Well, today we will tell you about Doi Intanon National Park located on the mountain of the same name in Northern Thailand. Besides the obvious things (how to get there, entrance fees, best time to visit) we will tell you about the local attractions to visit. We’ll also recommend a couple of places where you can buy tours to visit Doi Intanon, and explore it with an English-speaking guide if you don’t want to drive a car or motorcycle yourself. Read our article to the end, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask us in the comments. Let’s go!
Doi Inthanon (ดอยอินทนนท์) is located in northern Thailand in the Chom Tong district of Chiang Mai province. Doi Inthanon mountain rising to a height of 2565 meters is the highest mountain in Thailand. The Doi Inthanon is a real treasure trove of tourist attractions: monuments known as Great Holy Relics Pagodas dedicated to Their Royal Majesties; Inthanon Royal Project; local Northern Hill Tribes living amidst the serenity of the national park; few beautiful nature hiking trails; Brichinda Cave and the spectacular scenery of the valley that can be seen from the top of the mountain.
The Doi Inthanon National Park represents the beauty and ethos of the mountainous region of Thailand. It showcases its majestic rivers, waterfalls, tropical forests, and a habitat that is home to 362 species of birds and a wide variety of 466 animal species and 1274 plant species. The park is a dream bird sanctuary for bird watchers.
Getting to Doi Inthanon from Chiang Mai for the day trip by bike or car is easy. First, you leave Chiang Mai towards the airport. Then, head towards Hang Dong on the #108 road, and then you must go straight without turning anywhere. After about 40 kilometers from Chiang Mai city, you will see a green road sign about a right turn to road #1009.
At this time, you must pay attention to the level of gasoline in your vehicle. If you are riding a scooter with an engine capacity of 110-150cc, and your gas tank is approximately half empty, then there is a gas station near this turn. Get to this gas station and fill up a full tank of gasoline. Otherwise, there is a chance that you will not have enough gas to get to the top. Because when climbing a mountain, gasoline at a motorcycle is consumed faster. After turning onto road #1009 in about 30-40 minutes you will be at the destination.
All the main attractions of the Doi Inthanon national park are located along the main road leading to the top of the mountain. Along the road, you will find many signs. Therefore, you will have no problems finding them.
Camping is quite enjoyable because of the simple procedures to follow. All you need to do is to pay your entrance fees and contact the Main Camp Headquarters. You will find all the necessary details including a price list to help set up your camp. The camping costs are reasonable. For 400-600 baht, you can get a tent for 3 people, sleeping bags, pillows, and mats including the use of camping facilities. The facilities include a hot shower and bathroom beside hygienic toilets. Power is available for charging electronic items. If you are one of those into cooking, you can get your food at the nearby local cafe. You can also get wooden cabins for rent if you are not up for tent pitching.
Adult: foreigners fee is 300 baht; locals – 50 baht
Children: foreigners – 150 baht; locals – 20 baht
Vehicles: car – 50 baht; motorcycle – 20 baht
Entrance to Royal Pagodas – 40 baht
The park is open from 7:00 to 20:00 every day of the week.
Closed for tourists from 1st May until 30th July every year.
The high altitude of the mountain determines the weather in the region. However, the weather in the area surrounding the mountain is pleasant throughout the year. The region receives almost no rainfall during the 4 months of January-April and 3 months of October-December. The 5 months of May-September receive between 180-350 mm of rainfall, peaking in August.
The average maximum temperature ranges between 25 and 33℃, while the average minimum temperature ranges between 15 and 22℃. The highest temperature occurs during April and the lowest during December and January.
During the winter season between November and February, the weather goes below freezing point quite regularly with occasional sightings of snow, which in most cases has turned out to be frost.
If you plan your day trip from early morning until late at night, be sure to bring warm clothes with you.
One of the major attractions in Doi Inthanon is the location of the Royal Twin Pagodas there. Thai Air Force built the pagodas to commemorate the 60th birth anniversaries of the His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in 1987 and 1992 respectively. The whole area is a magnificent mixture of modernity laced with spirituality, natural surroundings, tradition, ancestry, and history. You can use the stair to reach the top of the pagodas or the modern escalator.
The Pra Mahathart Napamaythaneedol Chedi and the Pra Mahathart Napapoommisiri Chedi represent the His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit respectively, and the height of the pagodas at 60 meters commemorates the 60th birth anniversaries of the royals. The pagodas, built with colorful marbles, contain sculptures recounting stories surrounding the Buddhists. The pagodas’ shape and design depict the enlightenment of Lord Buddha and his search for truth. The two pagodas also describe the virtues of the Thai warriors and the beauty of the Thai women through their beautiful patterns, colors, and choice of materials.
The defining attractions are the stupendous gardens and the magnificent view of the valley down below as the location of the pagodas is at the top of the hill. Birdwatchers especially will enjoy this location because of the immense variety of bird species they can spot, more so during the February-April period.
Doi Inthanon, the tallest mountain of Thailand, coupled with multiple rivers flowing down the mountain gives rise to several waterfalls that will enthrall you. Among the several stunning ones, three of the waterfalls stand out- Mae Ya waterfall, Wachirathan Waterfall, and Sriphum waterfall. These waterfalls present an exciting facet as the base forms a thin mist providing an ethereal feeling as well as a thins water spray even if you stand a fair distance from them.
This waterfall is the most stunning simply because it is the highest here falling from a height of 100 meters in different tiers. Its location, just at the park entrance, gives visitors a foretaste of the wonder of waterfalls. Apart from the scenic beauty, the waterfall is an excellent place for picnics.
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This is the most powerful waterfall of Doi Inthanon National Park. Small splashes and a water cloud overtake you a few tens of meters from the place where the waterfalls with an indescribable rumble.
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Siriphum Waterfall is the least crowded as its fall varies with the season. The base of the falls hosts wild gardens with an impressive array of plants and flowers.
This is the first waterfall on the main road leading to the national park, it cascades over several tiers almost 100 meters high, the highest tier being about 25-30 meters high. It is located 600 meters south of the checkpoint in the southeastern part of the park.
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Peak: Doi Inthanon
Location: Northern Thailand
Nearest Town: Khuang Pao (Chom Thong, Chiang Mai)
Elevation: 2565 meters (8415 feet)
Vertical Elevation: <10 metres
Total Distance: ~100m one-way
Start/Finish: Summit parking lot
Climbing Time: 10 minutes return
Difficulty: Very easy
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The highest peak, at the height of 2565 meters, in Thailand is a remarkable scenic location offering several grand attractions. The height provides a magnificent panoramic view of the sloping hills with its rugged terrain of Chiang Mai and lush green forests interspersed with rivers interrupted by at least eight beautiful waterfalls. To view the natural beauty of Thailand, you must visit the summit and enjoy its pristine natural beauty. The area is a protected one, thus enabling visitors a glimpse of the myriad flora and fauna in their natural habitat.
Very low temperatures in Thailand are almost non-existent but the peak allows Thais to experience temperatures below freezing point, as during the cool season temperatures can plummet.
Getting to the summit is all pretty well sign-posted. The roads are very good and with the number of Thai and foreign tourists visiting the summit, there are loads of amenities. On the way to the park entrance, most tour companies/guides will first stop at a Hmong roadside market. Here you can buy all sorts of dried fruits, nuts, and a few handy crafts. Soon after, you enter the actual park.
There is a 300 Baht entry fee per person (for foreigners only) and a 20 Baht motorbike entry fee. Once inside the national park there are several waterfalls, food stops, toilet stops, lookouts on the way to the summit. We ended up stopping at Sirithan Waterfall on the way up and Wachirathan Waterfall on the way down. Wachirathan is much more developed with a parking lot, toilet block, restaurants, whereas Sirithan is just the waterfall. Both are nice. We also stopped at the Royal Chedi on the way back from the summit.
This is a must. Despite the hordes of tourists and the why was this built here running through my mind, it’s still pretty cool. Built a couple of years ago in honor of the current King and Queen of Thailand, two massive Chedi (his and her I guess) have been constructed on apposing peaks. Each is essentially a temple, however, each has an internal temple with very nice stone relief and other wall paintings.
Don’t worry if the stair-case to the top of Chedi looks daunting. You can get an escalator up each flight of stairs. Yep, you can stand on the walkway to avoid walking for 2 minutes up the staircase (OK, we did it :).
As we were there in winter, we missed out on what is quite a spectacular flower festival on each of the two Chedi summits which are held during the warmer months.
But back to the summit. Getting to the actual summit is straight-forward. You can drive almost all the way. There is a big parking lot just below the summit. Here there is a Thai Air-force Base (which you can’t photograph) and there is then a pretty obvious sign and trail to the actual summit.
Amidst the natural beauty of the Doi Inthanon summit and its surroundings, there is a sense of contemporariness and modernity in locating two important scientific institutions taking advantage of the height of the mountainous area.
The Royal Thai Air Force weather radar station monitors the weather as the Doi Inthanon Control and Reporting Center with radar station for travel as well as military applications.
Thai National Observatory, under the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, hosts the main observatory and an auxiliary station. The station is operational with all facilities and amenities for the employees to conduct their experiments. The station also permits the public to view the permanent exhibition set up there. It is a crucial outreach facility for students to learn about astronomy.
The great height of the Doi Inthanon peak and its lush green forests and rivers and waterfalls make for phenomenal trekking and hiking paradise the likes of which have never been seen in Thailand. The ones that must be experienced are Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail and Ang Ka Nature Trail. You can undertake the nature trails or hike only with an experienced guide by paying 200 baht.
Climbing to Doi Inthanon
I’d always suspected climbing Thailand’s highest mountain was going to be easy. However, I didn’t think it would be easy. Evidently, about 200 other tourists also thought the same thing 🙂
Nevertheless, despite jostling for my turn to be photographed beneath the Thai High-point sign, the trip to the summit of Doi Inthanon is still a worthwhile and pleasant one-day excursion from nearby Chiang Mai, especially as there are a number of other interesting attractions in the vicinity of the summit.
This is the most famous nature trail covering a distance of about 3 Km. The trail takes you through a kaleidoscope of greenery and trees and rivers and waterfalls dotted with glimpses of the superb blue sky and the floating clouds atop and the serene beauty of the slopes of the mountains and valleys below. The lush green forest area spattered with various tree species and most visible in the first few hundred meters of the trail gives way to the path along the ridge of the mountain offering grand views of the hills through clearing as you move into the middle part of your trail. The trail closes during the June-October rainy season.
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The weather at the top of the mountain is very relaxed throughout the year, and it can reach freezing points often during the cold season. Cold weather clothing is a necessity. Further, the weather can turn misty and cloudy often obscuring the views. The weather would be unbearable during the May-September high rainy season.
On a bright day, the view from the Kew Mae Pan Viewpoint is simply breathtaking as it spreads over a vast area allowing sightings of mountain views covered with a mist or drifting cluster of clouds. The sunrise is the scene worth seeing. Secondly, a couple of visits during different seasons would show the stark difference between green during the rainy season the golden brown in the dry season.
This is a short, but intense 30-minute trail at the top of the mountain at the height of 2500 meters above sea level. Here you can take amazing photos of forest thickets and paths covered with moss.
All the nature trails are a rich repository of animal, bird, and plant species. If you are lucky, you can spot flowering red rhododendrons or white orchids. You will find trees such as oaks and black plum. You can feast upon large flying beetles including the purple ones as well as some rare butterflies. For bird watchers, you can probably sight the green-tailed sunbird or the Ashy-throated warbler.
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Baan Mae Klang Luang is a village inhabited by the Karen hill tribe, migrated to Chiang Mai from Burma during the 18th century. It is famous because it is the model village promoting ecotourism in Thailand. This village is perfect for a variety of activities that interest connoisseurs of photography, bird watching, trekking, and hiking. The unique thing about this village is that all ecotourism activities come under the responsibility of the hill tribe.
Tourists can get a first-hand experience of staying in the village by checking in to one of the home-stay facilities offered by the hill tribe. Besides the village experience, tourists can enjoy their pursuits by exploring the region surrounding the village. The picturesque slopes merging into the paddy fields growing paddy with unique growing methods including drainage systems is a photographer’s dream landscape. The effect is that of nature coalescing with a man.
The specialty of the village is the coffee that is a feast for the taste buds. Its brew extracted from manually grinding beans gives a taste so unique that it appears difficult to find something better elsewhere.
The highlight of the village is the Pha Dok Seaw waterfall
Waterfalls, which boasts ten different falls level with one more beautiful than the other. You can also learn a lot about coffee plantations and flower growing.
The Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon
The Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon is a progressive step by the kingdom to improve the life of Thai tribal people. The primary objective was to divert the people from growing opium to growing other crops suitable for the tribes and the conditions in the area.
The station helps the people to use better cultivation methods, preserve water systems, conserve forests, be self-reliant, and protect animals. A station is also a great place for tourists as there are a number of activities to interest them – cultural, natural and agricultural tours as well as vintage flower gardens.
The elephant park is a unique one because the elephants stay in their natural habitat without any fetters on the banks of the Mae Klang River. The elephants don’t show off. Visitors can enjoy the elephants by interacting with them subtly. They can feed them or even give them a mud bath. The Asian elephant is an endangered species and preserving them is the number one priority in this sanctuary.
The elephants, rescued elephants mostly, receive medical treatment including medicines, food, and shelter. Besides being an elephant sanctuary, the park takes up other social causes such as promoting organic farming and teaching the English language to local people to enable them to secure career to promoting the local environment.
You can rent a motorbike at us or from any of the nearby places such as Chiang Mai or Chom Thong. Typically, you can make a day-tour, complete the visit to Doi Inthanon, and return to the place where you started. You could also make an 8-hour trip from Chiang Mai by the car that includes a scenic drive to Doi Inthanon, all the important points of interest, and lunch.
You could also either try the day trip by songthaew as a shared taxi or hire the vehicle if you are more than a couple. Price for a taxi – 2500THB. The entrance fee is paid separately.
There are many points of interest in Doi Inthanon National Park and trying to cover as many as possible is quite strenuous. You can follow the tips provided below to enjoy your trip.
The actual summit is twofold. After a short walk up a flight of stairs, there is a large wooden The Highest Spot in Thailand sign. I guess the fact that this is the first actual marker of the summit means everyone wants their photo taken beneath this sign. We literally had to wait in line in order to have our photo taken. I do wonder why this sign is here. It is pretty obvious (well for me anyway) that this wasn’t the highest point as there is a path that continues up right behind the sign.
Anyway, a little further along there is a shrine and from here there is a wooden walkway that leads into the forest (Ang Ka Nature Trail – ed.). I guess for those who are too lazy to continue to walk, the first sign might be enough. However, 20-30 meters along this walkway is another sign which also the highest point in Thailand. There is an actual survey marker here and given this marker sit on a concrete block, on top of a wooden platform, I guess this really is the high-point.
Again, we had to wait out turn to get our photo taken. Unfortunately, this spoils the ‘summit’ a little, as it’s really getting your photo taken and then immediately get out of the way for the next group of people who want their photo taken. It would have been nice to have enjoyed being here without the urgency to hurry up. As we were there in the middle of the day, I guess we couldn’t expect much else. Earlier in the day (or in the rain), I’m sure it is a better and more peaceful time to actually enjoy the summit.
Nevertheless, this wooden pathway then continues through the forest and eventually comes out at a small ranger hut and a nearby souvenir shop. Here you can buy a range of bits and bobs about being on the highest point in Thailand (hats, t-shirts, magnets, etc). There is also a sign which displays the minimum/maximum temperature for the day (2-12C for us). And of course, more lining up to get your photo taken (although not as bad this time).
It’s quite amusing to people watch here for a moment, as many Thai and (I guess) other tourists are very warmly dressed given the cool temperature. As I’m sure many locals don’t own warm clothes (why would you in a country with such warm weather all year round) it was funny watching people decked out in ski gear and other sub-zero clothing.
However, there is also another short walk here. This is also very worthwhile doing. Following an elevated wooden walkway, this path leads through a really ‘ancient’ feeling and out of place temperate forest. Mosses, lichens and fern trees.
The trip to Doi Inthanon is memorable as there are many places of interest and the most important one being the top of the highest mountain in Thailand from where you can enjoy a panoramic view and the very cool climate.
The importance of Doi Intanon can be viewed from several angles, both ecologically and in terms of attracting travelers.
First of all, Doi Intanon plays an important ecological role in the region, since the national park was created to prevent the logging of local forests, which have a direct impact on the natural groundwater, their interaction with the lithosphere and the earth’s atmosphere, on the phenomena and processes occurring in these waters, and, as a consequence, on the local flora and fauna.
Unfortunately, due to constant poaching and habitat changes, most of the large mammals such as elephants, tigers, and gaurs were exterminated in the park several decades ago. Nevertheless, it was because Doi Intanon National Park was established that the locals succeeded in preserving not only the natural resources, but also the favorable ecological environment here.
Secondly, thanks to all the above, this place is very popular with tourists. Because Doi Intanon is not only the highest mountain in Thailand and one of the coldest places in the country, which is already attractive enough for local and foreign tourists to visit this place, but thanks to the pristine nature preserved in this reserve you can also find rare species of plants, rare reptiles, and over 500 most diverse bird species, some of which within Southeast Asia are found only on Doi Intanon.
Oh, yes! In our opinion, you should definitely visit Doi Intanon! The relaxing atmosphere of this reserve, its climate, mountain waterfalls, beautiful views from the top of the mountain to the surrounding hills, forests and plains will give you a peaceful and unforgettable experience that will remain a beautiful memory for many years. Do you want to be sure of the sincerity of our words? Just do it!
As we are a motorcycle rental company in Chiang Mai, of course we recommend that you go there by motorcycle first, provided that you have a motorcycle driving license and enough experience to drive on Thai roads. Check our rates for motorcycle rentals.
You can also order a tour with an English-speaking guide at local travel agencies. This can usually be done at the reception of your hotel.
If you want to go there on your own, you first need to arrive at the outer side of the southern gate of the Old City, called Chiang Mai Gate, from where the yellow songthaew to Chom Thong City depart regularly. The fare is 30-40 baht. Then, when you arrive in Chom Thong, you need to change to another songthaew which will take you to the Doi Inthanon summit for an additional 80 baht. The time you will spend for the trip one way, taking into account the change of transport, can take 4-5 hours.
Although traveling on your own without personal transportation can be very exciting (check out Mike Meanderthal’s review of his journey around the area), at the same time it can be quite tedious. After all, the sights of the national park are very far from each other, and to get around on foot, unless you hitchhike, probably will not be possible. Therefore, it is best to rent private transport or buy a tour with a private guide.
Sometimes people ask me, how long does it take to climb to the summit of Doi Intanon? I will disappoint you, but the highest mountain in Thailand is not a climb. A good quality two-lane road, equally accessible by car and motorcycle, takes you from the foot of the mountain all the way to the top, where the parking lot is located.
If you want to book a tour with a private guide, you can make payment at the reception of your hotel. Usually the departure is available the next day. If you are traveling by private transport, or on your own by public transportation, you can purchase entrance tickets to the national park at the entrance. The rates for entry into the national park, and what the cashier’s office looks like, we published above.
To begin with, every year Doi Intanon National Park is closed to tourists from May 1st to July 30th. This is the rainy season and there can be floods, landslides, rockslides, and falling trees.
The best time to travel to Doi Intanon is from early November to late February. The surrounding vegetation during this time is lush green, the weather is very refreshing, the waterfalls are full of water, and the temperature at the top of the mountain can drop to 0 degrees Celsius which is unusual for Thailand.
From early March to late April the local vegetation looks wilted and withered, because March and April are the hottest months in Chiang Mai province. Fires burn in many places, causing smog that makes it impossible to see anything around. If you ascend to Doi Intanon during this time, from the viewpoint you will probably see nothing but smog. Above you will have a blue-blue sky and a gray-gray blanket of smoke below.
From early August to late October is not a bad time to visit this place, but it may rain infrequently during this time, which may be uncomfortable for some tourists. Nevertheless, these months are not very hot during the day and not very cold at night. This time is great for camping enthusiasts.
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UPD: If you have any questions after reading our Doi Inthanon travel guide, feel free to ask us in the comments below. We will try to answer you as quickly as possible.