top of Doi Luang Chiang Dao (elevation: 2,225 m.). From here, you can see Doi Sam Phi Nong or Three Brothers ,Photo by Zolashine

top of Doi Luang Chiang Dao (elevation: 2,225 m.). From here, you can see Doi Sam Phi Nong or Three Brothers ,Photo by Zolashine

Doi Chiang Dao (ดอยเชียงดาว), also referred to as Doi Luang Chiang Dao (ดอยหลวงเชียงดาว), is the third highest peak, a 2,175 m high mountain in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. Although Doi Inthanon is far more popular for being the highest point in the country, Doi Chiang Dao offers a much more authentic experience and has spectacular views of surrounding peaks and terrain that are largely lacking on its larger neighbor to the southwest.

Doi Chiang Dao is an incredible 230-250 million year old limestone massif in the Daen Lao Range and rises abruptly and impressively from the plains below where Chiang Dao town is located. The town and subsequently the peak translate to the “City of Stars”, a reference to the high peaks and elevations in the immediate area. The town is located in far northern Thailand approximately 65 kilometers north of Chiang Mai and less than 50 kilometers from the Myanmar border to the north.

Doi Luang Chiang Dao ,view from the other side

Doi Luang Chiang Dao ,view from the other side

Doi Luang Chiang Dao is beautiful for the changeable color of the surrounding grasslands, but there are also various forest flowers and rare birds to observe along the way. Not only semi-alpine plant communities and the view of beautiful mountain mist, there also are tourist attractions and activities in the area of the national park and the nearby area. Chiang Dao cave is recommended for a visit. There are three possible routes once inside the cave complex. Phra Non cave, Kaew cave and Meud and Mah cave. All these caves have beautiful stalactite and stalagmites. The other interesting places are Sri Sawal waterfall and Pong Ang hot spring.

The peak is most commonly done as an overnight trip by both foreigners and locals though for fit individuals a day trip is reasonable and easily accomplished. Doi Chiang Dao is very popular for its wealth of wildlife and nature as it hosts many flowers visible throughout the trek and is a popular bird watching destination for visitors worldwide.

Doi Chiang Dao is located in the area of Doi Luang Chiang Dao wildlife sanctuary, about 5 kilometers from the town of Chiang Dao, which is about 75 kilometers from Chiang Mai.If you rent a car/motorbike and drive/ride from Chiang Mai downtown, take highway no. 107 (Chiang Mai-Fang) through Mae Rim district, Mae Malai market. Keep driving for about 30 kilometers and at 72 kilometers you will find the intersection, turn left along the way to Chiang Dao district, Muang Kong to Ban Chiang Dao cave for 5 kilometers and then turn left again along the way to Pha Plong cave temple for about 300 meters. Then, you will arrive at Doi Luang Chiang Dao wild life sanctuary.

Public buses or minibus called “Song Thaew”(รถสองแถว) run from the Chang Pheuak terminal in Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao (choose the yellow bus route Chiang Mai-Phang-Tha Ton) and let the driver drop you at Chiang Dao Hospital approximately every 30 minutes during the day and cost as little as ฿40 and taking only about 1 ½ hours. Picking up a songthaew along Route 107 is also an option. As I know for another option ,there is minivan direct to Chiang Dao as well you might need to call 053-211577 or 053-451255 for check availability.

photo by Kitsakorn

photo by Kitskorn

Best time for trekking
There are three seasons in Thailand, and northern Thailand is best visited during the cool season (though it is more crowded during this time). This season lasts from November through February with comfortable temperatures during the day and cool (and sometimes even cold) temperatures at night. Always be prepared for especially cool and windy temperatures on and near the summit of Doi Chiang Dao.

The hot season lasts from March to May, and not a bad alternative time to visit. This is especially true if you can time your visit to be around April 15 when the entire country celebrates Songkran, the Thai New Year festival. During Songkran the streets are filled water fights and participants rubbing scented chalk on fellow partiers’ faces. I highly recommended the experience.

The rainy season lasts from May until November with high humidity and daily downpours (though they are often brief). If you are planning to do any trekking or visit the summit of Chiang Dao then this season is best avoided.

Photo by Kitsakorn

Photo by Kitskorn

Trekking to Doi Luang Chiang Dao
I recommended you to use service of a trekking company it would be easier for you to arrange your trip ,but some experienced trekkers might not need to pay for a trekking company to take them up Doi Chiang Dao.

The following information will describe to you how you can do it more or less on your own:
First, after arriving in Chiang Dao, you need to visit the CHIANG DAO WILDLIFE SANCTUARY OFFICE, which is located near the mountain, but can be a little hard to find. Next, you need to buy your entry permit (National Park fee) at the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary office  Park fees run ฿200/person for foreigners and ฿20/person for Thais. After that, you can either hire a guide or a Carrier, which is a must! if you want to go up Doi Chiang Dao.

Next you need to decide how to get to the starting point of your hike…You can either ride up with your own bike or you can hire a truck to take you.

You will probably want to spend at least one night on the mountain, so you will have to bring your own tent, food, water, a propane stove (no open fires), matches, a sleeping bag, good hiking boots, warm clothing and whatever else you might want to bring.  You will also need to bring food and drinks for your guide or carrier.  (He will have his own tent and sleeping bag already).You will probably want to also bring a camera.

Photo by Kitskorn

Photo by Kitskorn

Doi Chiang Dao is only open from November 1 – March 31 for trekking every year.  Doi Chiang Dao is one of the most beautiful mountains in Thailand to explore, with beautiful scenery, all kinds of animals, insects, flowers, plants and trees.  The views are stunning and you will not regret hiking this mountain.

Although  Doi Chiang Dao is only open from November until the end of March every year, you can also go bird watching at  “Denn Yaa Khad” Forest year around.  You will have to pay between 300 – 500 Baht for transportation to get there.

Photo by Kitskorn

Photo by Kitskorn

The following is a list of costs:

Hiking Doi Chiang Dao:  (Please note:  Fees can change anytime.  They are set by the government and the guides/Carriers.  We have no control over them)

-National Park Fee    200 Baht/person (Foreigner) covers you for several days
20 Baht/person  (Thai People Adult)
-Transport fee           1,200 Baht (From office to drop off point ,round trip)
-Guide                        500 Baht/day (or you can just hire a Carrier for 400 Baht)
-Carrier                      400 Baht/day (can also guide you and carry  your stuff)
Camping fee            30 Baht/night ( bring your own tent)
Garbage Deposit     200 Baht (returned to you if you take out all your garbage)

There are two campsites on the mountain.  The second one is near the peak.  You can make it there in one day, set up camp and visit the peak the next morning, if you so choose.  Then you could come back down and the whole trip will be only two days. Some visitors like to spend more time up on the mountain to explore its secrets and its beauty.

By Dr. Manta – Chiangrai Bulletin