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.
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.
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:
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.
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.