Chiang Mai, with its ancient temples and lush landscapes, offers many experiences for any kind of traveler. However, if you are in for a little bit more adventure, a slightly hidden gem is the Monk’s Trail. This is a scenic hiking route leading to the serene Wat Pha Lat temple and the iconic Doi Suthep. In this travel guide, I’ll describe the Wat Pha Lat Monk’s Trail up to Doi Suthep and my photographic overview shows why it is worth the trip. Uncover the beauty of one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand that lies off the beaten path.
The journey begins at the trailhead, conveniently located near Chiang Mai University. The trailhead is marked on Google Maps when searching for Wat Pha Lat. The easiest way to get to the trailhead is by Grab (taxi) or motorbike. However, if you would like to hike up to Doi Suthep, it is easiest to get a taxi in order to take the Songthaew back.
As you set foot on the path, the city fades away and you’ll enter nature’s serenity. In total, following the What Pha Lat Monk’s trail to Wat Pha Lat takes approximately 45 minutes to walk a 1,5-2 km distance.
Overall, the way up to Wat Pha Lat is pretty easy. You have to ascend a bit, however, it’s nothing crazy. Also, the path is very easy to follow and only goes straight. Moreover, other hiking guides mentioned the orange fabric pieces guiding the route, however, they were not there when I walked the route in December 2023.
Emerging from the forest, Wat Pha Lat appears like a tranquil oasis. This ancient temple, nestled in the mountains, boasts remarkable architecture and is surrounded by lush greenery. Moreover, it is one of the most unique temples in Chiang Mai if you ask me, by its serenity.
Wat Pha Lat is known for the monks hiking the trail and visiting the place for spiritual purposes. Over the past years, the temple has become more known among the crowds, however, it is still one of the calmest places in Chiang Mai.
As you are entering a temple complex, be sure to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees, or bring a scarf for the temple visit.
Once you are done exploring Wat Pha Lat, there is an option to continue hiking to the famous Doi Suthep. The path to Doi Suthep is steeper than the original What Pha Lat Monk’s Trail. Nevertheless, based on stories I read, I was dreading the walk more than needed. However, it might be nice to do it together with someone else, as you might not always run into other travellers.
From Wat Pha Lat, you follow the path up to the main road You have to climb the barriers and head left. After around 100 meters, there is a small path to the right that will lead you up to Doi Suthep. Moreover, this small walking path to Doi Suthep is surprisingly also featured on Google Maps, which helps you to locate the right path. Also, this gives you a good indication of how far you are on the track.
As mentioned, the path is more steep but easy to follow as you just head straight up until you reach the main road again after a 1 to 1,5-hour walk. From there, turn right and walk up the final bit towards Doi Suthep.
Once you arrive at Doi Suthep, you have to challenge your legs one more time, by walking up the 300 steps to the temple. Also, prepare for the crowds, as they are not comparable to the number of visitors to Wat Pha Lat and the Monk’s Trail. You can enter Doi Suthep for 50 baht and stroll around the famous temple complex.
Be sure to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees, or bring a scarf for the temple visit.
After your visit to Doi Suthep, you probably want to head back to Chiang Mai. Fortunately, there are plenty of Songthaews located in from of Doi Suthep. The red vans leave when they are full, therefore, you can best take the ones closest to the entrance. Also, the prices don’t differ and are always either 60 or 80 baht depending on the drop-off location.