Doi Suthep is one of two granite mountains 15 kilometers west of Chiang Mai (the other being Doi Pui). Located within the mountain is Wat Prathat Doi Suthep (many people call it Doi Suthep for short, even though it is the mountain’s name). It is the most famous and holiest temple in Chiang Mai, which contains an important Buddhist relic. It is 1073 meters from the ground (the mountain itself is 1676 meters high).
The founding of the temple is shrouded in mystery and legend. Estimates have the temple originating in 1383, when the first chedi was built. Over time, the temple has expanded and went through numerous renovations and now looks much more extravagant than it ever was.
The origination of the temple comes from the White Elephant Legend. According to the myth, a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai had a dream where God told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. The monk followed his dream and found the artifact, believed to have been Buddha’s shoulder bone. The relic was quite phenomenal as it was able to glow, could disappear and duplicate itself.
Sumanathera brought the relic back to King Dharmmaraja of Sukhothai. However, the relic did nothing when in the presence of the king. Doubting its authenticity, the king told Sumanathera to keep it. In the meantime, King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom heard of this artifact and asked the monk to bring it to him instead. So, Sumanathera travelled north to what is now Lamphun. Before it was about to be enshrined in a big chedi (a structure that holds Buddhist relics) at Wat Suan Dok, the relic magically split in two. The replicated piece was placed by the king on the back of a white elephant. The animal climbed up the top of Doi Suthep Mountain, trumpeted three times and passed away. The king took it as a sign and built a temple at this spot.
There are two ways to enter the temple compound. The first method requires you to climb over 300 steps (one of the longest Naga staircases in Thailand) and to test your physical fitness. Or, you can take the second method and hop on the cable car. Most people opt for the complete Wat Prathat Doi Suthep experience and go for the stair climb.
Once inside the temple compound, you are free to wander around and admire the beautiful architecture on display. Just like many temples in Thailand, designs are a mix of Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism. In the middle of the compound (and after climbing a dozen steps) is the chedi. On the other side of the entrance gate is the lookout area with an excellent view of Chiang Mai and its surrounding plain.
What many people don’t know is that Wat Prathat Doi Suthep is actually part of Doi Suthep National Park, which covers an area of 261 square kilometers. Green hills, pine forests and numerous bird species as well as fern and flowers are all present at the national park. There are also many hilltribes residing in Doi Suthep Mountain, with the Akha, Shan , Hmong and Lahu tribes residing on the mountain sides.
Wat Prathat Doi Suthep is one of the most revered temples in all of Thailand. It is a must stop if you are visiting the beautiful city of Chiang Mai. Exotissimo’s Doi Suthep & White Hmong Village – Chiang Mai day trip is a great way to explore this beautiful temple while also discovering the ancient traditions of the Hmong hilltribe at their village. You can also explore Doi Suthep as a part of a greater Thailand trip with our Thailand Discovery tour. Explore the Grand Palace and other nearby attractions in Bangkok. You will also discover an old-world charm/modern society hybrid city in Chiang Mai and see its many temples, including Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. You can also see our recommended Thailand tours page for other great trips into this wonderful country.
Get it touch
Take adventage of