Exploring waterfalls is one of the best ways to get in touch with nature in Thailand. Trekking up through the dense jungle along a small winding dirt track, in 90 percent humidity and the 35 degree tropical heat. Top it all off by jumping into a deep pool of cloudy blue water colored by dissolved limestone, swim amongst the nibbling fish and lay back listening to the jungle sounds all around.
This is the typical experience that can be expected from a waterfall in Thailand, but the question is, where are the best of these waterfalls to be found? Here I’m going to reveal five amazing locations to experience the Thai jungle at its best!
Erawan Falls, Kanchanaburi
Let’s start with the most obvious. Erawan Falls National Park is one of the must see destinations in Thailand, an iconic waterfall. Located only 3.5 hours from Bangkok it is a popular destination for many of the long day group tours departing Bangkok or Kanchanaburi.
The seven tiered Erawan Falls runs through the jungle of the Erawan Falls National Park. The bottom level of the waterfall is an overcrowded picnic area and an easy miss. Head further up to the swimming pools at level 4 and this is worth some more attention. Watch out for the fish which come up to nibble on your feet, it may be uncomfortable at first but after a bit of getting used to it becomes quite relaxing.
The hike to the top level is relatively easy and can be covered at a leisurely pace in about three to four hours. Most solo travelers visit the waterfall either by hiring a motorbike (300 THB each) or splitting a songtaew (1000 THB amongst a small group) for the day.
Khun Korn Waterfall, Chiang Rai
Standing at a total of 70 meters this is one of Thailand’s tallest waterfalls. Khun Korn Waterfall is located 30 kilometers east of the town of Chiang Rai. It is best reached by renting a motorbike and making the 45 minute journey out of town.
From the national park’s main entrance the hike to the waterfall covers 1.5 kilometers through tall dense jungle. The hike is not difficult and takes only 30 minutes each way. Nearing Khun Korn Waterfall becomes quite obvious from about 500 meters away when the sound of crashing water overpowers all else in the jungle.
The waterfall is powerful enough to create a strong wind and spray from as far as 100 meters away. Bring your wet weather gear or be prepared to get a bit wet with this one.
Phu Kaeng Waterfall, Pan
This is an amazing nine tiered waterfall that I’d stumbled upon by mistake. Located 65 kilometers south of Chiang Rai in the Doi Luang National Park, it is a fairly Off-The-Beaten-Track destination to visit.
At the lower levels the river gently runs through the open jungle, not giving any clues to what lies ahead. Further up the mountain the trail turns to an adventurous steep winding mud path, a place where climbing can get quite difficult in the rainy season. Be sure to put in the effort and continue on to the top levels. Here the waterfall opens up into a wide stream cascading down through a fern tree jungle, a scene that looks like a long lost paradise.
It is best to allocate a full day to exploring Phu Kaeng Waterfall, perhaps combining it with a lunch stop in the town of Pan on the way there. For a longer stay at the Phu Kaeng Waterfalls consider hiring a tent at the National Park HQ and spend a night out in the jungle.
Kratengjeng Waterfall, Sangkhlaburi
Sangkhlaburi itself is quite an Off The Beaten Track destination, however Kratengjeng Waterfall takes this a step further. This discreetly hidden paradise is located by kilometer 45 highway marker on the winding mountain pass from Kanchanaburi to Sangkhlaburi.
Kratengjeng Waterfall consists of a total of 9 levels, stretched out over 3.5 kilometers of some seriously adventurous jungle trekking. The path here is so rarely trodden that it simply seems to vanish into the jungle growth, while at other times it unknowingly crosses the river only to be marked by a distant set of wooden stairs on the other side.
With dengue fever and malaria quite common in Sangkhlaburi be sure to pack your mosquito and leech repellant, getting this far out into the jungle comes with some of nature’s not so favorable creatures. It is also said that there are wild elephants roaming the jungle out here, consider yourself lucky or unlucky if you happen to come across one.
Wachirathan Waterfall, Chiang Mai
Wachirathan Waterfall is located on Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s tallest mountain, and for that reason is a fairly well visited attraction. This waterfall is one of Thailand’s biggest and stands about at tall as it is wide with its huge stream pouring overs the high rocks. At an altitude of over 1,000 meters this waterfall is surrounded by a cool temperate forest in contrast to the tropical heat and thick jungle landscapes seen elsewhere in Thailand.
The walk from the main road to the waterfall is short and easy, therefore this can be considered a quick stop along the way to the top of Doi Inthanon and a must see for anyone in the Chiang Mai area.
About the writer: Josh Shephard is an Australian photographer, motorbike adventurer, and travel blogger on The Lost Passport. He has been exploring the islands, mountains and motorbike trails of South East Asia since 2013 discovering Off The Beaten Track destinations to get you out travelling further. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram for updates.