The golden spire of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep glitters near the summit of Doi Suthep, a 5,499-foot (1,676-meter) mountain outside Chiang Mai. The wat, established in 1383, is one of northern Thailand’s most sacred temples. The International Buddhist Center at the wat hosts informal discussions, chanting, and meditation.
As one of Chiang Mai’s most popular attractions, Doi Suthep Temple is typically included in many Chiang Mai tours, along with other area temples and hill tribe villages. Those with an interest in the spiritual life of Thai Buddhists can opt for an early-morning tour to join locals as they give morning alms to the temple monks. Half- and full-day tours with English-speaking guides are available, and most include hotel pickup and drop-off in Chiang Mai.
Things to Know Before You Go
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a must-visit for spiritual travelers and first-time visitors to Chiang Mai.
Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces, and be prepared to do some climbing.
The temple is accessible to wheelchair users (including the elevator and cable car to the top), but there are some steep ramps.
How to Get There
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is in Doi Suthep–Pui National Park, 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Chiang Mai. If not on an organized tour, jump in a minibus taxi from Chiang Mai. A tram takes you to the summit and the wat, or you can trek along the winding road and climb the 306 steps.
When to Get There
Doi Suthep is a very popular attraction in Chiang Mai. To avoid the crowds, plan to visit first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. Try to visit on a clear day for the best panoramic view from the top.
History of Doi Suthep Temple
Initial construction of the temple, which gets its name from the mountain on which it was built, dates back to 1386. According to local legend, an elephant carrying Buddhist relics (including a piece of shoulder bone from the Buddha) was sent out from Chiang Mai, but instead of keeping to the flat countryside, it climbed up the mountain and stopped at the summit. A temple was commissioned on the site to hold the relics.