Khao Sok: The Beauty of Cheow Lan Lake
Our boat glides through water the color of emerald, a deep creamy stone green, cruising past towering limestone karsts that are home to wild tigers and elephants. Occasional ripples cut through the smooth glossy surface of the water below, shimmering back reflections of the jungle-clad environment surrounding us.
Hundreds of peaks, carved of beautifully rugged limestone jut out of the lake’s serene emerald-colored water, creating a dramatic if not majestic landscape.
Whittled away by wind and water for the past 160 million years, these sheered rock walls have been molded into breathtaking monolithic mounds.
Cheow Lan Lake is truly one of Thailand‘s most stunning attractions.
Even the small details within the vast landscape are vivid – from the hardy determined trees sprouting out of the emerald depths to the exotic birds roosting among them.
Historically, Cheow Lan Lake is a relatively new phenomenon. As a byproduct of the development of the Rajjprabha Dam in 1982, the lake is essentially a manmade reservoir that now spans an area of 165 km2.
Even though human intervention led to the creation of the lake, its incredible biodiversity and ancient evergreen rainforest, are truly natural wonders – wild and beckoning.
Ethereal Cheow Lan Lake is considered by many to be Thailand’s most beautiful destination.
For us, it’s a place that fosters complete relaxation. The backdrop of the lake’s magnificent scenery combined with dramatic limestone cliffs and serene emerald-green water, provide the perfect setting for a rejuvenating sojourn.
Cheow Lan Lake Accommodation: We recommend staying overnight and in our humble opinion, 500 Rai Floating Resort is the best place to stay for a relaxing trip with beautiful views.
For a more wallet-friendly trip or even an extended stay, there are an ample amount of hotels within Khao Sok Village (ranging from 500 – 2,000 baht per night). This area is a bit “touristy” and is ~62 km from Cheow Lan Lake, but it’s the best place to base yourself for a variety of daytrips.
When to Visit: Khao Sok and Cheow Lan Lake are worth visiting year-round, but the best experience will be during Thailand’s high season (November – February). The clear skies and calm weather during this time of the year will offer you the best overall experience.
For better prices and less tourists, Thailand’s rainy season (June – October) can also be a good time to visit. We visited the lake in August and enjoyed the cloud coverage and cooler weather – however, we did get lightly rained on during our boat trip.
Cheow Lan Lake Boat Trip: We highly recommend staying overnight in a floating resort, but if you’re visiting Khao Sok independently then it’s easy to book a boat the day of. Instead of booking an overpriced boat tour via an agency, just drive up to Rajjaprabha Dam and ask around for an available boat. All of the tour prices are listed on a board near the Khao Sok National Park visitor registration area, so zero negotiation is necessary.
At the time of writing, prices were 2,000 baht for 3 hours, 2,400 baht for 4 hours, and 7,000 baht for a full day trip. These prices do not include water or food, so bring your own snacks.
Khao Sok National Park Entrance Fees: Tickets are 200 baht for foreigners and 40 baht for Thai.
Rajjaprabha Dam Opening Hours: 6:30am – 5:00pm.
Tip #1: Getting to Khao Sok National Park is easiest by taking the train to Surat Thani or flying into Phuket International Airport. From there, we recommend that you rent a car (if going on independent day trips) or take a taxi (if staying at a resort or going on a pre-scheduled tour). To check flight and train timetables online, you can use 12go.
Tip #2: Cheow Lan Lake’s Rajjaprabha Dam becomes busy with foreign tourists after 9:00am. To escape the crowds, try to arrive at the dam before 7:00am – you’ll have the lake all to yourself.
Tip #3: Pack a dry bag. Don’t be ballsy and wing the trip with some Ziploc bags. Whether going on a boat trip or kayaking on the lake, make sure to bring a reliable dry bag for your valuables – better safe than sorry. We used Matador’s waterproof packable daypack (our top pick for travel), but you can also get an inexpensive Sea to Summit drybag before your trip or at an outdoor store in BKK.