Doi Inthanon is a mountain in northern Thailand boasting the highest point in all of Thailand. This sucker is 2565m above sea level; Chiang Mai is sitting at 387m elevation so you’re traveling up over 2000 meters – pretty cool.
And it’s so conveniently located – Chiang Mai to Summit is just about 100km South South West. You can easily make a day trip out of it, but I’d recommend finding a nice place to stay the night before and getting an early start the next day. First, there is a lot to see and do and explore and hike whilst on Doi Inthanon, so you’ll be happy to have the extra time. Second, there are quite a few really nice places to stay near the mountain with incredible views of the forest or sleeping surrounded by rice fields. You can find a few reasonably priced ~400THB.
As for us we stayed over night and woke up at 3:30am trying to catch the sunrise from the top of Doi Inthanon. Alas! It was to no avail. It seems to be cloudy all of the time in the middle of the rainy season (July-September, June and October are mostly great). So be aware of that; on the day we were exploring the mountain it didn’t rain at all in Chiang Mai, but rained on-and-off all day on Doi Inthanon. Even though it was raining we had an awesome time with many great experiences 🙂 And if you’re in Chiang Mai during the rainy season, I recommend just accepting the wetness and go for it! The waterfalls are more spectacular with all that rain anyway 😉
Most of these places do not allow swimming in the waterfall because the current is too strong near these waterfalls and bad things could happen real quick. But you can 100% go swimming at the Mea Ya waterfalls, so bring the swim trunks.
I’m gonna share with you everything we did and tell you about a few popular places we didn’t see. And I’ll tell you how much the whole thing cost us. This is all starting from the summit and making our way down the mountain 🙂
The Summit and Ang Ka Luang Nature Trail (300THB Entrance Fee)
Yahoooo! We’re on the summit! It’s so much fun being on the top of stuff, ever since those king-of-the-hill days. At the top you get to take a picture at the giant sign letting everyone know you made. That so so arduous task of sitting on your bum while an engine spins your wheel up steep climbs ;p
But once you’re up there, there’s a lovely little “hiking” trail called the Ang Ka Nature Trail (meaning “Crow’s Pond” in Thai). It takes you on a short ~400 meter walk through the moss filled forest. We got to enjoy a foggy atmosphere, which added a hint of mystique to everything.
There is also a newly (2019) build little museum with details about Doi Inthanon and the wildlife. It has some beautifully hand painted murals.
Pah Dok Sieo Waterfalls Trail (25THB for Village Guide)
My, for sure, favorite thing I did in Doi Inthanon. You’ll arrive here on the right-hand side, a little bit after passing the guard gate heading down the mountain. Typically all hikes along the mountain require a guide by law (this is an awesome way to help support the local villages in the area. Money goes directly to them!), but we got here so early (around 7am) that no one was there. We decided to follow the trail, despite a scary sign saying 1000THB fine :3 This is totally off the beaten path and goes down down down into the jungle (184 steps to be exact). It’s pretty steep and they have put in some bamboo railings. But these railings are getting old and wobbly, so before putting any weight on them I gave a good tug test first. Eventually you’ll hear some water and that’s when the fun begins. You begin to follow the river and continue going down down down, and now you’ll start to see incredible rapids and waterfalls!
When we finished the hike, there was a group of villagers waiting there for us. I got a bit scared that they’d be upset and report us. But they just smiled and had no bothers. Their smiles were so warm that I went on over anyway and asked how much a guide costs. They told me 50THB, so I handed it over no problem 🙂 Only 25THB per person, that’s amazing.
Siribhum Waterfall (20THB Fee)
You’ll drive a little bit off of the main road to find this one, but it’s easy enough to get to. As you approach you’ll see this massive waterfall several 100 meters up in the mountain cliff ahead of you. That alone is looking spectacular. Then you get to the parking lot at the base and head towards the path (there’s a 20THB entrance fee for this one, but we were there early and in low season and no one was at the gate, soooo…free entrance ;).
They have made a wonderful garden labyrinth. Beautiful rocky pathways with multiple cute arched bridges over strong flowing creeks. Making your way to the lower waterfall is worth it already. Then you get to the bottom waterfall.
You can hike up to the top waterfall, but that’ll be a strenuous hike. Make sure you’ve done some hiking before or at least have footwear other than flipflops 😉
Wachirathan Waterfall (Included in Doi Inthanon Entrance Fee)
Crowded tourist attraction this one, but still worth checking out! This is massive! So high and so much water. But be warned, this place was crowded at 10am during low season. I don’t want to see it in high season.
Mae Ya Waterfall Park (Included in Doi Inthanon Entrance Fee)
Another massive waterfall, but this one also has a beautiful park. However it is for sure considered out of the way. About 15km from the main Doi Inthanon road (and if you hired a driver, they will charge extra to go here), but it’s worth it in my opinion. The waterfall is one of the best we saw.
This is the kind of place you’d want to relax and hang out for an hour or two. You can swim in the river, enjoy some food, admire the environment, and share in the joys of everyone around you. A great place to end an exhausting day of site seeing on Doi Inthanon.
A Whole Lot More To See!
There is always too much to do in a day! Here are some really popular places on Doi Inthanon that I wasn’t able to see. And there are some links that go into greater detail for them 🙂
Giew Mae Pan Nature Trail (200THB for Village Guide)
This is a must must must do hiking trail. It is only 3km (2.78km for the sticklers out there). It is relatively easy, with only a few sections of climbing (if you can’t do stairs then you may want to avoid this one). It is a circular trail bringing you back to where you started. And the scenery changes, the views, the forest – it all looks incredible! However, this trails is closed to the rainy season (June 01 – October 01). Merrrr :’(
A great post about Giew Mae Pan Nature Trail by the ChiangMaiTraveller.
The Royal Pagodas (40THB)
The very beautiful and large pagodas are surrounded by gardens. They provide an incredibly picturesque opportunity capturing the pagodas in the foreground and mountains and valleys beyond.
Sirithan Waterfall (Included in Doi Inthanon Entrance Fee)
An easily accessible waterfall just off of the main, 1009, road. If it wasn’t raining on us all day, we would’ve made the stop here as well. We were feeling a little more tired and a little less motivated than when facing blue skies 😉
How Do I Get There?
You’ve got quite a few options here: Hire a Driver, Get a Tour Van, Rent a Car, Rent a Motorbike.
The more expensive option is renting a driver, but if you’ve got the money for it, it will be the most comfortable way about it.
If you’ve got 4 or 5 of you in a group then renting a car is a great idea. Splitting the costs means it’s no more expensive than the motorbike (though it might be less fun…).
Any hostel or tour agency in Chiang Mai will happily offer a Doi Inthanon tour. You’ll be picked up in the morning (probably around 7 or 8am) and you’ll have a great day following that schedule and meeting other awesome people while you’re at it 🙂 Have a quick ask around comparing prices.
However, my recommendation is to rent that motorbike (check out my Chiang Mai Rental Guide). I can never beat the freedom of a motorbike. You can dodge through traffic, unlike a car. Feel the joy of riding a bike. Go around the turns on Doi Inthanon with a bigger smile on your face.
If you’re driving yourself, it’s an easy ride that is very difficult to get lost on. There are also plenty of gas stations every kilometer or so (seriously they are everywhere). Just make sure to fill up on 108 before heading up the mountain. You can get fuel up there, but it’ll cost you 10THB more per liter:
- Looking at the map you can take 108 Southwest towards Chom Thong – about 60km.
- You can also take 3035, which is a super highway with picturesque scenery along the southern half of it (large green rice fields with the Inthanon mountain range behind it).
- Just before you reach Chom Thong, you will see a blue sign (and several others leading up to the turn) stating your need to turn right onto 1009.
- 1009 will take you right to the tippy-top summit.
Stay Over the Night Before
As mentioned earlier, we decided to get there the night before so we could wake up a little later that morning. Antonia found 2 beautiful places, but since I needed Wi-Fi or cell data for my English Teacher training, we only had one option. For 380THB we stayed in a gorgeous, newly built, rice field bungalow.
There are also several placed on the mountain in which you can go camping, which would be awesome!!
How Much is This Gonna Gut Me?
I broke down the costs in the table below. Everything you see is the total cost between the two of us. The grand total for a day-and-a-half of good times was $850THB each. Not too shabby 🙂
Over Night Trip to Doi Inthanon (2 People)
|Transport||Motorbike and Fuel||$300|
|Activities||Doi Inthanon Entrance Fee + Vehicle Fee|
|Food||Mae Ya Park Papaya Salad|
Brought our own mangos and carrots
Market Food in Chom Thong
|Other||Alcohol, Gifts, etc.||$0|
($850 per person)
Check out these other blogs for even more: