Just a couple of hours outside of Chiang Mai sits Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. The Doi Inthanon National Park is full of incredible natural space, with enough waterfalls, hot springs, camping and hikes to explore for days, however it’s most famous attraction is the pair of temples at the top, dedicated to the King and Queen. Thailand spares no expense at manifesting it’s most impressive temples upon any space deemed worthy, and placing a pair of temples on top of the highest mountain in the country is the epitome of this dedication.

 

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Doi Inthanon is a great day trip from Chiang Mai for anyone who wants a dose of nature and amazing views, but the national park can also keep you busy for several days if you have the time and interest. Outdoorsy travelers will find it the most fulfilling destination around, and should stay for a night or two to get the most out of it. You’ll see plenty of local Thais and expats from Chiang Mai coming with friends or family for a weekend of camping under the stars.

It’s also home to the Thai National Observatory, so check if there are any upcoming astronomical events during the time you’ll be in the area. They often host free events for the public to view meteor showers and eclipses from the observatory, and the high viewing point and complete lack of light pollution (unlike everywhere else) is pretty spectacular.

 

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Why Visit Doi Inthanon National Park

As we mentioned above, it’s an incredible natural getaway for anyone craving a change of pace and scenery from Chiang Mai. Those who just want to be surrounded by nature will find it more satisfying; travelers who are more focused on city or cultural sightseeing in a short time may not find the two temples alone worth the long journey considering the many, many others in and much closer around Chiang Mai.

 

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For those staying in the Chiang Mai area longer or slowly traveling in the region, Doi Inthanon definitely warrants a visit. And for anyone who wants to camp near Chiang Mai, this is the spot.

We found ourselves visiting after a couple weeks in the area, after having crossed all of the closer day trips off of our list. We loved the day escape into the wilderness, combining a visit to the temples and their beautiful gardens with a 2-hour trek, and stopping our motorbikes at various points within the park to admire the scenery.

How to Get to Doi Inthanon National Park

You can get to Doi Inthanon National Park from the city of Chiang Mai by motorbike, car or songthaew (the red trucks that act as communal taxis). We went by motorbike.

Getting to Doi Inthanon by Songthaew

If you go by songthaew, your exploration within the park will be a little more limited, but it’s easier for those with bigger groups and a fixed schedule. You can charter these for the day from Chiang Mai for about 800 THB, and they will go anywhere you want within the park or on the way. Remember, this is just transportation, not a tour guide. Make sure you research before and know where you want to go in the park. Tell them at the start of the day. (We’ve listed the attractions at the bottom for you.)

Getting to Doi Inthanon by Motorbike or Car

Personally, we think motorbike is the best way to explore as freely as we like to (read more on how and where to rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai here). Below are the driving directions for those going by car or motorbike, including a written description and link to the route on Google Maps.

Before you go, we suggest you pull up the directions on your phone on Google Maps and leave the map up when you leave Wifi. On most phones, you’ll be able to continue to see where you are on the route, even without Internet. Take this and the written instructions so you won’t end up lost if one fails you!

 

Click here to see the route from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon on Google Maps.

 

Directions from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon:

Follow the 108 out of town towards the airport. This is easy to pick up from the Southwest corner of the Old City. Drive towards the airport, and follow the road as it curves to the left under the airport overpass. Drive under the overpass until the first intersection with a large road and turn right to continue on the 108. You will follow this for about one hour.

After an hour or so, you will reach the 1009. Turn right onto the 1009 and follow it all the way up to Doi Inthanon!

When the road begins to go uphill, you’ll see a fork in the road. If you continue left, you’ll drive through little signs that says “Doi Inthanon National Park”. This is not the main entrance, and is mainly for those planning on doing some very long hikes in the area. Regular visitors should turn right at the fork to get to the main entrance. You will immediately pass a temple on your left and shortly after will reach a very large entrance to the park and you’ll know you’ve arrived. This is where you buy your tickets.

 

Doi Inthanon National Park Tickets & Cost

You will need to buy tickets to enter Doi Inthanon National Park at the entrance. The park is open 24/7, so the tickets are per entry, not per day. You can stay inside the park as long as you please on one ticket (but no exit and re-entry). Keep your tickets with you as they will be checked at various points.

Entrance Ticket to Doi Inthanon National Park: 300 THB for adults, 150 THB for children

Entrance for Your Vehicle: 20 THB per motorbike, 50 THB per car

Entrance to the Temple: 30 THB per person

Entrance to Hiking Trail on Top: 200 THB per group (This is actually the fee for a hiking guide, but you are required to book a guide to enter. You can have as many people in your group as you’d like.)

Plan on spending about 80 THB on fuel (if going by motorbike) and another 30-50 THB per meal.

 

Things to Do Inside Doi Inthanon National Park

Inside the national park you’ll find waterfalls, temples, hiking trails, camping, the National Astrology Center, local produce markets, food stalls and much more. The park is huge, and you could find a way to fill whatever amount of time you have. Most visit as a day trip (including us).

 

Day Trip Itinerary to Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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A Day Trip to Doi Inthanon

During a day trip from Chiang Mai you’ll have plenty of time to check out the famous temples at the top, do the hiking loop at the peak, and check out the farmers market and a few waterfalls. Here is our suggested itinerary for those doing a DIY Day Trip to Doi Inthanon.

 

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An Overnight or Weekend Trip to Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon is a favorite local spot to camp out under the stars, so those with a couple of days can make a trip out of it. Locals and expats living in Chiang Mai often visit for a fun weekend getaway. Motorbikes are still a great idea as it will enable you to move around within the park, and you can use the additional time to visit the hot springs, more waterfalls, and embark on longer treks. Doi Inthanon is also home to the Thai National Observatory, which is always open to the public and hosts special (free!) events for meteor showers and other astronomical phenomenon. If you have the opportunity, we especially recommend visiting for a meteor shower- the sky is completely clear up there!

Doi Inthanon Weather

As Thailand’s highest mountain, the weather begins to chill as you near the top. It has that warm-in-the-sun, freezing-in-the-shade climate. For those visiting during the rainy season, make sure to check the forecast. Unexperienced riders won’t want to make the mountain drive in the rain. Treks will likely close if there is rain, however temples will remain open (considering the temples are not as impressive as the nature here, we might suggest a raincheck if that is all you will be able to see due to poor weather- they aren’t worth the drive alone to the non-devout).

 

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For those going by motorbike, prepare for intense windchill as you drive up, no matter which season. Even on a sunny day that warranted no more than shorts and a tee-shirt while walking, the windchill on the motorbike had us wearing pants, two sweaters, and with completely numb hands. Layers are essential.

For those camping overnight, bring SO MUCH warm clothing. Summer stays warm enough, but winter evenings bring a chill you’d never expect in Thailand. Err on the safe side and bring what you usually would for a cold winter camping trip (heavy clothing, multiple blankets, sleeping bag, thick socks, hats, gloves).

 

What to Bring to Doi Inthanon

Day Trip:

  • Enough cash (see tickets & cost above)
  • Plenty of water (the temples have little to no shade)
  • Sunscreen & hat
  • Bug spray (especially in rainy season)
  • A jacket (if motorbiking, a wind breaker or warmer sweatshirt are great; those on songthaew may get a little chilly on the ride, too)
  • Temple-appropriate clothing (no tank tops, low-cut tops, shorts).
  • Camera
  • Bathing suit (if you plan to visit hot springs)

Overnight Trip:

  • Day trip items
  • Those doing a DIY overnight trip should speak with the campgrounds to know what they’ll need to bring and what will be provided (in terms of camping gear, etc.)
  • Many warm layers and blankets
  • Extra batteries for camera

Whether you’re going for the nature, the temples, the camping or the stars, Doi Inthanon National Park is sure to be a great day trip or weekend getaway from Chiang Mai that won’t disappoint.

Have other tips for travelers visiting Doi Inthanon National Park? Share them with us in the comments below!

 

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