Doi Inthanon National Park is 500 square kilometers of mountain highlands. It is located in Chom Tong district in the province of Chiang Mai of Northern Thailand. This park offers a variety of attractions including viewpoints, walking trails, waterfalls and hill tribe villages. Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand at 2,565 meters (8,415 feet).
How to arrive?
Arriving from Chiang Mai is fairly easy by personal transport. Take the 108 and after 60km take a right towards Doi Inthanon were you will drive through the villages of Ban Angkha Rak, Ban Phonsawan and Ban Mae Hoi on the 1009.
There are day trips from Chiang Mai or Lamphun and are easily booked from a local travel/tour agent. A day trip from Chiang Mai will cost around 1,200 baht with an English speaking guide and includes visits to the peak and two waterfalls. Some tours also visit hill tribe villages. Always check reviews from fellow travelers before booking any tours and make sure you know exactly what is included.
Songthaew costing 140 baht or minibus costing 180 baht for Doi Inthanon’s peak leave from the car park of Wat Prathat Si Chom Thong at regular times. Do note that public transport run in a straight line (entrance of National Park to the peak of Doi Inthanon), hence if you want to visit waterfalls it is not ideal to relay on public transport as some of these are kilometers away from the main road.
Recently a couple of resorts and guesthouses closed down so this makes it a bit more difficult although not impossible. Accommodation was one of our big question marks when we planned on visiting Doi Inthanon.
Accommodation is available both outside and inside Doi Inthanon National Park. When you are driving through the 1009 you will see a couple of resorts. Inside the National Park one can find a couple of guesthouses.
For the adventurous type, you can camp inside the National Park. You can take your own camp or you can rent one on the spot. We did not know about the accommodation inside the National Park so we stayed at Inthanon Guesthouse which is located 1km away from Doi Inthanon main entrance. The advantage of staying inside the national park is that you will only pay the entrance fee once.
Planning and preparation
When visiting Doi Inthanon on your own, planning is key. Since it is a high point, you need to take warm clothes with you. This depends on the time you visit the park. We went in January and temperature at the peak was around 9 degrees Celsius during the day.
Food and drink
It is unnecessary to take food and drinks with you. From the main entrance to the highest point there are two markets which are impossible to miss and at the peak there are restaurants and coffee shops. Food from the market is delicious and not very expensive.
We did not see any ATM machines close to the entrance of the park. There is a 7-Eleven on 1009 but not sure if they have an ATM machine or not. Better to take cash with you to be on the safe side. Restaurants outside the park are food market-style places and do not accept credit cards. Entrance to the National Park is 300BHT per person, 30BHT for a scooter and 100BHT for a car. Ticket is valid for one entry only.
Bike rental and gas
To have a full experience of Doi Inthanon National Park, we highly recommend renting a bike. Bike rental from Doi Inthanon is not possible, hence rent it from Chiang Mai. Do not rent anything less than 125cc especially if you are two people on the bike. The closer you get to the peak, the more steep the road gets. With our 125cc, at one point we where driving at 8km/hr and were waiting for the scooter to give up on us at any minute. There are no gas stations inside the park so make sure you are on a full tank before you go in. There is a station before you turn to 1009.
What to do and see
Doi Inthanon National Park offers wonderful waterfalls. It is impossible to see all waterfalls in one day so pick which ones you want to see. We recommend Mae Pan Waterfall, Siribhune Waterfall and Wachirathan Waterfall. These are easily accessible from the main road. For some of the waterfalls you are required to pay a small fee of 10BHT.
Hill tribe villages
A small number of hill tribe villages are located inside the park. It is possible to visit these villages although some of the roads are not that good. We drove around Mae Klang Luang. Other villages are: Ban Ang Ka Noi, Ban Sop Aep and Ban Mueang Ang amongst others.
Trekking is possible inside Doi Inthanon National Park but one has to obtain permit from the headquarters. You will need a guide for all the treks. Information is available from the headquarters.
There are two markets inside Doi Inthanon National Park. The first will be on your right and this is where the tourist buses stop. The second one, little less touristy, is further up and will be on your left side.
You cannot visit Doi Inthanon National Park without visiting the Stupas. These are located on top of the mountain. There are two of them next to each other. One is called Naphamethinidon (by strength of the land and air) and the other, Naphaphonphumisiri (being the strength of the air and the grace of the land). These temples were built to honour the 60th birthday anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1987, and the 60th birthday anniversary of Queen Sirikit in 1992, respectively. There is another 40BHT entrance fee to the Stupas. The visibility is best in the early morning hours, so head here first thing for the best views of the park.