Chiang Mai itself is a gem when visiting Thailand. A charming city dotted with ancient and beautifully elaborate temples, it’s a destination worth making time for. Though there’s plenty of temples to capture your imagination, there’s one that particularly stands out – and that’s the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple.
See why it’s a must-have on every traveler’s itinerary.
How to Get There
With 306 daunting steps, jewelled serpents guarding the staircase, and a jaw-dropping gold pagoda, this temple is a must-see for everyone passing through Chiang Mai. There are several ways to get here. You can drive, take a red songthaew, or just hike.
Those with an international driving license can rent their own vehicle and take the 1004 (i.e. Huay Kaew Road) to Chiang Mai Zoo, passing Maya Mall. A cheaper and more popular alternative is to get into a red songthaew. It’s usually 40-50 baht per person and will take you all the way to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. If you don’t want to wait, hire the songthaew for 400-500 baht for a full day so it will wait for you to finish your exploration of the temple.
The Legend Behind the Temple
Although commonly referred to as simply ‘Doi Suthep’, this is in fact, the name of the mountain where the temple resides. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temples in Thailand not only because of the legend of how it was built, was also because it’s located in Chiang Mai, which was the center of the Lanna Kingdom during the 14th century.
A story goes that a monk found a relic and believed it to be part of Buddha’s shoulder bone. As it’s a highly scared artefact, it was stored in Chinese silver boxes for safekeeping, and then Chiang Mai’s King Kuna built a temple called Wat Suan Dok or ‘Flower Garden’ that would house the remains. But during the transportation of the relics, it was said that it split in two, with each piece growing back to its original size.
This miracle prompted the King to have a second temple built for the other half, while the first one remained in Wat Suan Dok. But he needed a sign as to where to place it. So he put the artefact onto one of his white elephants and sent it on its way. It climbed the Peak of Doi Suthep Mountain before trumpeting three times, then peacefully passed away.
It was here that the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep sits today.
Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Photos
Praying Buddhist statue at a Thai temple in Chiang Mai.
Buddhist statue with golden decorations at a Thai temple.
Close-up shot of the roof of the Doi Suthep Temple in Thailand.
Stunning Thai temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Decorative entrance to the Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai.
Close-up shot of a red decorative lamp with dark green leaves in the background.
Colorful decorative lamps hanging down at a Thai temple.
Incredible temple art at the rooftop on the Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai.
Tall temple tip in Chiang Mai photographed in front of bare tree branches.
The tip of the Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai photographed with the sky in the background.
Gold and red decorations on the walls of a Thai temple.
Close-up shot of the incredible decoration details at a Thai temple.
Close-up shot of burning candles inside a temple in Thailand.
Colorful dragon head statues with green tree leaves in the background.
Small brass bells inside the Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai.
Pink and purple flowers inside Doi Suthep Temple.
Brass bells hanging down photographed with the Diu Suthep Temple in the background.
Gold decorations on a white wall at a Thai temple.
Blue and gold dragon carvings at a Thai temple.
Red and gold Thai temple rooftop with incredible detail.
Beautiful dragon head statue with colorful details at the entrance of a Thai temple.
Amazing decorations with high detail in a Thai temple.
Green and brown gills with incredible detail on a dragon statue.
Pine tree leaves photographed in sunset light.
Scary Khon statue holding an axe inside the Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai.
Dark Buddhist statue photographed in front of tall dark green trees.
Thai temple roof with golden bells hanging down from it.
Close-up shot of a gold bell hanging from the ceiling at a Thai temple.
Close-up shot of a sleeping Buddhist statue.
Small Buddhist statues with different colors and meaning inside the Doi Suthep Temple.
Decorative rooftop at the Doi Suthep Temple in Thailand.
Amazing gold Buddhist statue inside a Thai temple with red walls in the background.
Face of a blue and gold statue inside Doi Suthep Temple.
Buddhist statue in blue and gold colors inside a temple in Chiang Mai.
Golden Buddhist statue photographed in front of green leaves.
Close-up shot of the details on a red and gold dragon statue at a Thai temple.