With environments ranging from rolling hills to dense jungles, it’s easy to see why Thailand crowns many lists of top Asian destinations. Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Krabi and Ayutthaya all have their charms and certainly should not be missed, but those looking for a true taste of Thai paradise should first make their way to the beautiful island of Phuket. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.
What To Know
What once started as an isolated tropical island has now grown into a premiere international tourist destination. In some ways, Phuket’s transformation is great. Getting there is easier than ever, with plenty of inexpensive international flights coming in from all over Asia. Getting to Asia in the first place, however, may cost you a pretty penny. Your best bet is to either include Phuket in a greater Asian itinerary, or book your trip well in advance to get the best possible deal.
If you do decide to head out to Phuket – and you should! – you certainly won’t be the only one. Over three million tourists make their way to the island each year, meaning some areas may be crowded no matter when you go. The upside to these numbers is that Phuket’s infrastructure – hotels, restaurants, and tours included – is all fantastic and adds a degree of luxury to your trip without compromising on the island’s culture offerings. If crowds are a serious turn off for you, however, you might want to consider a different beach destination, such as Phu Quoc Island.
Beaches and Island-Hopping
Phuket is the place in Thailand for beaches, boasting many around the main island that are worth visiting. However, there are also a whole host of beaches just a short boat ride away, one of which may prove to be the highlight of your trip!
On the main island, beaches to visit include Kata, Freedom, Ya Nui, and Paradise (among others). Of these, Kata is by far the longest, and possibly the least crowded. While the other beaches are smaller, they make up for their size with beautiful waters, pristine sands, and jaw-dropping vistas. In each case, restaurants, chairs, and other amenities can be found just off the beachfront as well, allowing you to relax on the beach for as long as you wish.
If you choose to spend the day island-hopping, you can’t afford to miss the Similan Islands. Home to crystal clear waters, unique smooth-stone formations, and beautiful coral reefs, the islands are your slice of paradise-within-paradise. Unsurprisingly, the spot is highly recommended for snorkelers and divers, and it somehow manages to live up to the hype.
While not technically part of your island-hopping experience, Phang Nga Bay is another must-see excursion full of picturesque islands rising majestically out of the sea. The best way to view these islands – inside and out – is through a sea kayak tour, so be sure to arrange one either on location or at your accommodation.
(Note: At the time of publishing, Phuket’s famous Koh Phi Phi Island is closed to visitors for environmental recovery)
Food and Nightlife
While the beaches rule the daylight hours, Phuket’s night markets take over once the sun goes down. Malin Plaza Patong is the night market to visit for foodies and anyone looking to get a taste of authentic (and cheap!) Thai street food. If you’d rather look for souvenirs, check out the famed Phuket Walking Street for trinkets with a side of culture. Phuket Indy Market has similar offerings from independent traders, along with a quieter overall vibe.
For the real nightlife, however, make your way over to the neon glow of Bangla Road. A road consisting almost exclusively of bars, nightclubs, and entertainment, there’s sure to be something here to satiate even the most hardcore party animals. Let it all out here before you head back to your hotel and rest up for another perfect day in paradise.
Header photo by Frankie Spontelli on Unsplash