I’ve had a photo of Cheow Lan Lake at Khao Sok National Park pinned on my Pinterest ever since I can remember. So when we started planning our sabbatical which started with a month in Thailand, I knew I had to make this dream board pin come true.
However, at the time when we were planning our trip to Thailand, there wasn’t a lot of information out there about how to plan a visit to Khao Sok National park.
So in this post, I’m going to break down for you the different ways to explore Khao Sok National Park, including the possible activities and the exact way we did it!
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Visiting Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand
History of Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is located in the south of Thailand and is part of Surat Thani Province, a more remote province in Thailand.
It is one of Thailand’s oldest national parks and is mainly comprised of rainforest, limestone cliffs, and a large lake system. This is one of the most beautiful and still relatively untouched areas in South East Asia to visit.
Millions of years ago limestone deposits began to form as the marine life established a coral reef that is said to have been five times the length of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, stretching from China to Borneo.
If you have been to Krabi (Thailand), Guilin (China) and Halong Bay (Vietnam) or Sarawak (Borneo), this is the reason the very similar limestone karst formations are found in all those locations still today.
Getting to Khao Sok National Park
Before getting to the Khao Sok National Park, it’s good to know that there are two equally popular areas of the national park.
The first is Khao Sok Village, where it is possible to walk a number of trails, visit waterfalls and join various activities in the river. The second hotspot, and the one we visited, is Khao Sok Lake (or Cheow Lan Lake), best known for it’s raft houses, caves, viewpoints, trails, and limestone karsts.
Many people will make there way to Khao Sok Village from Phuket or Krabi and stay one night prior to embarking on a tour of Cheow Lan Lake for either a day trip, or an overnight stay in a floating bungalow.
Getting to Khao Sok National Park from Phuket
Many people that visit Khao Sok National Park will come from towns in Southern Thailand such as Phuket, Krabi, or Surat Thani. It is most advisable to book a private transfer or taxi through your previous hotel to get you to Khao Sok Village or the boat dock at Khao Sok Lake.
Getting to Khao Sok lake from Phuket or Surat Thani is roughly a 2 hour drive and from Krabi is roughly a2 hours and 45 min drive.
Getting around in Khao Sok National Park
The only way to get around on the lake is by arranging long-tail boats. Most attractions on the lake require a guide to visit and a longtail boat to reach.
A round trip longtail boat for up to 10 people will cost 1,500 Baht up to 4,000 Baht, the price difference depends on the distances. It is also possible to hire a boat for overnight stay for around 400 to 500 Baht more. These boats can only be arranged on arrival to the pier and can’t be booked in advance.
Getting to Khao Sok National Park by Tour
If you don’t want to arrange for a longtail boat upon arrival or worry about transfer to the national park, booking an organized tour could be a great option for you.
In addition, if you prefer to book a tour that has everything planned for you, consider one of these highly rated tour options (I know traveling can be unpredictable – so all experiences recommended can be cancelled 24-hours beforehand for a full refund):
How we Visited Khao Sok National Park
We booked the 2 day, 1 night Lake Superior tour with Khao Sok Lake Tours. From the moment you arrive at their tour office, all meals and accommodations are included, as well as a guide and private boat with a driver for the entire time.
We really enjoy private tours when possible because we love to keep our schedule flexible and make sure we do what we want to do. However, the above tours are a more affordable way to see Khao Sok Lake especially if you enjoy meeting others during your travels.
Entrance fees & opening times
The entrance fees for Khao Sok National Park are 200 Baht for adults and 100 Baht for children less than 14 years old. Thai citizens pay 40 Baht for adults and 20 Baht for children. The entrance fees are valid for multiple days only if staying inside the park, either when camping or staying at raft houses in the lake.
The park is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily, all year round.
Weather in Khao Sok National Park
Rainy Season (May – November)
Rainy season in Thailand mostly occurs between the months of May and November, however being located in a rainforest, there is always a chance of downpours.
Dry Season (December – April)
Dry season, between December and April is the best time to visit the national park (and Thailand for that matter. While Khao Sok has warm temperatures throughout the hottest months are March and April.
We visited during Thailand’s “high season” and had beautifully weather the entire trip.
Things to Do in Khao Sok National Park
To make the most of your visit, I would suggest staying at least one night in the national park at one of the floating bungalows to allow you to explore more of the area. I have suggested a couple of floating bungalows for you to consider below.
If you book an overnight tour, many of the activities below will be included, with more trekking, hiking, and cave exploration the longer you stay.
1. Boat Trips on Cheow Lan Lake
When it comes to the most epic views and the best photography locations on Khao Sok Lake, also known as Cheow Lan Lake, boat trips offer unparalleled access to some of the most scenic spots. You cannot view these spots from the land!
You will need to rent a longtail baot in order to see the most striking limestone karsts reflected in the mirror-like surface of the lake. The early morning and late afternoon light will provide the perfect soft, golden glow for your photos, so plan your boat trip accordingly to make the most of the magical lighting conditions.
One of the most iconic (and most crowded) areas to photograph from a boat on Khao Sok Lake is the stunning Guilin Rock (pictured right). Most boats will stop right in front of the formations, however our boat driver took us around the right side to get an unobstructed view!
Before you reach Guilin Rock, you will pass right by my favorite photo location (pictured left). I don’t know that this view has a specific name, but roughly 30 minutes in your your ride from the boat docks before you reach the famous Guilin Rock, you will see this view in front of you!
2. Stay at a Floating Raft House
When staying at one of the raft houses on Cheow Lan Lake, you’ll have the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and serenity of the lake.
The raft houses are simple accommodations floating on the lake, which range from basic to luxury. However, each raft house provides basic amenities, including beds, bathrooms (some shared), and traditional Thai meals prepared with local ingredients.
From your raft house, you can venture out on guided boat tours to explore the lake and its surrounding jungle, visit hidden caves, and hike to viewpoints that offer stunning panoramic vistas. Alternatively, you can simply relax on your private deck, enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the lake and listening to the sounds of the surrounding wildlife.
3. Hikes Around Khao Sok Lake
There are several hiking trails around Khao Sok Lake, each offering its own unique scenery and photo opportunities. The most easily accessible hike is the Khlong Sok trail which offers views of the lake and surrounding mountains. You can access this trailhead from the land
4. Viewpoint over Khao Sok Lake
One of the best views you can get in Cheow Lan lake is at Kri Sorn Viewpoint, located on top of a vertical limestone mountain where you will be able to have a panoramic view of the beautiful glistering blue water of Cheow Lan lake and its surroundings.
The hike is moderate tasking most people 1.5 hours slightly uphill hike until you reach the base of the peak and then you will have to scramble up the steep mountain face for about 30 minutes before you arrive at the top. The last part is the difficult part and extremely tiring but the moment you see the view, all your tiredness will just evaporate away.
5. Go on a Wildlife Safari (Possibly See Wild Elephants)
As you explore the lake by boat, keep your eyes peeled for the diverse wildlife that calls Khao Sok home.
The national park is home to over 300 different bird species, including the white-throated kingfisher, monkeys, and winged lizards. If you are lucky, you can even spot wild elephants.
For the best chance at seeing wildlife, set out in the morning with a knowledgeable local tour guide who will now the best spots for viewing wildlife.
A couple wildlife excursions were built into our itinerary (one in the evening on our first day and one the following morning), and it was a very peaceful way to explore the lake and try to spot nature.
6. Cave Hikes
One of the most popular caves to explore, as it is accessed by foot from the shore, is Nam Thalu Cave, known for its stunning limestone formations and underground river. Inside the cave, you’ll encounter fascinating rock formations, cascading waterfalls, and even the opportunity to take a refreshing swim in the river.
Another must-visit cave is Coral Cave, famous for its intricate stalactites and stalagmites that resemble coral reefs. The surreal beauty of this cave makes it a haven for photography enthusiasts, so be sure to capture the otherworldly formations in all their glory. Coral cave is located in Cheow Lam Dam, Ratchaprapha Dam, and can only be reached with a guide.
For those seeking a more challenging cave hike, consider venturing into Ta Khun Cave. This cave system is larger and more remote, requiring a higher level of physical fitness and stamina. The stunning rock formations and hidden chambers within Ta Khun Cave make it a thrilling and rewarding adventure for experienced cave explorers.
7. Capture the local culture
Interact with the local floating village community and capture their traditional lifestyle for a unique photography opportunity.
Accommodation in Khao Sok National Park
Luxury Floating Bungalows – 500 Rai
Photo via Booking.com | Book here
Luxury Floating Bungalows – Panvaree Resort
Photo via Booking.com | Book here
Khao Sok National Park FAQs
Here are the quick tips for visiting Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand.
What should I pack for Khao Sok National Park?
You will leave your larger bags on land, and only take with you a smaller bag for the time you will spend on the lake. This is because you can’t load large suitcases/bags onto the long tail boats.
I would suggest packing a smaller backpack with the essentials:
- Lightweight clothing (only what you need for your stay)
- Swimsuit and coverup
- Hiking clothes and tennis shoes
- Insect repellant
- Sunscreen and hat
- A water proof bag
- Cameras and chargers
- Phone and charges
- Any medications + travel documents
- Cash (some park fees and tips can only be paid in cash)
How many days should you spend in Khao Sok National Park?
I would recommend staying 1 – 2 nights at Khao Sok National Park. We stayed for 1 night, and it was enough time for us to get a feel for the lake, do some relaxing, hiking, and wildlife spotting.
I hope that you now have all the tools you need to plan a bucketlist experience at Khao Sok National Park. If you are currently planning a trip to Thailand and have any questions, drop them in the comments below. For more travel inspiration and tips, follow me on Instagram for current updates.
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What Camera Gear Do I Use?
- Camera Body: Canon EOS 6D Mark ii
- Wide Angle Lens: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8
- Zoom Lens: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
- Super Zoom Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/2.8
- Portrait Lens: Tamron 35mm f/1.4
- Drone: DJI Mavic Mini 3 Pro with RC Controller
- Camera Bag: Vegan Leather Backpack
- Tripod: Manfrotto Element Traveller
- SD Card: SanDisk Extreme Pro 256 GB
- External Travel SSD: SanDisk Extreme Pro 4 TB