It proves how relatively flat a country is when you can drive to the top of its tallest mountain. You can do just that at Doi Inthanon in the north of Thailand. At over 2500 metres above sea level, it’s the tallest mountain in the country and is a great place for a day trip. You’ll see some beautiful views, waterfalls, unique pagodas and plenty more. I did a day trip to Doi Inthanon from Chiang Mai on my recent trip to Thailand – keep reading for all you need to know, including how to get there, how much it’ll cost and some of the things you can see.
Getting to Doi Inthanon
The main ways of getting to Doi Inthanon from Chiang Mai are to rent a motorbike or car or take a tour. I think there might be some songthaews that go there (I saw some which took people to the pagodas, not sure about the Chiang Mai – Park Headquarters leg) but you wouldn’t be able to see nearly as much.
I settled on a tour. You can book them from most guesthouses and travel agents in Chiang Mai. You can also check out some tours on Get Your Guide if you prefer to book ahead. I paid 1100 baht, which included lunch, transport and national park fee (which is 300 baht). Most places advertised the tours for 1300 – 1500 baht so you might need to bargain. I booked at Baan Klang Vieng as it was the cheapest price I saw and I didn’t even have to bargain. Also, the two-hour hiking tour (the one I did) is a little more expensive than the one without that hike — I’d highly recommend going for the option that I did.
You could also travel to Doi Inthanon by motorbike. It should cost around 150 – 200 baht to rent one, plus petrol. Be careful riding this route as the roads are winding – not the place to be riding if you’re not confident and experienced! Also beware that there are lots of police checks happening in Chiang Mai – if you don’t have the correct licence and a helmet you’ll get fined.
The first stop on my Doi Inthanon day trip was Wachirathan Waterfall, considered to be one of the best waterfalls close to Chiang Mai. It didn’t disappoint! From the car park it’s about a minute to the waterfall viewpoint, and there are also some tracks where you can get some different angles (you can’t swim though). There are lots of other waterfalls in Doi Inthanon National Park – book a private tour or drive yourself if you want to see more of them.
Next up we spent some time in a Karen (a local hill tribe) village. We walked around the village, saw some cute baby black pigs and enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere. It was Sunday and I’m guessing most of the village were away for the day – so quiet!
I’m not usually a fan of village tourism but I enjoyed it. There were no cultural performances, or any form of entertainment laid on for tourists, although we did get to try some of the delicious coffee they grow there. The village was very scenic too, which always helps!
From there we travelled a short distance to a market. Strawberries are popular in these parts, but you can find heaps of other stuff, including some interesting looking local alcohol (made with local fruit).
Usually when you get an included lunch on a tour like this it leaves a lot to be desired. This wasn’t the case on the Doi Inthanon day trip though – the lunch was really good! It was a buffet style lunch where they bring a few dishes to the table and top them up as needed. We had crumbed pork, coconut chicken soup and a few other dishes. It was one of the best meals I ate on my trip to Thailand. You might not be so lucky, but the restaurant was huge and seemed to attract a lot of tour groups – hopefully you get to try it.
The Hike: Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
After lunch we headed further up the mountain to do some hiking. The Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail takes you through the forest to a little waterfall and then opens out to some stunning views of the countryside and surrounding mountains.
It’s easy enough (not a lot of uphill hiking involved) and there is a good variety of things to see. It also helps if you have a good guide. Our guide for the day, Samphan, was one of the best guides I’ve had in Southeast Asia (or anywhere in the world). He didn’t drone on about stuff for too long and was always either funny or interesting (usually both). Guides make a huge difference on tours like this and everyone was happy we ended up with ours! We also had a local guide for this hike – she didn’t say much though! If you do this independently you’ll have to pay 200 baht (per group) for the guide and they won’t let you do it without one.
From the top of the track you can see the King and Queen Pagodas, the last stop on the tour. This is also the spot where you’ll get some of the best views.
The Highest Point in Thailand
From there it was a short drive to the top of Doi Inthanon. It’s a bit of an anti-climax though, as there are no views from up there. There is a little pagoda and a sign saying you are in fact at the highest point in Thailand.
The King and Queen Pagodas
The last stop on this Doi Inthanon day trip was at the King and Queen Pagodas. These pagodas are pretty unique (the Queen’s one is way nicer) and have nice views of the surrounding mountains (similar to the view you see on the hike). There are heaps of flowers and manicured gardens around the Queen Pagoda and there are even escalators running up to both of them – why walk when you can stand!
Doi Inthanon Day Trip Tips
- Bring warm clothes: It gets a bit chilly at the top of the mountain – not extreme but you may need a jersey.
- Get a good seat in the van: You’ll be spending quite a lot of time in the van (there’s about four hours of driving on this day trip) so try and get a good seat. It does kinda depend on what order you get picked up though, so good luck with that!
- Consider a private tour: If you have a few people it could make sense to book a private tour. This gives you the freedom of adding stops or skipping places you aren’t interested in. I would liked to have visited one or two more waterfalls and maybe skip the market.
Are you planning a trip to Chiang Mai? Will you do a day trip to Doi Inthanon? Let me know in the comments below!
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