Doi Inthanon national park, located some 60 kilometers from Chiang Mai contains Thailand’s highest peak, the 2,565 meter high Doi Inthanon.
It is a place of great natural beauty, with mountain streams, a number of large waterfalls, several vegetation and forest types due to the differences in altitude and many animal species, especially birds.
The lower parts of the park are limestone rocks that contain a number of caves, the higher part is granite. The park is an important source of rainwater for Central Thailand and feeds a number of rivers like the Ping river, the Mae Klang and the Mae Pakong river. Since the mid 1960’s the Bhumibol Dam in the Ping river generates hydroelectric power.
Doi Inthanon mountain was named after the last ruler of Chiang Mai, King Inthawichayon. This King who died near the end of the 19th century was concerned with conservation of the forests of Northern Thailand, recognizing the importance of the forests as a source of rain water.
The park is home to a unique flora and fauna, due to its different altitudes. Near the top of the mountain, the much colder climate is very different from the rest of Thailand and supports a different ecosystem. Due to the presence of hill tribes people who use the area for agricultural purposes and settlement, some parts of Doi Inthanon have been deforested.
Flora and Fauna
Doi Inthanon national park is very rich in diversity of flora and fauna due to the big differences in altitude. In the lower parts of the park the vegetation is much alike the rest of Northern Thailand.
Especially close to the top of the mountain which is covered in mist most of the time and where rainfall is high there is evergreen forest, green ferns, lianas, mosses and several plants that cannot be found elsewhere, like rhododendrons forming a unique ecosystem. Although the number of wild animals has decreased due to settlement by hill tribes people and hunting, Doi Inthanon is still a great place for nature lovers and especially for bird watchers. A number of animals like barking deer, monkeys, gibbons and macaques can be seen in the park as well as a huge number of forest plants.
Bird watching in Doi Inthanon national park
Doi Inthanon national park is one of the best places in Thailand for bird watching. Although part of the park is deforested due to a hill tribes presence, the park is still a premier spot for bird watching tours.
Due to the diversity of altitudes and habitats the park is home to the largest number of bird species of any place in Thailand, more than 360, some of which can only be seen in Doi Inthanon national park.
If you are interested in bird watching, an excellent site for more info is the Thai birding website.
Doi Inthanon is home to a number of large, impressive waterfalls. On this tour you will visit Vachirathan falls which is a great sight, especially in the rainy season. A short walk from the car park this waterfall is guaranteed to bring some great photographs. There is a picnic area here and food is available.
Doi Inthanon summit
On this tour you will visit two chedis that were built by the Royal Thai Air Force and are located close to the top of the mountain. The first and largest one can be seen from far away during the ascent of the mountain, the Phra Mahathat Chedi Naphamethanidon, was build for the 60th birthday of the present King, King Bhumibol.
The second one which is smaller but very elegant is the Phra Mahathat Chedi Naphabolbhumisiri, built for the 60th birthday of Queen Sirikit. This chedi also contains some beautiful murals.
The summit of the mountain offer some spectacular views, especially during the dry season from November until February. This alone makes this tour a day well spend. There is also a Royal Thai Air Force station here, of which making photos is forbidden. It can get cold up here, so bring something warm to wear.
Hill tribes villages
Doi Inthanon is home to a number of Hmong and Karen hill tribe villages, of which you will visit one on this tour. The Doi Inthanon Royal Project was started to educate local hill tribes people about modern agricultural techniques and to improve their living standards. It also aims to offer an alternative for the destructive slash and burn tactics used before and the production of opium. This research and development project enables the hill tribes people to grow crops like flowers, fruits, vegetables and coffee that are sold all over the country.
Doi Inthanon weather
Due to the high elevation of the park and the presence of forests, Doi Inthanon has a much cooler and wetter climate than nearby Chiang Mai. The lower portions of the park are warm and dry in the dry season, which lasts from November to April. Close to the peak, the weather is cool all year round, and during the winter months temperatures can drop under zero degrees Celsius. At higher altitudes, rainfall is considerably higher than the surrounding lower areas.