A Secret Jungle Temple in Chiang Mai

Wat Pha Lat

It’s no doubt that Chiang Mai has some of the nicest temples in Thailand. But what makes some of them even more impressive and mysterious is that you have to walk up steep stairs or forest paths to arrive at them, as they are hidden in the middle of the jungle. Wat Pha Lat is one of such temples.

This hidden temple feels like a true gem in the middle of the jungle. As soon as you enter the temple grounds, you’ll feel the peace and quietness in the area. That’s because Wat Pha Lat is home to the meditation retreats where locals and foreign visitors come to rest for some periods of time and attempt to clear their minds.

The whole Wat Pha Lat area is magic like a fairytale. Buddha figures, unique rock carvings, meditation altars, colorful, aromatic flowers are just among the things that makes the place feel special.


Wat Pha Lat in the jungle


Wat Pha Lat - a secret jungle temple in Chiang Mai

This temple is located on the way to Doi Suthep, the main temple of Chiang Mai on top of the mountain. Therefore historically Wat Pha Lat was used as a resting point for people on their pilgrimage up to Doi Suthep, which is still done once every year on Buddha’s birthday.

Hiking the monk’s trail which leads to Wat Pha Lat is like a little challenge as well as a good way to show respects to the temple, just like the monks do. The starting point of the trail is a little bit outside of the city on a narrow, winding jungle road. You can locate the start of the trail by the trail map, which shows the whole route and the different things you can see during the hiking.

The overall length of the hike is around 2 km. The path is quite wide and easy to walk. But to be sure you take the right way and always follow the orange cloth that’s tightened around the trees in various places along the whole trip.

The path is rocky, sometimes a little steep, other times leading you through interesting bamboo alleys and tiny waterfalls. On the whole, it is quite an easy hike, despite a few places that are muddy due to heavy rain in the past few days.

You’ll see a variety of different trees and plants on the way, as the terrain changes quite a lot from a leafy forest to rocky deserts, to bamboo covered jungle. The small mountain spring cheerfully twists around all these places and ends up in a splendid waterfall. The waterfall is the entrance of the temple. That feels like the best possible view to reward after 50 minutes of medium-intense Chiang Mai jungle hike.


Jungle Path to Wat Pha Lat


How to reach Wat Pha Lat

Getting to the starting point of the Monks Trail is not difficult whether you’re coming on your own by taking a taxi.

Use Google maps to navigate your way, by typing in Wat Pha Lat Hike (Monk's Trail) and you’ll have the accurate location. There’s a motorbike parking just in front of the trail entrance.

If coming by taxi, use the destination “Army Radio and Television Channel 7”. That’s the nearest location marked on the map and the entrance gate is located exactly next to starting point of the trail

The closest popular place to take as a landmark is Chiang Mai University, but it’s almost 2km away from the Monk’s trail. If you want to reach the temple without doing the hike, the best way is to get a songtaew in the city that’s heading up to Doi Suthep and asking him to stop on the road by Wat Pha Lat. The starting point of Doi Suthep bound songtaews is Chiang Phuak gate.


Stupa in Jungle

The hike is quite easy, so as long as you wear any kind of sports shoes and bring some water and bug spray, you’ll be comfortable. Make sure to bring proper clothing. After you reach the temple, as your knees and shoulders must be covered there at all times.

Also, for the best experience, you’d better visit the temple during weekdays, since it gets extremely busy with locals in Chiang Mai on the weekends.