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Khao Yai Valley, The Gem of Nakhon Ratchasima

Nakhon Ratchasima, TH
24°
Nakhon Ratchasima, TH
76°
broken clouds
100% humidity
wind: 8m/s SSE
H 79 • L 76
Khao Yai National Park

Located right in Thailand’s center, Khao Yai National Park is the oldest and the most-visited national park in the country. Ranked the third-largest national park in Thailand, Khao Yai is now a UNESCO world heritage site. It is mostly in Nakhon Ratchasima, with the rest scattered across Saraburi, Prachin Buri, and Nakhon Nayok provinces.

With beautiful valleys, clean air, a picturesque countryside, and stylish resorts and farmhouses, Khao Yai National Park and the valleys around it are outstanding destinations for travelers and weekenders seeking adventure. An excellent restaurant, golf courses, notable art galleries, boutique wine galleries, and creative excursions are also appealing. The lovely small towns of Pak Chong and Muak Lek, as well as Wang Nam Khiao, a small district east of Khao Yai National Park, are sought after destinations. The latter boasts a mild climate, dramatic landscape, and beautiful farmhouses.

The best time to visit the national park is from October to April when the park and the valleys have a winter bliss and blue sky. Arriving at the park in other seasons is fine as there are always fun things to do and places to explore in and around Khao Yai.

Getting There

Car

Driving is the most convenient way to visit Khao Yai National Park and destinations nearby. Pak Chong district, 110 miles north of Bangkok, is your base town with many resorts, restaurants, and outdoor activities. Taking a taxi from the airport or the hotel in Bangkok is a comfortable way of getting to Khao Yai if you have booked the right accommodation near the park. You can also ask your hotel for a transfer arrangement.

Bus

The public buses depart daily from Bangkok Bus Terminal (Chatuchak) to Nakhon Ratchasima province. They have a drop-off at Pak Chong district.

Getting Around

There is no public transport in Khao Yai, and the attractions are pretty spread out. The best way to travel around Khao Yai is to rent a car or get one with a driver.

9 best things to do around Khao Yai

Khao Yai Valley is synonymous with a mix of outdoor adventure and urban bliss, plus a few boutique wine galleries. With an endless list of things to see and do, Khao Yai is a place to sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself in the bosom of nature.

1. Farm visit

The valleys around Khao Yai might be 9,000 miles away from Texas, but ranches, horses, and cowboys somehow keep them closer. Farm Chokchai, a large beef and dairy farm, brings a slice of the American wild west to the north of Khao Yai National Park with cheer, spirit, and entertainment. The modern farm draws visitors for cowboy shows, cattle herding, farm tours, horse-drawn cart rides, ATV adventures, and juicy steak and beef burgers.

If you want to sleep under the glittering stars but don’t want to tough it out in a sleeping bag and tent, Farm Chokchai gives you a glamourous option. Embrace the glamping experience in the comfort of home on its campground.

Opening hours: 10am–8.30pm

Location: 2 Mittraphap Rd, Nong Nam Daeng, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima. 

How to get to Farm Chokchai: The farm is on Mittraphap Road (Km. 159) which is about nine miles to the south of the Pak Chong district. Private transfer from your hotel in Khao Yai Valley is a convenient way to reach the farm.

2. Tee off in Khao Yai Valley

Golf is a popular tourist activity in Khao Yai Valley. Many local weekenders and foreign golfers travel to the green valley to tee off right beneath the Khao Yai National Park. Khao Yai Valley has more than eight golf courses ‘designed by nature’ and by the renowned golf course designer Jack Nicklaus. The various golf courses are for golfers of all levels.

The Kirimaya course, with breathtaking scenery, is designed for a middle and low handicap player, while the Bonanza Resort Khao Yai course allows casual golfers to make birdies. Like many golf courses in Thailand, golfers in Khao Yai have knowledgeable caddies to assist them with their game, and carts are available. You can also walk, and caddies will gladly pull the trolleys. Best of all, there are strong links between golfing and other activities—wine tasting, spa treatments, and the Thai food experience, to name a few in the area.

3. Into the woods

There are times in life when you feel like you need to walk into the woods to clear your head. Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the country’s most fascinating trekking destinations. With more than 800 species (112 mammal species, 392 bird species, and 200 reptile and amphibian species), this evergreen forest never ceases to amaze you.

There are five scenic trails inside the park with different lengths, fitness levels, and endurance levels. If you’re lucky, you may spot barking deer, gibbons, pheasants, great hornbills, and even a herd of wild elephants. The multi-day trekking programs can be arranged in advance, with a local guide and porters, for the intrepid trekkers. After a long walk in the woods, you can pitch your tent in the park or opt for luxurious glamping sites scattered around the national park. The Birder’s Lodge Khao Yai, Mont Blanc Glamping Khao Yai , Lala Mukha Tented Resort Khao Yai, and Te Mata Glamping are the best to lay your head under a starry night. 

4. Chase the waterfalls

When Hollywood filmmakers did the waterfall jump with Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Beach” in 2000, they didn’t film it in the studio, but at Haew Suwat Waterfall in the heart of Khao Yai’s rainforest. The waterfall is still wild and beautiful two decades later, with water flowing off the cliff into the pool. If you’re heading to Khao Yai for the waterfall, luck is on your side. The national park is home to many stunning waterfalls. In the far south of Khao Yai, Haew Narok Waterfall (Hell Gorge Waterfall) is one of Thailand’s most powerful and most impressive waterfalls. A million gallons of water plunge 150 meters straight down, sending off a thundering sound into the forest. In the rainy season, Haew Narok is extremely dangerous but still accessible via a short hike. For a wet adventure and refreshing dip in the plunge pool, head to Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall. which is easy to reach from the campground.

5. Wine Tasting

Khao Yai Valley could almost be Napa Valley if it weren’t abundant with banana plants and mango trees. There are small boutique wine galleries for visitors and wine lovers well worth visiting for a tour. In northern Khao Yai valley, PB Valley Khao Yai Winery offers a wine tasting of Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. About six miles east of PB Valley, GranMonte Vineyard and Winery shows a strong passion and knowledge of winemaking through numbers of award-winning wines made from local-grown wine grapes like Durif, Verdelho, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Also, in the northern part of the national park, Issara Boutique Winery leaves its door open for a wine and dine opportunity in a beautiful vineyard. The estate also offers luxurious hospitality in a 35-room boutique hotel inspired by an American lodge and farmhouse.

6. Adventure on two wheels

With a beautiful countryside and natural landmarks, Khao Yai is an ideal cycling destination where visitors travel to give the valley a spin. The most popular route is the “wine route,” where cyclists and wine lovers try to balance sipping and spinning along a delightful trail. The trip promises excellent food, great wine, and stunning landscape through rolling hills with mountainous backdrops, quaint dairy farms, remote temples, and picturesque vineyards. Eager cyclists can spin a road bike up and down the scenic road that runs through Khao Yai National Park. For two-wheel adventures, Wang Nam Khiao is your base town with endless single tracks and a dramatic landscape.

7. Bird watching

Home to more than 300 bird species, Khao Yai National Park can keep the birders looking up and down compulsively in nature for a week. You don’t have to wander very far from the information center and your tent to spot the exotic birds. Up to the tree canopy, oriental pied hornbills, wreathed hornbills, and Austen’s brown hornbills are abundant and easily seen. Down on the nature trails, keep your eyes open for ground-dwelling birds like the graceful Siamese fireback pheasant and coral-billed ground cuckoo. Spotting the great hornbill in flight amidst the rainforest is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The best place to find them is on the natural trail beyond the Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall camping ground. Other hotspots for bird watching are Kilometer 33, the wildlife watchtower, and the old golf course. Check out Thaibirding.com before heading to Khao Yai to see your feathered friends.

8. Wildlife spotting

Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO’s world heritage site, is home to Asian elephants, gaur, Indian muntjac, Indochinese serow, mouse deer, and 300 more mammal and reptile species. Watching them roam in their natural habitats is well worth every ounce of your patience. You can bring home some of the most rewarding experiences in Thailand. A bull elephant is the star in the park and sometimes blocks the road twisting its way through the park. Enthusiastic wildlife fans can sign up for an animal spotting tour with the park for a better chance to see barking deer, gibbons, and cute-looking otters. Khao Yai National Park is one of a few places in Thailand where you can see a gaur in the wild. In Khao Phaeng Ma hill, 40 miles northeast of the park, you will be fascinated by a herd of gaurs, the “black beauties,” grazing on the grassland. The national park offers guided tours, ranging from a night safari to multi-day wildlife spotting.

9. Explore Khao Yai art scene

In recent years, local art enthusiasts and the artists themselves have brought art close to the wild at Khao Yai. Housed behind a small hill a few miles north of the national park, Khao Yai Art Museum offers an impressive art exhibition with no admission fee. Run by Thai art collectors, the modern art museum sits in the heart of half an acre of a creative space. It has a showcase of contemporary artworks created by leading Thai artists. Guests can walk around to appreciate various artworks, from Chalermchai Kositpipat’s sculptures to Lampu Kansanoh’s oil paintings. Outside the main gallery, the outdoor sculpture garden has six modern “Art Spaces,” residences where you can sleep next to the pieces of art.

Opening Hours: 6am–5pm

Location: Ban Tha Chang, Soi 6, Moo 16, Mu Si, Pak Chong

Website: Khao Yai Art Museum Facebook: FB Khao Yai Art Museum

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