Things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand: Temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Visiting the Temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (Pinterest)

Chiang Mai delivers a more peaceful and relaxed vibe while matching the scale of the country’s capital. Besides, it was where we felt closer to Thai people than any other city or island in Thailand. The main reason for visiting Chiang Mai was visiting an Elephant Sanctuary. The city offers much more though. And one of northern Thailand’s most sacred temples is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which I’m going to share all details you need to know before visiting this temple.

Chiang Mai is a city filled with temples. As you explore the Old City you can’t walk a few meters without seeing one and they’re all well worth your time as a traveler. But one of northern Thailand’s most sacred temples, the one that crowns the Doi Suthep mountain on the western outskirts of Chiang Mai is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. 

Planning a trip up the mountain to see the temple is a fairly easy endeavour from Chiang Mai and there are various ways to do it and I’ll tell you all of them. No matter which option you choose, the views from the temple and the beauty of the surrounding area make for a worthwhile half day trip from the city.

Basically, your stay in Chiang Mai won’t be complete without visiting Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This famous temple is the main attraction of Doi Suthep National Park. It’s located on the top of the mountain that you can see from almost every place in the city.

After reading this article you will know a bit of history, how to get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, how much is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep entrance fee and what are the opening hours of this Chiang Mai temple on hill.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Visiting Temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Thailand

History 

Suthep itself is a district of western Chiang Mai city and one that gets its name from the adjacent mountain (doi means mountain in northern Thai), and the temple on the summit—Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, is found on the mountainside. The mountain, plus neighbouring Doi Pui, form Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. In terms of the impressive temple, construction on Wat Doi Suthep began in 1386 and according to popular legend, the temple was built to hold a piece of bone from the Buddha’s shoulder.

One of those bones was mounted on a sacred white elephant (an important symbol in Thailand) who then climbed Doi Suthep mountain and stopped near the peak. After trumpeting three times, the elephant laid down and gently passed away in the jungle. The place where he lay is now the site of where Doi Suthep’s temple was founded. Source

How to get there

Driving: you can hire a car or a scooter and drive up the hill. It will take about 40 min from Old Town Chiang Mai. We rented a scooter and it took us only 45 min from the hotel in Riverside to the temple. For me, it’s the best option because you can get in an adventure and enjoy the way up to the mountain. 

Taking a songthaew: prices depend on the number of people in your group and normally are about 100 THB per person. You can also get a private songthaew. The advantage is, that you can stop at any point of interest on the way, such as small temples or nice viewpoints. This should cost 300 THB for one way (as many people as you can fit), or 500 THB if you want the driver to wait at the top and bring you back down after visiting the temple.

Hiking: personally speaking, I’m not a big fan of hikes. Especially the last part of the way is beautiful but it’s supposed to be very steep and tiring. Please don’t forget to bring sunscreen and enough water.

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Once you get to the temple there’s a stairway with +300 steps with dragons leading the way to the top. I believe you wouldn’t feel comfortable going up in high temperatures so I’m going to repeat it so many times: arrive very early for endless reasons! Although, if you don’t feel like going up the stairs, you can get a cable car for a small fee. We chose to climb all the steps because we felt it was an important part of the experience.

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Entrance fee 

Only foreigners must pay an entrance fee which costs 50 THB per person. And the guy who collects the money also know a of greetings in different languages. He’s very friendly! 🙂

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What to wear

Don’t wear short pants or skirts, otherwise, you’ll have to rent clothes at the entry of the temples to cover yourself up. 

You have to remove your shoes inside the temple. The floor is super hot, so bring socks if you don’t want to burn your feet.

Opening hours 

The temple is open during a day, every day, from 6:30 am till 6:30 pm. It’s easy to remember because Wat Phra That Doi Suthep hours are almost the same as the sunrise and sunset in Thailand.

The temple is clean and well maintained but as any other famous tourist attraction, it’s full of groups and many times disrespectful people. So play your part, take off your shoes when is required, don’t speak out loud (remember is a sacred place despite  your beliefs) and don’t skip the entrance fee.

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To be completely honest, Victor and I are not much into temples, but the view up there is worth a visit anyway. I would deeply regret it if we couldn’t visit the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. What about you, would you make the effort to visit it? In our opinion, it’s definitely a must visit, preferably at sunrise.

Personal tip from PartiuMundo Blog: arrive as early as possible! When we arrived, it was almost dark yet because we left the hotel in the middle of the night. Our goal was to watch the sunrise up there at the temple. So we managed to take pictures with almost no one besides us. Especially at the famous stairs which are very Instagrammable. So if you don’t want anybody else in your pictures, arrive VERY EARLY! It’s definitely worth it when you compare your photos with only you on them to others looking up #watphrathatdoisuthep on Instagram.

See also:

Click here to check all articles about Chiang Mai.

Click here to check all articles about Thailand.

Click here to check all articles about Asia.


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Visiting the Temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (Pinterest)
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