History of Doi Inthanon National Park

Doi Inthanon National Park is about 70 km southwest of Chiang Mai. It takes about 1,5 hours to drive from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon. The Thai government declared Doi Inthanon a national park in 1972. It covers 482 square kilometres. The park is also nicknamed “The Roof of Thailand”. The park is known for its extraordinary richness in biodiversity and its wide range of different natural habitats. It includes the highest peak in the country. With its cool climate all year round, it is considered one of the most popular recreation areas of the country. The National Park, moreover, is a place of historical and cultural importance. It has now become one of the main tourist destinations in Chiang Mai province. Especially in the cold season, it attracts many visitors on Doi Inthanon tours.

Who was the first western visitor to explore the “Roof of Thailand”? The first report of a foreigner trekking to the summit of Doi Inthanon dates back to 1906. It was the German botanist Dr Carl Curt Hosseus (1878 – 1950) who visited North Thailand in the years 1904-1906. It was the first botanical exploration of Northern Thailand. White Lotus published his book Through King Chulalongkorn’s Kingdom (1904-1906): The First Botanical Exploration of Northern Thailand”. The first English translation dates back from 2012.

Tourists on Doi Inthanon view deck
Doi Inthanon view deck

King Inthawichayanon of Chiang Mai

Hosseus wrote “The plan was to ascent Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain of Siam. The officials had, according to what they said, neither a good map of the region nor did they even know the name of the mountain”. The mountain was known to local people as Doi Angka Luang. The British expert on map-making, James McCarthy, gave the mountain the name Inthanon in honour of Chao Inthavichayanon (1817-1897), the 7th king of Chiang Mai. The king wanted his ashes to remain on Doi Angka. His daughter Princess Dara Rasmi (sometimes spellt Dara Rasamee) ordered a stupa to be constructed near the summit where the ashes of the king were deposited. They renamed the mountain officially Doi Inthanon after King Inthawichayanon, the 7th ruler of Chiang Mai.

View on two Royal Chedis
Doi Inthanon National Park Royal Chedis

The expedition of Carl Curt Hosseus

Hosseus’ expedition was composed of twenty-two Laotian porters with one local leader, one chief, two Shan men, two policemen, an interpreter, cook and a boy. In total there were 32 people. To describe the expedition goes a bit too far. Just read the book. He describes passing through the villages of Sanpatong and Mae Wang. There were already Karen villages on the slopes of Doi Inthanon.

“Before sunrise, we started breaking up the camp, so that we could start marching with the sun coming up in yellow splendour. We had camped at the height of about two thousand meters with a minimum temperature of 7,9 degrees Celsius. After a few hours marching, we approached the spurs of the summit. A delightful view of the Mae Ping, the hazy plain and the northeastern mountains opened through the trees.”

Hosseus was determined to camp on the highest point. “To find it was not a small undertaking. The entire Doi Anka Luang is covered with dense jungle and orientation is very difficult,….”. Finally, he found the summit which he named the “Richthofen Peak” after a man called Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen“. Giving names to mountains and other places was normal in colonial days.

Hosseus wanted to stay a few more days on the summit but decided against it. The lack of potable water was a problem for the members of the expedition. “Besides, the nights were, at least for my people, freezing. They could not sleep for a moment despite several great fires we made around the camp.” The minimum temperature was close to zero.

Kerr, the father of Thai botany

The Irish botanist Arthur F.G.Kerr wrote about his expeditions to the mountain in 1922. He still used the name Doi Angka. He wrote: “Doi Angka lies about 57 kilometres in a direct line to the Southwest of Chiengmai (old spelling of Chiang Mai) and can be readily seen on a clear day from that city, but better still from the ricefields to the south of the town where an uninterrupted view is obtained of the whole massif. In the old days when people travelled by river, Angka was a conspicuous object for several days before reaching Chiengmai and many longing looks were cast at it. Though it overtops all the other mountains in the vicinity it does not give the idea of great height, no doubt because the slopes, as seen from the East, are gradual and rise slowly to a rather rounded top.”


That Doi Angka was visible from Chiang Mai is proven by below picture. Bank manager Edward Walter Hutchinson made it in November 1939 from the office of the Siam Bank in Chiang Mai. This is now the location of the British Council, east of the Ping River. Doi Inthanon is still visible from Chiang Mai on clear days.

Tree trunk with moss
Doi Inthanon mossy forest
viewpoint on Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon viewpoint

More information about Doi Inthanon and Doi Inthanon tours you can find here.

We offer the following Doi Inthanon Tours and Trekkings: