Spread across more than 265 square kilometres, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is arguably Chiang Mai’s most spectacular natural attraction. A diverse landscape of rocky outcrops, evergreen and deciduous trees, crashing waterfalls, old-growth forest and spectacular mountain peaks makes this park the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and get back to nature.
Forming a magnificent backdrop to Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is located just a few kilometres north-west of the city centre. The park takes its name from one of its three lofty peaks, Doi Suthep, which is part of the Thanon Thong Chai Range. Doi Buak Ha and Doi Pui are the other two peaks, and Doi Pui is the tallest of the three, at 1,685 metres. Despite not being the biggest, Doi Suthep is the most famous, owing to the historic temple perched on its summit. Considered the most holy site in Northern Thailand, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a functioning Buddhist monastery that dates back to 1383. No visit to the park would be complete without a visit to the temple, which is famous for its golden tower, ancient chedi and shrine to the fabled white elephant.
Other significant cultural and religious sites to look for include the Kruba Srivichai Monument, which pays tribute to the monk who initiated the road that leads to the temple, and the Royal Winter Palace. Built in traditional Thai style and featuring a stunning rose garden, the palace is open to the public when the royal family is not in residence.
When you’ve had your fill of history and culture, kick back and enjoy the park itself. Either set off on a self-guided walking, hiking or cycling adventure, or take a tour to discover hidden caves, stunning waterfalls and native flora and fauna. The park is home to more than 300 species of birds and animals, including native deer, wild boar, eagles and parrots, so keep your camera at the ready to capture any wildlife encounters. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is open to the public daily from 8am until 6pm. An entrance fee of approximately AU$8 for adults and AU$4 for children applies.