Erawan Waterfall (Nam tok Erawan)

Erawan National Park, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

About Erawan Waterfall (Nam tok Erawan)


Hiking Distance: 3.5km round trip; scrambling
Suggested Time: 3-3.5 hours

Date first visited: 2008-12-25
Date last visited: 2008-12-25

Waterfall Latitude: 14.36841
Waterfall Longitude: 99.14423

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The Erawan Waterfall (Nam tok Erawan) was really an impressive series of seven waterfalls each with a shape and character all its own.

All the waterfalls typically fell over limestone cliffs resulting in colorful plunge pools as well as interestingly rounded rock formations reminiscent of something that would belong in a cave.

Erawan_Waterfalls_170_12252008 - People enjoying the backside of the second Erawan Waterfall
People enjoying the backside of the second Erawan Waterfall

Moreover, we also saw some unsigned waterfalls that seemed legitimate but didn’t appear to count towards the seven.

In any case, we thought this waterfall had it all – the scenery, the swimming, and the exercise.

It was no wonder why it was popular and quite busy here.

Of course, given how hot it was in this part of Thailand, I guess the swimming or playing in the many plunge pools beneath these waterfalls were both enticing as well as scenically alluring.

Indeed, it seemed like the Erawan Waterfall epitomized the universal appeal of swimming beneath waterfalls in otherwise humid, tropical places.

Experiencing the First Erawan Waterfall

Erawan_Waterfalls_005_12242008 - Julie and our guide walking on a paved road eventually leading us to the visitor center and the first Erawan Waterfall
Julie and our guide walking on a paved road eventually leading us to the visitor center and the first Erawan Waterfall

From the car park, the trail started off flat and mostly paved as it ultimately reached the first waterfall, which was called Ly Kung Lung (I also saw it spelled Hlai Keun Lung).

A sign indicated that it was only a 20m walk from the visitor center area.

Believe it or not, it was possible to bypass this section of walking by taking a tram to that visitor center area.

We didn’t do the tram option as we thought not walking this fairly short stretch was a little overkill.

This waterfall didn’t seem to have many swimmers though there were a handful of people scrambling around for a closer look.

Erawan_Waterfalls_029_12242008 - Fish swimming before the first Erawan Waterfall
Fish swimming before the first Erawan Waterfall

And maybe the lack of people in the water here might have been a big reason why we saw lots of fish in the travertine pools further downstream of the falls.

In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time we had seen so much fish before a waterfall in any of our waterfalling excursions.

Moreover, the travertine pools really reminded me of Havasu Falls (albeit with a bit less red rocks and cliffs).

Yet we weren’t totally sure why there were fewer people swimming at this waterfall given how pretty it was and how there was the presence of travertine pools.

Since we didn’t take a dip ourselves, we couldn’t tell you ourselves whether there was something special about the pool at this falls.

Experiencing the Second Erawan Waterfall

Erawan_Waterfalls_032_12242008 - Approaching the travertine cascades of the second Erawan Waterfall, where most of the people hung out
Approaching the travertine cascades of the second Erawan Waterfall, where most of the people hung out

A short distance later (170m from the visitor center), the activity picked up and there were lots of people swimming, wading, and even scrambling into a small alcove behind the second waterfall (see photo at the top of this page).

We thought this waterfall was one of the more scenic ones given its unusual rounded underlying limestone over which the water flowed.

According to the signs here, this falls was called Wung Macha.

Given how pretty the falls was, it was no wonder why there was such bustle of activity.

We had a good time taking photos from here while also chilling out and basking in the atmosphere of the scene.

Erawan_Waterfalls_054_12242008 - Julie chilling out across the plunge pool of the second Erawan Waterfall
Julie chilling out across the plunge pool of the second Erawan Waterfall

Come to think of it, perhaps the first waterfall might have been a perfectly fine swimming hole, but the second waterfall completely overshadowed it thereby causing it to become a victim of the lemmings effect (where people tend to follow each other).

Experiencing the Third Erawan Waterfall

After having our fill of the second waterfall (I recalled we spent quite a bit of time here), we finally started the race against time (i.e. closing time at 4:30pm) and climbed up to the waterfalls further ahead.

Keep in mind that we had started hiking at 1:30pm, and we still had five more waterfalls to go before returning to the trailhead.

On the way up, we were stopped at a check point where we had to register with the authorities there.

Erawan_Waterfall_006_jx_12242008 - Sign revealing all the major tiers of the Erawan Waterfall
Sign revealing all the major tiers of the Erawan Waterfall

In addition, I recalled having to leave some kind of collateral (a Thai baht deposit I believe) in exchange for the plastic water bottles we were carrying with us.

Perhaps the thought was that the deposit would cover the potential clean-up costs in case the plastic was left behind.

I thought it was a good system (to minimize the amount of litter in the ecologically sensitive areas) though they probably should’ve charged a little more money to really make it attractive to not leave the water bottles behind and recover the desposit.

It took a few more minutes of uphill hiking before we finally encountered the third Erawan Waterfall, which was called Pha Num tok (or Pha Nom Tok).

Erawan_Waterfalls_068_12242008 - Lots of fish in the plunge pool fronting the third Erawan Waterfall
Lots of fish in the plunge pool fronting the third Erawan Waterfall

This waterfall was about 220m from the visitor center.

And like the first Erawan Waterfall, this one also had lots of fish swimming in its plunge pool (probably because most of the people chilled out at the second waterfall and didn’t go this far).

However, this one was significantly taller than the first two (possibly 20-25m I think) though not nearly as wide.

Further adding to the scenic allure of this waterfall was the colorful blue-green water of the plunge pool.

Personally, I felt that this third Erawan Waterfall was up there with the 2nd waterfall as one of our favorites of the whole ensemble of waterfalls.

Experiencing the Fourth and Fifth Erawan Waterfalls

Erawan_Waterfalls_071_12242008 - The rivuleted fourth Erawan Waterfall with one guy scrambling around using the rocks as a water slide
The rivuleted fourth Erawan Waterfall with one guy scrambling around using the rocks as a water slide

Further up the hike, the fourth Erawan Waterfall was more of a water slide.

It also had a larger drop further downstream, but it was hard to see.

We saw one person scoot himself on the rounded rock of the waterslide before finally letting gravity take over.

This falls was called Oke Nank Phee Seah, and it was about 520m from the visitor center.

Continuing beyond the fourth waterfall, the trail became a little less steep as it followed the watercourse responsible for all the Erawan Waterfalls.

Erawan_Waterfalls_077_12252008 - Prayer garments tied around a tree fronting the start of the fifth Erawan Waterfall
Prayer garments tied around a tree fronting the start of the fifth Erawan Waterfall

Along the way, we noticed quite a few trees wrapped around with prayer flags as well as colorful silk-like garments.

Our guide said that these were meant to have religious significance while also doubling as informal trail markers.

The 5th waterfall (called Bua Mai Long and 1.12km from the visitor center) was just another set of small cascades set amongst limestone with lots of travertine pools in the area.

Given the relative calm and accessibility of these smaller travertine pools, we saw a handful of people swimming and chilling out here.

Erawan_Waterfalls_087_12252008 - This was perhaps the main section of the many cascades comprising the fifth Erawan Waterfall
This was perhaps the main section of the many cascades comprising the fifth Erawan Waterfall

Since it definitely lacked the amount of activity of the 2nd waterfall (probably due to the increased amount of exertion to get here), we could understand why this spot was a good alternative swimming hole to the second falls.

Scrambling to the Sixth and Seventh Erawan Waterfalls

The trail became increasingly rougher beyond the 5th waterfall as we found ourselves climbing ladders or squeezing by even narrower sections.

I swore some sections of the trail felt more like scrambles where we definitely had to do a fair bit of stream walking.

Contrasting the drama of the more primitive hiking conditions, we did spot a few more unnamed or “unofficial” waterfalls en route, which seemed to be even more naturesque than before.

Erawan_Waterfalls_115_12252008 - The Erawan Waterfall Trail became increasingly wet and less defined the higher up we went
The Erawan Waterfall Trail became increasingly wet and less defined the higher up we went

But ultimately, this fairly immersive part of the hike terminated at the sixth waterfall, which was a wide multitiered cascade with some lower tiers.

This waterfall was called Dong Prouck Sa, and it was 1.42km from the visitor center.

The plunge pool beneath the sixth falls had a nice color, which I’d imagine would’ve been even more vibrant had the sun been out. Unfortunately for us, the sun hid behind the clouds when we finally made it up to this part of the hike.

Continuing further upstream, it seemed like we were close enough to the seventh Erawan Waterfall that the sixth waterfall could’ve been thought of as the base of the seventh falls.

Erawan_Waterfalls_124_12252008 - The sixth Erawan Waterfall
The sixth Erawan Waterfall

The signs indicated that it was still 300m beyond the sixth waterfall.

Yet to get to that last waterfall, we had to earn it as that last stretch of trail was even more adventurous than before.

This part of the trail involved even more stream walking, more rickety ladders, plus a few narrow and drop-off-exposed sections.

The drop-offs weren’t tall enough to induce butterflies in our stomachs, but they were enough to cause injury with a slip and fall.

It didn’t seem like there were many people willing to go through the effort to go all the way here, but the relative peace and quiet resulting from the lack of people really made the effort worthwhile.

Erawan_Waterfalls_133_12252008 - The seventh and last of the major Erawan Waterfalls
The seventh and last of the major Erawan Waterfalls

When we finally made it up to the end of the trail, we were presented with a view of the last Erawan Waterfall, which was called Phu Pha Erawan.

During our visit, we only saw its lower sections flow.

There was supposed to be three upper segments coming down over a rounded limestone precipice that would’ve given the falls the appearance that there were three elephant trunks.

Perhaps this was how the entire waterfall system got the name Erawan, which was a three-headed Hindu God where each head resembled that of an elephant’s head.

Erawan_Waterfall_041_jx_12252008 - Here's a sign showing what Erawan looked like, which was supposed to be how the 7th waterfall was to resemble in full flow
Here’s a sign showing what Erawan looked like, which was supposed to be how the 7th waterfall was to resemble in full flow

Unfortunately, our guide told us that the full-flow state of this Erawan Waterfall (that would’ve revealed all three “trunks”) hadn’t been witnessed in a while due to diminishing rainfall.

Could this be a consequence of the global climate change and subsequent climate instability?

In any case, it didn’t happen for us so we didn’t linger here much longer.

The Return Hike and Summary

On the return hike going back the way we came, it went by much faster as it was all-downhill.

However, we still had to go back through the scrambling paths and rickety ladders between the fifth and seventh waterfalls.

It wasn’t until we made it past the scrambling section that the hike was pretty much smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Erawan_Waterfalls_160_12252008 - A bridge somewhere between the third and second Erawan Waterfall
A bridge somewhere between the third and second Erawan Waterfall

When we got back to the second waterfall, Julie and I were quite surprised at how it seemed like there were even more people frolicking in the area.

Wasn’t the park supposed to be closed?

Nonetheless, this further made it apparent to us that while the Erawan Waterfalls were a popular attraction, it was really the second waterfall where the vast concentration of visitors remained.

Overall, our visit to all seven of the Erawan Waterfalls took us about 3.5 hours.

It very easily could’ve been longer if not for the fact that the park was closing during our visit, which hastened our pace.

Erawan_Waterfalls_162_12252008 - Even though it was technically past closing time when we arrived back at the second Erawan Waterfall, there were still lots of people enjoying themselves
Even though it was technically past closing time when we arrived back at the second Erawan Waterfall, there were still lots of people enjoying themselves

Although we were accompanied by our guide, it probably wasn’t necessary to do this hike with a guide since the entire trail was well-marked except for the scrambling at the very end.

Authorities

The Erawan Waterfall resides in Erawan National Park near Sai Yok in the Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand. It is administered by the National Park, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Erawan_Waterfalls_002_12242008 - Julie and our guide Pang walking towards the trailhead en route to the visitor center and the first Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_004_12242008 - Continuing towards the first Erawan Waterfall. Incidentally, it's this paved stretch of the trail that we saw some people bypass the walking and paying for a tram ride
Erawan_Waterfalls_014_12242008 - Our first look at the first Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_017_12242008 - Direct look at the first Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_022_12242008 - More contextual look at the first of the Erawan Waterfalls
Erawan_Waterfall_010_jx_12242008 - Signs like these helped us to identify which Erawan Waterfall was what
Erawan_Waterfalls_037_12242008 - This was the main drop of the second Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_040_12242008 - Angled look at the second Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_044_12242008 - Some fish swimming about the Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_049_12242008 - Direct contextual look at the second Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_056_12242008 - Signs like this ensured that we were going the right way while also giving us some expectation of how far we had to walk before the next stop along the Erawan Waterfalls Trail
Erawan_Waterfall_020_jx_12252008 - Sign pointing the way to both the third and fourth Erawan Waterfalls
Erawan_Waterfalls_060_12242008 - This was the attractive third Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_066_12242008 - We scrambled to this frontal view of the third Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_070_12242008 - Looking down over what appeared to be the main drop of the fourth Erawan Waterfall, but it was hard to see
Erawan_Waterfalls_074_12252008 - The more accessible part of the fourth Erawan Waterfall where the far left waterfall can be a waterslide
Erawan_Waterfalls_075_12252008 - Cascade that could've counted as another part of the main fourth Erawan Waterfall but didn't
Erawan_Waterfall_021_jx_12252008 - Partial view of the fourth Erawan Waterfall with some sun striking its waters
Erawan_Waterfall_025_jx_12252008 - Another helpful sign near the fourth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfall_026_jx_12252008 - Walking over a footbridge somewhere between the fourth and fifth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfall_028_jx_12252008 - Sign indicating that we were getting close to the fifth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_081_12252008 - People chilling out at the attractive fifth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_090_12252008 - Closeup look at some of the travertine dams giving rise to parts of the cascading fifth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_091_12252008 - Partial portrait view of some of the steps of the fifth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_101_12252008 - Looking over one of the drops of the cascading fifth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_102_12252008 - In tropical jungles like this, we saw interesting trees. This one almost seemed more like a snake
Erawan_Waterfalls_106_12252008 - Still another small cascade that didn't end up counting towards the main series of Erawan Waterfalls
Erawan_Waterfalls_110_12252008 - Some stream walking required to get to the sixth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_111_12252008 - One of the rickety steps en route to the sixth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_115_12252008 - Lots of smaller cascades acting like scrambling obstacles as we were making our way up to the sixth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfall_032_jx_12252008 - Sign indicating that we were near the sixth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_128_12252008 - Fish swimming before the sixth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_131_12252008 - Another closer look at the sixth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfall_034_jx_12252008 - Some cascades belonging to the sixth Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_132_12252008 - Julie continuing up more steps towards the seventh Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_147_12252008 - Some parts of the trail beyond the 6th Erawan Waterfall required a bit of scrambling
Erawan_Waterfall_037_jx_12252008 - Reaching a sign indicating that we had arrived at the seventh Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_137_12252008 - Looking up at the dry upper half of the seventh Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_140_12252008 - The flowing part of the seventh Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_145_12252008 - Some guys chilling out at the base of the seventh Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_149_12252008 - Now it was time to make our way back from the seventh Erawan Waterfall
Erawan_Waterfalls_153_12252008 - Funny how sometimes you notice things you didn't notice before such as this tree wrapped in many prayer garments
Erawan_Waterfalls_156_12252008 - On the way back, we took a short breather at this overlook before continuing the downhill hike in Erawan National Park
Erawan_Waterfalls_159_12252008 - Julie continuing to descend towards the beginning of the Erawan Waterfalls hike

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The Erawan Waterfall sits in the Kanchanaburi (“kahn-CHAHN-uh-bur-ee”) Province.

The falls is roughly 193km or 3 hours drive west of Bangkok.

Erawan_Waterfalls_001_12242008 - A marketplace at the car park for Erawan National Park and the Erawan Waterfalls. We had lunch here, and it turned out that this was the one place on our 2008 trip to Thailand where we actually had Thai BBQ
A marketplace at the car park for Erawan National Park and the Erawan Waterfalls. We had lunch here, and it turned out that this was the one place on our 2008 trip to Thailand where we actually had Thai BBQ

Even though the Erawan National Park seemed to be well-signposted, since we were on an escorted tour, we can’t give exact directions.

As for the logistics of our visit, we didn’t return to Bangkok after our visit.

Instead, we stayed on one of the jungle rafts on the River Kwai near Sai Yok.

This drive was said to be 68km or a little over an hour drive from the Erawan Waterfall.

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Sweep from downstream to the falls showing fish swimming at the plunge pool


Sweep from bottom to top of the 2nd waterfall with some fish at the plunge pool


A guy hesitantly slides down waterfall #4


Sweep from top to bottom of waterfall #6 then to top of its downstream cascades

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Tagged with: erawan, national park, tha kradan, kanchanaburi, si sawat, thailand, waterfall, bangkok



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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