Khao Sok: The Beauty of Cheow Lan Lake 

Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok: Emerald Water + Limestone Mountains

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.  

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Cheow Lan Lake Travel Guide

Actionable Information

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.

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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 Skog’s waterproof 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.

Tip #4: Bring a water-resistant travel camera, like the Fuji X100VI, to capture memories.

The number of days you should spend in Khao Sok depends on your personal preferences and the activities you wish to engage in. However, to truly experience the beauty and diversity of Khao Sok National Park, it is recommended to allocate at least 2 to 3 days.

This timeframe allows you to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the park and participate in a variety of activities. You can embark on a jungle trek to explore the dense rainforests, encounter unique wildlife, and discover hidden waterfalls. Additionally, spending a night in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake is a must-do experience, offering a tranquil and unforgettable stay.

By spending a few days in Khao Sok, you’ll have ample time to appreciate the stunning scenery, engage in adventurous activities like canoeing or tubing along the river, and embrace the serenity of nature. Remember to plan your itinerary accordingly, ensuring you have enough time to enjoy each activity without feeling rushed.

Ultimately, the more time you allocate to Khao Sok, the deeper your connection with the park becomes, and the more you can explore its natural wonders.

Absolutely! Cheow Lan Lake is definitely worth visiting. It is a breathtakingly beautiful destination that offers a unique and unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

The lake is nestled within the stunning Khao Sok National Park, which boasts incredible biodiversity and lush rainforests. The scenery surrounding Cheow Lan Lake is simply awe-inspiring, with towering limestone karsts, verdant forests, and crystal-clear waters that reflect the natural wonders around them.

Exploring Cheow Lan Lake allows you to immerse yourself in a pristine and untouched environment. You can go on boat tours or rent a kayak to navigate through the emerald waters, marveling at the dramatic cliffs and hidden caves along the way. Spending a night in one of the floating bungalows on the lake is a unique experience that allows you to fully appreciate the serenity and tranquility of the surroundings.

Moreover, Cheow Lan Lake is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including various bird species, monkeys, and even wild elephants. Nature lovers will relish the opportunity to observe and appreciate these animals in their natural habitat.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a connection with nature, Cheow Lan Lake offers it all. Its beauty and charm make it a must-visit destination in Thailand, providing a memorable experience that will leave you in awe of the natural world.

Cheow Lan Lake offers a range of activities to enjoy its natural beauty and immerse yourself in the surrounding environment. Below are some of the activities available on Cheow Lan Lake:

  1. Boat Tours: Taking a boat tour is a popular way to explore the lake. You can hire a longtail boat or join a guided tour to navigate through the calm waters and enjoy the scenic views of the limestone cliffs and surrounding rainforest.

  2. Wildlife Viewing: Cheow Lan Lake is home to a diverse array of wildlife. During your boat tour or while staying at one of the floating bungalows, keep an eye out for monkeys, gibbons, various bird species, reptiles, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot wild elephants.

  3. Floating Bungalow Stay: Spending a night in a floating bungalow is a unique experience. These rustic accommodations allow you to stay right on the lake, surrounded by the tranquility of nature. Wake up to stunning views and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

  4. Jungle Trekking: The rainforest surrounding Cheow Lan Lake provides opportunities for jungle trekking. Guided hikes allow you to explore the lush vegetation, discover hidden waterfalls, and learn about the diverse flora and fauna in the area.

  5. Kayaking and Canoeing: Renting a kayak or canoe is a great way to explore the lake independently. Paddle at your own pace, get close to the limestone cliffs, and discover hidden coves and caves.

  6. Cave Exploration: Cheow Lan Lake is known for its caves. One of the famous caves is the “Guilin of Thailand” or the “Cave of Three Chambers.” You can explore these caves with a guide to admire their unique formations and learn about their geological significance.

  7. Fishing: Fishing enthusiasts can enjoy freshwater fishing at Cheow Lan Lake. You can rent fishing gear and try your luck catching various species of fish, such as catfish and snakehead fish.

  8. Swimming and Relaxation: The clear emerald waters of Cheow Lan Lake offer an opportunity for swimming and relaxation. Take a refreshing dip in the lake, sunbathe on the shores, or simply unwind in the peaceful surroundings.

These are just some of the activities available at Cheow Lan Lake. The lake offers a serene and picturesque environment, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and those looking for a tranquil getaway.

Cheow Lan Lake, also known as Ratchaprapha Dam Reservoir, is a man-made lake located in the Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani province, southern Thailand. To understand the history of Cheow Lan Lake, we need to delve into the construction of the Ratchaprapha Dam, which led to the formation of the lake.

The Ratchaprapha Dam was built between 1982 and 1987 as part of a hydroelectric power project initiated by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). The primary purpose of the dam was to generate electricity to meet the increasing energy demands of the region. The dam was constructed on the Pasaeng River, a tributary of the Sok River, which flows through the Khao Sok National Park.

The construction of the dam involved flooding a vast area of the valley, resulting in the formation of Cheow Lan Lake. The valley was once filled with lush tropical rainforest, limestone mountains, and river systems. As the valley was flooded, it created a stunning landscape characterized by towering limestone karsts jutting out of the water, creating a unique and picturesque setting.

The creation of the lake also led to the displacement of several local communities and villages that were situated in the area. The residents were relocated to higher grounds, and some villages were submerged under the lake’s waters. Despite the relocation, some communities still maintain ties to the lake and offer services such as boat tours and floating bungalow accommodations for visitors.

Today, Cheow Lan Lake has become a major tourist attraction, known for its exceptional natural beauty and the diverse ecosystem it supports. The lake’s crystal-clear emerald waters, surrounded by the towering limestone cliffs covered in lush vegetation, attract visitors from around the world. It offers a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of nature, explore caves, spot wildlife, and engage in various recreational activities.

The development of Cheow Lan Lake as a tourist destination has also brought economic benefits to the local communities, providing them with opportunities for employment and sustainable tourism. Efforts have been made to balance conservation and tourism, ensuring the protection of the surrounding rainforest and wildlife while allowing visitors to appreciate the natural wonders of the area.

Overall, the history of Cheow Lan Lake is intertwined with the construction of the Ratchaprapha Dam and the subsequent formation of the reservoir. While the dam altered the landscape and displaced communities, it also created a stunning lake that has become a captivating destination for travelers seeking natural beauty and adventure.

Khao Sok National Park is definitely worth visiting even during the rainy season, although it’s important to consider some factors before planning your trip. The rainy season in the region typically occurs from May to November, with increased rainfall and higher humidity. Below are some points to keep in mind:

  1. Lush Greenery: The rainy season brings abundant rainfall, which nourishes the rainforest and results in lush greenery. The vegetation becomes vibrant and dense, creating a picturesque and vibrant landscape. The park’s waterfalls also tend to be more impressive during this time, as they are fed by the rainwater.

  2. Fewer Crowds: As the rainy season is considered the off-peak tourist period, you can expect fewer crowds in Khao Sok National Park. This means you may have more tranquility and a greater opportunity to connect with nature undisturbed.

  3. Wildlife Sightings: The rain can actually increase your chances of spotting wildlife. Many animals become more active during the rainy season, and with fewer visitors, the wildlife may be more visible. Keep in mind that some animals may take shelter during heavy downpours, so be patient and observant.

  4. Floating Bungalows: Staying in the floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake can be a unique experience during the rainy season. The rainfall can create a more serene atmosphere and offer a different perspective of the lake and its surroundings.

  5. Adventure Activities: While heavy rainfall can impact certain outdoor activities, such as trekking and kayaking, there are still plenty of adventures to enjoy. Boat tours on Cheow Lan Lake, cave exploration, wildlife spotting, and other rainforest activities can still be pursued, albeit with some flexibility depending on weather conditions.

  6. Prepare for Rain: Be prepared for rain by bringing appropriate clothing and gear, such as raincoats, waterproof bags, and suitable footwear. It’s also advisable to check the weather forecast and consult with local guides or tour operators for the most up-to-date information on safety and activity availability.

Ultimately, visiting Khao Sok National Park during the rainy season offers a unique and serene experience with fewer crowds, vibrant scenery, and the chance to witness the rainforest in its full splendor. Just be prepared for potential changes in activity options due to weather conditions, and embrace the beauty and tranquility that the rainy season brings to this natural wonderland.

After visiting Khao Sok National Park, there are several wonderful destinations in southern Thailand that you can consider exploring. Below are a few popular options:

  1. Phuket: Located just a few hours away from Khao Sok, Phuket is a renowned beach destination with stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and a wide range of water activities. You can relax on famous beaches like Patong or Kata, explore the Old Town, visit cultural landmarks, and enjoy various water sports.

  2. Krabi: Another coastal gem in southern Thailand, Krabi offers picturesque landscapes, limestone cliffs, and clear turquoise waters. You can visit the famous Railay Beach, go island hopping to destinations like the Phi Phi Islands, explore the stunning Thung Teao Forest Natural Park, and engage in activities like rock climbing and snorkeling.

  3. Koh Samui: Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is known for its palm-fringed beaches, luxury resorts, and lively nightlife. You can relax on Chaweng or Lamai Beach, explore the island’s temples and waterfalls, take a boat trip to Ang Thong Marine Park, or enjoy water sports such as kayaking and diving.

  4. Koh Phi Phi: If you’re looking for pristine tropical beauty, consider visiting Koh Phi Phi. This archipelago is famous for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life. You can go snorkeling or diving to explore colorful coral reefs, visit Maya Bay (made famous by the movie “The Beach”), and enjoy the lively atmosphere on Phi Phi Don, the main island.

  5. Surat Thani: If you’re interested in experiencing local culture and history, you can explore Surat Thani. The city itself offers temples, night markets, and a glimpse into everyday Thai life. Additionally, you can venture outside the city to visit attractions such as the Khao Sok National Park Headquarters, the Tapee River, and nearby waterfalls.

  6. Koh Lanta: Known for its laid-back atmosphere and serene beaches, Koh Lanta is a quieter alternative to some of the more popular tourist destinations. You can relax on pristine beaches, go snorkeling or diving to discover the underwater beauty, explore the lush mangrove forests, and enjoy the tranquil ambiance of the island.

These are just a few options for your itinerary after Khao Sok. Depending on your interests, you can choose a destination that aligns with your preferences, whether it’s beach relaxation, water sports, cultural exploration, or natural beauty.

Travel Resources

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Alan & May

Welcome to North of Known! We’re Alan and May, a married couple who have embraced digital nomadism while calling Bangkok, Thailand, our current home base. Over the past 7 years, our shared passion for exploration and adventure has fueled our journey across the globe. Join us as we continue to embark on our nomadic adventures, sharing our insights, discoveries, and travel tales along the way.

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