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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai: Ultimate Travel Guide

In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know before visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, from how to get there to things to see, what to wear, travel tips, and even how to hike there.
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Complete guide to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand - Doi Suthep Temple - Things to do in Doi Suthep

About Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, often called Doi Suthep Temple, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Sitting atop the hill, it features a 309-step Naga staircase with the mythical seven-headed sea serpent on both sides.

Wat Doi Suthep is the most respected temple in northern Thailand, mainly due to the Buddha relic it houses. Besides its spiritual significance, this Chiang Mai attraction is renowned for a legend of how it came to be.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

Doi Suthep Temple Legend

Legend says that a monk named Sumanathera dreamt of being instructed to find a relic in Pang Cha. He then discovered a bone with magical powers, which broke into two pieces.

The smaller portion was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok, while the larger one was attached to a white elephant, which climbed up and passed away on the Doi Suthep mountain. King Nu Naone then ordered the establishment of this Chiang Mai temple at the exact location of the elephant’s death.

White elephant statues at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple
White elephant statue at Doi Suthep Temple

What does Wat Phra That Doi Suthep mean?

The name “Wat Phra That Doi Suthep” translates to “Temple of the Mountain’s Summit” in English. This name reflects the temple’s location on Doi Suthep Mountain in Chiang Mai Province, which offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

The temple is considered one of the most sacred in Northern Thailand and is a popular destination for both tourists and pilgrims.

Stunning architecture of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

Chiang Mai Travel Tips

First, let’s cover the essentials and tips to help you have a more fun, enjoyable, and safer trip to the north and the rest of Thailand.

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Chiang Mai has lots of amazing activities to choose from. Book top-rated Chiang Mai tours on Viator or GetYourGuide.

Get travel insurance

While Chiang Mai is a safe destination, we recommend getting travel insurance for any trip outside your country. We highly recommend an insurance package from Heymondo. And as our reader, you get 5% off the price.

ATM fees

Chiang Mai still relies heavily on cash. So we recommend taking out a good amount each time you visit an ATM. Note: There is an 8.5 USD fee for each withdrawal (most Thai ATMs).

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Hotels in Chiang Mai

The best area to stay in Chiang Mai is in the Old City. To secure the best deals, we recommend booking in advance.

Travel map

We have compiled a Chiang Mai Travel Map, which you can refer to when exploring.

Opening hours and entrance fees for Doi Suthep

The Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is open daily from 6 am to 8 pm, and the entrance fee is 30 THB ($0.8) for foreign visitors. But if you prefer riding the funicular to reach the summit, you must pay an additional 20 THB.

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Best time to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Mornings and late afternoons are the best times to visit Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand. You will get the perfect opportunity to move around the temple without being surrounded by many people and enduring the heat.

Coming early in the morning to this Chiang Mai attraction lets you see breathtaking views of mountain mist and sunrise and enjoy a peaceful atmosphere. Meanwhile, late-afternoon visits are ideal for watching the sunset.

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Watching the sunrise over Chiang Mai from viewpoint at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

Try to visit the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple on a clear day to get the best sweeping view from the mountaintop.

TRAVEL TIP

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a popular spot to watch the sunrise in Chiang Mai, so it might be a bit crowded then. However, as soon as the sun rises, people will start leaving, so if you wait a bit, you might stay almost alone at the temple.

Watching the sunrise over Chiang Mai from viewpoint at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

How long does it take to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep?

The time it takes to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple grounds is around 1 hour. This doesn’t include travel time from Chiang Mai city to the temple.

However, if you want to spend more time exploring the temple or participating in any additional activities or rituals, you may need to allocate more time for your visit.

Book your Chiang Mai hotel in advance to secure the best deal!

Beautiful architecture and details of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

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Chiang Mai Travel Guide

How to get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple is located in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, about 15 kilometers from the city. The journey to the temple involves a winding road up the mountain, offering scenic views along the way. And the various transportation options Chiang Mai offers make it easy to get there.

Fun fact: Doi Suthep-Pui National Park consists of two mountains: Doi Suthep (where the temple is) and Doi Pui Mountain.

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Beautiful architecture and details of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the nature - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

Driving

Consider renting a motorbike, bicycle, or car for a full day if you want to go to the temple on your own. You take the Huay Kaew Road, past Maya Shopping Center and Chiang Mai Zoo.

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For digital nomads or full-time travelers, we recommend SafetyWing, which includes brief visits to your home country every 3 months abroad.

Tour

For the most convenience, you can join an organized tour with transport included. This is a great option if you’d also like to visit other top attractions, as they usually include some in the itinerary.

Taking a songthaew

This option is one of the most common ways to get to Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai. A songthaew can take you up or down the temple, and the ride costs 50 THB each way. Note that it’s a shared vehicle, so you might have to wait until it becomes full of passengers (8 to 10) before leaving.

If you’re with your family or friends, hire a songthaew instead. You can ask the driver to take you to the temple and wait at the top to drive you back down.

How to get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Songthaew red truck - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

Hiking – Doi Suthep Monk Trail

If you’re in the mood for a nature walk, hike up the Doi Suthep temple along Suthep Road. Look for a sign saying “Nature Hike” beyond Chiang Mai University to find the so-called “Monk Trail”.

Following Doi Suthep’s Monk Trail to reach the temple complex is an exciting activity, especially if you seek exercise amid nature. We recommend wearing closed shoes or hiking boots for this activity, as the walkway is through the jungle and is quite rocky.

How to get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Monk's trail - Wat Pha Lat- Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

The hiking trail begins at the end of Suthep Road. In the first half of the trek, you’ll go through a lush forest and pass several temples until you reach Wat Pha Lat, where you’ll find a shrine, stairs flanked by dragons, a waterfall, and statues.

The second part of the Doi Suthep’s Monk’s Trail is across the road and involves steep slopes and sometimes muddy pathways, which make the hike challenging. The trail ends near the bottom of Doi Suthep’s naga staircase.

Watching sunrise at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

Things to see at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep Temple is a must-visit tourist attraction in Chiang Mai with plenty to offer.

1. The Naga staircase

One of the most iconic features of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai is the Naga staircase. The staircase is adorned with intricate carvings of serpents, which are considered to be holy creatures in Thai mythology. The staircase consists of 309 steps, each one representing a different virtue in Buddhism.

Climbing the Naga staircase to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

At the base of the Naga staircase are many stalls selling food and souvenirs. So you can grab a bite or stock up on refreshments.

Stalls selling food and souvenirs at the base of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

2. The White Elephant Monument

Once you reach the summit, the white elephant monument honoring the animal in the legend will be the first thing you’ll see.

White elephant statues at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

3. Golden Chedi

You will then be in awe of the several golden buildings, including the chedi housing Buddha’s bone shard.

The chedi itself is visually striking and intricately decorated with gold leaf and ornate details. Its shimmering gold exterior is a sight to behold and has become an iconic symbol of Thai craftsmanship and Buddhist architecture.

Golden Chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

4. Buddha statues

You will notice parasol-like structures at the four corners of the chedi and numerous shrines surrounding it. These shrines feature Buddha statues with different poses.

Golden Chedi and Buddha statues at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple - One of Thailand's most popular temples

5. Other pagodas and shrines

While the chedi is the main highlight, this Chiang Mai temple has other outstanding structures, such as pagodas, sermon halls, pavilions, and wirhans.

6. Murals

The interior walls of the complex are also worth checking out, as they boast murals depicting Buddha’s life and travels and some Hindu elements.

Decorated interior and murals at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

7. Viewpoints

Furthermore, the Doi Suthep temple has three viewpoints: the main terrace offering Chiang Mai city views, the raised platform to the right, and the area further into the complex (near a cafe). You will also find an area where you can light a candle and say your prayer.

Watching the sunrise over Chiang Mai at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple
Watching the sunrise over Chiang Mai at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

Things to know before visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Before visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, there are a few things that you should know:

1. Dress Code: As a sacred temple, it is important to dress respectfully. Both men and women should cover their shoulders and knees. Avoid wearing revealing clothing or items with offensive imagery.

2. Footwear: Visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering the temple buildings. It is advisable to wear slip-on shoes or sandals for easy removal.

Dresscode and forbidden things at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

3. Be quiet on the temple grounds to show respect to Buddhists praying on site.

4. Stairs: To reach the temple, you must climb a long flight of stairs. If you have mobility issues, you may find this challenging, but there is also a cable car available for an additional fee.

5. Entrance Fee: There is an entrance fee for foreigners to enter the temple grounds. The fee helps maintain the site and support the local community.

6. Crowds: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a popular tourist destination, so expect large crowds, especially during peak hours and holidays. Consider visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon for a quieter experience.

7. Photography: Photography is allowed in most areas of the temple complex, but be mindful of any signs or restrictions indicating otherwise. Respect the privacy of worshippers and refrain from using flash photography inside the temples.

By keeping these points in mind, you can have a more enjoyable and respectful experience when visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Beautiful temples grounds of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple

Is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep worth visiting?

Absolutely! Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is definitely worth visiting as it is one of the most sacred and beautiful Buddhist temples in Thailand, with stunning views overlooking the city of Chiang Mai from its mountaintop location.

The combination of its location, stunning design, and religious significance has made the Golden Pagoda and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple complex one of the most famous landmarks in Thailand.

Beautiful temples grounds of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai, Thailand - Travel Guide to Doi Suthep Temple


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