The highest point of Thong Pha Phum National Park, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand

Walk in the park – visit Thailand’s lesser-known but equally stunning national parks

Stunning scenery, the healing qualities of being in nature and the chance to spot some of the world’s most elusive animal species: a visit to a national park is high on the priorities list for many visitors to Thailand. And seeing the country has just under 150 parks to offer (yes, you read that right!), one could spend half a lifetime exploring.

If you’ve already marvelled at the otherworldly beauty of Khao Sok National Park and swam in the emerald waters of Ang Thong National Marine Park, it’s high time you set your sights on the Kingdom’s more off-the-beaten-track protected areas – for fewer visitors and more nature, check out the below!

Nam Nao National Park

The sun sets over Nao Nam National Park, Phetchabun Province, Thailand
A sight to behold: Sunsets at Nao Nam National Park are, simply put, magical. Photography by Nopparat Thanatawan via WikiMedia (CC BY SA 4.0).

At just under 1000 square km of uninterrupted natural beauty, this sprawling park in Phetchabun Province is like a world of its own. There are picturesque valleys nestled in between forested mountains, with ancient trees, bamboo groves, tranquil waterfalls and verdant grasslands all scattered throughout the territory. It’s relatively easy to make your way here from either Khaon Kaen or Phetchabun town and visitors have the opportunity to overnight in a basic but charming campsite.

Nam Nao’s main attraction is perhaps the Tham Yai cave system – the third longest in all of Thailand with a mind-boggling length of almost 10 km! Prefer light to darkness? Visit one of several sunrise and sunset viewpoints. In terms of wildlife, the epic park offers everything from over 200 species of birds to elephants, sun bears and leopards (though you might not want to make acquaintance with all of these!). To have the most rewarding and perfectly safe visit, stick to Nam Nao’s signposted hiking trails and you’re in for an amazing time!

Thong Pha Phum National Park

View of Khao Chang Phueak mountain in Thong Pha Phum National Park, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand
Get high: it’s 8 km to the top of Khao Chang Phueak mountain – and the views are worth the trek! Photography by Khunkay via WikiMedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

You can’t spell Kanchanaburi Province without the word ‘incredible’ in it – well, that’s not true, but you know what we mean! Near the border with neighbouring Myanmar, Thong Pha Phum National Park is among Thailand’s least explored and large parts of it are in fact off limits for visitors. But there’s still a whole lot to see; including three cascading waterfalls, the most impressive of which is probably Chok Kradin.

Beyond this, Thong Pha Phum boasts with an 8 km trail ascending to its highest peak, Khao Chang Phueak mountain, whose grassy surface shines brightly in the warm afternoon sun (bring a camera!). Best of all, accommodation options include two rustic tree houses that ensure the adventure continues at night, as guests fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle coming alive – though fret not; the tigers won’t make it up the tree!

Khao Laem Ya-Mu Samet National Marine Park

The azure sea at Khao Laem Ya-Mu Samet National Marine Park, Thailand
Take the plunge: the waters of Khao Laem Ya-Mu Samet National Marine Park are begging to be explored! Photography by Wiranya Youwattana via WikiMedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Last but certainly not least on our list is Khao Laem Ya-Mu Samet National Marine Park. As the name suggests, the park is located in and around the island of Koh Samet in the Gulf of Thailand. It also entails another nine smaller islets and, of course, their rugged coastlines and various, more or less even nature trails. Though a popular attraction among Thais, Khao Laem Ya-Mu Samet remains somewhat off the radar for foreign visitors, and it’s especially quiet during the week.

The park’s most alluring sights are arguably below the surface and it’d be a crime not to bring a snorkel and goggles when going for a swim – though if you’d like to stay on land, this is perhaps the perfect place to spend a few days to kick back with a book and do nothing. Khao Laem Ya-Mu Samet’s landscapes aren’t dramatic or overwhelming. They’re peaceful and idyllic; and sometimes, that’s exactly what you might be looking for!