Doi Suthep Travel Guide
The mountains that dominate the western horizon of the Chiang Mai valley are hard to miss and contain several must-see highlights of any trip to the northern city of Chiang Mai.
Stretching over 261 square kilometers, Doi Suthep is most famous for the iconic Buddhist temple that is perched on the mountainside. It is easily visible from Chiang Mai on a clear day and is the most popular attraction outside of the city.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep Temple stands on the spot where a hermit monk retreated 1,000 years ago to seek enlightenment. Built in 1384 in traditional Lanna style, the temple is one of Thailand’s most revered Buddhist sites. Pilgrims regularly come to Chiang Mai just to visit the temple, which contains a relic of the Buddha.
The beauty and cool climate of Doi Suthep did not escape the notice of Thailand’s king either. He built his winter palace above the temple in 1961 and it remains a regular escape for the royal family when Bangkok gets too hot. Visitors can take a glimpse of Bhubing Palace’s gardens when the royals aren’t there.
Continuing up Doi Suthep’s paved road past the temple and palace, visitors will reach a touristy Hmong village that sells handicrafts and trinkets. After that, the national park’s road turns to dirt and a handful of hill tribe villages await intrepid trekkers.
For those who enjoy hiking, the dirt road at the very top of Doi Suthep offers some of the best walking in Chiang Mai. Off-road enthusiasts will find the same dirt tracks that crisscross the hills ideal for mountain biking or motorcrossing, leading to places very few tourists ever see. Motorcross bikes and four-wheel drive trucks can be rented in Chiang Mai.
There are also some decent waterfalls within the park such as the three-tiered Montha Than and Huai Kaeo, both of which are accessed off the main road up the mountain and require an entry fee.
Getting There & Away
From the city of Chiang Mai (which is home to the nearest international airport), visitors can rent their own scooter or car to reach the park’s attractions. The city’s myriad tour companies also arrange many kinds of daytrips into the park, or you can just go to the western end of Huay Kaew Road where red truck taxis wait to take visitors up the mountain.