Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a must-visit temple complex located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Situated at an elevation of 3,520 feet on the slopes of Mount Suthep, this sacred site is one of Thailand’s most famous pilgrimage destinations. The temple’s stunning architecture, intricate murals, and breathtaking views of the city make it a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
According to legend, the temple was built in the 14th century to enshrine a piece of bone from the shoulder of the Buddha. The story goes that the bone was placed on the back of a white elephant, which was then set free to roam the jungle. The elephant climbed to the top of Mount Suthep and trumpeted three times before collapsing. This was taken as a sign that the temple should be built on that spot. Today, visitors can see a statue of the white elephant at the temple’s entrance, commemorating this legend.
As you approach the temple, you’ll climb a staircase lined with intricately carved Naga balustrades, which are said to represent the seven-headed serpent that protected the Buddha as he meditated. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding area, including the city of Chiang Mai and the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Whether you’re a history buff, a spiritual seeker, or just looking for a beautiful spot to take in the sights, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is not to be missed.
Location and History
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a sacred temple located on the slopes of Doi Suthep, a mountain that overlooks the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. The temple is situated at an elevation of 1,073 meters (3,520 feet) above sea level and is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites in Thailand.
According to legend, the temple was founded in 1383 when a monk named Sumanathera discovered a relic believed to be a shoulder bone of the Buddha. The relic was said to have magical powers and it glowed, emitted smoke, and could even replicate itself. The king of Chiang Mai was informed of the discovery and ordered the construction of a temple at the site to enshrine the relic.
The temple complex consists of several structures, including a golden pagoda that houses the relic, a shrine to the Hindu god Ganesha, and a statue of the white elephant that is said to have carried the relic to the site. Visitors can also see a mural depicting the story of the temple’s founding.
Doi Suthep mountain is an important site in Buddhism and is believed to be the home of a revered monk named Sumana. The mountain is also the site of a royal resort palace and is included within the Mount Suthep-Pui National Park. The park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including gibbons, macaques, and rare bird species.
To reach Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, visitors must climb a staircase of 309 steps or take a cable car. The temple is open to visitors from 6 am to 6 pm daily and there is a dress code in place, with visitors required to cover their shoulders and knees.
Chiang Mai, the city below the temple, is a popular destination for travelers seeking a more laid-back and authentic experience of Thailand. The city is known for its night markets, delicious street food, and traditional handicrafts. It is also a hub for trekking and adventure activities in the nearby mountains and forests.
While Bangkok may be the bustling capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai offers a more relaxed and cultural experience for travelers. And for those seeking a deeper understanding of Buddhism and Thai spirituality, a visit to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a must-see.
The Legend of the White Elephant
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a temple with a rich history and legend. According to popular belief, the temple was built to hold a piece of bone from the Buddha’s shoulder. The legend of the white elephant is connected to this revered site.
The story goes that a white elephant, carrying a relic of the Buddha, was released into the jungle and began to climb a large mountain in the center of Chiang Mai, Thailand – Doi Suthep. When it reached the top, the elephant trumpeted three times before dying on the mountain. The King of Lanna, who ruled the region at the time, saw this as a sign from the heavens and ordered the construction of a temple at the site.
The legend of the white elephant is an important symbol in Thailand. The white elephant is considered to be a sacred animal and a symbol of royal power. In fact, the Thai phrase “chang samkhan” (three white elephants) is used to describe the highest level of the Thai royal hierarchy.
Visitors to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep can see a statue of a white elephant at the temple. According to the legend, this statue commemorates the story behind the temple’s placement. The temple is also home to a number of other important relics and artifacts, including a golden chedi that is said to contain the Buddha’s relics.
In conclusion, the legend of the white elephant is an important part of the history and culture of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Visitors to the temple can learn about this fascinating story and see the statue of the white elephant that commemorates it.
The Temple Grounds and Architecture
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is known for its stunning architecture and serene temple grounds. The temple complex is located at an elevation of 3,520 feet on the slopes of Mount Suthep, one of Thailand’s highest peaks. The construction of the temple began in 1386, and it has been expanded and renovated several times since then.
The temple grounds are well-maintained and offer a peaceful atmosphere for visitors to explore. The entrance to the temple is marked by a grand staircase of 306 steps, which leads to the main courtyard. The courtyard is surrounded by several smaller temples, pagodas, and shrines, each with its own unique architecture and design.
The centerpiece of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the golden chedi, which stands at 79 feet tall and is covered in intricate carvings and decorations. The chedi is said to contain a piece of bone from the Buddha’s shoulder, and it is considered one of the most sacred relics in Thailand. Visitors can walk around the base of the chedi and admire its beauty from all angles.
The temple also features several murals that depict scenes from Buddhist mythology and history. The murals are located in the smaller temples and pagodas around the main courtyard, and each one tells a different story. The murals are beautifully crafted and offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Thailand.
Overall, the temple grounds and architecture of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep are truly awe-inspiring. Whether you are a devout Buddhist or simply a traveler looking to experience the beauty of Thailand’s culture and history, a visit to this temple is a must.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located about 15 kilometers from Chiang Mai city center, atop the Doi Suthep mountain. There are several ways to get there, depending on your preferences and budget.
One of the most popular ways to get to the temple is via the many red songthaews that ply the streets of Chiang Mai. If you want to take one to the temple, they leave from Huay Kaew Road near the Zoo, costing 40 baht per person each way. Normally drivers wait for eight to 10 passengers before leaving. However, if you are in a hurry or want to avoid waiting, you can charter a songthaew for around 600-800 baht for a round trip.
If you are an experienced motorbike rider, renting a motorbike is a great option to get to the temple. You can rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai for around 200-300 baht per day. The road to the temple is steep and winding, so be careful and wear a helmet.
If you prefer more comfort and privacy, you can hire a private car with a driver. This option is more expensive, but it is convenient if you are traveling with a group or have limited time. You can negotiate the price with the driver, but expect to pay around 1,000-1,500 baht for a round trip.
For the adventurous, trekking to the temple is a great option. There are several trails that lead to the temple, ranging from easy to difficult. The most popular trail is the Monk’s Trail, which starts at the back of Chiang Mai University and takes about 3-4 hours to reach the temple. Make sure to bring plenty of water and wear comfortable shoes.
If you want to avoid the steep climb to the temple, you can take the cable car. The cable car station is located near the parking lot, and the ride takes about 5 minutes. The cost is 20 baht per person each way.
If you are feeling energetic, you can climb the 306 steps to the temple. The staircase is located near the parking lot, and it is free to use. The climb can be challenging, especially in the heat, so make sure to take breaks and stay hydrated.
In conclusion, there are several ways to get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, depending on your preferences and budget. Whether you choose to take a songthaew, rent a motorbike, hire a private car, trek, take the cable car, or climb the staircase, the journey to the temple is part of the experience.
Exploring Doi Suthep Mountain
Doi Suthep Mountain is a must-visit destination in Chiang Mai for nature and culture enthusiasts. The mountain is home to the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, but there’s much more to explore beyond the temple grounds. Here are some suggestions for exploring Doi Suthep Mountain.
Doi Suthep Mountain is home to several beautiful waterfalls that are worth a visit. Some of the most popular waterfalls include Mae Sa Waterfall, Huay Kaew Waterfall, and Monthathan Waterfall. Each waterfall has its unique charm and offers a refreshing break from the city’s heat.
Mae Sa Waterfall is the most popular waterfall in Chiang Mai and is located about 30 minutes from the city center. It has ten levels, and visitors can hike to the top for a stunning view. Huay Kaew Waterfall is located within Doi Suthep-Pui National Park and is a great spot for a picnic. Monthathan Waterfall is the least crowded of the three and offers a more secluded experience.
Doi Suthep Mountain has several peaks that offer panoramic views of Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas. Doi Pui is the highest peak in the area and is located within Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Visitors can hike to the top or take a scenic drive to the summit.
Another popular peak is Doi Suthep, which is home to the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. Visitors can climb the 306 steps to the temple or take a cable car for a more leisurely experience. The views from the top are breathtaking and offer a unique perspective of Chiang Mai.
Buddhist Temples and Meditation
Doi Suthep Mountain is home to several Buddhist temples, and visitors can experience the local culture and traditions. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most famous temple in the area, but there are several other temples worth a visit, including Wat Pha Lat and Wat Umong.
Meditation is also a popular activity on Doi Suthep Mountain, and visitors can participate in meditation retreats at several temples. The peaceful surroundings and stunning views make it an ideal location for a spiritual retreat.
Doi Suthep Mountain has several slopes that offer a variety of outdoor activities. Visitors can go hiking, mountain biking, or zip-lining through the lush forest. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park offers several hiking trails that range from easy to difficult. Visitors can also rent mountain bikes and explore the mountain’s slopes on two wheels.
In conclusion, Doi Suthep Mountain is a must-visit destination in Chiang Mai for nature and culture enthusiasts. Visitors can explore waterfalls, peaks, Buddhist temples, and slopes while enjoying the stunning views and peaceful surroundings.
Tourism and Visitors
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a popular tourist attraction in Chiang Mai, Thailand. As such, it receives a high volume of visitors throughout the year. If you plan to visit the temple, there are a few things you should know to make your trip enjoyable.
There is an admission fee of 50 baht per person for foreigners and 30 baht per person for Thai nationals. The fee includes access to the temple grounds and the funicular ride to the top of the mountain. Keep in mind that the temple only accepts cash, so make sure to bring enough with you.
As with most temples in Thailand, there is a dress code that visitors are expected to follow. Both men and women should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. If you are wearing shorts or a sleeveless shirt, you will need to rent a sarong or shawl to cover up before entering the temple. These can be rented for a small fee near the entrance.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located about 15 kilometers from Chiang Mai city center. The easiest way to get there is by hiring a taxi or tuk-tuk. If you are feeling adventurous, you can rent a motorbike and drive yourself. Keep in mind that the road up to the temple is steep and winding, so be careful if you choose to drive.
Best Time to Visit
The temple is open from 6am to 6pm daily, but it is best to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. If you visit during the day, be prepared for large crowds and long lines. The temple is busiest during the high season (November to February), so consider visiting during the low season (June to September) if you want to avoid the crowds.
- Bring sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as there are many stairs to climb.
- Bring a camera to capture the beautiful views from the top of the mountain.
- Respect the temple and its traditions by not touching the statues or disturbing the monks.
- If you are interested in learning more about the temple and its history, consider hiring a guide.