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Khao Sok National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in the whole of Thailand. Huge rocky limestone cliffs loom high above the calm emerald green Cheow Lan lake in the centre of the national park. Surrounding the stunning lake are thick green rain forests, beautiful waterfalls and hidden caves, all ready to be explored. This undeniable raw beauty is why Khao Sok National Park is one of Thailand’s most popular national parks and my absolute favourite (closely followed by Ang Thong Marine Park!)
A brief history of Khao Sok National Park
Stretching for over 700 square kilometres, Khao Sok is the world’s largest evergreen rain forests and is home to many species of wildlife. Despite its age, it was only officially designated as Thailand’s 22nd national park in the 1980’s.
It surprised me to learn that the 165 square kilometre Cheow Lan lake which sits in the centre of the national park is actually man-made! In 1982 the Thai government made the decision to build the lake to create a source of hydro-electric power. They did this by building a dam, cutting off the Pasaeng river and allowing the area which is now the lake to be flooded. In doing this, 5 villages which sat in the valley were evacuated and the buildings still remain on the floor of the lake!
Villagers were relocated to other areas within the national park, however the relocation of wildlife was not as successful and sadly many animals did not survive the flooding. Today, the whole national park is a protected area and the wildlife is once again thriving in this beautiful landscape.
Cheow Lan lake in Khao Sok National Park boasts beautifully dramatic scenery
How to visit Khao Sok National Park, Thailand - A complete guide
Khao Sok National Park is one of Thailand’s most visited national parks, especially with foreign tourists. However, when I was researching how to visit Khao Sok National Park, I found it difficult to find exactly what I was looking for in terms of information. I created this guide to help others wanting to visit Khao Sok, so I hope that you find this guide on how to visit Khao Sok National Park useful!
How to get to Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is a little trickier to get to than other national parks in Thailand, but I promise you, it is absolutely worth it!
Khao Sok is best reached from Phuket, Krabi, Koh Lak or Surat Thani. Local transport does not run to Khao Sok, but from any of these towns, you can get a shared minibus. You will need to book your ticket in advance as spaces are limited. I booked our tickets from Surat Thani for £6 per person with Phantip Travel via 12go (my go-to transport booking site when I was travelling in Asia). The journey from Surat Thani was only 2 hours and was relatively smooth.
Wherever you travel from, the bus will drop you off at the bus stop along the main road, just outside of Khao Sok village. Check with your accommodation, as many of them offer a pickup from the bus stop. If not, there are taxis at the bus stop which you can take to your hotel.
For our journey out of Khao Sok, we booked another minibus with Pichet Travel company, travelling directly to our hotel in Ao Nang. The price was £10 per person and it took around 3 hours.
Quick tip: The bus we had booked for our return journey was cancelled as there weren't enough people booked onto it. Luckily when we arrived at the bus stop, the owner of one of the shops called the transport company for us and we waited in her shop for an hour and half until the next bus came and we got on that one. Remember: always give the company a working phone number and be ready to pick it up!
A longtail boat on Cheow Lan lake
Where to stay in Khao Sok National park?
Normally when I travel, I use sites like booking.com to find accommodation. However, for Khao Sok, I found it more useful to search on google. Most of the accommodation is around the ‘high street’ in Khao Sok village. Here you will also find a few restaurants and shops.
Whilst most accommodation will be able to arrange activities and tour packages for you, it is best to look for somewhere that does their own tour package as you can liaise with them about it and they may be able to customise it for you too. This is why I found google easier, I could click directly onto the website for that accommodation and see what tours and activities they offered.
The official Khao Sok National Park website does offer their own tour and accommodation package, but I found these to be more expensive. After a little bit more research, I found several places that were more suitable for my budget and after emailing with a couple, I decided on Khao Sok Riverside Cottages. The Riverside Cottages were away from the high street, but they had a restaurant on site and offered a free shuttle into town. It was the perfect getaway, surrounded by tranquil jungle and alongside the river.
You can also stay inside Khao Sok National Park by booking onto an overnight tour package. Staying overnight in a floating raft house on Cheow Lan lake is one of my greatest memories from Thailand and I would definitely recommend it.
Our floating lake house sitting in front of the huge limestone cliffs on Cheow Lan lake
How much does it cost to visit Khao Sok National Park?
The Khao Sok National Park fee is just 300 THB per person. If you are booking a tour package, check to see if the entrance fee is included in the package. If you are entering the park in the evening, for example, if you are doing a night safari trek, your ticket will be valid for the next day, so keep hold of it.
Similarly, if you are booking onto the overnight lake package, you will only need to pay the national park fee for one day, even though you technically will be in the park for two days.
Note that you only have to pay the national park fee when you go inside the national park. Many of the other activities you can do, such as river tubing, canoeing and the hot springs can be done outside of the national park, around Khao Sok village.
The price of accommodation and activities is a little higher around Khao Sok National Park, compared to elsewhere in Thailand, but it is worth it for the unique experience.
I booked the Grand Jungle Tour package with Riverside cottages. This included two nights stay at the riverside cottages, with a choice of three activities plus the 2day / 1 night lake tour. The total cost was 5600 THB per person. Add on the 300 THB for the national park entrance fee (and a 20 THB donation) and the total cost was 5920 THB per person (£134). This price included 3 nights accommodation, all our activities and also some meals, so I think it was a pretty good price.
What to expect when visiting Cheow Lan lake in Khao Sok National Park?
The main attraction in Khao Sok National Park is Cheow Lan lake (sometimes called Khao Sok lake). To visit Cheow Lan lake, you will need to book a tour. The most popular lake tours in Khao Sok national park are either the day tour or the overnight package tour. I would really recommend the overnight tour. The lake and the area around it is huge and 1 day doesn't feel long enough, in my opinion.
Also, staying overnight on the lake in a floating raft is an experience you don’t want to miss!
One of the floating raft houses that we stayed in on Cheow Lan lake
To give you a little more detail on visiting Cheow Lan lake, here’s a breakdown of what to expect on the 2 day / 1 night overnight lake package. It’s worth noting that each tour may be slightly different, depending on time of year, which raft house you are in, who you book with, and how many different groups are visiting the lake.
We were picked up from our accommodation in the morning and driven to Cheow Lan lake pier. It is roughly a 1 hour drive from Khao Sok village. From here, we boarded a longtail boat and started sailing across the lake to our raft house to check in. During the boat journey, you will see just how vast Cheow Lan lake is! It is really very beautiful and so impressive!
Our longtail boat ride across Cheow Lan lake, surrounded by limestone cliffs was stunning!
Each raft house is slightly different, but they are all pretty basic. Most have shared bathrooms and nothing more than a bed and a fan in each raft house. Electricity in our raft house was only turned on between 6pm - 8am and there was no wifi. After checking into our raft house and having lunch, we had some free time to swim in the lake or go kayaking.
Inside our raft house (L) and kayaks ready to take out on the lake (R)
In the afternoon we boarded our longtail boat and went to another area of the national park for a short jungle trek. The trek took us to another, smaller lake where we boarded a bamboo raft to reach a small cave. The trek was a lot of fun and our guide was so knowledgeable and passionate about the national park and the wildlife within it. On our way back to the raft house that evening, we were notified of an elephant sighting. It was so amazing to see a wild elephant grazing on the trees at the side of the lake. An unforgettable experience. In the evening, we had a group dinner, and an early night!
We were so lucky to see this elephant grazing by the lake shore!
I would highly recommend putting in the effort to get up early to see the sunrise at the lake. It was stunning! After sunrise, the tour started with a morning boat safari. The safari took us around the calm waters of the lake, surrounded by stunning limestone rock formations. From the boat we saw gibbons and a beautiful hornbill bird. We then had some more free time at the raft houses for swimming, kayaking or enjoying a coffee before it was time to leave.
Tips for your overnight trip to Cheow Lan Lake:
If you are returning to accommodation in Khao Sok village, ask them to store your big luggage, and just pack a small overnight bag for the lake
Pack clean clothes for the evening as you might get wet during the day
Bring snacks. Meals are included but if you want snacks, you might want to bring them. Our raft house also had a small shop where we could buy soft drinks and beer
Make sure everything is charged! Electricity is only turned on in the evening so charge everything before arriving and take a portable battery charger with you
Bring trainers for trekking as well as a light raincoat
You will need mosquito spray, sun cream, swimwear and a hat
Watching the sunrise over Cheow Lan lake from our raft house
What else is there to do in Khao Sok National Park?
Most visitors to Khao Sok National park will come for the overnight tour to Cheow Lan lake and then leave, however I would strongly recommend staying for a couple of extra nights in Khao Sok to really soak up the experience of staying in the jungle.
Cheow Lan lake is definitely the highlight of any trip to Khao Sok National Park, but there are several other activities you can take part in if you decide to extend your stay.
Khao Sok night safari trek
A night safari is a unique way to experience the rain forest and its wildlife in the dark. Our accommodation arranged a night safari tour for us, which was included in our Grand Jungle package. We were picked up from our hotel and driven to the entrance of Khao Sok National Park, where we began our night trek.
You will need to pay 300 THB per person entrance fee for the national park. Make sure you save your ticket as you will be allowed to use it again to gain entry to the park the next day.
The trek is only about 3km long and is not difficult, making it suitable for all levels. As with all wildlife encounters, it is not guaranteed that you will see wildlife, but we were lucky enough to see bats, spiders, snakes, lizards, frogs and a monkey. Our guide spoke really good English and had a great sense of humour and knowledge. It was a unique experience and a really great way to spend the evening!
You'll encounter plenty of creepy crawlies on the night safari!
Canoeing in Khao Sok
This is a great activity you can do from Khao Sok village and I would really recommend the river canoe when you are visiting Khao Sok. Your guide will do all the paddling for you, so you can just sit back and enjoy the views. Floating down the river, we admired the huge limestone cliffs and rock formations, surrounded by rain forest and jungle. Our guide pointed out snakes curled up high in the tree branches and small frogs. We even floated past a family of gibbons crossing the river right in front of us!
Half way through the canoe trip, you will stop for a coffee break where your guide will make fresh coffee in cups made from bamboo. Next, take a refreshing dip in the river, before finishing your canoe trip.
Canoeing along the river in Khao Sok was a tranquil experience, we even spotted a family of gibbons!
This is another great activity you can do from Khao Sok village. Spend a couple of hours relaxing and floating down the river in your own inflatable tube. You will be accompanied by guides who will point out various wildlife along the way.
The river tubing takes you down the same stretch of river as the canoe trip, however due to the water levels in the river, this activity can only be done when the river is high enough in the rainy season.
Jungle trekking in Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National park covers a large area and there are plenty of hikes in and around the park. There are a couple of short nature trails alongside the river in Khao Sok Village and also around the entrance of the National park which you can hike yourself. If you want to fully immerse yourself in the jungle, you will need to join a guided hike. Your guide will lead you deep into the jungle, pointing out important plants, trees and wildlife.
Make sure that you are wearing good, closed toe shoes and preferably long trousers. Pack sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water and mosquito spray if you are heading into the jungle.
Jungle trekking in Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok Hot springs
This is another activity that we booked through our accommodation as part of our package. We drove to the Khao Sok hot springs, just 15 minutes from the village and spent a couple of hours soaking our legs after walking the previous days. The facilities are clean and modern with showers, toilets and changing areas. The complex is more like an outdoor swimming pool, but the water is fed from naturally occurring hot springs.
Khao Sok hot springs
Packing list for visiting Khao Sok National park
Mosquito spray - There are a lot of mosquitoes in the jungle and by the river
Hat & sunglasses - self explanatory
Sunscreen - even on a cloudy day, the UV rays can be high
Swimwear and a towel - for swimming in the river and lake
Light raincoat - the weather can change at any point and short, heavy downpours are regular
Long trousers - for hiking through the jungle
Camera / GoPro / Phone - you will want to take lots of photos and videos!
Battery charger - Electricity can go out in the jungle and there is limited electricity at Cheow Lan lake, so a battery pack will come in handy. Make sure everything is fully charged before you go as well (phones, camera etc)
Snacks - If you are going on the overnight lake tour, you might want to take snacks. Although food is included, if you are a fussy eater or need a mid afternoon snack, take them with you.
When is the best time to visit Khao Sok National Park?
Due to the nature of the environment in Khao Sok, you can expect rain to fall any day of the year! The heaviest rainfall is between June - November, but usually this will last only an hour or two. This means that Khao Sok is a great place to visit all year round.
I hope that you have found this post useful for planning your visit to Khao Sok National Park. It was definitely one of my favourite places I visited during my three months in Thailand. The natural, untouched beauty and tranquillity of Khao Sok National park is something I will always remember. If you're visiting Southeast Asia for the first time, check out my top 50 essential travel tips - complete with advice and travel hacks to make your life easier.
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