Monk’s Trail – Hike to Wat Pha Lat Jungle Temple

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Thailand is a country where you can easily get “templed out” but how about hiking through jungles of Chiang Mai, following orange robe pieces tied to trees, on Monk’s Trail to surrender to tranquil of Wat Pha Lat? A hidden temple in the exotic jungle surrounded by panoramic views and pristine waterfalls. The temple is away from the chaos primarily used by monks to meditate.

A temple enveloped by jungle with monks around
A temple enveloped by jungle with monks around

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Wat Pha Lat – A Temple Tucked in Jungles of Chiang Mai

Popularly known as “Monk’s Trail”, the temple silently sits atop a rock with stunning views of Chiang Mai. The temple translates to “Monastery at the Sloping Rock” in English, was constructed in the year 1355 by King Kuena.

Before the 13th century, monks visited Doi Suthep temple walking through the trail, ascending and descending the mountains. The temple was built as a rest point for pilgrimage and monks en route Doi Suthep Temple perched atop the hill.

Figurines welcoming to Wat Pha Lat  Temple
Figurines welcoming to Wat Pha Lat Temple

The roads were built mid of 19th century that connected Doi Suthep temple conveniently with vehicles, changing the significant role played by Wat Pha Lat. Ever since, the temple is used as a meditation centre for monks.  The trail, the landscape and the peaceful temple, everything looks well orchestrated, bestowed by the abundance of nature.

Temple Enveloped in nature and hidden deep in jungle
Temple Enveloped in nature and hidden deep in jungle

The stairs at the entrance of the temple are consciously embraced by nature, the walls dressed in stems and roots and traditional statues on either side ascending up the stairs. True to all my senses, nature has enveloped the temples and blossomed through every creek, corner and ruins.

The Dragon stairs to the temple
The Dragon stairs to the temple

As you walk up the stairs, towards the right, is the temple complex. The pagodas and cluster of mini temples, walls carved with elephant heads, figurines influenced by Thai mythology, creepers taking over walls, wooden bridges over shallow flowing water and stream of slippery waterfall on the rock – all of these makes the place an abstract introspection, of how all of this was architected so perfectly and glorified further with sorcery cast by nature.

The statues embraced by nature
The statues embraced by nature

On entering the temple, the dragon adorned stairs leading to the slippery waterfall on the rocks is phenomenal. Such intricate architectures dating back to bygone centuries, it is hard to even slide through the perspective in place.

Some Glimpses of the Wat Pha Lat

How to Reach Monk’s Trail?

End of Suthep Road - Take the right and walk towards "Nature Phalad Trail"
End of Suthep Road – Take the right for Monk’s Trail

The temple can be visited well within budget either using Grab Taxi or a songthaew (Red Taxi).

  • Hail a songthaew and ask them to drive you to the end of the Suthep Road. The end of the Suthep Road is close to the main gate of Chiang Mai University. Most of the Songthaew drivers confuse and drive you to the main entrance of Doi Suthep Temple make sure to give them the directions appropriately.
  • The second way to reach there is by calling a “Grab Taxi” and you can use the destination as “DCondo Campus Resort” or “Wat Pha Lat Hike”.
Keep walking till you reach these green boxes - Start of trail
Keep walking till you reach these green boxes – Start of trail

Once you have reached the end of Suthep Road, you will notice a couple of signboards pointing towards “Chiang Mai Zoo” or “Nature Trail Phalad“. Keep walking towards that direction until you reach an intersection. Keep towards the left and keep walking on the inclined path till you see the entry for the trail, marked by two green hut shaped boards.

The routes marked by such orange pieces
Monk’s Trail marked by such orange pieces

After walking through past the boards, the trail is pretty much marked with orange monk robe pieces tied to the trees. The trail is straight and well marked. Keep following the trail until you reach the temple, there is no intersection.

The temple hidden in nature
The temple hidden in nature

Things to Know about the Place

  • As you hike through the Monk’s Trail, you pass through 5 translational zones differing in their pattern of forest formation. The hike starts with Dipterocarp forest which translates into the evergreen forest surrounding the temple as you ascend the hill. The Dipterocarp plants shed their leaves during the dry season but trees of evergreen forest always stay green, never shedding their leaves.
  • The arched bridges are the oldest bridges laid on the route dating back to around 100 years and made of stones. They were used by the pilgrims to cross creeks and walk towards Doi Suthep.
  • It is an easy hike but come as early as possible to avoid the heat. Although the forest canopy creates a shade but can still get hot during the day.
  • Wear sturdy and strong shoes to hike the place, carry a bottle of water and make sure you have had your breakfast before starting the climb. There are no shops on the route.
  • Make sure you apply mosquito repellent while hiking through the forest.
  • You can visit Doi Suthep Temple without having to descend down. Follow the route behind the temple (it is well marked) and hike all the way up to the main road. Do not cross the road and hail any songthaew coming your way to drop you to Doi Suthep for 100 Baht. 
View of Chiang Mai City from Top
View of Chiang Mai City from Top

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The gorgeous view of the 700 years of the old city of Chiang Mai from the temple is by all means rewarding. The marvels of intricate architecture on the walls, excellence of craftsmanship in designing the figurines and dragon statues will leave you in awe. Do not be in rush, meditate and spend some time connecting to the unadulterated nature enveloping the area.

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19 Responses

  1. Alli says:

    Wow, this place looks amazing. I’d love to visit Chiang Mai someday, and will definitely try to add this to my list when I do!

  2. Avery Koch says:

    beautiful photographs!

  3. Wow looks like a great trail..I would love to explore it ..planning to visit Chang Mai soo.n.thanks for sharing

  4. Silly Little Kiwi Blog says:

    What beautiful photos! And such a cool experience. I’ve been to Thailand heaps and have NEVER managed to do this. Pinning it for later! xx

  5. It looks like really awesome place to visit. I have not been to Chiang Mai yet, so it’s something to consider for my future travel. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Albi Mrázová says:

    This temple looks so lovely and I love your photos, I really need to do something like this soon! Lovely post, thanks for the helpful tips!

  7. Gurvinder says:

    Nice Post!…I was searching for a Guide to Monk’s Trail for my upcoming trip to Thailand. Got one!!..Thanks

  8. Bea says:

    Such a beautiful place! I love visiting temples and similar places. I am adding this Monk’s Trail guide to my itinerary when I go. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Monk’s Trail looks like such a peaceful place! I love the detail in all the statues!

  10. Stephanie says:

    I need to add this to my list!

  11. Thank you for sharing. We love this kind of place and will have to add it to our list for when we make it back to Thailand. It is nice when the effort to get there naturally keeps places like this from being overrun with people.

  12. Susan Moore says:

    That’s a great way to enjoy the temples in Thailand! I love hiking and combining it with the cultural aspect of visiting the temples in the forest appeals to me. I visited Thailand many years ago but I didn’t spend any time in Chang Mai. Now I’ve been looking into returning to Thailand and Chang Mai would likely be my home base for a couple months. Nice to know there are some good hikes nearby!

  13. kellybarcus says:

    It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve been to Chiang Mai, but I’d love to go back and do this!

  14. candiceiiice says:

    I absolutely love Chiang Mai! I live in Bangkok and will need to take another trip up to Chiang Mai before I leave Thailand, but I have already done most of the “touristy” thing already. Must add this to the list!! Thanks for sharing! <3

  15. Kaisa says:

    These pictures are KILLER! I love little-known hikes in popular countries. This post is excellent.

  16. Luiza says:

    Great post! So many details and the photos are amazing. Thanks for sharing that. I will definitely try to include this on my travel plans while I am there.

  17. Katie says:

    OMG I want to do this soooo bad! I’ll have to go back just for this.

  18. A beautiful hike. I enjoyed hiking through on my way to Doi Suthep Temple several times. Great tips and cannot understate the importance of sturdy shoes. Great post!

  19. Grace Silla says:

    I love little adventures like this and especially when you get to pass so much beautiful scenery!

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