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