Tham Pya Nak

Tham Phaya Nak - Viking Cave

Useful Information

Location: Ao Nang, Mueang Krabi District, Krabi 81000, Thailand
Ko Phi Phi National Marine Park. On Ko Phi Phi Le Island, in the Adaman Sea.
Tour operators in both Phuket and Krabi provide transport and tour packages to Ko Phi Phi Le. Regular boat service is available form Jao Fah pier in Krabi.
(7.6914402, 98.7669776)
Open: All year daily by boat.
No longer open for tourists to enter.
Fee: depends on operator, typically EUR 40 to 100 per person.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave BiologySwiftlet
Light: n/a
Guided tours:  
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Suwit Chaimongkhon (1990): Sinlapa Tham Phayanak, Krabi, 88 pages, Krom Sinlapakon; Phim khrang rµk edition (1990)
Archaeology and cave art at the Tham Phayanak Cave, Ko Phi Phi Island, near Krabi Province, southern Thailand.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1972 visited by H.M. Rama IX.


Viking Cave, Thailand. Public Domain.

Tham Pya Nak is a famous tourist destination on the east side of the northern peninsula of Ko Phi Phi Le. The cave has an entrance at sea level and is entered by boat from the sea in kayaks. The name Tham Pya Nak was given to the cave by His Majesty King Rama IX aka King Bhumibol the Great or Bhumiphol Adulyadey when he visited the cave in 1972. He named it because of the shape of a particular boulder, which resembles the head of the great serpent of Buddhist legend, the Naga.

This cave is rather famous under its other name Viking Cave or ถ้ำไวกิ้ง. There have never been Vikings, but the cave has numerous cave paintings of vessels, resembling Viking longboats. The colored drawings are located on the eastern and southern walls of the cave. There are pictures of elephants and also of various boats: European, Arab and Chinese sailing ships, barques, motorboats, and steamships. They were drawn by pirates, who paused in the cave on their travels from west to east, sheltering from the monsoon winds, transferring cargo, or making repairs. At least that's the local legend, as far as we know there are no facts known about their origin.

The cave is revered by the local people. They come here to collect the Biologyswiftlet nests, used to make Bird's Nest Soup, an Asian/Chinese delicacy. The season for the nests is between February and April. If you want to witness the harvesting, you should visit between February and April.

The bird's nests are made by the birds from their own saliva, which gives the soup a certain consistency and taste. They are rare, and due to nature protection laws becomes rarer and more expensive every year. The edible bird's nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by man. As a result, there occurred attempts to steal the nests, and so the caves are guarded 24/7. Asians seem to believe that they also have healing properties. However, they are definitely a rare delicacy which is generally not appreciated by Europeans.

Visits by tourists are typically full-day boat trips to Phi Phi island, which include the cave. A birds' nest company has the concession for the cave. Some years ago they had to be asked if you wanted to visit the cave, which was generally done by the operator of the boat trip. As far as we know, it is no longer open for tourists to enter, so only visiting the cave by boat and having a look from the sea is still possible. The cave is small and most of the cave including the installations for harvesting bird's nests can easily be seen. Just the paintings cannot be seen from the boat. The tour is not very long, the boat only stops for a while in front of the entrance.

There are dozens of operators and different itineraries, and so prices differ greatly. Also, the main emphasis is mostly on bathing, snorkeling or diving, not on the cave visit. If you want to witness the harvesting, you should visit between February and April.