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  • Countryside World Heritage wilderness
  • Country life Safaris, spas and shiraz

A couple of hours from Thailand’s pulsating capital, Khao Yai, and its animal-packed national park, is quite literally a breath of fresh air.

Dominated by the monsoon forests of the Dong Phaya Yen mountains, this lush hilly landscape offers more than 2,000 square km of Unesco-protected jungle, waterfalls and wildlife – a diverse habitat that’s home to creatures great and small, from hornbills and hoopoes to lizards and leopards. Beyond the park gates, fertile farmland and fashionable weekend retreats lend the ‘Provence of Thailand’ an air of sophistication not found in other rural areas – complete with vineyard vistas and verdant fruit orchards. Leave Bangkok to spend a few days here and you’ll find a mix of tropical adventure and tranquillity that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Do go/Don’t go

The cool season (November–February) is the best time to visit, when the May–October rains have left the jungle lush and fresh and migrating birds fill the skies; expect warm sunny days and cool evenings. The mercury hits the mid-30s in March/April, but Khao Yai is still one of the coolest spots in Thailand. Midweek visits will be rewarded with solitude: weekends and public holidays see an influx of escapees from Bangkok.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Khao Yai’s nearest international airport is Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok, about 175km south-west (www.bangkokairportonline.com).
  • Trains It’s a slow-going four- to six-hour train ride from Bangkok to Nakorn Ratchasima, or you can hop off a tad earlier at Pak Chong. Both are handy for the park region.
  • Automobiles It can take three hours to motor up from Bangkok, but, once you leave the city suburbs, it’s a scenic drive. The brave may choose to hire a car (international companies such as Avis have desks at Bangkok airport), but a more sane choice would be to organise a transfer with your hotel.
  • Taxis Hire a car and driver or use your hotel’s car service: taxis are few and far between in these remote reaches.