It is not a secret that Thailand hosts some breathtaking natural sights, both inland and at the sea. From the mountains of the central and northern areas of the country to the weirdly shaped limestone formations of southern Thailand, the country has become famous for its natural wonders. Beautiful National Parks, a huge amount of natural waterfalls and secret nooks and crannies make Thailand one of the most attractive countries of South-East Asia to explore
Khao Sok National Park
This nearly 740 km² national park locates about 50km northeast of Khao Lak. It belongs to the Province of Surat Thani and presents itself as a low mountainous area (the highest point is at 950m) covered by the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world. The central area of the park hosts one of the most fabulous sites in southern Thailand: the human-made Cheow Lan Lake contained by Ratchaprapha Dam. The lake has the same characteristics as the world-wide famous Phang Nga Bay (located some 100km south): tall limestone formations rising from the emerald waters of the lake. Surrounded by sandstone and mudstone hills and covered by vegetation even more diverse than the Amazon forest, makes Khao Sok a must-visit place. When it comes to flora and fauna, this National Park houses over 5% of the world’s animal species including tigers, elephants, tapirs, gibbons, wild boars, and much more. Khao Sok National Park is famous also for its rare plants such as the enormous stinky flower named Rafflesia.
Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an oasis teeming with wildlife and primeval jungles. At nearly 750 meters above sea level, this park remains relatively cool all year round, although it can feel quite hot at midday in the summertime. Street signs warn you about the presence of wild animals, and often you can watch monkeys playing in the middle of the highway. The main two-lane highway passes through all-natural attractions and scenic points on Khao Yai National Park. Heow Suwat (Suwat Abyss) and Heow Narok (Hell’s Abyss) Waterfalls are two of the most visited sites. As their names suggest, they shoot straight down from a high cliff in one forceful plunge. In the rainy season, Heow Narok can be extremely slippery and dangerous! It might be a good idea to go for hiking along the five scenic routes: the wildlife watching at Nong Pak Chee or Mo Singto and visiting various scenic viewpoints and the park’s highest summit at Khao Rom.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon National Park is a real jewel of natural beauty. It consists of rugged mountainous terrain blanketed by lush tropical forests and dotted with impressive rivers and majestic waterfalls. The park’s protected status makes it a sanctuary for a wide range of animal species and it is probably the best place in Thailand for a bird watching. The highest peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, rises to a height of 2,565 meters above the sea level. The national park covers nearly 485 km². The diversity of Doi Inthanon does not only extend to a variety of plant and animal species, however. The park has long been home to settlements of Northern Hilltribes as well.
A characteristic feature of Phang Nga Bay is the limestone rocks that vertically rise from the emerald-green water, surrounded by dense mangrove forest. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just two of the more famous spots in this bay. Most of the islands are uninhabited. Many of them hide spectacular caves which you can only reach by canoe. Koh Hong is one of the most popular of these islands. One of the few inhabited islands (Koh Maak) sits near the top of the bay. It became home to a small community of fisher folk who maintain a traditional way of life. That place is not part of any tour itinerary, and it is recommended to bring your food and supplies if visiting as there are no facilities for tourists. There are also no places to stay here.
Phi Phi Island
These picture-postcard islands seem to be the tropical getaway and just a paradise. Featuring breathtaking beaches, stunning rock formations and vivid turquoise waters teeming with colorful marine life make Phi Phi a top of “must-see” places in Thailand. Phi Phi is a group of six islands. The two main islands are Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. The larger and inhabited Phi Phi Don attracts hundreds of visitors to stay on its lovely shores. The smaller and uninhabited Phi Phi Leh hosts stunningly beautiful bays and beaches. The world-famous Maya Bay, which was the set where The Beach (with Leonardo Di Caprio) was filmed, is currently closed for tourists.
Similan Islands located about 85 km northwest of the bustling Phuket and it is a national park, Mu Ko Similan, which was established in 1982. Koh Similan is one of the best-known island groups in the Andaman Sea, mostly because of the wonders that wait beneath the clear blue waters that surround it. Generally counted among the ten most interesting dive areas in the world, this little archipelago has also become a favorite destination for yachts and speed boats. “Similan” is derived from the Malay Sembilan, and means “nine”. Each of the Similan Islands has a number as well as a name. These are, running from north to south: Koh Ba Ngu (No. 9), Similan (No. 8), Payu (No. 7), Miang (No. 4, No. 5 and, in some opinion, No. 6), Payan (No. 3), Payang (No. 2), and Hu Yong (No. 1). Hin Pousar (“Elephant Head Rock”), is alternatively designated No. 6 by some. Koh Bon, lying 17 nautical miles north of Ba Ngu, is part of the Similan National Park and might be granted honorary status as No. 10
Ang Thong National Marine Park
Ang Thong National Marine Park is a pristine archipelago of 42 islands located in the Gulf of Thailand. It features towering limestone rocks, thick greeny jungle, white-sand beaches, waterfalls, and hidden coves and lakes to explore. Within sight of Koh Samui, Ang Thong National Park is a protected area of more than 100 km2 of land and sea. It is home to a wide variety of exotic wildlife and sea creatures. Snorkeling, hiking, scuba diving, sea canoeing and simply relaxing are the main activities to enjoy at Ang Thong
Railay Beach is a small peninsula which counts four beaches. Located south of Ao Nang Beach, around a rocky headland and accessible only by boat, Railay presents a tranquil and extraordinary world. In just one small peninsula you will find gorgeous white sand beaches, soaring limestone cliffs, viewpoints, caves and a lagoon hidden inside the cliffs, shaped and fed by the changing tides. All within walking distance! At Railay, there are no roads – only the footpaths. Although it connects to the mainland, the spectacular Phra Nang Peninsular is expertly cut off from the rest of Krabi by limestone headlands and steep jungle valleys. The only access is by the sea — the picture of tropical paradise. Railay offers lazy days, adventure forays and chilled-out evenings. You can either stay on the beach or go for sea canoeing, rock climbing, swimming or relaxing at one of the beer bars around the beach.
Erawan Waterfall surely is one of the most beautiful places in Thailand. Located in the Tenasserim Hills in Kanchanaburi Province, some 200 km northwest of Bangkok, Erawan has seven separate tiers and belongs to a national park at the same name. Besides the waterfall, the park hosts a handful of limestone caves offering plenty of exploration opportunities for visitors. It takes roughly three hours to explore the total length of the fall and see the seven tiers. Do not forget to bring mosquito repellent, water, and snacks, as the hike is somewhat physically demanding, especially the final tiers. You can hire a guide, but the trail is pretty well marked and easy to follow until the fifth tier. The last two of them are slightly trickier to get to, though.
Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Surprisingly unknown for visitors, Thi Lo Su Waterfall stands at a height of approximately 250 meters. With its width of 450 meters is the largest and tallest plunge waterfall in Thailand. It is located on the Mae Klong River in Tak Province, just a few kilometers east from the border between Thailand and Myanmar. The scenery of Thi Lo Su Waterfall is genuinely breathtaking. The journey to get there is rather long, but this impressive four-tiered fall is worth that effort, even if only to experience the trek in an unspoiled natural environment. Once you arrive at the park headquarters, need to walk about two kilometers to reach the waterfall. Guided tours are available