At dusk, an estimated million or more Wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bats (Chaerephon plicatus) fly from a bat cave within the sprawling complex of the Wat Khao Wongkhot Temple in Thailand’s countryside north of Bangkok. 

Wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bats. Photo by Ch’ien Lee/Minden Pictures

The Wat Khao Wongkhot Temple is one of several temples in Thailand where bats find refuge to roost in large colonies. Wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bats are widespread in Thailand. The temple itself, its location, its sacred shrines, and Buddhist history combined with bat-watching make this a unique travel experience.

The Wat Khao Wongkhot Temple nestles in limestone mountains, surrounded on three sides, facing a wide open valley to the East. Its location is advantageous for the insectivorous bats to devour swarms of planthoppers each night which helps suppress pests in the countryside’s rice fields. Temple monks collect and sell bat guano to financially support the temple.

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  • Statuary and shrines at the Wat Khao Wongkhot Temple include an immense golden Reclining Buddha at the base of one mountain, a swan pillar where a footprint of Buddha is enshrined, a monument to the founder of the temple, and a crystal coffin where monks say a corpse has rested for decades without decaying. 
  • The temple is open throughout the day but the best time to visit is around sunset to witness the bats’ evening emergence
  • Check Tourism Thailand and other online sources for more information.
  • Travelers to the temple are encouraged to dress and adapt their behavior to Thai and Buddhist cultures.