Perched utop jagged peaks of a limestone mountain in Lampang province, is Wat Chalermprakiat – a unique temple that fascinates even the most ‘templed out’ of travellers and makes for a great day out from Chiang Mai province located just 100km / 60 miles from Chiang Mai city. The temple receives far fewer visitors than attractions such as the White Temple despite the jaw dropping views from the summit, fascinating flora and fauna and interesting architecture.
History of Wat Chalermprakiat
Despite looking quite old, the temple is in fact relatively new and work started on the construction in 2004 commemorate 200 years since the reign of King Rama IV of Thailand. 11 years later the temple was completed and is now considered one of the must see attractions in the province.
How to Get There
There are several routes to the temple from Chiang Mai. The quickest is via Highway 11 through Lampang city and north along the 1157. This has the best roads but is the least scenic. Highway 118 is a northern route which takes a similar amount of time but is more attractive passing through rolling mountains and past Mae Kachan hot spring. The most interesting and scenic but least accessible is via the small road that leads past Mae Kampong and over the mountain pass. This is perhaps best for the more adventurous as the road is in various states of disrepair and landslides are common in the wet season. The road is very steep towards the top and perhaps not possible for cars with smaller engines. It is possible to book a private car and driver for the day or hire a car if you’d prefer to drive yourself. Driving a scooter is another option if you don’t mind a sore backside!
How to Reach the Temple
Once you arrive at the foot of the mountain you will pay the fee, unfortunately dual pricing is implemented and the price will be 280 THB for a foreigner and 100 THB for a Thai which includes the entrance fee, transportation and park fee. You’ll wait for an available songteaw to take you up the mountain – it’s not possible to drive up yourself and there will be checkpoints to prevent you from doing so. The Songteaw drops you off several hundred metres from the top where you can walk along a well maintained walkway and up some very steep steps. The walk can be quite nerve wracking if you have a fear of heights with some steep drops but there are plenty of rest stops and its grippy even when wet. There are monkey’s living on the mountain so keep an eye out and move slowly for a chance to see them, you may see some skinks and other critters as you walk up.
Once you reach the main temple complex you can wander around to find the best vantage point of which there are many. The views are sublime and you can see for miles around. Remember that many of the people visiting are there for religious reasons, and to honor a revered former King of Thailand, so be respectful and be aware of people praying or meditating. There are no shop facilities at the summit so bring plenty of water and take your garbage back with you.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Wat Chalermprakiat is during wet season or just before / just after so June – December. The air is at it’s clearest during this time and the clouds more dramatic. You may even be treated to a sea of clouds below you if you arrive early enough. The jungle will be green and verdant and the temperature relatively cool, especially October onwards. From February – April the air quality drops so the views will not be quite as nice and the leaves will have fallen from the trees. It can be quite cold from December to January so bring a jacket during this time.
What Else is There in the Area?
Chae Son National Park is a short drive away from Wat Chalermprakiat and is a worthwhile visit for the hot springs and waterfalls. You can also stop off at the geyser if travelling along the 118 highway for a quick photo and coffee. If driving over from Mae Kampong you can stop off at Pa Miang village or wander around Mae Kampong, both beautiful villages and if travelling from the south, a stop at the Khun Tan Railway tunnel is worthwhile. Lampang city itself has a cool vibe and it’s worth a wander down walking street. There are some stunning colonial buildings which are unique to the region and well worth taking a look at. You can even stay overnight and perhaps do some kayaking on Kiw Lom lake which is nearby. Ask us in the comments or contact us for advice!