Once travelers step away from Bangkok, it becomes clear how many more awesome places there are to visit in Thailand. The Southeast Asian nation is incredibly diverse; the islands of the south are nothing like the destinations in the northern mountains. Among the most interesting places to visit in Thailand are the country’s national parks.
Thailand’s more than 140 national parks cover almost 20 percent of the kingdom’s territory. To help you plan your trip, we have handpicked the best national parks in Thailand so that you can experience the landscapes, wildlife, and nature of Thailand in all its glory.
1. Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai, located in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, was the first official national park in Thailand. Khao Yai is a fantastic place to see animals in Thailand, as its forests and grasslands are home to all sorts of wildlife, including birds, elephants, and bears. This World Heritage-listed national park near Bangkok also delights with its majestic waterfalls, one of which was where the waterfall jump scene in the movie The Beach was filmed.
2. Kaeng Krachan National Park
Head to Kaeng Krachan National Park if you want to see Thailand’s diverse wildlife. Sitting along the border with Myanmar, Kaeng Krachan National Park is Thailand’s largest national park and is home to possibly the broadest range of wildlife in Thailand. Touring around Kaeng Krachan, you can see leopards, elephants, gibbons, monitor lizards, porcupines, and plenty of birds. The landscape of Kaeng Krachan is interesting as well, and it’s common to see patches of rainforest poking through clouds of mist.
3. Erawan National Park
Erawan National Park, home to one of Thailand’s best waterfalls, should be on every backpackers’ bucket list. But there’s much more to this national park near the Myanmar border in Kanchanaburi Province. In addition to the seven-tiered Erawan Falls, the park’s most popular attraction, be sure to explore the park’s four caves and the walking trails through its pretty forests.
4. Kui Buri National Park
Kui Buri National Park, which is also situated along the border with Myanmar in the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, is most famous for wild elephant spotting. Travel through the protected parts of the park is done with tours in pickup trucks and 4×4 vehicles, and there are special viewing platforms for watching the wild elephants from afar. Those wanting ethical animal experiences in Thailand will be pleased by this park’s setup.
5. Khao Luang National Park
Travelers seeking somewhere to immerse themselves in pristine nature in all its glory should head for Khao Luang National Park. Found down in the Nakhon Si Thammarat Province of southern Thailand, the park offers the south’s tallest mountain and vibrant, diverse forests. Hiking is the most popular activity in Khao Luang National Park, as it allows visitors to see all of the park’s picturesque waterfalls, streams, and mountain viewpoints. Khao Luang is also known for its biodiversity; the park is home to creatures like panthers and leopards as well as rare plants, including a local orchid.
6. Hat Chao Mai National Park
Thailand is famous for its beaches and islands, and areas of its coastline like Hat Chao Mai National Park are protected areas. This particular coastal park covers the islands of Ko Muk, Ko Kradan, and Ko Cheuk in the country’s southern Trang Province. Exploring Hat Chao Mai National Park by boat allows visitors to see all kinds of rare and endangered land and sea creatures, including dugongs, sea otters, and pangolins.
7. Ao Phang Nga National Park
Of all of Thailand’s islands, the most popular and most photographed has to be the iconic James Bond Island in Ao Phang Nga National Park in the south of the country. While this towering karst island is indeed impressive, it’s just one of forty-two karst islands within this marine park. The islands are home to formidable cliffs, stunning beaches, romantic lagoons, and epic caves, making it a real treat for visitors. There’s even the hidden Koh Panak Cave, which is only accessible from the water.
8. Doi Inthanon National Park
Known as “The Roof of Thailand,” Doi Inthanon National Park is one of Thailand’s best national parks, thanks to all the different attractions and activities available to visitors. Situated in the country’s north in Chiang Mai Province, the park features mountainous terrain and is home to Doi Inthanon Mountain, the highest mountain in Thailand. The park offers countless breathtaking views, hiking trails, waterfalls, and small villages that showcase another side of Thailand.
9. Khao Sok National Park
To experience the jungles in Thailand at their most primeval, head to Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani Province. This expansive national park in southern Thailand is brimming with rainforests and jungles, some of which are believed to be the oldest evergreen rainforests in the world. Khao Sok offers plenty of other activities besides trekking through dense jungles, like visiting waterfalls and caves, encountering elephants, and canoeing on Cheow Lan Lake. The park also offers unique accommodation options, like the floating bungalows on the lake’s edge.
10. Mu Ko Similan National Park
Covering the eleven Similan Islands in the Andaman Sea, Mu Koh Similan National Park is a great destination for travelers looking to explore beneath the waves. Found off the west coast of southern Thailand, this national park is a prime location for diving and snorkeling, thanks to its crystal clear waters, thriving sea life and vibrant reef. The bits of Mu Koh Similan that are above for the water provide stunning white beaches backed by lush rainforest and granite boulders, as well as a superb night sky.
11. Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Khao Sam Roi Yot, a protected area in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, was the first marine national park in Thailand. The national park features a variety of landscapes, from its coastline to a range of limestone hills and the largest wetlands area in Thailand. However, it’s up in the hills where you’ll find the park’s most popular attraction, the breathtaking Phraya Nakhon Cave. Inside, illuminated by a hole in the ceiling of the cave, is the Khuha Kharuehat Pavilion, built for a Thai king’s visit in 1890.
12. Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
To see a side of Thailand that few expect, make your way to Thung Salaeng Luang National Park. This national park, which is split across Phitsanulok and Phetchabun Provinces, is home to broad savannas full of wildflowers and pine trees and shows that Thailand is far more diverse than just jungle and islands. Trekking and hiking are the most popular activities here, especially since the park offers some decent climbs up into its limestone hills.
13. Mu Ko Surin National Park
Visiting national parks doesn’t always have to be about rushing around sightseeing or hiking everywhere. At Mu Ko Surin National Park, which is comprised of protected islands in the Andaman Sea, you can relax on pristine white beaches and snorkel among all manner of interesting sea life. For something more active, head to Richelieu Rock, which is widely agreed to be one of the best diving sites in the world. The waters are home to magical coral reefs, sea turtles, and a wide variety of fish.
14. Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
A short trip from popular Thai islands like Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park is a great day trip option for tourists interested in time on the water. This marine park in the Gulf of Thailand covers 42 islands and is a fantastic choice for water sports and activities, including kayaking, boating, snorkeling, and diving. There also is plenty to do on the islands themselves, from lounging on white sand beaches to hiking up to mountaintop viewpoints to see their magnificent vistas.
15. Namtok Phlio National Park
Although it’s one of the lesser-known Thai national parks among international tourists, Namtok Phlio National Park is immensely popular with Thai locals. The park offers vivid greenery, waterfalls and natural pools that are ideal if you want to cool off. Elsewhere in this national park in Chanthaburi Province, you’ll come across mighty mountains and historical religious landmarks that date back to the time of King Rama V.
16. Pha Taem National Park
Offering not only gorgeous nature and wildlife, but also a unique look at the region’s history, Pha Taem National Park is a special place to visit in Thailand. It’s situated by the Laos border in Ubon Ratchathani Province, a long way from many parks on this list. But what really makes Pha Taem special is its considerable rock art found along cliffs by the Mekong River. The art is said to date back 3,000 years and includes depictions of activities like fishing and farming, as well as interesting geometric designs.
17. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
The north of Thailand is known for its mountains and temples, two things that Doi Suthep-Pui National Park has in great supply. Located in Chiang Mai Province, this national park is named after two of its mountain peaks, Doi Suthep and Doi Pui. Both are considered sacred sites, thanks in part to the Buddhist temples at their summits, including the majestic Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park also offers rainforests and cloud forests to explore as you hike or bike your way to the top.
18. Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam
Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam may be one of the smaller national parks on this list, but it still is a remarkable place to visit in Thailand. Situated in a remote part of Krabi Province, this national park is far removed from the usual tourist trail through southern Thailand. Those who make it to Tha Pom Khlong Song Nam are in for a treat, as the park features crystal clear rivers that flow through dense mangroves, which you can explore by boardwalk.
19. Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park
Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park has a taste of everything that makes Thailand so enjoyable to visit. This national park along the coast of Phang Nga Province features beaches, forests, mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife. Really, what more could one ask for? Khao Lak-Lam Ru’s name comes from two of its mountain peaks, Khao Lak and Lam Ru. However, the main attractions here are the park’s secluded beaches and the beautiful Ton Chong Fa Waterfall.
20. Sai Yok National Park
Sai Yok National Park in Kanchanaburi Province, situated among the forests of Kanchanaburi Province, is often overlooked for the province’s better-known Erawan National Park. But with waterfalls, caves, and walking trails to explore, all without the crowds of Erawan, Sai Yok offers a more peaceful experience. On a darker note, the park is also home to remnants of the Death Railway, built by forced labor under control of the Empire of Japan during World War II.
This list of extraordinary national parks you can visit around Thailand provides a glimpse of just how diverse and wonderful this country can be.