Khao Yai Travel Guide

A Special Place to Visit in Thailand



Big Mountain

Situated a short two- to three-hour hop from Bangkok, Khao Yai is one of Thailand's largest national parks, sprawled across Nakhon Ratchasima plus three other provinces. The natural surroundings of Khao Yai, which literally translates to “Big Mountain” in Thai, range from vast grassy plains to verdant evergreen forest; an inspiring landscape that has earned the region its nickname “Tuscany of Thailand”.

Along with Dong Phayayen mountain range, Khao Yai is co-recipient of a UNESCO World Heritage Site status, awarded for the forest complex's rich and diverse flora and fauna. As its name suggests, the park is nestled above much of Thailand at an elevated high altitude, allowing the mercury to rest at a pleasant average of mid-twenty degrees celsius. The highest peak at Khao Rom towers above the surrounding landscape at a height of 1,351 meters above sea level. Home to a range of attractions, ranging from wild-west theme parks to wineries. 

The morning mist over the forest canopy in Khao Yai as viewed from the mountains

Cascading Waterfalls

it is not surprising that Khao Yai is Thailand’s most visited national park. Indeed, the park’s 44 waterfalls are said to be some of the most impressive in the entire Kingdom; the cascades have long been popular with visitors long before Leonardo DiCaprio launched himself off one for the movie 'The Beach'. A popular destination year-round, the vast territory of the park hosts some of Thailand’s last remaining big cats, wild gibbons, reptiles and elephants. The park is also something of a Mecca for birdwatchers, who flock to the park to catch a glimpse of one of the 300 exotic bird species that reside there. Stunning viewpoints, wildlife observation towers, peaceful streams and challenging trails can all be found under the thick blanket of Khao Yai’s jungle canopy

Khao Yai National Park, home to about 44 waterfalls


Khao Paeng Ma

To fully appreciate all the wonders of the park, an overnight stay is usually recommended. Nature lovers can enjoy the incandescent beauty of the park both on foot, or by car. Visitors approaching from the Wang Nam Kheo side of the park can encounter what has now become known as the “Switzerland of Isaan”. Highlights of this area include acres of fruit and vegetable orchards, in addition to Khao Paeng Ma, which is one of the last places in Asia where travellers can catch a glimpse of the elusive wild gaur.

One of the main natural attractions of the national park is Khao Paeng Ma, which provides an excellent viewpoint for visitors who are happy to traverse the 1.8km hiking trail, which takes in nine unique viewing points and a gaur watch tower. Reaching Khao Paeng Ma trail necessitates a bumpy ride in a four wheel drive car to the start of the trail. Visitors who manage to spot one of the creatures are lucky, as the population is now extremely scarce.

Hot Air Baloons and Lam Prah Ploeng

To get a birds eye view over the area, Kirimaya Resort offers luxury hot air balloon rides, but this is only offered during select times (usually from mid-January for a little over a month). Back on terra firma, Dasada and In Bloom – floral parks that also include a deer garden and sheep farm respectively – offer a tame country experience filled with colorful pleasantries.

The Lam Prah Ploeng Reservoir is also one of Khao Yai’s most popular natural attractions, and is situated on the way to Khao Paeng Ma from Wang Nam Kheo. The reservoir is surrounded by an emerald green expanse of field, and is a great place to stop for a picnic during a long car journey. Visitors particularly drawn to the water can hire a longtail boat to make the journey upriver to the spectacular Khun Jone and Khlong Ki Waterfalls.

Hot air ballooning a great way to explore the Khao Yai region

Silk Farm

Visitors who fancy a chance of pace can make their way to the heartlands of one of Thailand’s premier silk manufacturers – Jim Thompson. Located to the north of Wang Nam Kheo, in Pak Thong Chai is where all of Thompson’s silk actually comes from. The best time to visit the silk farm is in December or January in order to take a guided tour, learning everything there is to know about the cultivation of silk worms.

Travel tip: TBC. [link to blog post]

Pak Thong Chai An area is renowned for silk production including supplying Jim Thompson house in Bangkok


Waterfalls, Hiking & Bird Watching

Heow Suwat (Suwat Abyss) and Heow Narok (Hell’s Abyss) are two of the national park’s most popular attractions. As their names suggest, each of the waterfalls are comprised of a fierce torrent of water that crashes from high cliffs to the rocks below in one mighty plunge. If you are in the mood for an adventure, the park is criss-crossed by a multitude of hiking trails.

With over 300 species of resident and migratory birds, Khao Yai offers a treasure trove for bird watchers. Some species include Great and Wreathed hornbills, Barbets, Scarlet Minivet, Trogons, Broadbills, Pitas, Pigeons, Mountain scops-Owl, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Collared Owlet, Blue-winged leaf bird, Asian Fairy bluebird, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Green Magpie, 3 species of laughing thrush and many types of Bulbuls.  Khao Yai also has many Silver Pheasants, Scaly breasted Partridges, Red Junglefowl and Siamese Fierbac.

Over 300 species of birds call the Khao Yai their home

Wineries

The area surrounding Khao Yai is home to several vineyards and wineries. Visitors pass through acres of rolling vineyards before arriving at PB Valley and Winery, where they can book onto a guided tour and tasting session. The European-style Village Farm Winery is nestled in the hills of Wang Nam Kheo, and has been producing delicious wines since 2002. The best time to visit to experience the whole process of wine making is from November to February during the harvest season. The GranMonte Estate is tucked away at the foot the national park. The highlight of this winery is the restaurant, where guests can enjoy delicious Italian food with a rich glass of wine produced on the estate.

PB Valley, one of several vineyards in the Khao Yai region

Agrotourism

Agrotourism offers visitors the chance to interact with local farmer in the area, and assist them in maintaining their livelihoods. A visit to one of the local farms is generally a fun, hands-on experience, and a chance to learn a little more about the everyday lives of the local community. Alternatively, a visit to Chokchai Farm will give visitors a taste of the American Wild West with cowboy shows, cattle herding, horse-drawn cart rides and ATV adventures. The farm also offers an overnight package in its boutique tent, which boasts a range of comfortable, modern amenities.

Golf

Golf has long been one of the region’s main attractions. The stunning hills and valleys of Khao Yai provide an ideal landscape for golf courses, and are conveniently situated and can be reached in less than three hours from Bangkok. The course at Kirimaya, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is widely acknowledged as one of the area’s most luxurious courses, while the courses tucked away in the picturesque landscape of Toscana Valley offer some of the best views.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Kirimaya Golf Course has 18 championship holes

Adventure Park

If you have energy to burn, Bonanza has myriad activities to help you expend them. A world-standard rally car and motorbike race circuit entertains the need for speed, while the on-site horse camp offers riding or wagon trips to see the surroundings. Golfers can spend a day on the greens, while the adventure park offers endless outdoor fun, from flying fox and canopy walks to archery and rock climbing.

Travel tip: TBC. [link to blog post]


Khao Yai's Outlet Village

While the majority of travellers flock to Khao Yai to marvel at its natural beauty, shopping in the region is both an exciting and unique experience. In the park’s visitor centre, situated in Zone 1, the usual range of souvenirs including t-shirts, bags and even leech socks and other hiking essentials.

Khao Yai’s Outlet Village is home to over 100 shops that offer an array of local and imported brands, including Lacoste and Esprit, among others. Shoppers can rummage through the goods on offer can often find items for up to 70 percent off the original retail price.

Primo Posto

For an unexpected retail experience, the village of Primo Posto will transport shoppers all the way from the lush Thai jungle, to the quaint surroundings of a Tuscan village, featuring a rainbow of shop houses with traditional Tuscan flourishes like wrought-iron, colored wood shutters and terracotta tiled roofs. The rolling landscaped gardens of the village help create a laid-back atmosphere a world away from the Thai heat as visitors sip on a cappuccino at one of the village’s sweet shops.

Piazza Palio

Located on Thanarat Road, Palio is similar to Primo Posto in its architectural style, but its supersized format means it has a lot more to offer shopaholics. Over 100 boutiques are housed in earth-toned houses laid out in a Mediterranean village style, featuring scenic walkways and peppered with sculptures, hanging flowers, sitting benches, and of course, water fountains. There are plenty of spots to pause for a pose, with or without the street performers roam the streets. The center of the “village” is Piazza Palio where you can park yourself in a coffee shop near the water fountain and watch performers do their thing.

Palio, one of two tuscan styled villages in Khao Yai


Restaurants with Scenic Views

The best thing about eating out in Khao Yai is that all of the restaurants in the area are accompanied by dazzling views of the surrounding scenery, which includes abundant jungle, misty mountains and sparkling lakes. On the Saraburi-Pakchong side of the park, visitors will find a number of western style eateries, including steakhouses and other high end concept dining venues. Chockchai Steak House, located in the ranch with the same name, is the go-to place to tuck into a slab of medium-rare cuts.

One of the most romantic and scenic restaurants in the region has to be Great Hornbill Grill located at PB Winery. is a stunning venue to indulge in a sumptuous thin crust pizza, accompanied by an exquisite glass of locally produced wine. If you have your heart set on vineyard dining, another choice is VinCotta at GranMonte, where you can enjoy ribs cooked in red wine with pairings from their cellar.

In the Park

There's a decent selection of restaurants and watering holes along the main road leading to the park – Thanarat Road – which include E.A.T. And The Smoke House. The national park itself is home to a number of simple canteen-type venues, all of which are under the management of the park. An open air food court near the main tourist centre of the park is a good but basic place to enjoy the variety of dishes on offer before exploring the depths of the park itself.

Thai Food and Romantic Drinks

On the Wang Nam Kheo side of Khao Yai National Park Thai cuisine dominates, and delicious freshwater fish dishes feature prominently on the menus there. Visitors that find themselves in the vicinity of the Lam Phra Ploeng Reservoir can stop to eat at Krua Rim Kuen, an open-air restaurant featuring stunning views of the reservoir and a menu that boasts a wide range of Thai dishes made from locally sourced produce. As most travellers make their way to Khao Yai in search of natural beauty and outdoor pursuits, the area does not have a reputation as one Thailand’s “hot” nightlife destinations. The resorts that are peppered across the region offer guests a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a good meal and quiet drink. For a romantic drink accompanied by spectacular views, head to the Sala Bar in Sala Khao Yai, which features panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and gills. Guests can let their hair down and relax on one of the luxurious daybeds on the resort's alfresco terrace with a glass of wine from one of the vineyards positioned in the national park’s back yard. 

 


Getting Around

Aound Khao Yai - Intro

As one of Thailand’s largest national parks, visitors that want to explore as many of Khao Yai’s treasures as possible should aim to stay in the park overnight. One of the best ways to get around and see as much as possible is to rent a car or motorbike and explore independently. Without your own form of transportation, it can be quite difficult to travel to the park information center as the bus service from Pak Chong usually drops visitors off at the ticket office, which is about 10 kilometers away.

For visitors navigating their own way across the park, there is a single road through it which stretches approximately 60 kilometers from the Pak Chong side to the Nakhon Nayok side.

Do heed the 60km/hour speed limit, as many animals (particularly macaques!) are often encountered on the road. Drivers should also be advised that there are limited fuel services in the park, so it is best for them to plan out their journeys accordingly before setting off. One of the highlights of exploring Khao Yai independently is being able to stop off at one of the park’s many lookout positions and snap photographs of the spectacular views.


Getting In and Out

Getting in and out of Khao Yai

Travel options to Khao Yai are both convenient and frequent, as Pak Chong is situated between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. While the southern gate to the parker may appear to be closer to Bangkok, there is no direct expressway to this location, and the park headquarters are very far from the southern entrance. As such, most visitors utilize the Pak Chong area as their transportation base to visit the park. There are also public songtaew's that ply this route for about THB30 (~US$1) for the approximately 40-minute journey. Do note that the park headquarters are still more than 10 kilometers from the northern gate, so from here, ask the park rangers for assistance. Songtaews – opened air public transportation – shuttle passengers along the main Thanarat Raod that leads up to the park entrance.

Truly, your best option for going to Khao Yai is to book an all inclusive 3 day tour. You get picked up at your Bangkok hotel and you can enjoy the services of a great tour guide with a great itinerary. 

Train

Trains from Bangkok’s main Hualampong Station leave for Pak Chong nine times a day, fro m5:45 a.m. to 10:25 p.m.. However, travelling by rail can take up to four-plus hours, considerably longer than it does on the road.

Bus

Travellers who prefer to catch the bus to Khao Yai should head up to Bangkok’s Mo Chit Bus Terminal, where buses for Pak Chong depart approximately every thirty minutes. Each seat costs about THB180 (US$5.70).

The route terminates in Nakhon Ratchassima/Korat, so passengers for Khao Yai should make sure they get off at the correct stop in Pak Chong. Upon arrival in Pak Chong, songtaews (pickup trucks with covered seating in the back) run every half hour from the bus terminal to the park entrance.

Car

Driving to Khao Yai to Bangkok is relatively easy, with the journey taking between two to three hours.

Visitors making their way to Khao Yai by car should make their way north in the direction of Saraburi/ Nakhon Ratchassima on the Phahon Yothin Road, the expressway that runs past Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport. Before reaching Ayutthaya, drivers should head north east towards Saraburi.

For travellers beginning their journey from Eastern Bangkok (near Suvarnabhumi International Airport), the outer ring road to Phatum Thani will lead to the Mittraphap Road leading towards Saraburi.

From Saraburi, follow the road towards Nakhon Ratchasima. When you reach Packchong district, turn off down Thanarat Road and off to the park you go.

Mini Van

From Bangkok, one of the most convenient ways to reach Khao Yai National Park is by minivan. Minivans that travel directly to Pak Chong from Bangkok’s Victory Monument minivan station (near Victory Monument BTS) leave every two hours for a fare of approximately THB180 (US$5.70) per passenger.

As there are no English signs, it is best to ask any of the van drivers where to purchase your ticket. A selection of travel agencies in the Khao San Road area of Bangkok organise daily minivans to Pak Chong. Alternatively, some travellers choose to charter their own minivan or taxi from Bangkok.