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Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai

Photo credit: LannaPhoto
Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai
  • (worth a trip)
  • NA
  • Moderate
  • Average
  • full day
  • 3 3

Commonly known as “The Roof of Thailand”, Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain peak in Thailand

Doi Inthanon, Chom Thong District, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Entry Fee:
Foreigners (adults) – 300 Baht
Foreigners (child) – 150 Baht
Locals (adult) – 50 Baht
Locals (child) – 20 Baht

Commonly known as “The Roof of Thailand”, Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain peak in Thailand, and is located in the Chom Thong District, in the province of Chiang Mai. Doi Inthanon is part of a national park that carries the same name and covers approximately 482 square kilometers.

 

The peak was formerly known as Doi Luang (“big mountain”) and Doi Ang Ka (“crow’s pond top”). The peak got its current name after King Inthawichayanon, one of the last kings of Chiang Mai, expressed his wish that his remnants be put to rest within the park grounds (which was still called Doi Luang until then). The king is known to have shown special interest in preserving and managing the forests. Thus, the peak was renamed to honor his demise and his remains were buried under the summit stupa.

 

Today, the national park and the summit of Doi Inthanon, with an elevation of 2,565 m, is a highly popular tourist spot in north Thailand among foreigners as well as locals.

 

Weather:

Due to its extreme high altitude, the park has high humidity and cold weather throughout the year. The usual mid-day temperature within the park varies from 10 to 12 degree Celsius.

 

Note: During the rainy season, the area is covered with an almost everlasting cluster of clouds and hence, very little may be visible.

 

Important Attractions:

The national park is so vast that it is practically impossible to try and cover all of it in a single visit. However, there are certain sights which cannot be missed. The mountain peak itself is your number one reason to visit the park because nothing else can quite match the stunning beauty of it. The mountain is particularly famous for its early morning views and rather cold temperature, which comes as a relief from the otherwise humid climate of the city.  Apart from the very obvious, the following are some of the added perks of visiting the national park:

 

  • Waterfalls: The national park has some of the most gorgeous cascades in Thailand. The months of May to November (Thai monsoon season) are the best to visit them. The first waterfall to catch your attention will most likely be the Mae Klang Waterfall which is the first gate to the park. With water flowing all year round, it is a popular spot for locals to picnic, swim, or just relax during their days off. The next in line is the Mae Ya Waterfall, which is popular for being one of the biggest waterfalls in Chiang Mai. Though situated with the national park, the waterfalls have a separate entrance. Tip: if you have been careful enough to retain your entrance ticket, you get in for free (note: same day ticket only). Next in line is the Siriphum Waterfalls, which is located by the foot of the mountain and stands out specifically because of its height, which towers above some of the surrounding trees. Other notable waterfalls in the vicinity include Sirithan and Wachirathan Waterfalls.
  • The King and Queen Chedis: Erected in 1987 and 1992 respectively, the King and Queen Chedis are located on the summit of the mountain. The chedis are popular among locals who come here to offer their prayers along with flowers and incense sticks as a way of showing respect to the royal couple. The views are stunning and the gardens are breath taking. There are escalator services for those who do not want to make the climb up to the summit. There is an entrance fee of 40 Baht.
  • Flora and Fauna: The high elevation of Doi Inthanon has blessed the land with a rich biodiversity in terms of both flora and fauna. Come December to February, you can see the only red rhododendron in Thailand around the summit area. The forests around the park are a combination of Mixed Deciduous, Moist Evergreen, and Pine Forest. Go further up and you will notice how the landscape changes from deciduous forests to a larger tropical evergreen. Flowers around the park include Vanda Orchids and Phycastylis. Although larger animals aren’t a common sight anymore, you can spot Asiatic Black bears, Chinese flying Squirrels, Macaques, Barking Deer, Gibbons, and Leaf Monkeys and various (reportedly, around 30 different kinds) species of bats. Doi Inthanon, with a recorded total of 362 species of birds (and increasing), is one of the best treats to bird watchers. March to May is when the big migration happens with some birds mating even until June. Ask the tourist center for detailed bird list.
  • Nature Trails: From December to April or May is the most suitable time for trekking as it’s much drier and convenient. In fact, there is a trekking trail just by the side of the Mae Klang waterfalls which leads you all the way to the Tourist Service center. The trail is worth the effort as it gives you the opportunity to admire the wildlife and natural beauty of Doi Inthanon. Other popular trails include the Ang Ka Nature trail, which features a one-of-its-kind ecosystem and the exclusive ambiance of the Himalayas. Next is Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, which might seem superfluous given its 200 Baht entrance fee per group with a guide (compulsory). However, if you are willing to spend the cash, the jungle trekking is totally worth it. If you hire a guide in Chiang Mai, you may end up paying as much as 600 Baht per person. Keep in mind that the trail is closed from June 1st to October 30th of each year.
  • Borichinda Cave: A beautiful limestone cave which houses some stunning stalactites and stalagmites and a small stream. Borichinda Cave is around a 2-hour walk from the Mae Klang Waterfall. Alternatively, you can drive up the cave which takes only 10 minutes. The splendid views of the caves dazzling in the sunlight are worth the trip.

 

If you are interested in taking a peak into the lives of tribal communities of northern Thailand, Doi Inthanon can be your passport to the same. There are many Hmong families living around the base of peaks, who have since then moved from cultivating opium poppies to vegetables and fruits, thanks to the Royal Project. Visit the local markets and enjoy the brightness that sparkles from the smiles as well as outfits of these indigenous people. Other tribal population includes those of Karen Tribe.



Opening hours

6:00 - 18:00

How to get there

If you are not already in Chiang Mai, the first thing you need to do is to make your way into Chiang Mai. You can either choose to fly from wherever you are into Chiang Mai International Airport (there are daily flight connecting Chiang Mai to other popular cities in the country such as Bangkok, Phuket, and Krabi), take a bus, travel via train, or choose any other option that may seem interesting to you (road trip or hitchhike?!). Once you are in Chiang Mai, there are several options to reach the park from here. Following are some of the commonly adopted ways:
• Join an organized tour via your hotel or a travel agent (there are literally hundreds of them swarming the streets of the city advertising day trips to the park and around). The tour normally includes a minibus and around 10-15 co travelers. Some of the travel agents provide pick up and drop to your hotel provided you live within their specified limits (always ask!). Irrespective of whether you book via your hotel or an agent, try to negotiate the price a bit. It shouldn’t be too difficult, or just shop around before you finally book your tour. Most operators also club a visit to a tribal village, two waterfalls, the twin chedis, and your lunch along with the visit to the national park. Though it may be equally exciting, however, it is best to clarify to avoid any last-minute surprises. Price: 1200 Baht onwards (includes all entry fees; may include an English speaking guide).
• If spending hours cramped inside an enclosed AC minivan with 10 other strangers isn’t your idea of an adventure, you can hire one of the many RED songthaews (advised if you are with a large group of yours or have lots of money!) that line the streets of Chiang Mai city. The most important factor here is to HAGGLE!!! Even then, expect to pay around 2000 Baht for a full day including petrol. Note: Ensure that you clarify whether the fare includes fuel or not. If you don’t SAY IT OUT LOUD, don’t be surprised if the driver denies when it’s time to pay.
• If you like driving on your own and are feeling especially adventurous, hire a bike (around 200 Baht) or a car (around 800 Baht) and drive there yourself. Find below the possible routes (as mentioned in Wikipedia):
o Chiang Mai-Hod (Highway 108) through Hang Dong and San Pa Tong district to Chom Thong. Prior to Chom Thong, approximately 2 miles, turn right along the road Chom Thong- Inthanon (Provincial Highway No. 1009) will start the Doi Inthanon at mile 8 (Mae Klang waterfall) and cut to the summit of Doi Inthanon a total length of 49.8 km.
o Chiang Mai - Hod (Highway 108) past Amphoe Hang Dong, San Pa Tong, Chom Thong and Hod. Of the route travel by Hod - Mae Sa Raing (Highway 108) through Ob Luang National Park. And turn right to Amphoe Mae Chaem by Line Ob Luang - Mae Chaem (Provincial Highway No. 1088) on route to Mae Chaem - Doi Inthanon. (Provincial Highway No. 1192) to the summit of Doi Inthanon. Street Chom Thong - Doi Inthanon. (Provincial Highway No. 1009 at Km 38-39).
o Chiang Mai - Hod (Highway 108) past Amphoe Hang Dong And San Pa Tong district. Turn right along the road from San Pa Tong district - Ban Kat (Provincial Highway No. 1013), followed by the path Provincial Highway No. 1284 or the through Khun Wang. And the roads to Chom Thong - Doi Inthanon (Provincial Highway No. 1009) at kilometer 31 near the National Park. This is the most difficult route of all so don’t take it until you essentially have to.

Location: