Cheow Lan Lake is one of the numerous stunning components making up the Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. This is a beautiful national park that boasts of different attractions such as wildlife, birds, hiking trails, camping sites, and a beautiful lake. Cheow Lan Lake (Cheow Larn) is the Park’s hidden gem and is located in the southern part of the country. To believe it, you have to see it for yourself. To make it easy, we have prepared this Cheow Lan Lake travel guide just for you.
In the Khao Sok National Park, you will get to see many wild mammals, amphibians, rich bird-life, and insects not found elsewhere in Thailand. But what has probably brought you to this part of the world is Cheow Lan Lake, the emerald jewel of the Park.
The lake’s jagged, jungle-clad limestone karsts dramatically shoot up through the water’s surface, some reaching several hundred meters in height. They create amazing silhouettes against each other with the mist blurring their craggy cliff tops. All these against a backdrop of emerald green water. When touring the lake, you also get the unique experience of staying in the Khao Sok floating bungalows.
Guide to Cheow Lan Lake - Contents
Interesting Facts about Cheow Lan Lake
The Ratchaprapa Dam Reservoir was constructed in 1982 in the south-western corner of Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park. The reservoir is what gave birth to what we know today as Cheow Lan Lake. Since it was constructed in 1987, the Lake has managed to remain unaffected by the pollution that is typically associated with development and industrialization. Since it was created, the lake has been protected by the organizations and local communities that value its function, ecological contribution, and beauty.
There are no towns and beaches in sight. Neither will you hear the roar of motorcycles or loud distant music. Probably the only audible thing you will encounter is the running motor of the boat, and when that is turned off by the captain, there’s nothing else but silence and the chirping of birds. Cheow Lan Lake is also home to a broad range of freshwater fish. This also makes it a valuable food source for the local bird population, with over 300 different species found here.
Because of the mountainous landscape, even after the floor of the valley was flooded over 100 peaks remained. Their crests are visible above the surface of the lake. This is one factor that has contributed to the popularity of the National Park as a key destination in Thailand.
The Ultimate Cheow Lan Lake Travel Guide
Khao Sok National Park itself is a combination of a unique scenery of towering cliffs, lush rainforest, and of course the jewel of the park, Cheow Lan Lake. Also known as Khao Sok Lake, this is a visitor’s paradise. It lies in an ancient rainforest within the Khao Sok National Park and is home to some of the most unique accommodations including floating hotels.
To get the most out of your time at this iconic Thai lake, you need to know where to go, things to do, where to stay, and even how to get there. That is why we have prepared this comprehensive Cheow Lan Lake travel guide for you.
Due to the area’s topography, Cheow Lan Lake is an irregular, vast body of water following the shapes of the ravines and valleys that got filled. Consequently, the lake has countless coves, inlets, and fjord-like fingers. Throughout this wonderland, you will find caves, waterfalls, and lots of other amazing scenery.
The Cheow Lan Lake Waterways (Klongs)
The lake can be divided into many waterways, khlongs or klongs in Thai. Most of the lake tours depart from Cheow Lan Lake (Ratchaprabha) Pier.
The easiest one to access is Klong Ka being closest to the Ratchaprabha pier. Here you can view jutting limestone karsts and if up to it, take an easy hike and visit Diamond Cave with its stunning stalactites and stalagmites. The cave also has a big bat population.
Klong Long is Cheow Lan Lake’s busiest and most popular klong. This is largely because it facilitates a quick raft ride and hike to Coral Cave (Pakarang Cave). A 2.5-hour trek through the deep Park jungle takes you to the Lake’s southern tip that has an impressive viewpoint.
Klong Pey is situated at the lake’s southwest end, about 20 km from the Cheow Lan Lake Pier. This has some of the best trekking routes that take you to Nam Talu Cave, a good place to visit at night when nocturnal life comes alive.
This klong is about 27 km from Ratchaprapa on the west side of the lake. The main activities you can enjoy on Klong Yee include wildlife watching, guided kayak tours, hiking to the majestic Krai Son viewpoint, or a waterfall. Being remote and secluded Klong Yee is perfect for nature safaris and kayak trips as it also falls within the Park’s wildlife sanctuary.
Klong Saeng is to the north-west. This is the longest trip as it can take almost 3 hours to access but worth every minute spent. Because it lies within the wildlife reserve, you will require to get special consent that also comes with an additional fee. You will be guided by a park ranger and here you can spot wild deer and elephants.
If you love bird watching like us, then Klong Mon is a good choice because it has lots of elevated hills and peaceful rocky outcrops. Common birds around Klong Mon include Hornbills and Grey eagles. This is also a lovely spot for fishing. So bring that fishing rod along!
The Best Time to Visit Cheow Lan Lake
Khao Sok National Park has two main areas of interest, the rain-forest, and the scenic Cheow Larn Lake. You can only visit both areas by passing through the Park visitors’ centre first after paying the set entrance fee. The entrance fee you pay is valid for several days but only if you remain within the park throughout, either staying in the lake’s raft houses or camping in the Park.
Although Khao Sok National Park remains open year-round, access is generally restricted to between 8 am and 5 pm. It is, however, possible to enter the National Park in the evening but you will need to have a guide for your night safari.
If you are planning to visit Khao Sok National Park, you may want to know when the rainy season takes place and plan accordingly. This is between late April and early December but the highest rainfall is from May to October. An excellent time to visit would ideally be during the dry season that falls between January and March. The average temperature normally ranges between 22°C and 36°C year around.
Cheow Lan Lake Travel Guide on What to Do
Khao Sok Lake is huge and stretches over 165 km2 within the Khao Sok National Park. The lush rainforest, towering limestone cliffs, and the emerald lake create a tourist destination like no other in Thailand. The beautiful emerald colour of the water adds to the rainforest’s vibrant greens.
The vast lake is dotted with many limestone karsts jutting up from the calm water. These are what remained of mountain peaks after the area got flooded by the Ratchaprapa Reservoir. Some, like the twin the Khao Serow twin peaks, shoot to 3,000ft in height.
If you are looking for the un-spoilt nature spot and cheap floating bungalows, this is where to find it. You are not likely to find better-floating bungalows anywhere else in Thailand. Not only are the available activities fun-packed and enjoyable but you also get the opportunity to see an array of wildlife and birds.
Whether in the water or out, at Cheow Lan Lake you’ll be spoiled for choice in terms of available things to do. Go swimming in the still waters, canoeing, paddle through the mangroves, or explore by long-tail boat, the choice is all yours! And you cannot miss kayaking among the limestone hills, especially in the morning mist.
This is the perfect venue when you are seeking a balance between romance and an active holiday. Honeymooners will fall in love with this secluded part of the world.
Where to Stay in Cheow Lan Lake
Khao Sok Lake is a stunning and memorable place to visit and stay. Want some confirmation about that? The National Geographic Traveler Magazine has called Khao Sok National Park “Thailand’s secret garden” while The Lonely Planet describes it as ‘wondrous’. Who needs more prodding to make Khao Sok and Cheow Lan Lake their next holiday destination with praise like that?
Our Cheow Lan Lake travel guide would be incomplete without telling you where to stay. Though there’s no physical infrastructure or traffic in the park, a couple of families have been granted permission by the government to open guesthouses on the lake. Many travellers have described a night on Chiew Lan Lake as worth the expense, memorable and calming experience during their time in Thailand.
Perhaps the highlight of any tour of Cheow Lan Lake is to stay on a floating raft house, and there are numerous on the lake. On Khao Sok Lake there are about 16 different floating bungalows, each bringing its unique charm. They fall into 3 broad categories; deluxe bungalows, modern houses, and simple bamboo huts.
Just to give you a feel of what you can expect, this Cheow Lan Lake travel guide reviews the following three.
The Park-Run Nang Prai Rafthouse
Nang Prai is among the most popular park-run raft houses. It is set near the Lake’s centre to give you a grand view of the cliffs. It’s particularly good if you are on a one-day raft house stop or on a tight budget. Guests share the bathroom and most facilities. Food comes from the park-run canteens.
If you are here for longer, you can join park-facilitated activities like kayaking and trekking available throughout the day. How about a swim directly from your raft house porch?
Panvaree Deluxe Floating Villas
If you want deluxe accommodation, then head to Panvaree Deluxe Floating Villas. These are wooden villas beautifully carved that boast of deluxe services. These include family and honeymoon suites that come with hot showers, air-conditioning, satellite TV, and a kayak per room. Can a floating paradise be better than that?
The Privately-Run Smiley Rafthouse
If you want to stay at a privately run raft house, then Smiley is a good choice. This long-standing lodging and tour outfit shuttles patrons to their basic but shared bathroom raft huts on the lake. Also included as part of the deal is a full range of activity options at very affordable rates.
You may want to explore other types of accommodation available on Cheow Lan Lake and in the Park itself including resorts and campsites by visiting their official website. Nearly every floating village free kayaks on offer. So, you can enjoy a ride to the limestone hills on your own, and even do some fishing using a rented rod.
We must alert you that the raft houses on the lake as well as attractions can only be accessible by long-tail boats that depart from Ratchaprapha Pier. So if you are afraid of boat rides, be warned.
How to Get to the Park and Lake
To get to Cheow Lan Lake, you have to get to Khao Sok National Park first. There are daily flights from Bangkok to Phuket and Khao Lak. You may want to take the Bangkok to Surat Thani train. You can get to Khao Sok National Park from Phuket, Khao Lak, or Surat Thani by bus or minivan.
It’s also possible to reach Khao Sok National Park by private car as it's only 66 kilometres from Khao Sok. However, most travellers to the Park prefer taking tours organized by a travel operator or resort as this sorts out all the travel logistics to and from the Lake as well as the tours.
From Phuket to Cheow Lan Lake
If you are travelling independently from Phuket to Khao Sok/Cheow Lan Lake by bus the journey takes about 4 hours. A bus service leaves Phuket every hour with the last one departing around 14:00 hours.
From Khao Lak to Cheow Lan Lake
From Khao Lak, it will take about 2 hours and that includes a 20 min stop in Takua Pa, a time we used to see what the local market has to offer.
From Surat Thani to Cheow Lan Lake
An air-conditioned public bus runs from Surat Thani every hour from 07:00. You can purchase tickets at the Surat Thani Bus Station. The transit time is about 2 hours. This is a more comfortable way of reaching Cheow Lan Lake. You may also want to try the minibus service that departs every hour starting at 07:30 with the last one leaving 17:30. However, don’t bank on the last one as they are often cancelled.