If you are travelling to Chiang Mai and have the urge to get in touch with the pristine unspoiled nature, take a visit to Doi Inthanon National Park, only about an hour west of Chiang Mai. Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain, 2,599 metres above sea level, is a part of the Himalayas, which ranges across Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and ends at Northern Thailand. There you will find clean air, cool weather, beautiful waterfalls. And the highlight is, of course, the amazing view on top of Thailand’s highest peak.
Getting There: Travel 58 kilometres west of Chiang Mai via Highway No. 107 to Chom Thong, then turn right into Highway No. 1009 and continue a further distance of 48 kilometres along Highway No. 1009 to the summit. A good asphalt road takes visitors up but is rather steep, thus the vehicle must be in a good condition.Accommodation, restaurants, and camping sites are available at the park headquarters at Km. 31. Tel: 0 5335 5728, Bangkok Tel: 0 2562 0760 or www.dnp.go.th
Namtok Mae Ya is one of the most beautiful cascades in Chiang Mai. Water flows from a 280-metre steep cliff onto different rock formations in a lower basin like drapes. The well-managed waterfall is teeming with verdant forests and is best for recreation. It is located 1 kilometre from Highway No. 1009 junction.
Tham Bori Chinda is a large cave located near Namtok Mae Klang at Km. 8.5 of Highway No. 1009. The road sign to Tham Bori Chinda will be seen at the junction on the right. The deep cave has stalactite and stalagmite formations, Buddha images and a rocky stream. The surface of the water glitters like diamonds flake when light reflects the stream. Sunlight in the cave allows visitors to see the entire cave.Namtok Wachirathan is a large waterfall which plummets over the edge of a high cliff into a deep pool below. When there is a large amount of water, there are large splashes in the basin, creating a cool and refreshing environment. The delightful ambience can be felt by walking on a slippery bridge that leads to the waterfall. To get there, turn right off Highway No.1009 at Km. 21.
Namtok Siriphum is a splendid waterfall that falls from a steep cliff in two lines and can be seen en route to Doi Inthanon. The attractive waterfall is located at Km. 31 of Highway No. 1009, take a right turn for 2 kilometres and is approachable only on foot from the base of the waterfall.
Doi Inthanon Royal Project is in Khun Klang village close to the park headquarters. The project was initiated in 1979 to help the hill tribes to cultivate cash crops other than opium and train them on modern agricultural practices. Flower plantations, a plant breeding research lab and flower plantations of hill tribes (Hmong) are open to visitors.
Phra Mahathat Napha Methanidon and Phra Mahathat Naphaphon Phumisiri , twin pagodas located at Km. 41.5, were built to commemorate the fifth cycle birthdays of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. The pagodas enshrine Lord Buddha’s ashes and Buddha images, and overlook the magnificent scenery of Doi Inthanon.Doi Inthanon Peak has a cool climate all year round. The Air Force Radar Station and King Inthawichayanon’s stupa located on the mountaintop. King Inthawichayanon, the last king of Chiang Mai, was concerned about the importance of forests and wanted to preserve the forests for future generations. He was so familia with Doi Inthanon that he asked that part of his ashes be kept here.
Namtok Mae Pan is the longest waterfall in Chiang Mai, which flows from a 100-metre cliff. Its charm can be enjoyed by standing some distance from the falls. From afar, the white water and the green forests around the falls make a beautiful picture.
Natural Study trek on Doi Inthanon
Kiu Mae Pan starts from Km. 42. This short trail, winding through pristine forest for about 2.5 kilometres, a 3-hour walk, allows the hiker to experience the natural beauty of the forest at first hand. The Rhododendrons, commonly found in the Himalayas, are found along the trail and they are in full bloom during December-February.
Trekkers on this route should seek permission from the park headquarters at Km. 31 for safety reasons. A group of not more than 15 people is recommended. Food consumption is not allowed while trekking. This nature trail is closed for reforestation from June 1 to October 30 annually.
Birdwatching on Doi Inthanon
Inthanon Birdwatching Information Centre (Uncle Daeng’s Shop) is located at Km. 31. This is a bird information exchange centre among birdwatchers, nature students and the general public. It also provides the Doi Inthanon Birdwatching Diary, bird sketches by various bird watching experts, birdwatching trails, bird pictures, and slides.
Winter is the best time for birdwatching when indigenous and migrant birds are found including Eurasian Woodcock, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Forest Wagtail, Chestnut Thrush, Scarlet Finch, Little Bunting, and Crested Bunting.