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Khao Yai National Park

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One of the best places to visit from Bangkok and experience nature and the jungle in Thailand is Khao Yai National Park. Situated about 2 hours North-East of Bangkok it is a great place to go for a weekend getaway from Bangkok. Khao Yai National Park is the oldest national park in Thailand, and one of the greatest. Home to a healthy population of wild elephants as well as hornbills, snakes, eagles, gibbons, macaques and deer, it is a fantastic place to visit for wildlife lovers. 

Spotting greater hornbills in Khao Yai National Park

How to Visit Khao Yai National Park

Visitors have two options when visiting Khao Yai National Park. Entering the park using your own transport or joining a wildlife tour which includes a hotel pick up. Using your own transport such as a car or motorbikes is great for people who enjoy freedom and travelling separately. However, if you want to see a lot of wildlife and be shown interesting species of flora and fauna then I recommend taking a wildlife tour. 

Khao Yai Things to Do

Bear in mind that Khao Yai is a whole area so there are other activities, outside of the national park to enjoy such as wine tours in a Khao Yai winery, strawberry picking, organic farms and many restaurants. 

Wildlife Tours of Khao Yai National Park

I thoroughly recommend Greenleaf Tours of Khao Yai National Park. They have fantastic, really knowledgeable guides who share their wisdom about nature with you. The Greenleaf tour includes a hotel pick up and drop off, transport during the day, lunch in the park and a hike inside jungle areas for a couple of hours. They can also do private tours which I have also done before when my parents visited Thailand and we didn’t want to do so much jungle trekking in Khao Yai. You can contact them via the Greenleaf Tours website here.

Photo of me inside Khao Yai National Park at a waterfall
On a Greenleaf tour to visit one of the many waterfalls inside Khao Yai National Park

Greenleaf Wildlife Tours

Be sure to ask Greenleaf Khao Yai tours about the bat cave Khao Yai viewing experience. You can go in the evening before your day trip into the park and it is definitely worth it! You can experience millions of bats flying out of their cave at sunset on nearby mountains which is a really magical experience. 

Khao Yai National Park Animals

Along with wild elephants you can regularly see gibbons, hornbills, eagles, snakes, spiders, monkeys and deer while trekking in Khao Yai National Park.  

For a close up experience of animals, consider visiting this amazing rescue centre for an ethical way to feed elephants and other animals. 

Wild elephants at Khao Yai National Park

The best place to see wild elephants in Thailand is in this park. If you would like the best ethical elephant experience then nothing beats seeing elephants in Thailand in the wild where they truly belong. Seeing wild elephants in Thailand is incredible and you have a really good chance of seeing elephants in Khao Yai National Park.   Wild elephants in Khao Yai is one of the best bucketlist Thailand experiences you can have. Read here for more Thailand bucketlist experiences. 

Wild Elephant in Khao Yai National Park

Camping in Khao Yai

The only places to go camping inside Khao Yai National Park are through the national park. At a very cheap rate you can hire tents, sleeping bags, mats and pillows and camp at designated campsites inside the park. Please note it is best to have your own transport when doing this. There is no need to book in advance, you can just ask at the visitor centre. 

Where to Stay in Khao Yai

For Khao Yai National Park accommodation, the only way to stay inside the actual park is to enjoy Khao Yai camping. All other accommodation is strung out along the road into the park which has a range of different tiers of accommodation from budget to luxury hotels in Khao Yai. 

Khao Yai Accommodation : Budget Hotels

There are some hostels and guesthouses nearby to the park. If doing a tour with Greenleaf they also offer some basic accommodation. I recommend Wynnhouse Khao Yai (Book it on Agoda here) for a cheap, clean double room about 20 minutes from the park entrance. 

 

Khao Yai Accommodation : Mid-range Accommodation

For Khao Yai mid-range accommodation I would recommend Botanica (Check out prices for Botanica Khao Yai on Agoda) or alternatively on Booking.com). They have a luscious pool area, great views of the mountains and lovely big rooms with balconies. 

 

Khao Yai Accommodation : Luxury Accommodation near Khao Yai

Khao Yai has a lot of luxury accommodation, some of it further from the park itself so be sure to look into travel times. Compare prices on Agoda for luxury hotels such as the Movenpick here.  

When to visit Khao Yai

The best time of year to visit Khao Yai National Park is during dry season. There are no leeches around so no need to wear leech socks and you have a better chance of spotting wildlife such as wild elephants in Thailand as they come out of the deeper jungle to use the watering holes and lakes. Dry season in this area is from November-April with April being the hottest month. 

Getting to Khao Yai

To get from Bangkok to Khao Yai, you can take a minivan from Ekkamai to Pak Chong. Some hotels will then offer a transfer from Pak Chong to their accommodation. If you are camping in Khao Yai National Park then rent your own transport in Pak Chong such as motorbikes and head into the park. 

Botanica balcony views

Khao Yai National Park Entrance Fees

Like all national parks in Thailand, there is a national park fee. At the time of writing it is 400 baht for foreign visitors, including work permit holders. In the past work permit holders in Thailand could pay Thai price for national park fees but that is no longer possible. Please note park fees are subject to change at any time. 

Bangkok to Khao Yai

To get to Khao Yai from Bangkok, it takes approximately two hours. You can hire your own transport to take you there or take a minivan from Ekkamai bus station. This makes Khao Yai the perfect weekend getaway from Bangkok. 

Deer in Khao Yai National Park

 

The Best National Parks in Thailand

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you love adventure, the outdoors, hiking and wildlife then consider heading to the best National Parks in Thailand. For me these are Thailand’s best kept secrets as you can get off the tourist trail, stay away from the crowds and discover nature and wildlife in Thailand’s national parks.

Thailand has some of the best national parks in Southeast Asia in terms of the wildlife you can see, including wild elephants in Thailand. The national parks in Thailand also boast stunning views, mountain ranges, impressive waterfalls and blue lakes you can swim in.

Different national parks are best for different activities depending on if you want to see wild animals, or swim in waterfalls or staying on a floating bungalow on a lake. For example, the best national park in Thailand for wildlife is Khao Yai National Park, whereas the best national park for waterfalls is Erawan National Park.

 

The best national park in Thailand for Wildlife: Khao Yai National Park

This is one of the best jungle areas to visit in Thailand and the best place to see wild elephants in Thailand.  Along with wild elephants, Khao Yai National Park is the best national park to see and hear gibbons, see families of macaques, spot greater hornbills, eagles and other birdlife in Thailand as well as snakes, scorpions and spiders.

To visit Khao Yai national park you can visit as part of a wildlife tour, or alternatively use your own transport to enter the park and hike pre-marked trails within the Thailand national park. For my full Khao Yai National Park guide read here.

best national parks Thailand
Hiking inside the best national park in Thailand for wildlife – Khao Yai National Park

 

Best National Park for viewpoints Thailand: Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Found about 3-4 hours South of Bangkok in Prachuap Kiri Khan province, this stunning national park is home to 300 birds and the amazing Khao Sam Roi Yot mountains, meaning 300 peaks. For me, it is one of the best national parks in Thailand because it is a lesser known area and therefore not crowded and you will see very few tourists here. It’s an excellent place to rent a motorcycle for the first time in Thailand as the area is flat, quiet and it won’t be so easy to get around unless you have your own transport. Stay at the small, cute and fairly cheap Namaste Resort, the owner June was very helpful with renting motorbikes and booking onward travel. There are quite a few different activities to do in this national park, from hiking to Thailand viewpoints, visiting deserted beaches, to going to see the secret shrine cave which is a highlight.

Visit Thailand National Parks Nature
Best National Parks in Thailand – Khao Sam Roi Yot and the Hike to Praya Nakhon Cave

Best National Park in Thailand for Caves : Khao Sam Roi Yot

Praya Nakhon cave is one of the most famous areas inside the national park. Inside it has a small but striking blue shrine (which looks like a temple) inside an enormous cave. The hole in the roof of the cave allows the light to filter down where trees and plants are now growing. To get here you can hike about 30 minutes to the beach, and then another 30 minutes after that or take a boat around to the beach if you want to limit your hiking time. The views from the hike are definitely worth it as it goes all the way round the coastline, as you can see from the photo above. This is one of Thailand’s hidden gems and definitely worth a visit.

Thailand National Parks Nature Caves
Best National Parks in Thailand – Discover Thailand’s Praya Nakhon Cave

Sam Phraya beach is found just inside the national park. While not a beach for swimming, it’s worth a photo stop of the colourful fishing boats and to marvel at just how far the tide goes out – it seemed like it was on the horizon.

Thailand National Park Nature Beaches
Phraya Nakhon Beach inside Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Best Viewpoint in Thailand in Khao Sam Roi Yot

Khao Daeng Viewpoint has been one of my favourite viewpoints in Thailand so far. It’s about a 30 minute hike up a fairly steep slope with rocks around, so I don’t recommend doing it in flipflops. The trail is only officially open from 8-3.30pm but some visitors risk it for a sunrise/sunset view which I am not sure I recommend but if you do decide to hike outside these hours then bring a flashlight for safety. I hiked during the afternoon and had these impressive views of both the mountains and the ocean.

best national parks in Thailand
Khao Daeng Viewpoint of the 300 Peak Mountains ‘Khao Sam Roi Yot’

Getting to Khao Sam Roi Yot from Bangkok: Take a minivan from the Southern Bus terminal in Bangkok to Pranburi and then motorcycle taxi into Khao Sam Roi Yot.

Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park Entrance Fee: 200 baht for foreigners

Best National Park near Bangkok : Sai Yok National Park

Out of all the national parks in Thailand, this, along with Khao Yai, is one of the closest national parks to Bangkok. You can go to Sai Yok waterfalls as part of a day trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi which also includes a museum visit, visit to the town of Kanchanaburi and a world war cemetery. You can also organise your own transport to Kanchanaburi. The park is around 2 hours from Kanchanaburi town. It has an impressive waterfall that you can swim in and you can even stay overnight on floating bungalows in Sai Yok National Park.

How to get to Sai Yok National Park from Bangkok: I recommend a day trip from Bangkok. You can book with tour operators in tourist areas of Bangkok and compare prices to get the best deal.

Sai Yok National Park entrance fee: free but subject to change depending on the government

best National Parks Thailand
Everybody’s chasing waterfalls…avoid Thai public holidays for a quieter experience!

Best National Park in Thailand for floating bungalows: Khao Sok National Park

Another area of astounding beauty, this park is about two hours north of Krabi in the province of Surat Thani. From your accommodation you can arrange trekking, wildlife spotting with a guide and an overnight stay on the beautiful floating bungalows on the lake, which is definitely worth it. You can rent kayaks and kayak around  Chaew Lam Lake trying to spot monkeys, gibbons and even elephants, if you are lucky. Fish eagles, dusky langur monkeys and gibbons are common to spot on the wildlife spotting boat trip or kayaking around. If you want to visit I recommend arranging transport from Krabi and try booking into a treehouse! I usually use Agoda for hotel bookings in Thailand and compare with booking.com for the best rates. For my full Khao SOk National Park guide and how to stay in a floating bungalow and a Thailand treehouse read this article here.

best national parks Thailand
Kayaking in Khao Sok National Park while staying in floating bungalows on the lake

Best National Park in Thailand for Viewpoints: Doi Ithanon National Park

These mountains contain the highest peak in Thailand and they are the start of the foothills of the Himalayas. You can join a Doi Ithanon day tour from Chiang Mai which also includes waterfalls and a lunch stop. Book through a tour operator in Chiang Mai.

On a clear day you can see fairly far into the mountain ranges and the unusual temple pagodas are worth a look, like something out of Star Wars. The gardens are also stunning with so many different kinds of flowers and a riot of colour.

best national parks in Thailand
Gardens at the top of Doi Ithanon National Park, Thailand

Best National Park in Thailand for waterfalls : Erawan National Park

It is definitely worth a visit to see the impressive Erawan waterfalls – one of the best waterfalls in Thailand. You can spend the day hiking in the jungle and swimming in gorgeous blue pools of fresh cool water. The colours of the water appear bluer the higher you climb so be prepared to head up to the top most step, the 9th one. Avoid bringing plastic bottles into the national park and there are small restaurants where you can eat at the bottom of the national park as there is very little higher up the waterfall steps. You will also find it quieter, the higher up you hike of the Erawan Waterfall. It’s about 45 minutes drive from Kanchanaburi town.

Erawan National Park entrance fee: 200-300 baht

Erawan National Park tour: book a day trip from Bangkok, many Bangkok tour operators can offer this waterfall tour which also includes some history and museums in Kanchanaburi town first.

best national parks in Thailand
Swimming in magical blue pools in the Erawan National Park

 

 

Don’t Forget to Take:

    • Insect Spray – National Parks in Thailand can be full of mosquitoes so make sure you take insect repellent with you. I recommend 50% DEET if you are prone to being bitten. Try this Repel DEET Pump Spray from Amazon
    • A practical bag – I’ve spent many a time faffing about with the wrong bag, it’s size or style and I’ve finally found that dry bags are the best way forward for any destinations in Thailand that will involve water or sand! Buy yours in all sorts of great colours from Amazon here: Water Proof Dry Bag

Book your travel to these amazing places here. Trains, buses, ferries and boats for Thailand and beyond…

For backpacking essentials that I actually use and are very practical check out my blog post here

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