Thailand is one of those countries with so much to offer in terms of culture and sights, that sometimes it’s hard to choose where to go. There are tons of beautiful places to visit, from sumptuous temples to stunning beaches along the peninsula or one of the many paradise islands. Among all Thai islands, Phuket is undoubtedly the most famous for a number of reasons. So in this post, I will share with you some of the most popular places to visit in Phuket and surrounding area, hoping to entice you to visit this little corner of the Land of Smiles.
PlACES TO VISIT IN AND AROUND PHUKET
It is not just a coincidence that Phuket is one of the top tourist destinations in Thailand. The country’s largest island welcomes tourists from all over the world, many arriving on direct flights from all corners of the planet. The island boasts a number of traditional and luxury Thai homes, hotels and resorts to suit every travel style and a number of beaches.
Among those beaches, Patong is the liveliest and where the party-goers prefer to stay. Unlike the rest of the island, this area is awake at night and (kind of) sleeps during the day. It can be daunting at first, but with an open mind, you will have a lot of fun at one of the many nightclubs, discos and go-go bars.
If a quieter or more family-oriented beach is more your scene, Karon beach is just 2 miles away from Patong, but really feels like worlds apart. Surin beach, on the northwest part of the island, is also a good place for those who just want to sunbathe in peace.
But if you prefer a more cultural experience, Phuket Town is the best place for you. Here you can find the Big Buddha, a 46-meter tall white marble statue that sits majestically on a hill, offering incredible views of the island. Known among Thai people as Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha, it was built in 2004 and receives thousands of visitors every day.
Phuket Town also has some beautiful historical buildings. Some of nicest ones are Sino-Portuguese and many of them have been recently renovated. But even the ones in desperate need of attention and a makeover still preserve their character and original beauty. Many streets in Phuket Town have also been decorated with colourful street art to rival those on the streets of Penang (Malaysia), an invitation for a stroll with a touch of art. And on top of that, Phuket Town is also dotted with cool and cosy cafes, making it the perfect chill-out place.
Away from the beaches and towns, nature lovers will find a refuge in the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. In addition to being away from the touristy hustle and bustle, visitors will enjoy the beauty of the Bang Pae Waterfall. During the dry season it may look quite unimpressive, so the best time to see the waterfall is during the wet season, which goes between July and October.
TOURS AND ACTIVITIES AROUND PHUKET
Diving and Snorkelling
Phuket is the centre of Thailand’s diving scene. If you’re not yet a diver, you can get your training and PADI certificate at one of the many diving centres around the island. And diving here is a truly magnificent experience, with a number of corals and rich marine life that can be seen not too far from the island shores.
If diving is a little too much for you, snorkelling around Phuket is also a good option. It’s very easy to just rent your equipment from one of the many tourist companies and go snorkelling in popular places like Patong and Karon beaches, for example.
From Phuket to Koh Phi Phi
It is hard to think of an idyllic Thai island and not think about the small Phi Phi islands. Made world-famous by the blockbuster The Beach, Koh Phi Phi can be easily reached from Phuket. The ferry trip takes only two hours and I highly recommend staying for a couple of nights. But if you’re short of time, many tour companies bring visitors here on day-trips.
Koh Phi Phi, despite the tiny size, has a plethora of attractions and activities. Phi Phi Leh, the main island, is the heart of the tiny archipelago. It is quiet during the day, with tourists sunbathing or trying to get the best shot for their Instagram feed. In the evening, the streets are filled with revellers drinking and enjoying the loud music coming from the many bars. There are also several restaurants selling freshly caught fish, seafood or some classic Thai dish. But whatever your scene, Phi Phi Leh the perfect place to relax or enjoy a fun night, before heading out on a boat trip the next morning.
The largest of the Phi Phi islands is known as Phi Phi Don. This is where all tour boats head for in the morning. Most dhow cruises will first stop at the small beach known as Monkey Beach, a narrow stretch of sand squashed between a hill and the sea. Here you will be able to photograph some monkeys doing what monkeys usually do – stealing from tourists included, so look after your belongings!
Most boats will also stop and give you the chance to go snorkelling at some specific places. If you’re lucky, you will even be able to see some unexpected sea turtles.
The main spot at Phi Phi Don is the majestic Maya Bay, which got its worldwide fame after appearing on Leonardo DiCaprio’s film. It is a truly impressive place, so here’s my tip: if you want to capture all its splendour in pictures, make sure you visit in a morning tour, because the afternoon light is very unfavourable.
What about you, have you ever been to Phuket? Do you have any tips on things to do there or the Phi Phi islands?