Thailand stands out as one of the gems of Southeast Asia with its numerous attractions: tropical sandy beaches, impressive palaces, ancient temples, and the thriving capital of Bangkok. However, the showstoppers for nature lovers are the national parks that dot Southern Thailand, making it an ideal getaway destination.
If you’re planning to visit Thailand, consider taking your adventure off the beaten path. It can deliver a slice of paradise as you trek over endless trails in the jungle, enjoy the sight of elephants in the wild, watch cascading waterfalls, and enjoy the marine national parks.
Tag along as we take a look at some of the most breathtaking national parks in Thailand.
Erawan National Park
Erawan National Park is a top tourist destination near Kanchanaburi city, 120 miles west of Bangkok.
The main attraction in the park is the picturesque seven-tiered Erawan Falls. You can explore the caves around the waterfall, swim in the surrounding crystal-clear pools, or climb up the waterfalls. The stalagmites and stalactites in the Phartat Cave make them a must-see feature in the park.
But wait, there’s more. Nature trails that serpent through dense deciduous forests are excellent for hikers. Plenty of hornbills, deers, and wild elephants complete the park’s natural beauty.
The park is an hour’s journey by bus from Kanchanaburi. Accommodation options include hotels, bungalows, and camping tents.
Khao Yai National Park
Created in 1962, Khao Yai National Park is officially the first national park in Thailand. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is about two hours northeast of Bangkok in the Sankamphaeng Mountain Range. It can be done as a day trip, albeit an ambitious one.
The park is a popular destination for its rich collection of wildlife from exotic birds, bears, gibbons, and monkeys, with the main highlight being wild Asian elephants that roam the park.
Several waterfalls decorate this wonder of nature. The park is home to the 65-foot-high waterfall Haew Suwat which was featured in the film “The Beach” by Danny Boyle. Visit Haew Narok waterfall, at 500 feet high it’s the highest waterfall in the park. Besides, you stand a better chance to spot elephants in the wild as they are common there.
If you’re an active vacationer, there’s a meshwork of biking and hiking trails spanning over 30 miles through the forest.
Namtok Phlio National Park
The centerpiece of Namtok Phlio National Park is the captivating waterfall that goes by the same name, Namtok Phlio Waterfall. But there’s a host of other waterfalls and emerald pools so clear you can see the fish swim and spot the ground beneath.
Pack your swimsuits and join the locals as they swim in these waters amidst forested hilltops and random streams teaming with exotic fish species. You can also feed the fish and throw in your hook for a catch. Grab a bite from the many food vendors along the path to the park as you walk in.
The park is situated about eight miles outside Chanthaburi, making it easily accessible. If you want to stay longer to explore the historic sites and take in the sunset, you can use the guesthouse within the park or overnight in the tents at the campsite. You can bring your tent.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
If your idea of a memorable vacation is hiking and climbing up a steep cliff, then Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is the place to be. It’s three hours from Bangkok or a 20-minute drive from Hua Hin.
Climbing over the cliffs is challenging, but the magnificent views from the top are worth it. Moreover, you’ll enjoy the Phraya Nakhon Cave, a limestone-covered space that houses a Buddhist temple. The trees that grow from the cave have their roots curiously suspended from the top of the cave, thereby beautifying it.
Nonetheless, if you’re unable to climb up the cave, you can still get to the cave’s opening by boat, but you’ll miss out on the fantastic views.
There’s more on the menu for the outdoorsy vacationer. The marine park features stunning beaches where you can relax. It’s also a bird watchers’ paradise home to over 300 bird species. If birds are your thing, plan your visit in January or February when migratory birds are on the move.
Khao Sok National Park
Arguably the most beautiful national park in southern Thailand, Khao Sok serves up a special blend of natural attractions. The top is awe-inspiring limestone cliffs covered in an intricate karst formation.
When here, sample the trails that meander through thick Amazon-like rainforests, caves, waterfalls, and a lake. You may also explore the park along the navigable river on canoes. As you go deeper into the park, you’ll see animals like bears and wild elephants.
This park provides eco-friendly accommodation in tents if you want to spend the night in the wild. Watch the sunset and retire to bed with a yummy indigenous meal at the camp.
Public buses and vans provide convenient transport to the park from neighboring Phuket town 100 miles away.
Pranburi Forest Park
Pranburi Forest Park is 15 miles to the south of Hua Hin, a tourist town in Thailand. The main attraction in the park is the mangrove boardwalk. It runs for almost a mile and offers a vantage point to admire the forested trails throughout the park as you bird watch.
As a guest, you’ll explore a mix of pine, deciduous, and mangrove trees along the length of the Pran Buri River to the Gulf of Thailand. Check out the crabs on the mangrove roots.
If you prefer you can go around the area by boat and enjoy all the beauty this small park offers. You’ll find multiple information huts sprawled throughout the park to help you take in all of this forested gem.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
Ang Thong National Park is a marine park made of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Use boat tours from licensed operators from the neighboring Ko Sam or Surat Thani to access the park.
This destination is ideal for boat rides, snorkeling, diving, hiking, kayaking, climbing, and lounging on the pristine beaches on the islands. The natural diversity of this national park ranges from waterfalls, mountains with daunting cliffs, sandy beaches, and thick forests to wildlife.
Similan Islands National Park
The Similan Islands lie on the southwestern coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. The national park consists of 11 islands that showcase thriving coral reefs and pristine beaches making it a popular park and top destination for divers. Unfortunately, the popularity of these islands has led to overcrowding, particularly during peak tourist seasons.
The rock formations, coral reefs, and marine life surrounding the islands are fascinating. On land, a thick tropical jungle that supports wildlife awaits you.
Thailand boasts numerous parks that help showcase the country’s lush tropical forests, marine life, sandy beaches, limestone mountains, and abundant wildlife. These national parks help provide a worthy contrast to the bustling urban life of its big cities. If you’re looking to unwind in a serene environment, consider visiting these top nature destinations for a change of pace.
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Anthony has found travel provides a healthy balance to his day job as a criminal defense attorney. Living on the periphery of blogging for years, he’s now decided to flex his creative muscles with a little writing and photography of his own. Anthony’s favorite travel destinations are the Caribbean, Italy, and Ireland.