About Khao Luang
Located along the Southern Tenasserim Hills Range in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province in Southern Thailand, Khao Luang National Park is a mountainous national park covering 570 km². The park is popular for its wildlife, numerous waterfalls, caves and long trails.
Khao Luang Mountain within the park is the highest point in southern Thailand at an altitude of 1,780 meters asl, it is also the highest point of Tenasserim Hills within Thailand. The mountain is also the higest point south from Doi Inthanon.
The habitats include mountains, limestone cliffs, granite massifs, various forest types and a number of rivers. Drainage basins makes the park an important watershed for the surrounding populated areas through the Krung Chin River, the Klai River, the Tapee River, the Pakpoon River and the Pakhanang River, of which the Tapi River is one of the peninsula's most important rivers flowing into the Gulf of Thailand.
The national park has two main seasons; the hot season from February and April and the rainy season from May to January with intensive rain from October to December. The park receives monsoon rains from both the east and the west coasts of the peninsula. Annual temperatures are between 20 and 30 °C.
Forests of the park include moist evergreen, hill evergreen, deciduous and bamboo forests. The park is known for its over 300 species of orchid species, some of them only to be found in the park. It is also a popular destination for birders, home to over 340 species of birds, one of best locations in southern Thailand for bird watching. Although sightings for bigger and more impressive ones are quite rare, the park is home to many interesting mammals.
Tigers have been camera trapped from the park in the past but their current occurrence is unknown. Some of the interesting mammals recorded from the park are; leopards, clouded leopards, Malayan tapirs, Sumatran serows (Capricornis sumatraensis), Malayan weasels (Mustela nudipes), Robinson's banded langurs (Presbytis robinsoni), binturongs (Arctictis binturong), Asiatic brush-tailed porcupines (Atherurus macrourus), red giant flying squirrels (Petaurista petaurista), horse-tailed squirrels (Sundasciurus hippurus) and Low's squirrels (Sundasciurus lowii).
Few of the rare bird sightings from the park are (some are old historical records, may be extirpated); large frogmouth, Chersonese barbet, Malayan laughingthrushes, Temminck's sunbirds, rufous-chested flycatchers, Malaysian crested firebacks, cinnamon-rumped trogons, black hornbills, Malaysian honeyguides, giant pittas, red-naped trogons, green-tailed sunbirds, crested partridges, olive-backed woodpeckers, rail-babblers, ferruginous partridges, jambu fruit doves, helmeted hornbills and greater green leafbirds.
The park has a very rich herpetofauna, among the best in south Thailand. There are currently a bit over 50 various reptile species and 22 amphibian species reported from the park, the real numbers are likely much higher.
The recently described Lan Saka rock gecko (Cnemaspis lineatubercularis, Ampai, Wood, Stuart, & Aowphol, 2020) is currently only known from Khao Luang National Park. Other reptile species found in the park are; Indo-Malayan mountain pit vipers (Ovophis convictus), red-headed kraits (Bungarus flaviceps), Malaysian banded coral snakes (Calliophis intestinalis), Equatorial spitting cobras (Naja sumatrana), Jasper cat snakes (Boiga jaspidea), Bengkulu cat snakes (Boiga bengkuluensis), Drapiez's cat snakes (Boiga drapiezii), Malayan mountain keelbacks (Hebius inas), Malayan mountain reed snakes (Macrocalamus lateralis), black-headed collared snakes (Sibynophis melanocephalus), twin-barred tree snakes (Chrysopelea pelias), short-palmed bent-toed geckos (Cyrtodactylus brevipalmatus) and orange-bearded flying dragons (Draco fimbriatus).
Of the amphibian species, white-backed bug-eyed frog (Theloderma licin) is currently only known from the park. Mahogany frogs (Abavorana luctuosa), big-eared whipping frogs (Polypedates macrotis), Hala Bala litter toads (Leptobrachella sola), frilled tree frogs (Kurixalus chaseni) are few of the rare frogs of the region that can be found in the park.
The park headquarters is located only 30 km west from Nakhon Si Thammarat and 130 km east from Krabi, only 1.3 km from highway 4015, easily accessible by songthaew from Nakhon Si Thammarat or by private car/motorcycle. The only attraction at the HQ area is the Karom Waterfall, there is not much else to do there. The main attractions of the park are a number of other waterfalls spread out over the park, most of them easily accessible by car, various trails and a multiple day hike to Khao Luang Mountain.
The headquarters area has a visitor center, restaurant, cafe, number of camping areas and toilet/shower facilities. The restaurant is open from 8 am until 16:30 pm.
Visitors should be aware that if there has been too much rain during the rainy season around October to December, some waterfalls may get closed for visitors. Water flow at all four major waterfalls is good all year round.
That the national park is home to some interesting mammals such as tigers, leopards, bears, tapirs doesn't mean Khao Luang is a nice place for wildlife watching. Finding any of these mammals, especially the cat species is extremely rare, such species are found in very remote areas deeper inside the park.
Khao Luang National Park is open 8 am to 4:30 pm every day but closed from 1st October until 15th December every year.
The nearest airports are Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport (~35 km), Krabi Airport (~120 km) and Surat Thani Airport (~150 km), all domestic with regular flights from Bangkok.
By own car/motorcycle - Take highway 4016 west from Nakhon Si Thammarat town center, follow the signposts to Karom Waterfall and turn left to highway 4015. The headquarters area is signposted after 20 km on the right side.
By songthaew - Dark-blue songthaew from Nakhon Si Thammarat towards Lan Saka and Khao Kaew departs every hour until 4 pm for 30 Baht per person. Songthaews stop by on the main road a bit from HQ or sometimes if told the drivers may turn to the side road and drop off at the headquarters area. You have to tell the driver you will stop by at the Karom Waterfall (Nam Tok Karom), it will be harder to explain you need to be dropped off at the national park.
Private transportation - Most hotels will help arrange a private transport there.
Nakhon Si Thammarat can be reached by trains from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Railway Station, overnight trains with sleeper carriages depart daily at 5:30 pm and 7:15 pm, it takes 12 hours to reach the city. Various airways also have daily flights from Bangkok. Buses also depart from Bangkok Southern Bus Station daily; the journey takes around 10 hours. Nakhon Si Thammarat can be reached by minivan from all major cities around.
Entrance fees & opening times
The entrance fees are 200 Baht for foreigners (children 100 Baht) and 40 Baht for Thai citizens (children 20 Baht). Motorbikes are charged with 20 Baht and cars with 30 Baht.
Stay & eat
There are only two accommodations for rent in the park, both at Krung Ching Waterfall camping ground area. One of the rooms is for 2-pax and costs 600 Baht per night while the other one is for 20 people and 2,000 Baht per night. A significant discount will apply when booked for Mon-Thu.
The rooms can be booked through the DNP website in advance. As the money transfer must be done within 2 days and the fact it takes a longer time with transfers from abroad, it is only possible to book from within Thailand only. Payments can be done at 7-Eleven convenience stores or banks.
There are also some homestays and resorts a bit out from the visitor center and Krung Ching Waterfall area.
Only bigger tents for 5-6 people are available for rent at the headquarters area, costs 500 Baht per day and includes accessories such as sleeping bag, mat, pillow. There is also a campsite at Krung Ching Waterfall on the north side of the park, cheaper and 2-3 people size tents available for rent from 250 Baht a day with all accessories included.
You are recommended to ask a Thai speaking person to call on your behalf.
- 075 300 494 (Main Visitor Center)
- 075 460 463 (Kring Ching Visitor Center)
The attractions of Khao Luang
Located at the south side of the national park, it is a big cascading waterfall with 19 tiers right next to the HQ area. It is one of the major attractions of Nakhon Si Thammarat and the most easily accessible one.
Only the first seven of the tiers are open to the public and easily accessible by a 7 km long trail. Some ponds the falls flowing into are suitable for swimming. The 7th tier is the most impressive one with a large rock pool.
Krung Ching Waterfall
Krung Ching is a several tiered waterfall with the highest one at 100 metres, one of the most impressive waterfalls of South Thailand. Located at the northern side of the national park in Nop Phi Tam District, it is 100 km from the headquarters area and about 75 km from Nakhon Si Thammarat town center. The falls are accessible by easy to moderate hike by a 3.7 km long clear trail starting at the visitor center area. Visitors are recommended to start hiking early, at least 3-4 small bottles of water per person needed.
There is a visitor center and a camping ground at Krung Ching, tents available for rent from 250 Baht per day, rooms for rent from 600 Baht. There are no restaurants at the visitor center area as some websites are claiming, but the rangers will call and order food from a nearby village if needed. Unless you speak some basic Thai, good luck explaining what food to order. :)
There are no public services to get there, private transportation is needed.
The 1.7 km long Hong Cave is around 7.5 km from the visitor center, see further below.
Tha Phae Waterfall
Located another 6 km further west from headquarters junction along the highway 4015, it is a 10 tiered waterfall. 3 of the tiers are easily accessible.
Phrom Lok Waterfall and Ai Khiao Waterfall
Located at the east side of the national park in Phrom Khiri District, only some 25 km from Nakhon Si Thammarat town center. The falls are around 4 km apart. Both waterfalls can be reached by songthaews from Nakhon Si Thammarat to Phrom Khiri.
While Phrom Lok Waterfall has 50 tiers, only the first four are accessible and open for visitors. Ai Khiao has around 100 tiers with only the first nine accessible and open for visitors.
Only 7.5 km from Krung Ching Waterfall, it is a 1.7 km long cave with a stream flowing through the cave. There is a visitor center nearby the cave, rangers available to walk the cave with guests. The cave is popular and visited by adventurous cavers.
There are several hiking trails around in the cave area.
Kaeo Surakan Cave
Kaeo Surakan Cave is located 3 km east from the park headquarters along the highway 4015, very near the road and signposted well. It is a 731 m long cave, the entrance is spacious and 10 meters wide.
Located in the central parts of the park in Lansaka District, it is the tallest mountain in south Thailand at 1,780 meters asl. It is possible to hike to the summit with the park rangers, overnight stay required and the whole trip will take 2 nights. The trail starts from Ban Khiri Wong village from southeast where local guides are also available to hike with. Hiking is possible between January and September.