Khao Sok National Park: The Best Hidden Park to See Now!

How would you like to visit a place older than the Amazon rainforest? A place where everything you see and touch is older than the dinosaurs. Khao Sok National Park is exactly that place.

Everyone loves these types of places. Ancient, magical, and, best of all, still mostly unknown by tourists. After all, most places are crowded and never live up to the hype.

But, Khao Sok is different.

So, keep reading to see why you need to add this park to your travel list immediately.

Check out the caves that line the lake

Khao Sok National Park Facts

Khao Sok National Park has an exciting history behind it — both natural and human. Let’s start with the natural.

Khao Sok natural history

Over 220 million years ago, limestone deposits began to form as marine life created an expansive coral reef that stretched from China to Borneo. For those of you who are good with geography and math, that’s about five times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.

It also explains why the landscape looked so similar to Ha Long Bay—they were both parts of the same giant coral reef.

This coral reef continued to grow as it teemed with life, and the limestone stayed buried deep under the sea.

That is until the Indian tectonic plate crashed into the Eurasian plate. As we know, this formed the Himalayas and caused massive shifts in the geography of this area of the world.

Limestone karsts rise out of Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok

What is lesser-known is that caused these, along with the other limestone karst found throughout Southeast Asia, to shoot upward and above sea level. 

Now that they were exposed to the elements, the rain slowly eroded them over millions of years, resulting in the beautiful formations we see today.

Khao Sok human history

The human history surrounding Khao Sok National Park is slightly less…beautiful.

The first reports of people inhabiting the area date back to the 1800s. The Burmese and Thais were consistently at war, often with the Burmese attacking the coastal areas. Residents of the area, having no means to defend themselves, would retreat to the jungle.

People would continue to live in the area over the next 200 years, people would continue to live in the area. That was until 1944.

During this time, a deadly epidemic swept through the area and killed many of the population. Those who survived left. It was abandoned for years and donned the name “Corpse Village” or “Baan Sop” in Thai.

This led to a taboo-like feeling for Thai people and wanting to live in the area. Therefore, it was empty when Thai students and communist insurgent groups occupied the caves in the area to defend it against the Thai army, loggers, miners, and hunters.

For seven years, these groups continued to defend it and are a significant reason it still stands today. Had it not been for these groups, the area may have been forested and mined until nothing was left.

In the early 1980s, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) became interested in the area. 

Thailand’s National Park Division’s research found Khao Sok to be the largest watershed in the south. It didn’t hurt that it teems with various plants and animals worth protecting.

So, in December 1980, Khao Sok National Park became Thailand’s 22nd national park.

And this leads us to today.

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Khao Sok National Park travel

Quick Facts:

  • The Khao Sok National Park entrance sits near the center of Khao Sok Village and the entrance fee is 200 baht (~$6) as of June 2022.
  • You can find the Khao Sok National Park map here.
  • Khao Sok is about a 3 hour drive from Phuket, a 2 hour drive from Krabi, and an 1 ½ hours from Surat Thani airport

A trip through Khao Sok National Park in Thailand provides you with vast limestone karst formations, extensive caves that house bats and other animals, and a thick forest filled with incredible plants and wildlife.

A quick note: you should visit during the dry season or on the shoulders of dry season (November-May). Once the rainy season sets in, visiting Khao Sok could be dangerous with strong storms and flash floods.

The Sok river runs through the center of the park and could flood quickly with one of the frequent storms that pass during the rainy season.

Khao Sok National Park plantlife

Per hectare, there are around 200 different species of flora. A few of the species you’ll see inside Khao Sok National Park include:

  • Pitcher plants
  • Epiphytes
  • Buttress roots
  • Lianas
  • Figs
  • Banana, bamboo, rattan, palm, and gian dipterocarp trees

Quite the list, right?

A hiking trail runs through Khao Sok National Park

All of this plant-life combines to create a towering forest that creates a canopy above, offering a bit of relief from the burning Thai sun.

If you’re a plant lover, you’ll find no shortage of excitement here.

Khao Sok National Park wildlife

The same goes for animal life as well. Khao Sok National Park contains around 48 mammal species, 311 species of birds, over 30 species of bats, and more reptiles and insects than you can count.

Enjoy seeing rare, dangerous animals in the wild? Khao Sok contains the increasingly rare Malayan sun bears.

Are felines more your thing? You can find tigers, leopards, and the clouded leopard in the park.

Various species of monkeys can be heard calling out and swinging in the trees overhead as you walk the trails that run through the park.

And herbivores — like the mouse deer, tapir, gaur, and even elephants — roam the park, snacking on its fresh vegetation.

Put simply, there’s no shortage of wildlife to catch in their natural environment here.

And we haven’t even gotten to the gem in the middle of Khao Sok National Park — Cheow Lan Lake.

Boating on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park is a top activity.

Khao Sok Lake National Park

EGAT built a dam that flooded the area. The result? A gorgeous stretch of water covers 102 mi² of the 459 mi² park.

To enjoy the park fully, visitors can take a long-tail boat ride for an easy day tour. 

This includes a lake tour, a visit to various caves, and lunch on one of the floating rafts. If there’s time, jump in the lake waters to cool yourself off, or kayak if you prefer.

If that isn’t enough for you and you want more of the park, you can book an overnight stay in one of the floating bungalows. You can choose a simple bamboo raft house or a deluxe bungalow if you’re looking for more luxury.

Wake up early in the morning to birds chirping and limestone mountains beginning to show themselves in the morning sun.

Is Khao Sok National Park for backpackers?

Yes, Khao Sok is perfect for backpackers. The accommodations all have safe places to store your valuables while you go hiking in the park.

A group of women hike in Khao Sok National Park

There are great sights to visit, like Ton Kloi Waterfall, Cheow Lan Lake, the floating bungalows, and much more.

So, if you’re a backpacker, don’t miss out on Khao Sok National Park.

Looking to simply relax?

Suppose you’re not looking for all the activities. 

In that case, Khao Sok Village (Khlong Sok) offers a quiet haven to simply relax. Surrounding the park and village are eco-friendly accommodations that have built themselves into, and in tandem with, the ancient forest.

A treehouse accommodation near Khao Sok National Park

These accommodations are perfect if you’re seeking a getaway to seclude yourself. Whether for a honeymoon or if you want to lay in a treehouse and simply watch the world go by. 

There’s a place for you.

There’s no shortage of things to do if you’re an outdoors fan. And the park is a short drive from Khao Lak, Phuket, and Krabi, and Surat Thani province/Surat Thani airport.

If you’re in the area, you can’t miss “Thailand’s secret garden.”

How many days should I spend in Khao Sok National Park?

2-3 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Khao Sok. You would have enough time to explore most of the sights and not be rushed, but you wouldn’t become bored and be left with nothing to do.

So, if you’re planning a trip, I recommend spending around 2-3 days in Khao Sok National Park. This is perfect if you’re visiting the islands in the south so you can pair them together with a short trip.

Is Khao Sok National Park worth visiting?

If you couldn’t tell from the description, the answer is yes. You should visit one of Thailand’s best national parks: Khao Sok.

It’s combination of beautiful nature, fun activities, and relaxing vibes make it a great option for a short vacation.

If you enjoyed this, check out the things to do in nearby Phuket or check out its top viewpoints. Or, if you’re already in Phuket and enjoy hiking, check out the Layan Trail Loop and the Manik Mining Trail for excellent hiking or trail running.

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