Get in touch with nature at these beautiful parks just a few hours outside the capital.
Khao Yai National Park
Thailand’s first national park, covering an area of 2,168 sq kilometers, is popular for its migratory birds and reptiles.
How far: Just three hours’ drive north from Bangkok, though there’s no direct public transportation.
Main attractions: Popular activities include animal watching with two wildlife watchtowers (Mo Sing and Nong Phak Chi) providing 360-degree views of the park. Night safaris are popular, too, though you’ll need your own car and also to contact the park office before 6pm.There are also over 20 trekking trails to choose from (between 500m and 8km long), which also afford spectacular views of the nearby waterfalls, Haew Nerok and Haew Suwat. While you can have a family picnic on the trailing ground, there are also several restaurants around.
Where to stay: There is a campsite at Pha Kluaymai where tents (B250) and sleeping bags (B50) can be rented on arrival B10 (per night) for children and B20 (per night) for Adult (see contact details below). There are also plenty of hotels in the vicinity. Perched by a lake, in the foothills of Khao Yai National Park, Atta Lakeside Resort (www.kirimaya.com/resorts/atta) is home to 243 rooms spread across nine low-rise buildings. Rates start at B15,500 per night for a one-bedroom suite. The quaint woodern cottages at Birder’s Lodge (www.fb.com/thebirderslodge) start at a much more affordable B3,000/night.
Entrance fees: Adults B400, children B200 (Thais and foreigners)
Erawan National Park
Famous for its seven-tiered waterfall, this park is located in the province of Kanchanaburi and is named after the mythic three-headed white elephant of Hindu culture.
How far: Three hours’ drive northwest from Bangkok.
Main attractions: The Erawan Falls is the heart of the park, with its sheer emerald green pond, hidden caves and limestone hills. The park is famously good for swimming and picnicking—just keep in mind that food is not allowed beyond the second tier. Do not expect too much animal watching, either, as there are only a limited number of trails with few aquatic animals. Sai Yok National Park is also in close proximity (see below).
Where to stay: Families or groups can stay at the park bungalows (B800 for 2 people, B1,200 for 4 people) or rent a tent (B150 per day for 2 people, B250 per day for 4 people). There are many accommodation options nearby—a stay at River Kwai Park & Resort (092-647-2430) starts at around B1,200/night.
Entrance fees: Adults B100, children B50 for Thais; adults B300, children B200 for foreigners, Cars B30
Kaeng Krachan National Park
This is the largest national park in Thailand with the most diverse wildlife. Famous as a bird and butterfly-watching place, the park is home to over 420 species of birds and approximately 300 butterfly species. It’s also well-regarded for its stunning morning mist.
How to get there: 3 hours’ drive from Bangkok.
Main attractions: The Ban Krang campsite is where you can rent tents or sleeping bags from the visitor center and enjoy watching birds and butterflies. You'll find many of these bird species around the campsite, though this is not strictly within the rainforest area. If you are adventurous, there are few trekking routes to explore the jungle or you can relax by the waterfall.
Where to stay: Tents and bungalows can be arranged at HQ (contact details below) or there are hotels 5km from the campsite like Kaengkrachan Boathouse Paradise Resort (www.boathouseparadise.com) from around B2,800/night.
Entrance fees: Adults B100, children B40 for Thais; adults B300, children B200 for foreigners
Kui Buri National Park
Home to a large population of gaurs (Indian bisons) and considered the best place to see wild elephants, this park sits in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan. The park touches the Myanmar border and Kaeng Krachan National Park to the north.
How far: 4 hours’ drive south from Bangkok, though there is no direct public transportation to the park.
Main attractions: Huai Luek Wildlife Watching Area has their own open-air safari vehicles that can be taken on spot. Also, the 15-tier Huay Dong Mai Fai Waterfall is not to be missed. Do take your swimsuit to chill at the pools under the waterfall, too. If you’re lucky, you might spot a deer or golden jackal. Do bring your own food as there are no restaurants nearby.
Where to stay: Advance reservations are need if you want to stay in the bungalows (B1,800 per night) or tents (B270 per night)—see contact details below. Other hotels are located some 50km from the park.
Entrance fees: Adults B40, children B20 for Thais; adults B200, children B100 for foreigners
Sai Yok National Park
Sitting beside the River Kwai, the park is home to raft houses, waterfalls and caves, with plenty of history to be explored.
How far: Three to four hours’ drive northwest from Bangkok.
Main attractions: Sai Yok Noi Waterfall is popular for the beautiful in the way it flows through the forest and limestone rocks. Adjacent to the waterfall is Nam Tok Railway Station, the final station of the historic "Death Railway" line. You can also take a trip along the river by hiring a long-tail boat (B400 per half-hour). If you’re lucky, you might spot a water monitor or barking deer by the water. There are many caves to explore but remember to bring a flash-light along. Look out for the rare Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, which was first discovered in this park. It’s also very close to Erawan National Park, meaning you could cover both places during your trip.
Where to stay: You can stay at one of the private raft houses, while bungalows (starting from B800) and tents are also available for hire (B225). There are plenty of hotels around the area, too, including Goodview Resort and Camping (www.goodview-saiyok.com) with prices around the B1,500-B2,000 mark.
Entrance fees: Adults B300, Children B200 (Thais and foreigners)
You can make self-reservation for all national parks in Thailand here: nps.dnp.go.th//index.php