Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: The Mountain Temple of Chiang Mai
Asia Thailand Travel City Trip Travel Tips

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: The Mountain Temple of Chiang Mai

This post is part of the series Chiang Mai

Other posts in this series:

  1. Wat Sri Suphan: The Silver Temple in Chiang Mai
  2. Wat Chedi Luang: Temple of the Great Stupa in Chiang Mai
  3. Wat Phra Singh: The Golden Temple in Chiang Mai

This post is part of the series Thailand

Other posts in this series:

  1. 3 Week Thailand Itinerary
  2. Wat Arun: The Temple of Dawn in Bangkok, Thailand
  3. Wat Pho: The Temple of Reclining Buddha in Bangkok
Travel Stories to Inspire Your Wanderlust

Learn more about Thailand!

Visit Website

Located in the Himalayan foothills of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the spiritual capital of the country. Like a sky looking down at all the people of Thailand, Chiang Mai has at least as many shining temples, as the sky has stars.

 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 

Chiang Mai is a city filled with temples. There are more than 300 Buddhist temples scattered throughout the city and the surrounding countryside. Just to be precise, no other province in Thailand is home to more temples than Chiang Mai! As you roam through the streets of the Old City it is impossible to walk more than 300 meters without seeing a temple. And after visiting some of them, you’ll notice that all temples are absolutely beautiful but some of them are “shining” a bit more than the others.

 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 

Although there are hundreds of temples within the city walls of Chiang Mai, the most sacred one is overlooking the city from its mountain throne of Doi Suthep! Wat Phra That Doi Suthep can be seen from almost every place in Chiang Mai as it is located on the top of the mountain near the city. Doi Suthep Temple is important not only for the people of the north, but it is also one of the most sacred temples for Buddhist in- and outside Thailand.

 

! Did you know that ...
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was built in 1383 by King Keu Naone and according, to popular legend, the King built the temple to hold a piece of bone from Buddha’s shoulder.
 

If you have the chance and time to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep even for a short while, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The views from the mountain are impressive and the temple is also very rich in photogenic features, especially during the sunset. Doi Suthep is of great religious significance and together with its beauty makes it an incredible destination and must see in Northern Thailand!

 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 

The Legend of Phra That Doi Suthep

 

The Legend of Phra That Doi Suthep says that a monk named Sumanathera from the Sukhothai Kingdom had a dream. He was told to travel to Pang Cha, to take the Buddha’s shoulder bone (a relic with some magical powers) and bring it to King Dhammaraja who was reigning over Lanna Kingdome. The monk discovered the fragment of bone from the Buddha’s shoulder among the tall grass at Ban Pang Cha in Chiang Mai Province.

 

! Did you know that ...
Doi means mountain in northern Thai
 

Unfortunately, the wandering monk broke the shoulder bone into two pieces at the base of Doi Suthep Mountain. The first piece was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The second, though, was mounted on a sacred white elephant who then climbed Doi Suthep mountain and stopped near the peak. The white sacred elephant wandered the jungle where he laid down and passed away. King Kuena of Lanna Kingdom, declared the spot a holy site, and work commenced in 1383 to build a stupa to hold the relic. This was the place where the monastery was later founded.

 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 

How to Get to Phra That Doi Suthep

 

Doi Suthep Temple is located in the mountain region of Chiang Mai and offers a natural beauty that you don’t want to miss during your stay in Northern Thailand. Not only Doi Suthep Temple but also the road through virgin forests and waterfalls is a highlight itself. The landscape of Doi Suthep is covered in bulky tropical forest and covers a nice view over the city of Chiang Mai.

 

There are several ways to get yourself from Chiang Mai up to Doi Suthep located on the mountaintop near the city. If you plan to go on your own, you can hike, rent a motorbike or scooter, get a ride in a red songthaew (red trucks that act as shared taxis all over Chiang Mai), or do a guided tour.

 

Taking a songthaew: There is no doubt that this one is the most popular way to get to the temple. You can charter a songthaew from anywhere in the city – these are shared taxis which are for travelling in a group. This option could cost up 300 THB for one way and 500 THB if you want the driver to wait at the top and bring you back down.

 

But the better option, if you don’t want to overpay, is to go to Chang Pauk Gate. After passing the gate you will see many songthaews waiting for at least 6 persons. This option costs 50 TBH for one way per person and was the option that we also chose. The same driver brings you back to Chang Pauk Gate.

 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 

Driving: Up for an adventure? If you decide to drive yourself via car, motorbike or scooter you’ll be taking the Huay Kaew Road) towards the Chiang Mai Zoo. There is just one road up to Doi Suthep from Chiang Mai, so you really can’t miss it.

 

Hiking: I am definitely a hiking lover but not when the outside temperature is about 34°. But if you don’t care about the heat and you’re in the mood for some exercise I can recommend hiking up via Suthep Road. The starting point for hiking to the temple is near the Chiang Mai University. There you can see a sign with “Nature Hike”. Follow the road to the trail head. It takes about 1 hour up and 30 min down.

 

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

 

Highlights of Phra That Doi Suthep

 

When you reach the Doi Suthep Mountain you’ll see the huge place with souvenir stands and stalls selling food. Once you get to the base of the temple, you have two options for getting up to it. The Temple is reached via a 306-step staircase in a shape of snakelike nagas  (ornate serpents) or take the funicular (20 THB for Thais and 50 THB for foreigners)

 

We decided to walk as we always do. Along the staircase, we saw many kids dressed in colourful hill tribe clothes. If you want to take pictures of the kids in traditional clothes, be prepared to pay. Once you have reached the terrace at the top you’ll see the statue of the white elephant that carried the Buddha relic.

 

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Kau Cim or Chi Chi Sticks
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Kau Cim or Chi Chi Sticks
 
! Kau Cim or Chi Chi Sticks ...
My favourite Kau Cim or Chi Chi Sticks!!! This practice is known as Oracle of Guan Yin in Buddhist tradition and originated in China. Kau Cim Bucket is the cylinder bucket where the Kau Cim Sticks are stored. Each Kau Cim Stick has a number from 1 to 100 (sometimes 78). So you have to ask a question and shake the Kau Cim Bucket until one of the sticks fall down. The number will correspond to one of the hundreds of written notes (oracles) with an answer to your question.
 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 

One of the highlights in the complex is the large stupa located in the inner courtyard. Here you can find also the temple murals and many Buddha statues. I saw people walking around the main stupa. So I asked what was it about. A woman told me that one of the customs at Doi Suthep is to walk around the main stupa 3 times in a clockwise direction.

 

! Did you know that ...
The Doi Suthep Vipassana Meditation Center at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep hosts several religious outreach programs and meditation courses.

 

 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 

Things to Know Before You Go

Phra That Doi Suthep Temple sits on his throne in Doi Suthep Mountain! The highest peak here is called Doi Pui (1,685 m), while Doi Suthep itself reaches an altitude of 1,676 meters.
 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple was built at an elevation of 1,056 meters.
 

Official Name: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Address: 9 Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200,

Opening Hours: Doi Suthep is open every day from Monday-Sunday – 6:00 am to 6:00 pm

Tickets: 30 THB per person, donations are always appreciated

Hotels Near Doi Suthep: Find the best deals here!

 
As with any other temple in the city, keep in mind to dress respectfully – shoulders and knees should be covered. You will also need to remove your shoes at the entrance.
 
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
 
Enjoy the day!
 
Logo

 

*This post contains Affiliate Links. I only recommend high-quality items and services I

Continue reading this series:

Island Trip

Road Trip

Travel Tips

City Trip

LillaGreen

Tsvete Popp is a travel and lifestyle blogger based in Innsbruck, Austria. LillaGreen is about living the life of a dreamer with passionate devotion to travel and photography. LillaGreen encourages you to explore the World by creating your own rules to follow.

You Recently Viewed ...

Temple Hopping in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai

Wat Chiang Man: The Oldest Temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Phra Singh Temple, Chiang Mai

Wat Phra Singh: The Golden Temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang Temple. Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang: Temple of the Great Stupa in Chiang Mai

The Silver Temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Sri Suphan: The Silver Temple in Chiang Mai

LillaGreen

Hello, I'm Tsvete Popp and LillaGreen is my sweet escape from reality where I share my adventures from around the World, travel and photo diaries, interesting stories and useful tips. Enjoy with me!