Wat Chaloem, The Best Temple in Thailand You’ve Never Heard Of

The Trek to Wat Chaloem is One of the Most Epic Day Trips from Chiang Mai

If you’re looking for one of the most adventurous, off-the-beaten-track day trips from Chiang Mai then look no further than Wat Chaloem temple. No it’s not on the tourist radar yet, but yes it wholeheartedly deserves to be! It’s one of the best hidden travel destinations of Thailand and will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your trip to the north, if you make the pilgrimage to this stunning site. Read on for the lowdown on how to get yourself some of the action.

???? Header Photo Credit: Warin, ไทย: วัดเฉลิมพระเกียรติวรวิหาร / Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Worawihan

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat and the Floating Pagodas

You might have heard people talk about floating pagodas and wondered what they’re talking about. Are they describing a temple floating around on a lake? Nope! Wat Chaloem ‘floats’ because of its insane location, perched on top of craggy limestone peaks and appearing to float above the plains below. Add in a bit of early morning mist and you’ve got yourself quite the sight!

It’s a fully functioning temple made up of several pagodas spread across rocky outcrops, and even the most atheist visitor would be forgiven for getting a shiver up their spine looking at this feat of religious engineering. It’s quite spectacular.

It’s a great destination for adventurous travelers!

From the minute you turn up at Wat Chaloem it feels a bit different to other temples you might have visited. You can see the mountain from miles away so anticipation has time to build, and once you’ve arrived and bought your ticket you transfer into a songthaew (transport truck) for the trip up the steep slope. Hold on tight as this is a bit of an off-road, bumpy ride!

Once you’ve gone a fair way up the hill in the songthaew, it’s over to you. The final 800 meter climb is done on foot so make sure you’ve got a ton of water with you as it can take nearly half an hour in the heat and you don’t want to run out of liquid! And once you arrive, the temple is all yours. The views are simply spectacular and each pagoda has a slightly different style to explore. Poke your nose into every corner, you’ve earned it!

A Great Day Trip from Chiang Mai

One of the best bits about a day trip to Wat Chaloem are a ton of things you can do en route. The road from Chiang Mai takes you along the banks of a river past numerous small local restaurants and cafes (which all do insanely good kra praw!), and there are some hot springs which are perfect for a soak after a visit. Take your time to explore some of the back roads in this area as well, this is real Thailand and a couple of hours in the countryside here gives you a real flavor of rural Thai life.

The Logistics

Entry to Wat Chaloem is 200 baht ($6), with an additional 60 baht ($1.90) for the songthaew ride up the hill. Getting there is a bit time-consuming on public transport so the best way to get there is to hire your own scooter or car, as long as you’ve got the right driving license. Take the road that connects Ban Pang Kong (highway 3005) and Chae Son National Park, passing through Ban Mae Kampong for some simply gorgeous scenery.

One of the Best Hidden Travel Destinations of Thailand

We can’t recommend a day trip to Wat Chaloem highly enough. The ticket office opens at 7:30am so leave super early from Chiang Mai and arrive in time to see the temples at dawn. The roads are quiet, other visitors will be virtually non-existent and the sight of the pagodas floating above the morning mist in the valley is not to be missed. Wat Chaloem is a real gem.

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