The park is so nicknamed for being home to the highest peak of Thailand: Doi Inthanon (2,565 meters). It is the coolest area in Thailand and a true natural reserve for many species such as birds, plants, monkeys and plants like fern and pine trees (rare in this country).
Unfortunately due to the proximity to the city of Chiang Mai (about 60km), many locals and tourists come everyday to enjoy the pleasant temperature and natural beauties of this calm park and it is now very rare to spot animals. Due to continuous poaching and tourism, most of the mammals such as elephants, tigers, gaurs disappeared from the park decades ago. Some wild boar, gibbons and deers still populate the park.
The park is named after King Inthawichayanon, one of the latest kings of Chiang Mai, who wanted to preserve the forest of North of Thailand. After his death, according to his will, his body was buried in the park and the forest was renamed to Doi Inthanon.
Today, the entry tickets costs 300 Baht per person and you can reach the park either by renting a car to have more freedom or joining a private guided tour which will show you the main highlights of the area in one day including a most welcomed return hotel transfer.
Three main things to do in one day
1. Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail
Calling at all hiking lover as myself: this is a circular trail not to be missed offering mind-blowing views: taking a bad picture is practically impossible! This path is only 3 km long and it is an easy hike suitable for beginners too. The trail is situated just below the highest peak of Thailand at 2,200 meters above sea level and it is recommended to experience it at sunrise or sunset to enjoy one the best view of the country.
Just remember that the path is closed during raining season (June-October) and that it is compulsory to hire an expert guide from the Hmong hill tribe for 200 Baht who unfortunately speaks very little English and will give you a wooden stick to support you. Light long trousers and trekking shoes are recommended to climb on slippery surfaces.
The walking trail can be divided into 3 parts and consists of a total of 21 stations where the different ecosystems are explained. This path is recommended for bird-watching, plants observation and for the rewarding views above the clouds once you will reach the top of the mountain!
2. The Two Pagodas
A popular tourist sightseeing place and a great spot for taking pictures at sunset, the two Chedis or Pagodas were originally built to honour two royal special occasions.
The first of the two monuments, Naphamethinidon (which in Thai means ‘by the strength of the land and air’) was built in 1987 in occasion of the 60th birthday anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In 1992, the second pagoda Naphaphonphumisiri, meaning ‘being the strength of the air and the grace of the land’ was built to celebrate the 60th birthday anniversary of Queen Sirikit. Lovely gardens and fountains offer pleasant views and a place to rest your legs.
3. Wachiratan Waterfall
This imposing waterfall is the most scenic and popular one of the park due to its easy access and various parking surrounding it. Still it is worth a visit for its 40 meters height and its imposing largeness. A web of small paths allows you to walk around the waterfall and take pictures from different point of views. The setting is relaxing and refreshing offering the perfect atmosphere to sit in a hidden shady spot and listen to the water flowing.
4. Visit a Coffee Plantation
On the way to the park, it a great idea stop in one of the remote village you will pass along the road and to discover the life of a coffee bean. It was surprising to see people living in these little villages surrounded by animals, nature and silence. As a coffee lover, it was very interesting to see the full cycle of a coffee plant, from seeding to a mature tree.
Our guide also described us the life at the village and how to recognise ready to pick up cherries (the dark red ones), how the fruits are removed from the bean, then soaked in barrels and dried for weeks in the sun. The visit ended with a coffee tasting that you brew and prepare yourself! This is a tour I absolutely suggest to all coffee addicted to undertake: you will never drink your coffee in the same way knowing all the hard work that lays behind!
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