Thailand is known for being a popular, cheap backpacker destination offering up everything from wild full moon parties and delicious street food to ancient temples and exotic wildlife.
However, one thing that often gets overlooked in Thailand is camping, most likely due to the fact that many accommodation options such as hotels and backpacker hostels can be booked quite affordably.
Come see why a Thailand camping experience in one of the country’s national parks or reserves may just be the Thailand travel experience you’re after to escape the big popular cities and find a bit more peace and seclusion in the wilderness of Southeast Asia.
5 Best Camping Destinations in Thailand
Where to Camp in Thailand
While there may be an abundance of affordable accommodation options in Thailand, consider pitching a tent and experience Thailand’s true wild side. Thailand offers up a range of different basic camping and more luxurious glamping experiences across the country.
A great place to start is in the nation’s national parks where camping gear such as tents, sleeping bags, and gas stoves can often be rented directly from the park. Camping is both economical and much easier in terms of securing a campsite when compared to camping in the U.S.
Whether you’re considering a guided tour or wish to rent a car and seek out campsites yourself, you should definitely include a bit of camping in your next Thailand itinerary.
While camping can technically be done year-round in Thailand, most eco-travelers choose to camp during the relatively cooler, non-monsoonal months which run from November to March.
Kaeng Krachan National Park
Known for its rich biodiversity of both flora and fauna, Kaeng Krachan National Park is Thailand’s largest. Recently just named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park lies not too far from the beach resort town of Hua Hin in the “Thai Riviera”.
The park’s popular Ban Krang Campsite attracts both human visitors as well as a wide array of animals. Phanoen Thung campsite can also be found a bit further into the park.
Elephants and langurs frequent the area around Ban Krang camp, as does the occasional white-fronted scops owls which is highly sought after by birdwatchers.
The best period for birdwatching in the park is between March and May during migration. Over 450 species have been recorded in the park including crested goshawks, oriental pied hornbills, vernal hanging parrots, and thick-billed green pigeons.
Mammals found within the park include dusky leaf monkeys, yellow-throated marten, sambar deer, sun bears, and clouded leopards.
Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park was Thailand’s first declared national park and it’s also one of its busiest, especially on weekends and during holidays. Roughly 200km from Bangkok, it’s another park where elephant sightings are common.
Other animals that may be spotted in the park include Asian black bears, gibbons, Chinese water dragons, and various pit vipers. The park also sports one of the nation’s largest populations of hornbills which include the large and striking great hornbill.
Visitors can rent tents and camping gear from the two campsites within the park which are Lam Ta Khong and Pha Kluai Mai. Both campsites feature onsite restaurants.
You can freely walk a few of the shorter trails in the park but must book a guide to experience the longer trails where the more elusive wildlife can be spotted.
Don’t miss the towering 80-meter Haew Narok Waterfall which can now be easily accessed by vehicle. You may also recognize another one of the park’s waterfalls, since Haew Suwat was featured in the DiCaprio film The Beach.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Northern Thailand is home to the country’s highest peak which is named Doi Inthanon and it can be found within the national park which goes by the same name.
Roughly 60km from Chiang Mai, the park is a popular place to catch sunrises and sunsets thanks to the viewpoints offered by Doi Inthanon.
Other popular attractions within the park include the vibrant pink cherry blossoms during the short blooming season which falls around January/February each year, as well as the beautiful rice fields late in the wet season. While the park may not be as rich in mammals as some of the other parks, it still boasts a rich concentration of bird life.
There is a spacious campsite in the middle of the park where you can once again rent camping gear. Though get in early to secure the best camping tents.
It should be noted that this is one of the few campsites in the country where it can get quite cold at night, especially during winter, so be sure to pack warm clothing.
Consisting of an archipelago made up of 11 islands in the Andaman Sea, the Similan Islands of Mu Ko Similan National Park offer up what many consider to be the best diving in the country.
There used to be a number of campsites located on some of the islands, but all have been closed in a bid to protect the environment. This means you will now have to settle for “camping” on a liveaboard dive boat or simply camp nearby on the mainland and experience the islands via a day trip.
The islands have always been one of the most visited eco-tourist spots in the country. The overcrowding led to a cap on the number of visitors allowed which has helped the ecosystem recover a bit and make it more enjoyable for visitors.
The park is only open to visitors from late October to early May (the dry season). Most come to enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving of course, with park headquarters renting out snorkel gear and the liveaboard dive boat tours taking you to the key dive sites.
The waters are home to whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, hawksbill sea turtles, moray eels, parrotfish, and from March to April the occasional whale shark and manta ray.
Tarutao National Marine Park
If you’re looking for a seaside destination where you can both escape the large crowds found in the Similan Islands and actually camp, head to the Tarutao National Marine Park which also lies in the Andaman Sea.
Made up of dozens of islands, the Tarutao National Marine Park offers camping on both Ko Tarutao and Ko Adang which are both far less touristy than some of the other areas already mentioned.
The park’s islands once housed political prisoners nearly a hundred years ago and hosted a season of Survivor. Today, the islands welcome nature lovers who can witness the adorable mouse deer and cheeky crab-eating macaques that you will likely be sharing your campsite with.
Other animals within the park include fishing cats, common palm civets, and flying foxes overhead. Meanwhile marine-based wildlife includes dugongs and Irrawaddy dolphins.
This is just a sampling of the beautiful national parks Thailand has to offer where you can get back to nature and enjoy camping under the stars. It’s important to note that many parks close during periods of winter/fall. This may be due to weather, park maintenance, or to allow ecosystems time to heal and regenerate from visitors.
Some natural places suffered from too many tourists so have been closed or restricted to the public. There have also been intermittent closures of parks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Always check the current status of the parks you plan to visit to make sure they are open, obtaining any necessary permits needed for trekking and camping.