Set in the very heart of Thailand, the province of Phetchabun is nestled within a river valley and surrounded by majestic mountains, lush jungle, stunning waterfalls, beautiful lakes and breathtaking national parks.
Situated 340km north of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, Phetchabun is mercifully unspoilt by mass tourism. Teeming with rich history and vibrant nature, its central location makes Phetchabun a perfect base from which to explore some of the best of the country. It also happens to feature what is arguably Thailand’s most spectacular temple, Wat Pha Sorn Kaew.
Truly a hidden gem, this incredible province is heaven on Earth for backpackers, adventurers, nature lovers, history buffs and anyone searching for a welcoming, authentic and unforgettable Thai experience!
Phetchabun Map & Resources
Best Time to Visit Phetchabun
Known as the ‘Switzerland of Thailand’ on account of its temperate weather and mountainous setting, Phetchabun provides a welcome respite from the heat and humidity that engulfs much of the country year-round.
Fertile land has made Phetchabun an agricultural haven. Famous for its Arabica coffee, strawberries, cabbages, sweet tamarind and other crops, farming is in this region’s DNA. Anyone with a yearning for tranquillity will love Phetchabun for its cool, clean air.
The rainy season runs from May to October, meaning that trekking can be logistically challenging during this time. November and December are the best times to visit because it’s generally much drier. The recent rain means that waterfalls will be fuller and the landscape a lush green. The cool season runs through to around February. Temperatures drop during this time, especially in the evenings.
Where to Stay in Phetchabun
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Papa Garden, Khao Kho
An utterly unique retreat, Papa Garden is no ordinary campsite. Located high above a lush, green valley in Khao Kho National Park, an array of sizeable canvas rooms (calling them tents would be a disservice) are laid out in a semicircle within landscaped gardens.
Peace, tranquillity and 360-degree views of some of Thailand’s most jaw-dropping scenery are all here. Family rooms can sleep up to six, while others comfortably accommodate couples.
A stay at Papa Garden is guaranteed to help recharge your batteries. Drift off to sleep looking up at the heavens and wake up to the rolling mist that covers the valley below. There’s nowhere else quite like it.
This quirky boutique hotel certainly lives up to its name! It’s close to the local night markets, shops and many trendy bars with live music. It’s also famous around the area for hosting stunning weddings. Check out their Facebook page for the photos!
Prices start from 500THB (approx. $15USD) per night. All rooms have AC and en-suite bathrooms, as well as a small kitchenette with a fridge and comfortable seating area. Some rooms have a terrace too. There are coffee and noodle cups free to enjoy in every room. That said, breakfast is only around 70THB (approx. $2USD) so why not treat yourself?
Livist Resort Phetchabun is a four-star hotel featuring a delicious restaurant, bar, shared lounge and beautiful garden. All rooms have balconies and benefit from free WiFi and air conditioning. Rooms come complete with a private bathroom and some rooms also feature their own seating area. Khao Kho National Park is situated 29km from Livist Resort.
If you’re looking for a hotel and have a tight budget, this one starts from just 670THB (approx. $19USD) per night. It’s located 500m from Phetchabun Bus Terminal and sits very close to several local restaurants.
This boutique hotel has pretty gardens and free parking. It’s 800m away from one of the local landmarks and its namesake, Pasak River. All rooms come with AC, TV and WiFi. Hot shower facilities are included in the ensuite rooms.
Things to Do in Phetchabun, Thailand
1. Explore Khao Kho National Park
Forming part of the famous Phetchabun Mountain Range, Khao Kho is one of Thailand’s most important national parks and there is no shortage of places to stay, with plenty of villages, resorts and restaurants offering an abundance of true Thai hospitality.
There is a range of things to do too, from visiting incredible temples, seeing beautiful waterfalls, hiking along the peaks and doing adventure sports such as canoeing, rafting, climbing and even archery and kart racing!
There are also military museums featuring planes, helicopters and other equipment used in Khao Kho. This comes from the time when it was a seat of guerrilla warfare, between 1968 and 1981. A far cry from the all-consuming peace and tranquillity that this region offers today!
2. Camp in Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
If camping is your thing, then try nearby Thung Salaeng Luang National Park. The campsite at the visitor centre offers sweeping views over the savanna, giving visitors the chance to take in the early morning mists that lie heavy across the landscape. Unique to this area is Tham Phra Wang Daeng, the longest cave in Thailand!
‘Nong Mae Na’, is a great place to camp and is situated in the main area located on the east side of the park. It is famous for its open landscape and misty mornings. As well as this, ‘Rope Bridge Campsite’ is situated on the northern edge next to Khek River in Nakhon Thai.
3. Visit Coral Mountain
One of Phetchabun’s biggest draws for visitors is Phukhao Hin Pakarang, more widely known as Coral Mountain. This rocky mountain range is believed to have been under the sea millions of years ago and was only discovered in 2007.
Since then, it has attracted people from all over the world looking to explore its steep, 45-degree slopes, which rise to 1,200 metres above sea level! It’s formed by craggy, stripey rock that looks remarkably like coral. This incredible nature reserve is home to an abundance of wildlife, trees and plants and is well worth a visit.
4. Go Wildlife Spotting at Nam Nao National Park
One of Thailand’s most mind-blowing experiences, Nam Nao National Park covers a thousand square kilometres and consists of grasslands, pine woods and jungle. It’s home to hundreds of different species, including elephants, tigers, leopards, bears, jackals, porcupines and gibbons.
The park provides shelter for 200 species of birds, such as parrots, hornbills, warblers, babblers and Siamese firebacks, as well as 340 species of butterflies. It’s a truly spectacular part of the world, words simply don’t do it justice and a visit is essential.
Also read: 🐘 Amazing Animals You Can See in Thailand.
5. Do a Muay Thai or Wellness Retreat
Located within the heart of Thailand’s most productive farmland, surrounded by acres of rice fields and set against the stunning backdrop of the Phetchabun Mountains, Battle Conquer is one of the country’s best Muay Thai and wellness centres.
An extension of the owners’ rural family home, Battle Conquer ensures its visitors enjoy an authentic Thai cultural experience while working with them on their health and fitness goals. As well as Muay Thai and Western boxing, you’ll find daily yoga and meditation sessions, CrossFit, swimming, as well as cultural excursions and temple visits such as Wat Thamayan (Dragon Temple) and Wat Sup Phairo (Big Buddha Temple). It’s a great place to get fit, make friends and explore the area at the same time.
All of Battle Conquer’s packages include accommodation (consisting of both single and double rooms, as well as purpose-built lodges) daily meals and the activities listed. Whether you’re staying for a few days, a few weeks or even a few months, a Muay Thai and wellness retreat will be a truly unforgettable and potentially life-changing experience.
Find out more:
6. Journey to Wat Pha Sorn Kaew
Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, also called Wat Phra That Pha Son Kaeo, is a magnificent Buddhist monastery and temple in Khao Kor, Phetchabun. The Wat is set high up on the hilltops, some 830 metres up, with stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the nearby town of Kheam Son.
The main pagoda and surrounding buildings are adorned with over five million colourful mosaic tiles and pottery items, while its magical mountain location makes it perfect for any budding photographer to take stunning photos and fabulous selfies.
In total, there are five sitting Buddha statues all beautifully sculptured. The extensive vistas are picture-perfect, making a visit here well worth the journey.
7. Take a Day Trip to Sub Chomphu Arboretum
We’re giving away all of our local secrets by introducing travellers to this epic waterfall and waterslide park!
The hike to the waterfall isn’t easy to do independently so you’ll certainly require a guide to show you the best route. (Battle Conquer offer trips here as part of some of their packages – enquire when booking).
The waterfall is beautiful, not too physically challenging to reach and you’ll see towering, ancient trees surrounding three crystal clear rock pools, where you can take a dip to cool off.
Please be respectful of the area, as many locals go there to pray. The best time to visit the waterfall is during the wet season.
A waterslide park with a jungle vibe – yes, please! There are many slides to choose from that sweep down into two man-made lagoons. They’re super fast and not for the faint-hearted but adrenaline junkies will love them!
For the less thrill-seeking of you, there is a bouncy castle-style slide that is heaps of fun. You’ll find restaurants nearby serving delicious Thai food and super tasty fried chicken, and there are many shaded areas to sit and enjoy your food.
8. Check out Wat Sup Phairo (Big Buddha Temple)
Not to be missed, this enormous white Buddha statue is set on the mountainside. It is surrounded by many other large Buddha and animal statues, such as rams, tigers and the Naga. Everything is surrounded by lush foliage and green mountains that are unique to this part of Thailand.
9. Head to Wat Thamayan (Dragon Temple)
Unknown to most foreign travellers and another local gem, this temple features two beautifully carved and painted dragons that spray jets of water across from one another, as well as stunning gold Buddha statues that adorn the courtyard.
The local name for dragon is ‘Naga’ and (we’ve heard from Buddhist monks in the area) that they come with a very special mythical tale. It’s said that the Naga was a serpent or creature, who so wanted to be a monk that he changed himself to human form.
However, during meditation, he could not keep his human form and transformed back to Naga. On transforming back into his snake-like form he scared the people so much that he had to return to the water (believed to be the Mekong River in Isaan).
You’ll sometimes see Naga represented with seven heads. The fable continues that because of his deep love for Buddha, Naga grew the seven heads to protect Buddha from the rainstorm while he was meditating.
10. Visit Smo Thot Town – Bueng Sam Phan District
Smo Thot town has plenty of cool places to eat and you can tour the morning and night markets, which are great fun – vibrant and busy with loads of incredible street food, too. You’ll find the town on the way to Phetchabun City when travelling to and from various Thailand hotspots such as Bangkok, Chaing Mai and Pattaya. Petchabun City is also well worth exploring if you’re thinking of touring across Thailand.
Food and Drink in Phetchabun
Thailand is famous for its markets and this café overlooks the main ones in Smo Thot. This sweet café serves up a good mixture of Thai and western dishes – not to mention, they also make the best coffee!
Offering traditional, delicious and nutritious home-cooked fare, Noi’s Café is located at the Muay Thai Battle Conquer camp. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner for anyone who’d like to pass by. As well as serving traditional Thai food, owner Noi has put a modern twist on several dishes to cater to vegans and vegetarians.
Rai Song Rao Kitchen
When it comes to views, this restaurant really does top the list! Overlooking the Phetchabun Mountains, Rai Song Rao Kitchen serves up local dishes that consistently receive rave reviews. It may be a bit on the pricey side compared to other eateries in the area but with its stunning location and cool interior, it’s well worth checking out.
Farm fresh food with an eastern promise, this cosy bistro serves a range of Asian dishes, as well as local Thai cuisine and some interesting takes on western meals. You can take a stroll through the farm to walk off their delicious desserts, too!
How to Get to Phetchabun
As Phetchabun has not yet been hit by mass tourism, it is still under-visited by international tourists. Those with a sense of adventure will relish the journey and the opportunity to see another side of Thailand.
From Bangkok, head to the Mochit bus station where you can jump on a bus to Phetchabun. The journey takes around five hours and will cost approx. 300THB ($9USD). If buses aren’t your thing, you can also arrange a private taxi (cost around 2,900 THB, around $82USD).
Where to Go Next:
- Khao Yai National Park: Head to Thailand’s third-largest national park for the chance to spot elephants in the wild!
- Bangkok: Jump on a bus back to Thailand’s capital to experience the bustle of the city. Head to Khao San Road for a few days of madness and enjoy the pumping nightlife scene!
- Nakhon Phanom: With little western infrastructure and fascinating culture at your fingertips, Nakhon Phanom is one place that shouldn’t be missed by intrepid adventurers.