Tham Lot: Inside Thailand's Biggest Cave

Tham Lot Cave, Mae Hong Son | © 家禎 張/Flickr
Tham Lot Cave, Mae Hong Son | © 家禎 張/Flickr
Photo of Iona Proebst
26 November 2017

Explore the magical world of Thailand’s biggest cave. Hike or raft your way through huge chambers, see signs of prehistoric life and marvel at nature’s glory. Read on to discover why Tham Lot should be on every northern Thailand travel itinerary.

Tham Lot Cave is located in Pang Mapha District, in Mae Hong Province, northern Thailand. This giant limestone cave is an impressive cave system with a length of 1,666 meters. Tham Lot’s most impressive feature, besides sheer size, is that the Nam Lang River flows through the cave creating a magical subterranean mysterious wonderland, waiting to be explored.


Ancient history

Tham Lot was once inhabited by prehistoric man, making it a particularly attractive place to visit for archaeological enthusiasts. Ancient clay pottery and carved teak wood coffins have been exhumed from the rooms within the cave. The coffins are thought to have been carved by the Lawa tribe thousands of years ago and hold important insight into the former cave residents. Pottery remains found in the cave are exhibited at the Nature Study Centre at the cave grounds.

What’s to see?

Tham Lot is home to spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, bats, swifts and of course the much talked about ‘coffin caves.’ To explore the caves, you need to hire a gas lantern and a local guide to help navigate. You can also choose to see the sites of the cave by raft. Of particular interest are the Column Cavern, Doll Cave and Coffin Cave. It is advised to time your visit so you are exiting the caves at sunset when thousands of swifts fly into Tham Lot to resume their sleeping position clinging onto the stalagmites – quite a sight to behold.

A local guide prepares a gas lantern | © 家禎 張/Flickr


Basic accommodation and camping options are available near the Tham Lot Nature Study Centre. You can also stay at the ever-popular Cave Lodge in nearby Soppong. Cave Lodge offers bungalows nestled in the jungle, a great community vibe and very friendly staff. The Cave Lodge team also offer tours of the Tham Lot cave as well as kayaking and trekking.

Cosy Cave Lodge | © 家禎 張/Flickr

How to get there?

Tham Lot is enroute from Pai to Mae Hong Son and is easy to reach by motorbike or public transport. From Chiang Mai, simply take the four-hour local bus ride from Arcade bus station heading to Mae Hong Son and hop off at Soppong/Pang Mapha. From there, it’s a short motorbike taxi to Tham Lot or nearby accommodation options.

Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

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