Imagine floating on a lake surrounded by pink and crimson blooms for as far as you can see. That’s the Red Lotus Sea in Northeast Thailand — 26 square miles of brilliant floating lotus flowers.

Located in the province of Udon Thani, the lake’s name is officially Nong Han Kumphawapi, but the locals call it Talay Bua Daeng which translates to Red Lotus Sea, an appropriate name that stuck.

Every year, from November to late February (after the rainy season) and when Thailand begins to cool down, millions of pink lotuses bloom. They reach their full, miraculous, widespread, riding-on-a-floating-pink-carpet blossom in December and early January.

The freshwater lake is a special place for the Thai people for many reasons. Practically, it’s the primary source of the Pao River, which feeds the people of the Udon Thani province. Spiritually, the lotus is a sacred flower. It’s the traditional flower of Buddhism and represents feminine beauty. In 2001, the Thai government declared this lake a wetland of international importance.

If you want to get the total lotus experience, you’ll need to visit early in the day, as the flowers are only fully opened in the morning, closing to hide from the sun around noon and staying that way for the remainder of the day. However, if it’s cloudy, you might get lucky and see the flowers open from sunrise to sunset.

How to get there

Red Lotus Sea is in the Kumphawapi Reserve, about an hour south of Udon Thani city. Most people drive, as that’s the easiest way to get there. If you’re fancy with a GPS, the coordinates are 17.221091, 103.038136.

What to consider

  • The best time to visit is between 6am and 10am.
  • To take a boat, purchase a ticket from the small kiosk by the lake, then go down a few steps to “The Port” where several dozen hard plastic motorized boats are awaiting your arrival.
  • Tours last 45 minutes or 90 minutes and cost ~$9 and ~$15 respectively.
  • Most boats hold 10 people, but no matter how many on onboard, the ticket price remains the same.
  • Many hotels in Udon Thani can arrange tuk-tuk transport for you, which can be cheaper than renting a car if you don’t already have one.
  • It makes a great day trip, but you probably wouldn’t want to stay overnight as there’s not much to do other than the lake and a temple nearby.
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