Just north of the city in the hills over 3000’ elevation sits Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, the quintessential day trip from Chiang Mai. It has every element to create a magical day including a golden temple, waterfalls, and awesome views.
You can get there by public transportation and walking, you could rent a bike, or you could hire a driver. Short on time in the city, we wanted to make the most of our day so we took the more convenient, though expensive option. Attractions are located sporadically along a long and winding road, so it really does make sense to have a car to see most of the park. Foreigners pay an entrance fee and there are additional fees for certain attractions.
+First on the docket was Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, on of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand. At the base there are all sorts of shops selling crafts and food. We grabbed waffles on a stick for second breakfast and made our way to the entrance, which is 309 steps away.
The path is flanked by a multiheaded dragon creature and when you get to the top it’ll be an extra 30 baht. There are more colorful characters,
waiting around every corner. Walking around the temple site there is much to see, but the most dazzle aspect by far is the golden chedi founded in the 14th century.
Walking around up here, you can see Chiang Mai and well beyond.
+Next up we visited Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village.
It’s kind of a funny place, you can rent traditional clothing and walk around taking selfies.
There are tons of places to buy souvenirs, fresh fruit, coffee, and most importantly lunch. For a mere 10 baht you can walk around a cute little garden.
It won’t blow you away, but it’s got some charm and includes a waterfall.
Plus you get gain use of the wonderfully primitive bathroom. Out of the main tourist road nestled between local homes there is a set of stairs that leads up to a quiet temple.
The temple was closed, but the quick insight into real life and this view was worth the diversion. Found the path through the Maps.me app.
+For the nature lovers don’t miss Mon Tha Than Waterfall and nature trail.
It’s a very quick walk to get to the initial and most impressive section of the falls.
If you keep going there is another spout with a brisk pool.
Someone dove on in while we were there. Crossing the creek and heading up some elevation begin on the nature loop. There is no map anywhere, but the trail is easy to follow and fun. Gaining some elevation peaks out to a vista.
There are informational plaques throughout the trail, and it loops just south of the parking lot.
+A shorter walk to another gorgeous falls is Huay Kaew Waterfall. Pass by more shops and slumbering pups, and quickly fall in to a more natural scene.
You can see the falls from a distance, but to get up to the most exciting section of it requires some slippery scrambling up bare rock.
Many more waterfalls, temples, views, and even a palace reside within the park boundaries. You could plan multiple days exploring, though this was a great start!