Doi Inthanon & Doi Inthanon National Park – Travel Guide 2020
Doi Inthanon National Park 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 National Park 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.
Doi Inthanon National Park
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.
How to get to Doi Inthanon National Park
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 the 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 the road #1009 in about 30-40 minutes you will be at the destination.
Map of Places to Visit
All the main attractions of the 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 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.
There are several kinds of fees and charges as follows:
Adult – Foreigners fee is 300 baht (about US$9); 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 5.00 AM to 6.00 PM every day of the week.
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 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 the month of August.
Climate and Temperature
The average maximum temperature ranges between 25 and 33℃, while the average minimum temperature ranges between 15 and 22℃. The highest temperature occurs during the month of April and the lowest during the months of December and January.
Snow in Thailand? Sure!
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.
Great Holy Relics Pagodas
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 its 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.
The tallest mountain coupled with multiple rivers flowing down the mountain give rise to a number of 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.
Mae Ya waterfall
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.
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 water falls down with an indescribable rumble.
Sriphum 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.
Doi Inthanon Peak
Peak: Doi Inthanon
Location: Northern Thailand
Nearest Town: Khuang Pao (Chom Thong, Chiang Mai)
Elevation: 2565 metres (8415 feet)
Vertical Elevation: <10 metres
Total Distance: ~100m one-way
Start/Finish: Summit parking lot
Climbing Time: 10 minutes return
Difficulty: Very easy
Summit of Doi Inthanon
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 really 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 park there are a number of 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 really nice. We also stopped at the Royal Chedi on the way back from the summit.
This really 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 apparently 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 really 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.
Royal Thai Air Force weather radar station and Thai National Observatory (TNO)
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.
Trekking and hiking
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 has 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.
Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
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 moss 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.
Kew Mae Pan Trail Map
Kew Mae Pan weather
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.
Kew Mae Pan Viewpoint
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 to the golden brown in the dry season.
Ang Ka Nature Trail
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 the 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.
Baan Mae Klang Luang
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 with one more beautiful than the other. You can also learn a lot about coffee plantations and flower growing. Being in close proximity to the Doi Inthanon, there are other attractions nearby.
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.
Doi Inthanon Elephant Park
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 promote the local environment.
Doi Inthanon National Park by Scooter or Motorbike
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 a 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 share taxi or hire the vehicle if you are more than a couple. Price for a taxi – 2500THB. The entrance fee is paid separately.
Doi Inthanon National Park Tips
There are many points of interest in Doi Inthanon National Parkand trying to cover as many as possible is quite strenuous. You can follow the tips provided below to enjoy your trip to Doi Inthanon.
- If you are not the camping type, it is prudent to start early and leave before sunset because there is no good accommodation other than camping tents.
- If you are the camping type, then you can arrive in the morning, complete part of the tour, spend the night in the camp tent, and complete the remaining part of the tour the next day and return in the evening.
- Ensure you keep enough money in local currency to spend in the area.
- The weather is on the cooler side, and so winter clothes are advisable.
- The best season is from December to March during the cool season.
- Bring comfortable shoes suitable for hiking and trekking along the nature trails.
- Pack some snacks and plenty of water as you may find the food unavailable.
- If you encounter sunny days, it is better to pack some caps and some sun lotions as well.
- Keep the map of the area on your mobile and completely charge your phone before proceeding on 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.