Thailand’s first registered national park – Khao Yai, was established in 1962 and covers an area of 2,168 km², making it the nation’s third-largest park. Khao Yai extends into Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachinburi, Saraburi and Nakhon Nayok provinces. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits within the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex covering five areas from Khao Yai to the Cambodian border.
One of the main attractions in the world heritage site is the incredible waterfalls. Haew Narok is the highest waterfall in Khao Yai. It cascades over three levels with the final level hurtling 80 metres into a deep pool. At the height of the rainy season, Haew Narok is a truly breathtaking sight.
Wang Takrai National Park
Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave
Kang Sam Chan
PB Valley Khao Yai Winery
Khun Dan Prakarn Chon Dam
Nang Rong falls
Haew Suwat is another waterfall made famous the movie ‘The Beach’, wherein one scene Leonardo DiCaprio’s character dived into from a cliff. If you want to follow in DiCaprio’s footsteps you must be willing to dive a 20-metre drop. Haew Pratoon is another picturesque waterfall. It cascades down 30 meters over a wide, jagged cliff hitting some huge boulders at the base of the falls. 8km trek from the park headquarters.
Wang Heaw is a large-scale spectacular waterfall, extending for 60-metres across with endless gushing water pouring over the edge. It takes two days trekking to reach these falls but the intensive journey is worth it.
The park offers bungalows for rent and hostels for larger groups. The accommodation is basic but comfortable with bedding, electricity and running water, along with two campsites in the central area of the park. Camping gear can be rented at the sight if you don’t have your own. There are toilet and shower facilities and a barbeque area within the camping grounds. There are plenty of hotels nearby the park entrance for those looking for less rustic lodgings.
One of the most popular Khao Yai National Park tours is the night time spotlight safari. This is one of the best ways to spot native animals in their natural habitat. Starting after dusk, visitors can jump in a jeep with spotlights in hand and be driven throughout the central parklands in search of wildlife. Common sightings include deer and porcupines with rarer sightings of civet cats and wild boars or even some wild roaming elephants. These tours can be booked at the visitor centre.
For trekking enthusiasts, there are seven official trails of which most must be accompanied by either a guide or a ranger ranging from a few hours to a few days.
Nature lovers can enjoy hiking, wildlife watching, visiting waterfalls- especially the masterpiece known as Haew Narok, viewpoints and camping.
Khao Yai World Heritage National Park is so vast that for most, one day is not enough. It is recommended to spend at least 2 or 3 days in and around the region to be able to more fully explore its natural wonders.
Plenty of hotels and guesthouses can be found right outside the park boundaries. There are two main campsites in the park where camping gear can be rented but can’t be booked in advance. There are bungalows in two different spots inside the national park which can only be booked from within Thailand.
From Bangkok, it takes approximately 3-4 hours by car, or you can take a bus or minivan to Pak Chong district where Khao Yai National Park is located. There is also a train from Hua Lampong Train Station in Central Bangkok to Pak Chong, the closest station to the national park. The trip takes about 4-5 hours.
Yes, the road conditions are good and it is a straightforward drive from Bangkok to Khao Yai.
The best time to visit Khao Yai is either in the post-rainy season or winter from November to February when everything will be green and waterfalls will be fully flowing.
Evidence that Indochinese tigers are breeding in Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex was captured by camera footage deployed in the park a few years ago but they are a rare sight to ever see in person.
It is not possible to enter the park on foot from the checkpoint. The visitor centre is around 14 km further in and other popular attractions are much further inside the park. The two most popular waterfalls, viewpoints and the visitor centre can be accessed by car or bike and reached without any need of a guide. Two trails that the visitors are allowed to walk alone is an about 800-metre long circular trail behind the visitor centre and the Thai-American Friendship Trail. To access any other treks, you will need a park guide to accompany you as too many tourists have gotten lost and gone missing in the past.
There are over 300 species of birds, 50+ species of reptiles including various types of snakes and more than 70 species of mammals such as elephants, deer, wild boars, macaque and gibbon monkeys to name a few.
The best way to get from Bangkok to Namtok Sam Lan National Park is by bus or train, with the journey taking just under 2 hours for both.
In December, the weather is cool by Asian standards with clear blue skies, sunny days and light breezes, temperatures averaging 21 degrees during the day and dropping to 10 degrees at night.
Good enclosed footwear is essential with decent grip as the jungle trails can get slippery. There are leeches and mosquitos in the jungle so it is advised that you cover up with lightweight sleeves and trousers to avoid being bitten. During the hot season, temperatures can be stifling but during the cooler season, temperatures in the evenings can get very cold so be sure to bring warm clothing.
Khao Yai was Thailand’s first-ever national park established in 1962 and covers an area of 2,168 km², making it the nation’s third-largest park.
There are wild elephants throughout the national park and the best way to spot them is by a night safari tour or on a private guided walk through the jungle.
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