Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, known more casually as ‘Doi Suthep’ is one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai, as well as one of the most revered among all Thais. It is about 15km from the centre of Chiang Mai.

Doi Suthep mountain itself reaches an altitude of 1,676 meters (5,498 feet) and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep stands on the flank of the mountain at an elevation of 1,056 meters (3464 feet). Because of this, it’s always pleasantly cool with some amazing views of Chiang Mai city.

View from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

This photo was taken from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the late afternoon. What a view!

According to legend, a Buddha relic magically replicated itself just before it was about to be enshrined in the big chedi at Wat Suan Dok. The “cloned” relic was placed on the back of a sacred white elephant, which was allowed to roam whereever it wanted.

The elephant eventually climbed to the top of Suthep Mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down and died. This was taken as a sign that this was the spot where the relic wanted to be, so King Ku Na built the original chedi on Doi Suthep at the end of 14th century.

Getting there

Unless you are extremely fit, we wouldn’t recommend cycling. It has nearly been the end of me twice now – needless to say, I didn’t make it. Either get a Songthaew (one of the red pick-ups with bench seats in the back) all the way from the Chiang Mai old town, or get a Tuk Tuk to Chiang Mai zoo at the bottom of the hill and transfer to another Songthaew. It’s also a pleasant ride from town on a moped or motorbike if you are confident riding on windy mountain roads with psycho Songthaew drivers trying to run you off the road.

6 thoughts on “Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai”

  1. Nice article. Today I WALKED from Chiang Mai (Nimmahaeminda Road, city center) all the way to the top of of Doi Suthep. I started walking at 07:45 in the morning and, arrived on the top around 11:45.

    Walking it is is pretty much fun. At some of the many, many curves in the road you can step away from the road into a shadowy piece of nature. At one point there was a little waterfall. It was the waterfall, me, and nothing or noone else. Seeing the heat I grabbed myself a quick ‘shower’.

    For some reason the Thai people thought I was doing a cool thing walking the mountain. Many cars crossed, and many people cheered to me – thumbs up. Maybe because it was this hot; I dont know.

  2. We have been Chiang Mai Many time yes Doi Suthep is one of the beatiful place of Chiang Mai with stunning temple and Chedi on the top.

    The most i like on vacation was we spend time in elephant camp at patara.

    This experience was amazing. My new wife arranged this trip of a life time to do on our honeymoon and for my birthday and I couldn’t have wished for a better gift than to experience how amazing elephants are.

    It was a beautiful day to be up close and hands on with them was fantastic. I learn so much from this experience, my wife was in contact with agent before or trip and he was so helpful and from when staff collects you from your hotel till you are on your way home he is brilliant so friendly and full of knowledge.

    Don’t be afraid to get yourself wet and muddy because you are going to have an amazing time, from feeding your own elephant (my special little elephant was Nui, gorgeous and mischievous, ha ha) to health care checks, washing them in the river and bare back riding through jungle.

    The picnic at the waterfall is beautiful and there was plenty to go around, even the elephants get to have some. With a small group of 8 you get to know everyone there and we all had a fab day together, Nui;s mahut was called Ae’ who was also very helpful and friendly.

    I would recommend this experience to anyone it is certainly not to be missed.
    You couldn’t remove the smile off my face all day

    Here’s is Listed Things to do in Chiang Mai

    Doi Suthep temple on the hill top you can see view of the city (must see)

    Chiang Rai Golden Triangle with Long Neck Karen

    Night Market, Sunday Market

    Stroll Around the Old City

    Flight of the gibbon Zip Lines adventure

    Elephant camp with bamboo rafting

    Hope it helps.


  3. Hi David, thanks for your comments.

    I should point a couple of things out to our visitors to avoid any confusion. I’m not meaning to put a downer on one of your suggestions, it’s just something quite close to my heart.

    Chiang Rai Golden Triangle is not actually in Chiang Mai, plus the long neck Karen are actually Burmese refugees who are exploited by the Thai government for their tourist value.

    They effectively live in human zoos and are given safe refuge by the Thai government on the basis that they sit there smiling sweetly at gawking/gawping tourists.

    How ironic that they escape Burma and suffer from arguably further human rights abuses at the hands of the Thai government.

    You can read more here:


  4. Hi David,

    Thank you for your comments.

    I would like to add, however, that I strongly advice tourists NOT to engage in elephant rides. Unfortunately I have done it myself in the past and I was appalled by the conditions in which the elephants live and are treated.

    Animal welfare websites note that as much as 99.9% of the domesticated elephants in Thailand are treated really bad. Even at the Lampang “Conservation” Camp, they’re not really allowed to be elephants. What elephant really wants to learn to paint & tote around tourists all day???

    If you’re interested in seeing just how they go about training an elephant to carry people, check out National Geographic’s clips The clip titled “Training Crush” shows you just how it’s done: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0510/feature5/video.html

    If you want to read more about people’s experiences with elephantrides in Thailand, you could check out the following page: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=694537

    Good luck with all the tours in beautiful Thailand, but do spare the elepants more abuse.

    Best wishes,

  5. It’s also fun to run up during the cool season, starting at 5 AM to avoid the polluting cars, buses, and vans. Running takes less than two hours and, like biking, is kind to the environment

  6. Hey all! I would highly recommend the trek up to Doi Suthep. I did the trip up to Doi Suthep on a halfway decent mountain bike that I borrowed from a Couchsurfer. I agree with the author that you should be in pretty good shape if you want to make it all the way to the top. I’m not saying you cannot do it, I’m just saying it would be a hell of a lot easier if you were fit. You can read all about my experiences of conquering Doi Suthep here: http://www.pausethemoment.com/2011/07/19/biking-doi-suthep-chiang-mai-thailand/

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