Doi Suthep is on foot. There is a path leading all the way up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This path is still used by monks on pilgrimage to the temple. It’s a steep climb for about 5 kilometers with a beautiful stop halfway at the Wat Pha Lat or hidden temple. There’s a lady selling refreshments here, but we do recommend bringing enough water. You can use the app Maps.me to navigate and find the trail, this is an offline map that works very well in Thailand. On the way back from Doi Suthep to the city you can catch one of the Songthaews or red pick up trucks for 50 Baht per person.
Restaurants, food stalls and accommodation in Doi Suthep
When it comes to eating in Doi Suthep, you are sure to be pleased with many shops as well as the small restaurants which are all around the park and especially near the temple. In the Hmong Village you can buy souvenirs and hand made clothing. The traditional scarves and clothes are a great souvenir for your friends and family back home. Don’t forget to have a cup of coffee at the coffee plantation near the Hmong village of Baan Khun Chang Khian. Sitting on the wooden balcony with a view of the coffee plantation below is an absolute treat. If you wish to spend the night, then you can do that at the campsite located nearby the Hmong Village or at the basic wooden bungalows near the coffee plantation. Tents and equipment are available for rent at the campsite and there are sanitary facilities.
Waterfalls in Doi Suthep National Park
If you're looking for the best and most enjoyable waterfalls, then Doi Suthep is the place to be. There are lots of foaming waters, beautiful cliffs and several pools to go for a refreshing swim. The easiest one to access of them all is the Huay Kaew waterfall, at the bottom of the mountain, just west of the Chiang Mai Zoo.
When you go up towards the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, there is another waterfall known as the Monthathan waterfall. The fascinating thing about this waterfall is that it has a beautiful pool to swim and cool down in during the hot humid days in Chiang Mai.
Our favorite waterfall in Doi Suthep National Park is the Mae Sa Waterfall. To access this waterfall, you must drive North of the city in the direction of Maerim. Turn left at the Tiger Kingdom and keep driving until you see the sign. The Mae Sa waterfall flows down over quite a lot of tiers, thereby making it a very popular picnic and hiking spot. Entrance fee is 150 Baht per person.
The rainy season or beginning of cold season (June – December) is the best time to visit the waterfalls. In dry and hot season (January – May) some of the waterfalls will be dried up completely.
How to get to Doi Suthep
Songthaews or red pick up trucks are leaving from the north Chang Phuak Gate in front of the 7-Eleven. The price is 50 Baht per person, and they leave as soon as they have 10 persons. We recommend going around 10 AM to have to best chance for a quick departure.
It’s also a very popular trip to do by motorbike. The roads are in good condition and it’s easy to navigate. Just make sure that you have an international driving license, have experience with driving motorbikes, wear a helmet and always drive with caution. Motorbikes are available for rent all over the city and start at 150 Baht per day.
Here at PM tours, we offer two tour programs to Doi Suthep. This includes Doi Suthep by Night and Doi Suthep & Sticky Waterfalls.
Doi Suthep By Night
This tour visits the mountain and the 700-year-old Wat Umong. Wat Umong is located just near the base of Doi Suthep mountain and is a great temple complex which is known for its caves which run under the temple. These caves are built and used by the monks to meditate.
We will visit the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the evening time. The golden Chedi and views over the city are fantastic at night and as an extra bonus, there are almost no tourists around this time.
Doi Suthep and Sticky Waterfalls
This tour visits Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the daytime and we also going to do a short hike to discover a hidden temple, known as Wat Pha Lad. It is a very peaceful temple hidden in the forest and right next to a waterfall. After this we will drive to the orchid and butterfly farm which has over hundreds of different species which all come with their own colorful beauty. We will enjoy a Thai lunch here and then move on to the Sticky Waterfalls. Enjoy climbing these rare waterfalls without slipping of the rocks. Due to some rare minerals in the water the rocks have a sticky grip, and this makes it very easy to climb up to the waterfall.