There are over 100 national parks in Thailand covering one-fifth of the country, some of which still have tigers and elephants roaming free. From the jungle-covered mountains in the north to the marine parks in the south, below are seven beautiful national parks I have visited followed by three famous parks yet for me to explore.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand, is part of the Himalayan mountain range with Doi Inthanon as the highest mountain in Thailand peaking at 2,565 meters above sea level. The park is famous for its beautiful nature trails and stunning waterfalls, and during the cool season, temperatures can drop below zero.
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park is a protected marine area with 42 islands covering 102 km² in the Gulf of Thailand near Koh Samui in Surat Thani Province. Except for the epic viewpoint over the islands from Koh Wua Ta Lap, the hidden lagoon known as the Emerald Lake at Koh Mae Ko attracts many daytrippers from Koh Samui.
Khao Luang National Park
Khao Luang National Park in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province is home to the highest mountain in southern Thailand — Khao Luang at 1,835 meters and boasts some of Thailand’s most stunning mountain scenery outside of the north. On an area of 570 km², the park has a rich wildlife, many forest walks, cool streams, and waterfalls.
Ao Phang Nga National Park
Phang Nga Bay is one of the most breathtaking areas in Thailand with hundreds of stunning limestone mountains jutting out of the water. Belonging to Ao Phang Nga National park, Ko Khao Phing Kan also known as James Bond Island is the main attraction after it was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun.
Mu Ko Similan National Marine Park
Mu Ko Similan National Marine Park known simply as the Similan Islands is a group of 9 islands in the Andaman Sea, located 65 km off the coastline of Phang Nga Province. The islands boast white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters and are famous for its world-class diving and beautiful reefs. The area is closed six months per year (15th May – 15th October) to let nature and wildlife recover.
Hat Noppharat Thara–Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park
Hat Noppharat Thara–Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park covers an area of 397 km² around Ao Nang and its islands in Krabi Province with Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh, as one of the most popular attractions in Thailand after it was featured in the 1999 movie The Beach with Leonardo Dicaprio.
Hat Chao Mai National Park
Hat Chao Mai National Park is covering the two districts of Kantang and Sikao in Trang Province south of Krabi. Except for the land-based attractions such as Pak Meng Beach and Chao Mai Cave, it is the islands that most visitors come to see. One of the most beautiful islands is the peaceful Koh Kradan (pictured above) whose beach was voted the ninth best beach in the world by Guardian readers.
Famous national parks yet for me to explore
Khao Yai National Park
One of the most famous national parks in Thailand is Khao Yai National Park with over 50 km trails of hiking covering parts of three provinces. It is one of the best national parks for wildlife watching, and seeing wild elephants on the road — sometimes angry at the cars — is a relatively common sight. Established in 1962, Khao Yai was Thailand’s first national park.
Khao Sok National Park
Covered by the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world, spectacular limestone mountains and beautiful lakes — Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand is one of the most incredible places in the country. My wife and I have been talking about going here for years, but for some reason, it is still on our list of places to see.
Erawan National Park
Located in Kanchanaburi Province western Thailand (bordering Burma), Erawan National Park is another famous national park with the Erawan Waterfall as the main attraction. This stunning 7-level waterfall with emerald green ponds is a wet dream for photographers.