Wherever you are in Chiang Mai City, the massive Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, with its twin mountain peaks of Doi Suthep (1676m) and Doi Pui (1685m), dominates the skyline (smog permitting). Indeed, the city's founders used the positions of these peaks to determine the most auspicious location for the city. This popular National Park is a "must see" if you are visiting Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand. It covers 265sq km of mountain ranges, verdant forests, wilderness, hill-tribe villages and numerous tourist attractions, including the world-famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Despite many years of human encroachment, much of the forest area is relatively untouched, as most people tend to stick to the main roads and only visit the tourist areas such as the Bhubing winter palace, the Hill Tribe villages and Doi Suthep temple. The eastern side of the mountain stays green and cool almost all year-round. The diverse climate supports more than 300 hundred species of birds, 2,000 species of flowering plants and ferns, as well as a large variety of butterflies that thrive during the rainy season. The vast park also has also trails for you to go hiking and mountain biking, and places for camping, birdwatching and numerous "tourist-free" waterfalls. There is a pleasant trek to a nearby waterfall from the ranger sub-station (see Doi Suthep Waterfall highlight). If you prefer biking, there are partially delineated single tracks down the mountain, which are the remains of old hunting and transpiration routes used by Hill Tribe villagers. These are ideal for off-road mountain biking but many trails are not well marked, so you are advised to join an organised mountain-biking tour. For those of you who prefer to stick to the main road, the tourist stop-offs tend to avoid the National Park entrance fee, but they may have their own entrance charges. As a rule, if you access any sights via the national park headquarters, you will pay the Park 200B fee, but there is no charge if you are driving directly up to Doi Suthep temple. One of the most picturesque waterfalls - Nam Tok Monthathon - is located 2.5km off the main road to Doi Suthep and commands the National Park entrance fee, but there are many scenic viewpoints and occasional waterfalls on your drive up the mountain which are all free. One of the most popular free waterfalls is Nam Tok Wang Bua Bahn, near to the base of the mountain. On weekends and holidays, it is full of locals. Although very popular, the falls are more a succession of rapids than tumbling water. Generally speaking, the 'swimming pools' that catch the cascading torrents, have sufficient water for a swim all year round, but the best time to visit them is during, or shortly after the rainy season. The headquarters to the National Park, which is also the entrance to the royal palace and the botanical gardens, is located high up the mountain, above Doi Suthep temple on the road to the summit of Doi Pui. If you wish to overnight, bungalow accommodation is available in the park on a hill, near the Park Headquarters, about 1km north of the temple; and also at the Ranger Station area near Monta Tan Waterfall. There is a youth hostel at the Mok Fa Waterfall area. Bungalows rent from 1,500B and hostel mattresses from 400B. For the fit and brave, there is a campground near the Doi Pui summit, which has basic facilities, a restaurant and a visitor centre where you can rent tents and mountain bikes. Tents (sleeping two) costs 150B per night and sleeping bags, and other accessories are also available to rent from 50B. Remember that temperatures can drop as low as 6°C overnight. You can rent mountain bikes at the visitor centre at 100B a day. Entry: Adults/Children, 200B/100B Open: Generally 7:00am - 5:00pm but times at different attractions can vary. Tel: +66 53295117, +66 53210244 Address: Huai Kaew road, Suthep Sub-district A. Muang Chiang Mai Getting Here: Approx 19km northwest of Chiang Mai city. Songthaew 'roundtrip tours' regularly depart from the front of Chiang Mai University on Nimmanhemin Road and will take you to the Doi Suthep Temple, the Bhubing Winter Palace, and Doi Pui summit. You will have an hour each at each location before returning to the city, and the cost is about 300B per person. There are also Songtaews that will go one way and charge less, depending on the number of passengers and your destination. Alternatively, you can ask your guesthouse or hotel to organise a private songthaew tour with a guide, but this will cost you a lot more. Songtaews also depart from Chiang Mai Zoo. Another choice is to rent a motorbike, but please consider this option carefully as some of the tracks are extremely steep and dangerous and should only be undertaken by experienced drivers. A taxi for the day will cost you around 1,500B.