Majestic Doi Inthanon is 2,565 metres high and the tallest mountain in Thailand. The mountain is surrounded by the verdant hills and landscapes of Doi Inthanon National Park. A trip to Doi Inthanon features on the itineraries of a high proportion of Chiang Mai visitors. The park’s popularity is enhanced by the fact it is less than two hours by car from central Chiang Mai and is easily doable as a daytrip.
Misty waterfalls, camping, the views from the top and taking guided nature trail hikes are the key highlights. Near the summit, twin pagodas dedicated to Thailand’s monarchy and the National Astrology Centre add to the attractions. Getting a selfie with the sign showing the highest point in Thailand is a must while golfers will love playing a round on the course at the Chiang Mai Inthanon Golf Course. Doi Inthanon tends to get busier in winter as the rare sight of ground frost and blossoming sakura flowers are an added draw.
WHAT TO DO
Doi Inthanon is famed for its resident avian population and draws bird watchers from afar. The bird species are so diverse it is almost impossible to list them all. Wildlife researchers from Mahidol University say they have logged 362 species in the park. On the lower levels of the mountain, bird watchers are likely to see plumbeous water redstarts and clicking strike babblers while close to the top other sightings might include green-tailed sunbirds and laughing thrushes.
Camping enables visitors to get optimum experiences from their trips to Doi Inthanon. Double bonuses are getting to spend the night under the stars and being able to reach the summit for the best views in the morning. Even people without their own tents can enjoy this activity as camping gear is available for hire at the main campground. This is around 500 metres from the park headquarters close to the Kilometre 30 marker.
Hiking to Ang Ka Nature Trail
Ang Ka is a short 360-meter long trail designed by an eminent Canadian biologist. It traverses a valley at an altitude of 2,000 metres and meanders through both warm and cool zones where wild orchids and flowers, moss and a variety of birds add glimpses of nature at its finest.
Hiking to Borichinda Cave
Tham Borichinda is a lovely limestone cave featuring stalagmites and stalactites. When the sun catches the rock formations in the first chamber it creates a glittery effect which is unusual to say the least. The Borichinda trail begins one kilometre up Route 1009 from the main entry gate to Doi Inthanon. It takes about one hour to hike to the cave.
Hiking to Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
There are a number of nature trails in Doi Inthanon National Park. Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is the best known and most popular and is a three kilometre trek through tall-standing forests and across mountain paths. Viewpoints along this nature trail provide panoramic vistas of the locality. Each group of hikers is required to hire a guide for this and other trails in the park. Companies operating Doi Inthanon tours from Chiang Mai arrange this service.
WHAT TO SEE
The Royal Chedis
Two huge chedis beside the road a few kilometres from the top of the mountain honour Thailand’s royal family. The first chedi, Naphamethinidon, was built in 1987 to commemorate the late King Bhumibol’s sixtieth birthday. Naphaphonphumisiri is the name of the other chedi built five years later for Queen Sirikit’s sixtieth birthday. The regal structures, views and nicely laid out gardens ensure tourists rarely pass by without stopping.
The Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon
This research facility was inaugurated to provide hilltribes in the locality with an alternate source of income to the cultivation of opium. The facility is open to the public and is noted for the Siribhume gardens and waterfall and its fern, plant and flower greenhouses. The hydroponics greenhouse and the rhododendron garden are also worth a look before heading off to the onsite restaurant to enjoy a meal created from Doi Inthanon produce.
The Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon: #202, M. 7, T. Baan Luang, A. Chom Thong, Chiang Mai 50160 | Open: 09:00-17:00 (Daily) | Entrance Fee: 20 B | Tel: +66 53 286 777-8 | Website | E-mail | Map
The Top of Doi Inthanon
Most Thais say that a trip to Doi Inthanon which does not take in the meandering road to the summit is incomplete. The highest point in Thailand is around 40kms up Route 1009 from the park’s ticket office at Checkpoint I. The road is not too steep and can easily be managed on a rented motorcycle or car. The views from the top are panoramic and more than compensate for the time spent getting here.
Mae Klang Waterfall
Mae Klang is another tall cascade, but with pools at the bottom. It is reached via a sideroad about 500 metres before the main Doi Inthanon National Park entry gate. As it has places to paddle and swim and does not require visitors to pay for park entry tickets it is very popular. Shops near these falls sell a full range of souvenirs and standard Thai food items including somtam spicy salad and grilled chicken. A picnic is one of the major draws of Mae Klang Waterfall.
Mae Ya Waterfall
Mae Ya Waterfall streams down a multi-tiered cliff and creates a pleasing spectacle. Mae Ya is in Doi Inthanon National Park but accessed via a different entrance. A signpost points the way from Route 1009 before the main gate. After taking the turnoff, it is about 15kms to the waterfall.
Sirithan Waterfall is a stunning 50-metre high cascade with two tiers and which flows even towards the end of the dry season.
The Sirithan and Wachirathan falls are only one kilometre apart. The Wachirathan falls stream over several levels of a granite bluff and have a total height of about 80 metres. Timber viewing platforms allow tourists to view the falls in all their majesty. The car park for Wachirathan is signposted about 12kms along the 1009 from the Doi Inthanon ticket office.
WHERE TO STAY
The Touch Star Resort
The Touch Star is two kilometres from Doi Inthanon National Park Checkpoint I and features a collection of rooms, cottages and villas for between one and ten guests. All come with air-conditioning, private bathrooms and hot water, verandas, satellite televisions and wireless internet. The resort has its own source of natural mineral water. Other facilities here are a campsite, a restaurant and laundry services … more info & booking
Chiang Mai Inthanon Golf and Natural Resort
The Inthanon Golf Resort is a premium accommodation choice for the Chom Thong area and boasts a collection of stylish accommodation. Each unit provides air-conditioning, wireless internet, televisions, personal safes and balconies. A swimming pool and restaurant are among the facilities, but the biggest attraction of staying here is having one of Chiang Mai’s premier 18-hole golf courses right on the doorstep … more info & booking
Doi Inthanon View Resort
Doi Inthanon View Resort is usually called the Doiin View. It is a homely resort offering a portfolio of bungalows for up to four occupants. Polished timber is the main feature of the décor while bedding and other fabrics have been sourced from local cottage industries. En-suite bathrooms and verandas with views over beautifully landscaped gardens are the key features here. The Doiin is beside Route 1009 and just one kilometre before the front gate of the national park … more info & booking
The Small Farm Resort
The Small Farm is a boutique resort with rooms done out in the style of a US cowboy ranch with vivid splashes of colour. The onsite restaurant serves a good selection of dishes covering everything from Thailand’s famous fried rice to Japanese steaks. The farm itself is home to non-native species including ostriches and alpacas. The Small Farm is on a signposted side road offRoute 1009 … more info & booking
HOW TO GET THERE
Checkpoint I, the front gate to Doi Inthanon National Park, is 60kms from Chiang Mai Old City. From the checkpoint, the summit is another 40kms. Checkpoint I can be reached by first following Highway 108 south from Chiang Mai and then turning right at the signposted turning for Route 1009. Good direction markers mean the trip is easy enough to do with a rented motorcycle or car.
Numerous local tour agencies offer one-day Doi Inthanon packages which take in the chief highlights. Passenger van, taxi or red songthaew drivers can usually be persuaded to go to Doi Inthanon if the price is right. To get the beast deals on fares for this trip it is a good idea to ask Chiang Mai hotel staff for help.
Doi Inthanon is also accessible on public transport but a time-consuming journey. Blue buses and songthaews for Chom Thong and Hot depart from Chiang Mai Gate on the south side of the Old City. There are songthaews from the junction of the 108 and the 1009 which go to the park, but these run infrequently.