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Covering a total surface of more than 25,000 square km, there are some 50 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Thailand.
Scattered throughout the kingdom, these places provide nature lovers with the most exciting opportunities to discover the country’s flora and fauna.
The following are some of the country’s most incredible national parks.
1. Khao Yai National Park
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Located about 200 km North-East of Bangkok, and lying on more than 2100 km ² at an average altitude of 800 m with a peak at 1351 m, this park is a popular weekend destination with the locals, who come here for the and spectacular waterfalls, but also to have a safari experience and meet wild elephants, tigers, bears and giant hornbills. While you won’t find too many Westerners here, this wildlife sanctuary might be a bit too crowded during weekends, especially when the weather is favorable to such adventures.
If you want to get off the beaten track and enjoy nature at its best, avoid the most popular cascades, which represent the preferred camping locations. However, don’t get away too far as you might run the risk of meeting a wild beast face to face. Passing by the visitors’ center and getting informed about the animal’s migrating habits for that time of the year is always a good idea.
2. Doi Inthanon National Park
Located in Chiang Mai province, this park includes the highest mountain of Thailand (2.565 meters). Hikers will certainly enjoy the variety of scenery Doi Inthanon National Park has to offer: trails going through dense forests, wild orchids trees, crossing meadows, and magnificent caves, passing by impressive waterfalls (the famous Mae Klang, the scenic Mae Ya, the rainbowed Wachratan or Nam Tok Nam Tok Siriphum). While the park covering an area of 782 km ² is a paradise for birds watching enthusiasts, it is also one of the last refuges of the Asiatic black bear, the Assam macaque, gibbons and 75 other species of mammals. While crossing the park, you will also have the opportunity to visit the Meo and Karen tribes’ villages.
3. Phu Kradung National Park
One of the famous national parks of Thailand, Phu Kradung, located in Loei province, is visited every year by more than ten thousand people, who come here specially to climb to the top of this famous mountain. A nationally protected forest since 1943, Phu Kradung is dotted by Buddha statues, surrounded by a particular vegetation of beeches, oaks, rhododendrons and carnivorous plants. The rather difficult trekking path goes by nice waterfalls like Tham Yai and Tham So. You will find, on your way, a number of locations where to buy food and refill your water supplies.
4. Ko Samet National Marine Park
Centered around one of the country’s most beautiful island – Koh Samet, located in Rayong province, this national park includes many beautiful beaches, coral reefs and crystal-clear waters ideal for scuba diving. Although invaded by hordes of tourists, the islands have succeeded to keep their natural beauty and authentic culture. If you are a fan of fishing, you will certainly enjoy a night adventure accompanied by one of the local fishermen. Aside from a wide range of water sports, you will have here the opportunity to taste the original Thai seafood dishes.
5. Ao Phang Nga National Park
Located in the province with the same name, on the Thai coast of the Andaman Sea, Phang Nga includes the island Ko Phing Kan, which has become famous and touristy for having served as setting for the James Bond film – “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Its landscapes are featured by verdant limestone islands, riddled with excavations, underwater caves, irregular rocks standing up perpendicular from the almost always calm water. This park’s main attractions include prehistoric paintings and a Muslim fishing village.
6. Tarutao Marine National Park
An archipelago park made up of 51 islands covering 1400 km situated in Satun province, Tarutao lies 31 km² off the South coast of Thailand, near the Thai border with Malaysia in the waters of the Indian Ocean. This national park offers the best diving spots in Southeast Asia.
7. Ang Thong National Park
This archipelago, which comprises 40 small islands, combines all the postcard clichés: luxuriant vegetation, rugged cliffs, blue lagoons and white sandy beaches. Totally uninhabited, these islands are wildlife paradises. For tourists as well as for the locals, this is the ideal place to learn to dive. Touring the surrounding caves is a good idea while you are in this secluded part of the world.
8. Khao Sok National Park
Known for its silver beaches and colorful coral reefs, this park situated in the province of Surat Thani represents another alternative for those who want to practice water sports or to lie in the sun all day and enjoy the spicy Thai dishes. A popular destination with honeymooners, Ko Samui is also suitable for party animals as well as for families traveling with kids. While the beaches turn into loud discos at night, there are also several amusement parks on the main island. This archipelago can also represent a possibility for you to explore the Buddhist culture, by visiting the Wat Phra Yai temple, also called Big Buddha or the Laem So pagoda.