Also known as Chiang Mai‘s mountain temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples not only in Chiang Mai but also in North Thailand. Around 15 kilometers west of old city, this famous temple can be reached via a treacherous mountain road that passes across dense forest making you negotiate sharp curves. We hired a scooter from Chiang Mai and were soon on our way to Doi Suthep. It took us around an hour to reach the temple as we went slow and also took breaks on the way to enjoy the panoramic views of Chiang Mai city from the mountain top.
306 steps to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
We were soon in front of a set of stairs amid a market of souvenirs. These are a set of strenuous 306-steps stairway that lead to the main temple complex. You may consider to walk up the stairs shoulder to shoulder with other tourists and devotees or in case you find it difficult , you may also opt for a lift to go to the top at 20 Bhat per person charge.
It is a bit strenuous but worthwhile as you walk up the stairs. As you ascend up, you will also see local children on the stair-way wearing “traditional hill tribe” dresses. They are quite photogenic and you can take a picture of them or with them by paying a small amount (though this is not recommended as this only leads to exploitation of these children)
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple Compund
After climbing the stairs, you reach to the temple compound, a beautiful terrace dotted with trees and a shrine on the side. You can offer your prayers here before entering to the main temple. There is also a seating space where you can rest and catch your breath. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a very famous temple. As per mythology, there was a white elephant who carried a bone piece from the shoulder of the historical Buddha. Elephant was let to wander in jungle to find a place for building the monastery. In this process, sacred white elephant died and this monastery was built at the same place where elephant had died in the process of selecting a spot.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Main Temple Complex
As soon as you enter the main temple complex, you saw the golden chedi of Doi Suthep temple, an epitome of Thai architecture. Its glitter and shine and devotees circling around it with lotus in their palms presents a captivating sight.
Within the temple compound, you will see a lot of Buddha statues in different postures and devotees offering their prayers either by kneeling or circling the main golden chedi which has the bone relic inside. Here are some pictures from inside the temple complex.
Inside the temple, you can also roll sticks in a box to know your prophecy. You keep on shaking this box of sticks till the point one of the sticks pops out. Every stick has an assigned number. For the stick that pops out for you, pick a paper from the side-rack and it tells the kind of person you are based on ancient Chinese prophecy –
Souvenir Market at the entrance of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
As you reach the Doi Suthep, even before taking stairs, you will find a big market selling souvenirs, dresses and also some yummy food. This market is worth exploring. There are quite a good collection of unique handicraft souvenirs and rates too are optimal.
On the way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Road to Doi Suthep passes through a serene and peaceful jungle. It was a nice drive on the scooter that we had hired from Chiang Mai. On the way, you can stop at a view point from where you get panoramic views of Chiang Mai city. Also, there are 2 waterfalls en route – i) Montha Than Waterfall (There is an entry fee of 100 Bhats for foreigners and it closes at 4:30 PM) ii) Wang Bua Ban Waterfall (This is just few steps down from the main road and there is no entry fee. It remains open all the time). You can easily see the sign-boards directing you to these waterfalls.
Entry Fee, Opening Hours & Dress Code for Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
There is an entry fee of 30 Bahts for foreigners. Temple Opening Hours are from 6 AM to 6 PM. There is no entry fee for Thai citizens. In general, for all Thailand temples, you need to keep your shoulders arms and legs covered. Below image will give you a glimpse of the dress code for Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and also other temples in Thailand.
How to reach Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
We had hired a scooter for a day from Chiang Mai at 200 Bahts a day and had taken a scooter ride to the temple. Though road is well paved but there are sharp curves on the way and you have to drive cautiously. Here is the video of a part of our drive –
Alternately, there are also tuk-tuks available just outside the temple that can drop you back to Chiang Mai and charge per person basis. From the city, you can catch a tuk-tuk to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep either from the Zoo or from the Wat Phra Singh but they leave only when they are full.
We hope that this information helps you plan your trip to Doi Suthep better. Do comment below in case you need any additional information.