Thailand may be famed for its beaches, but it’s well worth venturing into its beautiful jungles
Thailand is most famous for its sweeping white beaches, glittering blue ocean, and monumental limestone cliffs and rock formations – which can mean many visitors overlook the country’s spectacular jungles. But the Thai wilderness is certainly worth exploring. Exotic plants and flowers, innumerable fauna species and colourful coral reefs: Thailand’s jungles are full of life.
You can view Thailand’s spectacular jungles by sticking to designated walks, hiking alone on well-marked trails, joining a jungle safari, going on a birdwatching tour and more. Explore jungle waterways on river and grotto tours, or by snorkelling. Most of Thailand’s national parks and wilderness areas are easily accessible from Bangkok and other major cities or islands, meaning you can book into one of the country’s lovely hotels and attend day tours or hikes. Below are some of the best Thailand jungles we’ve deemed worth exploring.
Khao Yai National Park – a family wildlife favourite
The stunning Khao Yai is Thailand’s first national park and located in the Phanom Dong Rak mountain range. The thick, rugged landscape is home to diverse flora and fauna, with species such as wild elephant, black bear, muntjac, sambar deer, porcupine, loris, gibbon, macaque, gaur bison and leopard cats, to name but a few. There are also more than 300 bird species, and the cascading waterfalls and winding forest paths are fringed by a huge variety of colourful plant life.
Only two hours from Bangkok, the park can be explored via trekking trails, jungle and night safaris or birdwatching tours. You can even camp, or ‘glamp’, at the park, or stay at one of the many luxurious hotels nearby. This gorgeous park is an idyllic place to spend the day with your family.
Khao Sok National Park – a serene wonderland
Located between (and just a short drive from) Surat Thani and Krabi, the magnificent Khao Sok National Park is covered by one of the oldest evergreen rainforests in the world. This diverse jungle fringes a 180 km lake, both bursting with flora and fauna. Here, you’ll see elephants, monkeys, deer, tapir, guar, bats, pangolins and, if you keep your eyes peeled, maybe even bears, tigers and leopards. There are over 300 species of birds, and plenty of reptiles and insects too. Flora includes the hugely impressive (but unpleasant smelling) rafflesia, which blossoms between October and December. The park is calm, serene and jaw-droppingly beautiful.
There are a great selection of guided tours available at the park, including elephant experiences, canoeing and birdwatching – or you can choose to stroll around independently. Stay onsite at the limited-amenity eco-huts or find more luxurious accommodation nearby.
Erawan National Park – heavenly hiking
Situated in the Tenasserim Hills range, about an hour from Kanchanaburi, the beautiful Erawan National Park is home to Erawan Waterfall – one of Thailand’s most-visited natural locations. The fall’s seven tiers cascade into cool, green ponds, which are perfect for swimming, waterside picnics and photography. There are also multiple spectacular caves and grottos to explore while hiking along some of the most attractive riverside trails you’ll ever see. A small number of fauna live in the park, including elephants, monkeys, deer and wild boar, plus hundreds of bird species.
Erawan park can be traversed on a private or guided tour, with many including cave explorations. You can rough it at the campsite nearby, or you can book into a luxe hotel at nearby Kanchanaburi for a real treat.
Khao Sam Roi Yot – a birdwatcher’s paradise
The spectacular Khao Sam Roi Yot is situated just off the Gulf of Thailand, around four hours from Bangkok. With a name meaning ‘the mountain with 300 peaks’, this national park features a huge freshwater marsh that’s fringed by towering limestone ridges – a perfect habitat for the approximately 337 bird species that live and migrate here. You’ll also see fishing cats, monkeys, porcupines, serows, lorises, geckos, frogs and dolphins, to name a few.
The park’s fairytale-like Phraya Nakhon Cave – which consists of a gabled-roof pavilion illuminated by beams of sunlight inside a giant sinkhole cave – is phenomenal. You can explore the park on a self-led or guided tour, birdwatching tour or boat ride. The attractions are vastly spaced, so private transport is best for getting around inside the park. You can camp at the park’s beach or find accommodation nearby.
Doi Inthanon National Park – wonderful waterfalls
Just over an hour from Chiang Mai, Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, towers over a lush, mossy landscape of cascading waterfalls, vast caves and gorgeous Buddhist chedis. The 2,565m summit is worth climbing, but the landscape around it is even better. Best visited during wet season, the park’s waterfalls and colourful blossom trees are truly Instagram-worthy. While mammalian wildlife is limited here, you might spot deer, gibbons, wild boar, serow, reptiles and birds.
Besides the mountain and waterfalls, highlights include the two majestic chedis, surrounded by glorious, manicured gardens, located 5km south of the summit. You’ll need a car or bike to move between attractions, and you can explore the park yourself, or join a tour or birdwatching group. There’s a campsite, or you can find accommodation in one of the nearby villages.
*Please note that jungle attractions, hikes and walking tours are subject to change according to weather conditions, and may be closed during periods of heavy rainfall.
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