The Hidden Temple: Wat Pha Lat
Nestled in a lush green mountain away from the chaos of Chiang Mai’s city streets lies Wat Pha Lat, a jungle temple paradise. Jungle temples, as opposed to community temples that are found in the city, serve primarily as a calm place for monks to live and meditate. With old stone buildings, intricate carvings and statues, and plenty of breathtaking places to meditate, it’s clear why people claim Wat Pha Lat is a hidden gem in Chiang Mai.
After a beautiful winding drive up a mountain, you divert to a small side road and the site appears out of nowhere, with two white statues welcoming visitors to the entrance of the temple grounds. Stairs wind around the temple, beginning at the viharn and pagodas in the uppermost area and leading down to another complex of buildings that blend seamlessly with the nature around them. While the area is landscaped, the natural beauty still shines amidst the lush forest grounds. Further in, a waterfall trickles down a sheet of rock where the trees open up for a beautiful view of the city. To the right lies a number of caves that contain ancient cloaked statues and various artifacts. Wat Pha Lat, which translates to “Monastery at the Sloping Rock”, is serene and mostly unvisited, as it is typically overshadowed by the ever-popular Wat Doi Suthep. In 1355, the temple was constructed after King Kuena’s white elephant died at the site of Wat Doi Suthep and he ordered construction of temples where it perished and where it took breaks to rest. Originally, Wat Pha Lat was a resting place for monks during their pilgrimage to the larger temple atop the hill, but after the road was built in 1935, its primary use shifted to a meditation site for monks. Just below the temple, there is a small ancient bridge, and if you cross it and continue down the path you can find a hiking trail leading to the city below that can be done in under an hour. Whether you’re looking for a getaway from the busy city, a great view of Chiang Mai without tonnes of people, or a lovely place to watch the sunset, Wat Pha Lat is the perfect place to go.
Head west towards the Chiang Mai Zoo, and once you reach the entrance, continue past it up a winding road. After 5 kilometers, you will see a road for the entrance to the temple on the left.
GPS: 18.799468, 98.934314