Book now  

Chiew Lan Lake tour

Our rating:

With towering limestone cliffs, jungle scenery and caves, Chiew Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park is a natural wonderland worth spending at least a few days to explore. But if you’re short on time, it’s possible to see the lake’s highlights in just one day by joining one of the many tours on offer.





A tour to the lake can be arranged at almost every guesthouse and tour company found around Khao Sok’s western entrance in Khlong Sok village. The tours do make for a long day, and one which involves a fair bit of travel by minivan and boat—but if your time is short, a tour can be a good way to get the most bang for your baht.

Tone Tuey huts make for a scenic lunch stop. Photo taken in or around Chiew Lan Lake tour, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand by Lana Willocks.

Tone Tuey huts make for a scenic lunch stop. Photo: Lana Willocks

A tour to Khao Sok’s lake starts about 08:30 with a pick-up from your guesthouse, and from Khlong Sok village it takes about an hour to reach the Chiew lake pier. Our guide “Big” introduced himself in the van and explained a bit about what we were going to see. Along the way was a brief stop at a small market at Ban Ta Khun, for no apparent reason other than to send some business to the market vendors. A variety of fruits plus local and Western snacks are sold at the market stands and the 7-eleven and Tesco mini-mart, plus jewellery and amulets.

At the pier it was a bit of a madhouse with several vanloads of people arriving at the same time, lining up at the park kiosk to register and buy the 200-baht tickets to the park. We stood for a while in the queue, gritting our teeth and wondering why the tour operators couldn’t simply collect the fee from their guests and pay on their behalf in one lot. It was a needlessly frantic and exasperating start to the trip, but once everyone was loaded up on the longtail boat we pushed off from the pier and things calmed down.

Karsts rising steeply from the water is the lake’s most distinctive sight. Photo taken in or around Chiew Lan Lake tour, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand by Lana Willocks.

Karsts rising steeply from the water is the lake’s most distinctive sight. Photo: Lana Willocks

Different tours go to different places around the lake but ours headed to Tone Tuey floating bungalows. The boat ride takes about 90 minutes, gliding along the smooth emerald-green waters through a karst mountain landscape, then upon arrival everyone has a chance to jump into the lake for a swim or simply hang out on the floating sala. Beer and other drinks are available for sale, and drinking water’s free.

At 12:30 lunch was served: a tasty spread of various Thai dishes including stir-fries and a whole fish, plus a selection of vegetarian dishes. Our guide checked beforehand when we set off if anyone was vegetarian or had any food allergies.

Khao Sok’s past as a political resistance hideaway adds a layer of mystery to the steamy jungle scene. Photo taken in or around Chiew Lan Lake tour, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand by Lana Willocks.

Khao Sok’s past as a political resistance hideaway adds a layer of mystery to the steamy jungle scene. Photo: Lana Willocks

After a bit more time relaxing at the bungalows, it was time for a hike to Namtaloo cave, which has a history of political intrigue as a former hideout for “Communist” (anti-government) Thai students in the 1970s. A short longtail boat ride takes us to the start of the hiking trail, which was not too strenuous, with no hills to navigate—the biggest challenge was trying to keep from slipping in the mud. Shoes got splodgy on the trail, but then crossing four small streams cleaned them off. Be sure to wear some lightweight walking shoes, trainers or sandals with straps because heavy boots will just get soaked and flip-flops would likely get swept away in the water.

The walk took less than an hour through the thick jungle, then we reached the entrance to the cave. Here, most of our group stripped down to their swimwear and left their bags behind, donning a headlamp (provided by the tour if you don’t have your own). We spent a few minutes waiting for another group to come out and their wild-eyed look and whoops of laughter as they emerged from the cave gave us a hint of what was to come.

Expect to get wet. One of the four stream crossings on the cave hike. Photo taken in or around Chiew Lan Lake tour, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand by Lana Willocks.

Expect to get wet. One of the four stream crossings on the cave hike. Photo: Lana Willocks

The cave is 680 metres in length and in the dry season when the stream is at a low level it’s possible to travel right through it to the other side. For our visit at the tail-end of the rainy season in mid-November only about 100 metres was passable—beyond that the water is too deep and fast-moving to navigate safely. Some bring their cameras in dry bags but most of us don’t bother—if you’re keen to take photos inside the cave do consider taking a waterproof camera or cover.

The first part of the cave is narrow, and along one segment the only place to step was along a sharp ridge of rock jutting out of the flowing water. With the stream level up to our necks in places, swimming was the easiest way to travel at a few points along the way. For those of us not usually spending our days adventuring in the wild, this was our Indiana Jones moment as we splashed our way through the darkness under the arch of the glittering cave walls.

Good spot to hide: Namtaloo cave entrance. Photo taken in or around Chiew Lan Lake tour, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand by Lana Willocks.

Good spot to hide: Namtaloo cave entrance. Photo: Lana Willocks

We reached a larger opening where everyone was able to scramble up to some dry ground to listen to the guide explain more about the cave’s geology and history. We didn’t see any wildlife in here aside from a large spider on the cave wall. Later, we read that the striped-tailed cave racer snake makes its home here, which we’re kind of glad we didn’t know at the time. At one stage the guide asked everyone to switch off their headlamps and we stood for a minute or so in total darkness, contemplating the strength of the Communist student beliefs that led them to hole up here for seven years.

After making our way out of the cave and back to the bungalows, we had time for a swim and a change out of our swamp-scented clothes, then we hopped on the boat for the return trip, arriving back to our guesthouse in Khlong Sok about 18:30.

Very special. Photo taken in or around Chiew Lan Lake tour, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand by David Luekens.

Very special. Photo: David Luekens

We paid 1,300 baht which included the guided tour, lunch, drinking water, use of a dry bag and headlamp and all transport directly from and back to your place of stay. The national park entry fee is 200 baht extra for foreign visitors and (annoyingly) paid separately. The group trips generally have 10 to 15 people. If you book an overnight stay at the floating bungalows it’s another 1,000 baht with all meals and transport included. Tone Tuey bungalows are simple bamboo huts with a mattress on the floor. Bathrooms and showers are shared and found just up the hillside. These are the most basic style of bungalows on the lake—different tours may take you to different, sometimes more plush, bungalows but the costs may be higher.

Overall, we found the tour to offer a fantastic taster of the lake’s attractions, but if we were to return we’d try to organise a private tour or travel independently. The main drawback of the group tour is that we like to stop and take a lot of photos, which was not really possible when trying to stay together on the jungle path. Also, the lining up and crowdedness of the boat stirred up some misanthropic thoughts … but maybe that’s just us. But for solo travellers or couples especially hoping to cover as much ground as possible in a limited amount of time, a tour to Chiew Lan Lake can be an ideal way to go.


By .




Start planning your holiday today

Sent every Monday, our newsletter is full of travel advice, news & special deals. Read past issues.

   

Location map for Chiew Lan Lake tour

Popular attractions in Khao Sok National Park

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Khao Sok National Park.



What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Khao Sok National Park.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Khao Sok National Park.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Khao Sok National Park.
 Read up on how to get to Khao Sok National Park, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Khao Sok National Park? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.


See below for more sights and activities in Khao Sok National Park that are listed on Travelfish.org.


Top of page


Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Khao Sok National Park? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.


Top of page