Doi Suthep National Park, An Easy Chiang Mai Day Trip

Wat Doi Suthep Near Chaing Mai
Doi Suthep offers a range of attractions featuring both the natural and spiritual beauty of northern Thailand. Home to the sacred Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, the mountain offers epic panoramic views over Chiang Mai city.

What's In This Guide?

Located just a short drive from Chiang Mai Town Centre, Doi Suthep offers a range of attractions featuring both the natural and spiritual beauty of northern Thailand. Home to the sacred Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, the mountain offers epic panoramic views over Chiang Mai city.

Explore a little further and you’ll quickly discover the mountain has so much more to offer. From cascading waterfalls to a royal palace and even campground offering epic sunrise views. Doi Suthep is a must visit destination when traveling through the northern end of Thailand.

Getting from Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep

The trip from Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep is a bit of an adventure itself as the winding road takes you up the 1685 meter high mountain. Doi Suthep’s foothills are located about 6 km from Chaing Mai’s Old Town centre, while the trip to the temple at the summit is about 35 km in total. Being a popular attraction, there are plenty of transport options available.

Note: Doi Suthep is much closer to Chiang Mai than Doi Inthanon which requires a full day trip.

Songtaew: the best option if you’re traveling on a budget. These red pickup truck style taxis depart from two different locations in Chiang Mai (which I’ve included on my Doi Suthep tourist map below):

  1. Talat Chang Phueak, the busy street food market just outside the Old City northern gate. Tickets cost 60 THB one way.
  2. Chiang Mai Zoo, departing from the entrance. Tickets cost 40 THB one way.

Motorbike: if you’re confident on two wheels then this gives you the most flexibility. I have visited Doi Suthep multiple times with a motorbike. Just watch out for police around Chiang Mai Old Town as they’re notorious for handing out fines for any reason to tourists. If you plan to explore the Doi Pui Summit then you may want to rent something bigger than a scooter.

Private Tour: suggestion coming soon.

Tourist Map of Doi Suthep

Suggested Itinerary

As you read through this article, you’ll discover there are plenty more things to do on Doi Suthep than just visit the iconic temple. Here’s a tried and tested suggested itinerary that’ll allow you to fit everything in while minimizing unnecessary travel.

  • Morning: start at 9am with a visit to the Huay Kaeo Waterfall where you’ll spend about an hour. Then, head up Doi Suthep to Bhubing Palace where you can explore the surrounding gardens for another hour and avoid disappointment with a variable closing time.
  • Lunch: continue over the mountain to the traditional Hmong Doi Pui Village by around 12pm where you can get a traditional northern noodle curry at Khao Soi Loon Surin for lunch after exploring a little. After a meal climb the Doi Pui Summit with a quick stop at the Doi Pui Village Viewpoint on the way.
  • Afternoon: by about 3.30pm, head back down the mountain to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep where you can explore the grounds and witness the monks chanting just after 5pm. Finally, stop at the Chiang Mai City Viewpoint on the way back home for a view over the Chiang Mai during the “blue hour” as city lights start to turn on.

Doi Suthep Temple (Wat Phra That Doi Suthep)

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is the most iconic destination on the mountain. It sits at an elevation of around 1,070 meters just nearby the summit. From the parking area you will climb over 300 stairs up the Naga-guarded staircase before reaching the temple itself.

The temple was built in the 14th century under the ancient Lanna King Kuena’s rule. Legend has it that a divine white elephant carrying a holy relic chose the site by climbing Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeting three times, and died on the spot. The construction of the temple was ordered immediately afterwards.

Plan to spend about an hour exploring the temple and the surrounding grounds. I recommend visiting in the late afternoon as you can experience the ehteral chanting of the monks just after 5pm followed by a great view of Chiang Mai from the nearby lookout point at sunset.

Doi Suthep National Park

While the temples is the most iconic destination, Doi Suthep National Park offers a range of other lesser known attractions. Waterfalls, mountain villages, a royal palace and even campsites! Read on to add a few of these to your half day trip, or even extend overnight!

Huay Kaeo Waterfall

There are countless waterfalls to explore on Doi Suthep and detailing them all would make this article far too long. Narrowing this down to just one waterfall for your half day trip from Chiang Mai, I certainly recommend visiting Huay Kaeo Waterfall.

Huay Keao Waterfall is located at the foothills of Doi Suthep. It is around 500 meters beyond Chaing Mai Zoo, easily walkable. From the carpark it is another 5 minute walk to the waterfall itself. Water flows best during the wet season from July to October. Water still flows outside of these months but will be nowhere near as impressive.

There are restaurants nearby the waterfall where you can buy food and drinks. Rent a picnic blanket for 20 THB (around $1) to enjoy a meal out in nature. The waterfall is free to visit and is open from 8am to 5pm. I suggest visiting in the morning on your way up the mountain.

Hmong Doi Pui Village

Doi Pui is one of the most easily accessible places near Chiang Mai city where you can meet and chat with Hmong ethnic hill-tribe villagers. Like many of northern Thailand’s ethnic hill-tribes, the Hmong people of Doi Pui used to grow opium for a living until 1953 when the Thai army cleared things up.

These days the Hmong villagers have replaced their opium income by selling agricultural produce as well as handmade souvenirs to visitors. You will find many of these souvenirs available for purchase at the market next to the village, which I find is much more authentic than the standard junk in the markets downtown.

Bhubing Palace

Bhubing Palace is the royal family’s residence which they use during their visits to northern Thailand. It is located about 4 km beyond Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The gardens around Bhubing Palace are known for birdwatching and butterfly watching opportunities.

The palace is open to visitors year round, except when the royal family is staying which is typically during the winter.  Opening hours are 8:30am to 4:15pm, but may close as early as 3pm without warning so best to arrive early.

Camping on Doi Suthep

Keen on spending a night out in nature right by Chiang Mai? Consider camping on Doi Suthep! Doi Pui Camping Area is located about 10 km beyond Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, nearby the summit. The campground has sites with an awesome view looking over Chiang Mai, the ultimate sunrise wake up.

Camping costs just 150 THB (under $10). If you are not traveling around with a tent, no worries as you can hire all the gear there from the national park headquarter. A tent and sleeping mat will set you back around 250 THB.

Is There An Entrance Fee for Doi Suthep?

There is a small 30 THB entrance fee for the temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which contributes to the temple’s upkeep. Additionally, Doi Suthep National Park has an entrance fee of 100 THB for adults and 50 THB for children (foreigner pricing). Thais get in cheaper, arguing it won’t get you any discounts.

Where to Next?

There are loads of great activities around Chiang Mai such as climbing (other) mountains, swimming under refreshing waterfalls, and exploring hundreds of years old local villages. Spending a few days here? I highly recommend you read this guide on my top places to visit near Chiang Mai, it’s filled with great ideas for day trips.

Then, why not head further north to explore Chiang Rai? I spent a little of 6 months living in this far northern sleepy end of Thailand, during which time I compiled this epic list of 25 Awesome Things to do in Chiang Rai. Trust me, there’s a lot more to see than the White Temple!

Or slow down completely and venture across to Pai in Mae Hong Son Province where you can easily spend two weeks doing almost nothing.

Got any questions on Doi Suthep or more generally Northern Thailand? Drop me a message on Instagram and I’m happy to assist.

Author Bio

G'day I'm Josh (some call me Fishtank) and on this blog I'll show you how to travel Asia beyond what you thought was possible. We'll explore the highest waterfalls, most remote islands, eat the best street food, and plenty more!

Josh Shephard

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