This article was first published on Skyscanner.
Looking for a vacation in Thailand but searching for something a little different? Khao Yai, a short drive from Bangkok, is blessed with gorgeous natural scenery, rich wildlife and perfect weather is becoming a popular choice for a family holiday off the beaten path. Spot elephants, feast on chocolate and bathe in jungle waterfalls with Skyscanner’s guide to the best of Khao Yai.
So Where is Khao Yai?
Khao Yai is a nature lover’s dream destination and packed with fun attractions perfect for a family vacation. Khao Yai’s altitude varies between 400m and 1000 with the highest point, Khao Rom at 1351 metres, making a trip here a deliciously cool escape from the sweltering Thai lowlands. Best of all, Khao Yai is only a 3-hour drive northeast of Bangkok so it’s perfect for a long weekend break!
Read more: 5 things to do in Bangkok with families
Why go to Khao Yai?
Khao Yai offers heaps of attractions to keep your family happy on holiday. There are beautiful vineyards, an Italian-style village to explore, hobbit houses to clamber around and even a chocolate factory to visit. However, the highlight of a visit here has to be the Khao Yai National Park where you can spot elephants, gibbons, gaurs, pythons, bears and hornbills or take a plunge in one of the park’s many waterfalls.
How to get to Khao Yai?
Hop on a bus in Bangkok’s Mo Chit Terminal to Nakhon Ratchasima and alight at Pak Chong (THB ฿180 / SGD $7.50; 3 to 4 hours). You might want to rent a car or scooter (THB ฿300 / SGD $12 per day) in Pak Chong to explore the park and attractions in the surrounding countryside. The most convenient way to get to and around the Khao Yai area is to sign up for a customised tour, such as this great value one on Klook which includes return transport to Bangkok.
Note: The national park has no internal transportation system and you’ll have to rely on hitchhiking or mountain bikes to get around. There are songthaews from Pak Chong to the northern entrance of the park from where it’s 14km to the visitor centre. If you don’t want to rent a car or scooter, mountain bike or hitchhike it’s best to join an organised tourto visit the park.
When is the best time to visit Khao Yai?
Weekends are best avoided and the best time to visit is during the cool season from November to February where you can expect daytime temperatures around 21 degrees and clear and sunny skies.
Note: Foreigners need to pay THB ฿400 / SGD $16.50 to enter the park (THB ฿200 / SGD $8 for kids)
Where to stay in Khao Yai?
There are a number of hotels and guesthouses to stay in and around Pak Chong, the town at the entrance to the Khao Yai National Park. Those who want a more rugged experience can camp in the Khao Yai National Park at the designated camp sites (a night at Lam Tekong is recommended for encounters with Malayan porcupines). Tents and accessories are available for rent at each camp site.
If you still want to camp, but without roughing it, check into Lala Mukha Tented Resort and enjoy Khao Yai in style. The resort is located near the entrance to the park and features a range of rooms from eco safari tents to luxe loft tree houses perfect for families.
Tents start at: THB ฿2835 / SGD $118
Website: Lala Mukha Tented Resort
What to do in Khao Yai?
Visit Khao Yai National Park
If you’re travelling to Khao Yai, you have to make the pilgrimage to the Khao Yai National Park. Thailand’s oldest national park and the third largest in the country, Khao Yai National Park covers almost 2,200 square kilometres and extends into 3 Thai provinces. The park is home to an array of exciting wildlife from elephants and gibbons to pythons and water dragons. The best way to get around is on your own rented motorbike or in a rented car, or alternatively, join an organized tour.
2Nong Phak Chi Watchtower
One of two watchtowers, a 2.5km from the Visitor Centre, this is a great place for birdwatching and you might get lucky and spot a gaur or hornbill here.
Haew Narok Waterfall
At 80m, this is the highest waterfall in the park and is easily accessible by road (though you’ll need to walk 500m through the jungle to get here). The trail to the waterfall is a known haunt of elephants so keep your wits about you and you might be in for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.
Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave
This immense cave is rumoured to be home to around 3 million bats and if you time your visit here for sunset, you’ll be in for a treat as hundreds of thousands of these bats leave the cave in a long, shifting black cloud.
Yod Khao Khieo
This mountain has an altitude of 1292m and is the highest mountain in Nakhon Nayok Province. The peak is accessible by road and there are several gorgeous viewpoints on the road up the mountain, and the densely forested slopes are rich in wildlife and elephants are seen here regularly.
Test out your farming skills at Farm Chokchai
City kids will love this interactive day out where all the family will have a chance to get up and close to some furry friends. Join a farm tour (adults THB ฿300 / SGD $12.50; kids THB ฿150 / SGD $6) and get up close and personal with the farm’s sheep, try your hand at milking a cow and enjoy lung fulls of good fresh farm air. Be sure to book in advance as these tours are popular. If that sounds too wholesome, sign up for an ice-cream making workshop which uses fresh farm milk and is guaranteed to please all the family. Other fun activities on offer here include a rodeo show and ATV adventures on the farm’s quad bikes.
Address: 30130 Tambon Pak Chong, Amphoe Pak Chong,
Farm Tours: 1000 & 1400 (Tuesdays to Fridays); Every 20 minutes from 1000 – 1440 at weekends (Sat – Sun). Closed on Mondays except public holidays.
Website: Farm Chokchai
Visit a Hobbit House
You don’t need to fly to New Zealand to have a Hobbit House experience as Khao Yai has its very own called Baan Suan Noi so you can live out your Lord of the Rings fantasies a few hours’ flight from home! These tiny houses are set in beautifully manicured gardens and all feature unique hobbity designs, and for those into cosplay, they have a whole range of fantastical costumes to try on – for free! You can even stay the night in your very own hobbit house if you want!
Address: 101, Tambon Lat Bua Khao, Amphoe Sikhio, Chang Wat Nakhon Ratchasima
Website: Baan Suan Noi
Indulge your sweet tooth at the Chocolate Factory
Chocoholics can find bliss at the Chocolate Factory, 11km from Pak Chong. Feast on a variety of delectable European-style bon bons, chocolates and chocolate desserts (their dark chocolate lava cake is drool inducing) created by chef Eric Perez and aspiring pastry chefs can sign up for one of their chocolate workshops and try to produce some delectable choccy morsels!
Address: Thanarat Road, Moo 2 Khaoyai, Pak Chong
Website: Chocolate Factory
Get a taste of Italy at Palio Khao Yai
If you are hankering for a touch of European elegance on your Khao Yai getaway then look no further than Palio Khao Yai. This Tuscan style walking street has a variety of eateries and quirky boutiques and even if you don’t want to shop, you’ll find the place super photogenic.
Address: 146/1 Moo.4, Thanarath Road (km.17), Moo-si, Pak Chong
Website: Palio Khao Yai
Visit PB Valley Khao Yai Winery
The first bottle of wine uncorked here was in 1998, making this one of Thailand’s oldest wineries. Set in gorgeous hilly countryside some 20km north of the park, you can join a vineyard tour, enjoy a wine tasting session, feast on at their restaurant or take a cooking class and explore their gardens packed with luscious fruit from dragon fruit and mangoes to Japanese melons.
Vineyard and Wine Tasting Tour: five times daily at 0900, 1030, 1200, 1330 and 1530 (75 mins, THB ฿320 / SGD $11)
Address:102 Moo 5, Phaya Yen, Pak Chong Nakorn Ratchasima 30320
Website: PB Valley
Eat at Pak Chong Market
After dark, head to Pak Chong Night Market to sample some delectable Thai favourites including mango sticky rice and som tam alongside some more unusual treats such as fried insects. Dishes start at around THB ฿20 / SGD $0.80.
Address: 2422 Tambon Pak Chong, Amphoe Pak Chong
Enjoy a worldwide fees-less travel experience!