When you think of Thailand, the first thing that comes to mind are the paradisiac islands, palm-fringed beaches, and unmatched tropical vibes, right?! What if we told you that not far from the popular island of Phuket you can find a National Park that feels just like stepping into the set of the new Avatar movie?
Khao Sok National Park is one of the most original places you can visit in Thailand (a must-do in our opinion) and spending a night on its lake is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Visiting the park can be tricky though, so here’s a guide to visiting Khao Sok – for all budgets!
Khao Sok National Park & Cheow Lan Lake
Think giant karst formations and limestone cliffs, covered by one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world, surrounding a giant (man-made) lake: this is Khao Sok National Park!
And it is huge! With a total area of 3,500 square kilometers and a tropical rainforest that outdates even the Amazon, its fauna is estimated to be 160 million years old. The Park is located in one of the wettest regions of Thailand which explains why its nature is incredibly green year-round.
Hot tip: You can’t really predict the rainfall here – and it’s very likely it will rain at least once during your visit – but if you want to try and avoid the rainiest months, those would be late April to December.
A visit to Khao Sok National Park isn’t complete without visiting the famous Cheow Lan Lake. The 185-square-kilometer lake is in reality a manmade Dam Reservoir. It was created in 1987 to generate power, control floods, and irrigate land. It is a big part and probably one of the main reasons why people visit Khao Sok!
Note: The entrance to the lake, Cheow Lan Pier, is located an hour’s drive from Khao Sok Village, where Khao Sok National Park HQ is located. If you aren’t sleeping on the lake, this is most likely where you will be staying.
How to Get to Khao Sok National Park
Via Bus, Minivan, Taxi, or Plane
Also read: Top 17 Most UNIQUE Things to Do in Krabi
You can easily get a bus, minivan, or taxi from these locations to Khao Sok and we recommend using 12Go Asia to book your tickets beforehand. From Bangkok, you can take a bus, train, or plane to Surat Thani and a bus or minivan from Surat Thani to Khao Sok.
In any case, all transportation will drop you at Khao Sok Village, where you can get a taxi to your hotel at the village or to the Cheow Lan Pier so you can get to your floating hotel.
Via Tour Operator or Floating Hotel
Now, the easiest way to visit Khao Sok is by joining a tour, either with a travel agency or with one of the floating hotels located on the lake. A tour will ensure transfers, accommodation, food, and activities are all taken care of for you.
Note: These all-inclusive tours to Khao Sok are more common coming from Khao Lak, Phuket, and Surat Thani. Make sure to check if pick-up from where you’re based to Khao Sok is included in your package.
This is the more expensive choice and it can cost you anywhere from 200-1000 EUR for a 2D1N or 3D2N tour.
Where to Stay at Khao Sok National Park
Cheow Lan Lake
Staying at one of the floating resorts on the lake is definitely a huge bucket list experience! Although you should note that this is not the cheapest of options, with raft houses ranging from 75-200 EUR/night for a simple bungalow (mattress on the floor and no electricity), to 200-400 EUR/night for a more luxurious bungalow.
We recommend the following options for different budgets:
3D2N for 6,800 Baht (€190)
All of the floating hotels on the lake offer all-inclusive packages of 2 or more days, including food and activities such as a lake safari, jungle trekking, and cave exploration. Make sure to inquire about what’s included in your stay.
You don’t have to spend all your nights at a floating resort to enjoy your stay at Khao Sok National Park, but we definitely recommend you go for at least one overnight stay. Sleeping on the lake is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Khao Sok Village
If you’re on a budget then you should base yourself at Khao Sok Village. This is where Khao Sok National Park HQ is located and where you will be dropped off when buying a bus ticket to Khao Sok.
Hot tip: buying an overnight stay at the lake from a local agency at Khao Sok Village costs only 2500 Baht (around 70 EUR) and other activities are also sold for cheaper in the village, especially during the off-season.
We recommend the following hotel options for different budgets:
What to Do and See at Khao Sok National Park
1. Cheow Lan Lake
The biggest highlight of Khao Sok National Park is definitely Cheow Lan Lake! If you’re not staying at one of the floating hotels, here’s how you can visit it:
Note: To visit the lake, you have to pay a 300 Baht National Park Conservation Fee.
Overnight Group Tour
You can book an overnight group tour directly from your hotel at Khao Sok Village or with one of the tour providers located on the main street for as little as 2500 Baht (around 70 EUR) per person. Those are group tours that include transport to the lake, food, activities, and one night at one of the very basic floating hotels on the lake (mattress on the floor and no electricity).
Important note: For overnight tours, you should include two extra nights at Khao Sok Village on your itinerary, one before and one after the tour. Tours start early and end quite late and you won’t be able to get transportation to or from any other city close by at those times.
We can’t recommend this experience enough, it’s just magical!
Day Group Tour
Every hotel in the village offers full-day tours to the lake, which include transport to the lake, a scenic boat ride, guided jungle trekking, and/or cave exploration (dry season only). Food is included and you can find this tour for around 1500 Baht (42 EUR) per person.
This is the cheapest way to visit the lake!
If all of the above are still out of your budget, then this is the one for you. You can visit the lake independently by renting a scooter at Khao Sok Village for around 8 EUR and driving all the way to Cheow Larn Lake Pier, where you can hop on a private or shared boat tour of the lake.
Hot tip: The road to the pier is incredibly beautiful! Make sure to make a stop at Bridge Hill Cafe to soak in the views.
Once at the pier, you can negotiate your tour directly with the Longtail drivers and tell them where you want to go and for how many hours. Usually, they charge per boat and not per person – you can expect it to cost around 2000 Baht (56 EUR) for a 3-hour tour. The more people you go with, the cheaper per person it gets!
Note: if you want the perfect pic, ask to go to the famous 3 Rock landmark known as Gui Lin.
2. Elephant Sanctuary
We only promote properly certified and non-abusive animal activities (if you care about those amazing creatures you should too!) and in Khao Sok National Park the only really ethical and certified Sanctuary is Elephant Hills.
Khao Sok Elephant Sanctuary is a big no-no and Jem’s Elephant Sanctuary has mixed reviews (it’s home to one unique Elephant and it seems the owner allows the elephant to bathe with tourists multiple times a day).
Our Jungle Camp also offers a tour to Thongsuk Elephant Sanctuary which should be highly avoided as elephants are tied up, pushed around, and hit with sticks to do cheap tricks for tourist photos.
Elephant Hills is the only sanctuary in the area to have achieved a 100% rating for its animal welfare from Global Spirit – Animals in Tourism auditing. They’re also certified by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
💰 Cost: Elephant Hills only allows overnight guests to visit their elephants. The cheapest package they offer is the 2D1N Jungle Safari, starting at 13,875 Baht (around EUR 390). You can find more info about it here.
Elephant Sanctuary UN-Ethical Red Flags:
- Allows Bathing
- Offers Mud Baths or ”Spa Treatments”
- There is an elephant show or the elephants perform tricks
- They offer riding or trekking
3. River Activities
Khao Sok is most famous for the lake, but it also has a river! The Sok River runs through the Village and goes all the way to the port of Surat Thani. Activities here include tubing, canoeing, and bamboo rafting.
💰 Cost: river activities in Khao Sok cost around 800 Baht (22 EUR) per person.
Fun fact: Bamboo Raft is one of the oldest forms of transport in Thailand!
4. Jungle Trekking
If you love hiking AND you love the jungle, then you just found paradise! At Khao Sok National Park you can either book a guided deep jungle tour or you can go on the easy hikes by yourself. Here’s a list of the best ones:
Guided Jungle Treks
Rafflesia Hike: a challenging 5-hour hike to spot the world’s largest flower! Rafflesias can grow up to 1 meter in diameter and only bloom between December to March.
Bang Man Cave Trail: this is a 5-6 hours moderately challenging trail through the dense rainforest, with a quick stop for lunch by the campfire and further cave exploring.
Tan Sawan Waterfall: this full-day hike is one of the more spectacular Khao Sok waterfalls and features a large drop over many cascading levels. It can be slippery at high water levels but is quite safe in the dry season. Truly adventurous hikers continue past the waterfall to the ridge above where the giant Rafflesia blooms.
Kri Sorn Viewpoint: you need to be on the lake for this one – it takes around 4 hours and it offers the most beautiful views over the lake.
Big Tree Trail at Khlong Phanom National Park: located not far from Kaho Sok Village is a small national park known for its large trees. The largest tree in the region is located inside this park and you can visit it on this guided trek.
Safe DIY Jungle Treks:
🥾 Bang Hua Red Waterfall – Easy (2-3 hours)
🥾 Ton Kloi Waterfall Trail – Moderate (4 hours)
🥾 Chieo Lan Lake Trail (Khlong Pae) – Moderate (4-5 hours)
🥾 Wing Hin Waterfall – Challenging (5 hours)
5. Cave Exploring
The shores of Cheow Lan Lake are formed by limestone cliffs covered with rainforests and full of secret caves: Coral Cave and Nam Ta Lu Cave being the most impressive! You can’t do both on the same day, but you can get full-day tours to the lake that include trekking to one of them. If you’re staying at a floating resort, you can book this activity directly with them.
Coral Cave (Pa Ka Rung Cave): a big cave with stalagmites and stalactites that resemble corals. To get here you’ll first get a boat, then hike for about 20 minutes through the jungle, and then hop on a bamboo raft all the way to the entrance of the cave. We did this one while staying at 500 Rai Resort and we highly recommend the whole experience!
Nam Ta Lu Cave: also known as the wet cave, Nam Talu Cave has a stream flowing inside of it where you’ll have to swim for 5-10 meters during the expedition. The entrance to this cave is 30 kilometers wide!
6. Night Safari
As the sun sets over Khao Sok National Park, the jungle comes alive! This is the best time to spot wildlife and you can choose between doing a boat safari or a jungle safari.
Boat safaris are only available if you’re spending the night at the lake and it’s usually included in the overnight tour packages. From the lake, you can spot deer, wild buffalos, monitor lizards, monkeys, and – if you’re very lucky – wild elephants. Some hotels also offer this tour to be done very early in the morning when the chances of spotting elephants next to the lake are higher!
The Jungle Safari can be booked in the Village for around 600 Baht (17 EUR) per person. Here you can spot monkeys, bats, deer, and even the elusive jungle cat. Another Jungle Safari option including canoeing can also be found here.
7. Khao Sok Viewpoint
On the main Route 401, about 30 minutes walking from Khao Sok Village, there’s a viewpoint overlooking the National Park. The view is nicer here during the early mornings when the clouds are lower and touching the mountains.
Note: This other spot on the road also has really good views and it’s much closer to the village.
If you decide to visit the viewpoint, make sure to go a few minutes further to see the Mae Yai Waterfall.
Other Activities at Khao Sok National Park
- Jungle Cooking
- Jungle Camping
- Wat Tham Phanthurat Temple
- Emerald Pool (Ban Nam Rad Headwaters Forest)
- River Canoeing
Also read: Hong Islands: Discover Krabi’s Best Day Tour
A Bit of Khao Sok National Park’s History
Last but not least, here are some cool facts about Khao Sok National Park’s History:
The area where the National Park is now located started to be occupied in the early 1800s as people discovered the land to be very fertile. In 1944 an epidemic killed a large number of inhabitants, which gave the place the nickname “Village of Death”. The survivors decided to leave.
Fun fact: The name Khao Sok might have originated from the mountains known as Khao Sop, or “Corpse Mountain”.
Only in 1961, the first road was built in the area, making it more available for settlement and plantations once again.
In 1970, during a deadly military crackdown in Bangkok, activists set up a stronghold in Khao Sok. Its geography made the location ideal to hide. They were later labeled by the government as “communist insurgents”.
It was only in the 80s that Khao Sok National Park was established.
Khao Sok is one of the wettest regions in Thailand, therefore it’s the perfect location to build a dam to provide electricity to the country. In the process of filling the dam, five villages were evacuated and now their houses, schools, and temples rest on the floor of what is now the Cheow Lan Lake. Lots of wildlife were also unfortunately killed during this process, despite the rescue efforts.
Check our Youtube Video about Khao Sok!
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