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The Complete Guide to Visiting Khao Yai National Park

The Complete Guide to Visiting Khao Yai National Park

Thailand’s cities are awesome places to be in, with all the things to see and do for every kind of traveler. There’s endless food trips to enjoy and night markets to browse. But the hustle and bustle of the city can take its toll on anyone.

If you think you’re starting to feel something like that, it’s probably time for a change of pace. Why not make an escape to a natural paradise just outside of Bangkok?

Khao Yai National Park is a natural attraction that can be found northeast of Bangkok that covers various terrain such as rainforests, grasslands, and mountains.

Established in 1962, it is the first and oldest national park in Thailand, as well as third largest by area covered. Popular activities in Khao Yai include hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

If that sounds interesting to you, read on to learn everything you need to know before making the trek to this beautifully preserved pocket of nature.

Where is Khao Yai National Park?

Khao Yai National Park can be found just northeast of Bangkok. Established in 1962, it has the honor of being the first and oldest national park established in Thailand. It’s also the third largest in the country, just after Kaeng Krachan and Thap Lan.

Well-known to local and international travelers alike, Khao Yai boasts amazing wildlife diversity. The rainforests, grasslands, and mountains of the park are home to all sorts of species – elephants, in particular – that visitors have a chance of seeing!

The beauty of Khao Yai was recognized back in 2005 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park’s popularity continues today as it serves adventurers of all kinds looking to get in touch with nature through camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

When is the best time to visit Khao Yai?

While Khao Yai is generally a great destination for the outdoorsy travelers year-round, we’ve discovered that some activities are better suited for certain times of the year. Be aware of the Wet and Dry seasons of Khao Yai and plan accordingly!

Dry Season – November to April

Dry Season – November to April

From November to April, Khao Yai experiences its dry season. Rain is scarce this time of year, meaning roads and trails are much easier to navigate. If you plan on hiking through the wilderness of Khao Yai, we recommend a trip during the dry season.

Dry season is also ideal for bird watchers looking to scope some unique species like hornbills and cuckoos! Clear skies mean that your sightlines are clear to spot some beautiful avians, especially during the migration season of March to April.

Wet Season – May to October

Wet Season – May to October

Come the wet season from May to October, however, and the park takes on a whole new look – literally! With rain comes lusher greenery and more impressive waterfalls. This is the time to go if you’re visiting Haew Narok and Haew Suwat.

Animal spotting is still a very viable activity during the wet season, but expect to encounter more reptiles and insects this time around! These slithery species come out to play during the higher humidity, so you just might run into a few vipers and lizards.

Khao Yai Entrance Fees and Operating Hours

Khao Yai Entrance Fees and Operating Hours

Khao Yai is open daily, with entrance gates operating from 6 AM to 6 PM. Visitors are charged an entrance fee at the gates, following the pricing breakdown in the following table.

ChildrenAdultsElderly and disabled
Thai visitors20 THB40 THBFree
Foreign visitors200 THB400 THB

Each ticket is good for one entry, meaning you can’t enter in the morning, leave in the afternoon, then re-enter the following day using the same ticket. However, entering the park to camp out overnight is just fine.

The Best Way to Get to Khao Yai

Khao Yai has two entrances – the Pak Chong entrance towards the north, and the Noen Hom entrance towards the south. For most people, the Pak Chong entrance will be the more viable option because it’s closer to more park amenities.

This means that your journey to Khao Yai will likely include the town of Pak Chong as a stopover point. Although less common, going straight to Khao Yai from Bangkok is still an option, depending on your travel plans.

From Pak Chong

Adventurers headed to Khao Yai commonly stop by Pak Chong first. The town is a great place to stay if you’re not planning to camp inside the park, or just need accommodation before or after your Khao Yai trip.

The most convenient way to get to Pak Chong from Bangkok is through public transport, such as by bus and train. You can catch a bus ride from Mo Chit, or hop on a train from Hua Lamphong. Both trips take around 3.5 hours.

Mo Chit Bus StationRG7X+7F8, Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
Hua Lamphong Train StationRong Muang, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

From Pak Chong, you can then hail a songthaew or taxi to get a ride to the northern entrance. This is the easy bit, since the drivers are used to bringing travelers like you to and from Khao Yai.

From Bangkok

From Bangkok

Not many people travel to Khao Yai straight from Bangkok. If we had to guess, we believe it might be because of the lack of direct lines to and from the park. As a result, the route straight from Bangkok is limited to those driving from the city.

The easiest drive from Bangkok straight to the Noen Hom entrance of Khao Yai is through Highway 305. The total travel distance is around 141 kilometers, so make sure you and your vehicle are prepared to go the distance!

Although you can take the same route via taxi, we recommend against it since it’s going to cost you several times over how much would have paid for a bus or train to Pak Chong instead.

If you’ve booked a guided tour of Khao Yai through a travel agency like Klook, a private transfer to and from your hotel may be included, so read carefully!

Where to Stay In and Around Khao Yai

No matter how adventurous you’re feeling for your Khao Yai trip, you’ve got plenty of options in the way of accommodation. These are some of the notable options we’ve gathered from all kinds of travelers who’ve been to Khao Yai!

Camping inside Khao Yai

Camping inside Khao Yai

Naturally, Khao Yai has campsites: Lam Takong and Pha Kluai Mai. Reservations aren’t necessary – just pick a nice spot and you’re good! The park charges 30 THB for each tent you’ll be pitching. They also rent out camping gear for those that need it.

Travel Tip:

Take note that the campsites get super lively during weekends and holidays, which is when Khao Yai becomes a hotspot for college kids from Bangkok to go on outings. At worst, it can get as rowdy as a party, so manage your expectations!

Cabins inside Khao Yai

Cabins inside Khao Yai

Of course, camping isn’t for everyone. If you still want to enjoy the overnight experience at Khao Yai, renting out a cabin is the next best thing.

We actually stayed in one during our first trip to Khao Yai since we weren’t too confident with our outdoor experience just yet. The cabins have that simple and home-y feel that doesn’t steal your attention away from the beauty of nature around you.

Depending on which cabin you rent and what day of the week you’re reserving, accommodations can range between 1,500 THB and 3500 THB. Reservation details and instructions can be found on Khao Yai’s official website.

Travel Tip:

Reservations for the cabins can be hard to come by if you don’t plan early! They’re always fully booked for things like school trips and group tours. It’s wise to secure your booking as early as possible.

Hotels around Khao Yai

Hotels around Khao Yai

If you’re only planning to take a day trip in the park, have other places to visit around the area, or just want to experience something a bit more luxurious, then you’ve got plenty of hotels to choose from. These are some of the best-rated hotels near Khao Yai.

Rimtarninn Hotel430 Mirttapap Road, Pak Chong, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand+66812651190฿
Vintage Hotel Khao Yai1 Moo 7, Thanarat Road Km.14, Mu Si, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand+66994619899฿฿
The Height Khao Yai99 19 Village No. 5, Soi Prawanan, Tambon Phaya Yen, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30320, Thailand+66817719999฿฿
Phureenun Resort397 398 Moo 19 Pak Chong, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand+66800596607฿฿
TonSilp Art Home66 Thanarat Road, Tambon Nong Nam Daeng, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30150, Thailand+6621510003฿฿
Thames Valley Khao Yai999 Mu Si, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30450, Thailand+6644009999฿฿฿

Staying at a hotel means that hailing a taxi to get you to Khao Yai proper won’t be down to the luck of the draw. Hotel staff can assist you with getting a cab, which is honestly an underrated privilege when you’re lugging around camping gear!

Things to Do in Khao Yai

In Khao Yai, there’s no shortage of places to see and things to do for every kind of nature lover! It doesn’t matter if you’ve been around or just dipping your toes in – you’re bound to find something you can appreciate in the park.

Observe the wildlife

The park is home to wild animals that roam free through the treelines, in the bush, and through the skies. Even if you’re not planning to go to Khao Yai specifically to see wildlife, you’re guaranteed to feel their presence one way or another.

Of course, elephants are the big ones (pun intended) that people hope to catch a glimpse of in Khao Yai. These gentle giants are away  from the cruelty of unethical practices, so they can live their lives naturally with minimal human interference.

When the sun goes down, even more species come out to prowl the jungle. You can join one of the night safari trips that the park hosts and join a park ranger as they scope out and identify some nocturnal animals that call Khao Yai home.

We love to tally the animals that we spot during our Khao Yai visits. It’s been a while since we last saw an elephant, but some notable mentions from our last visit include a lurking crocodile and a mighty stag – the park’s official symbol!

Visit some landmarks

Just as impressive as the wildlife in Khao Yai are the views. Getting to them can involve some hiking and trail trekking, but the journey is well worth the effort.

It’s hard to emphasize how diverse the scenery is in the park. On one end, you’ve got some mountainous peaks with beautiful views of the jungle. But just a few kilometers out, you’ve got some cinematic roaring waterfalls!

If we had to pick some standouts, Haew Suwat waterfall is noteworthy since it was in the DiCaprio-starring blockbuster The Beach back in 2000. Yup – this waterfall in the Thai mainland starred in a supposedly tropical island setting. Crazy, right?

Don’t miss out on the great peaks of Khao Laem and Khao Khiau, either. At over a kilometer above sea level, the views from here are unmatched. It’s all jungle as far as the eye can see, and you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere like it anywhere else.

Experience nature firsthand

This might be redundant to what we’ve already discussed, but just slowing down to take in the atmosphere of Khao Yai is still worth mentioning. Take in the sounds and scenery of virtually untouched nature all around you – you don’t get this chance everyday!

Aside from the camping we’ve covered earlier, hiking is also a good way to soak in the scenery at Khao Yai. There are seven trails that the park actively maintains and recommends for all experience levels.

If biking is more your speed, you can also rent some at 50 THB for an hour at the visitor center. Biking through the roads here is nothing like in the city. The air is cool and fresh no matter what time of day – we swear it’s enough to give you a second wind!

Like we said, a trip to Khao Yai is far from an everyday experience for most of us. While you might be tempted to rush through everything it has to offer, try to slow yourself down and enjoy the ride.

Besides, so what if you don’t finish everything you were hoping to do during your first visit to Khao Yai? Just consider it as an excuse/reason to visit again another time!

FAQs about visiting Khao Yai National Park

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