8 Top Spots to explore and activities to try in Phuket, Thailand

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James Bond Island (just an hour’s boat trip away from Phuket) set against a vibrant sunset

1. Big Buddha

There is a myriad of exciting ways to see this treasured landmark. Many tours offer this experience and it is most divine against the backdrop of the sunset. The site is encompassed in tranquillity. The sight is captivating, with Buddha’s body made from concrete and coated in a stunning Burmese bright, white jade marble which sparkles when it catches the sunlight. As for the sensory experience of sound, all one can hear here is the tinkling bells catching the wind. For an authentic experience of Phuket, this statue, atop a flight of stairs and sitting against the bright blue skies, is a remarkable religious commemoration and a dreamy visit for any traveller. 

2. Wat Chalong

Wat Chalong is the largest of Phuket’s temples and the most frequently visited. Just eight kilometres southwest of Phuket Town, it is of no surprise this is such a hotspot for travellers as the building is spectacularly beautiful with wall and ceiling murals dedicated to the illustration of Buddha’s life. It has a rich history, known for healing conflicts between Chinese secret societies in the 1800s and for representing Buddhism in the country. The temple spans three stories and there is a terrace where you can see the entire grounds from a height. Music lights up the surrounding area and street markets and vendors add to the bustling and lively atmosphere here. 

3. Package Tours: White Water Rafting, ATVs, zip lines and Jungle Adventures

There are plenty of package deals and action-packed trips to go on in Phuket! Some include the adrenaline rush and thrill of an off-road adventure with white water rafting on the rapids and an ATV so you can get the best of both worlds on land and in the water (hopefully not in but on, in fact, although in the wild rapids it is unlikely you’ll make it out dry!). The tour guides can pick up from hotels in Phuket Town or around the area and the excursion will begin. Chiang Mai is a popular spot to go rafting. For trekking and hiking tours, base camps can be found in the Phang Nga rainforest or the Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary. There are also zip lines, waterfalls, and other water sports or climbing-based activities for any adrenaline junkie or keen adventurer to be found in the jungle and tours can cover it all. Take your pick! Often a hearty buffet lunch is included in tours too.

White Water Rafting on the rapids of river Maetang in Chiang Mai, Thailand 

4. Elephant Sanctuary Tour 

The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, just bordering the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, is the very first (and very proud to be) ethical elephant tourism experience in Phuket. It finally offers elephants the chance to be welcomed back to their indigenous habitat and true home. After years of overtired elephants suffering at the hands of the tourism industry and enduring injuries as a result of riding, now they are treated extremely well and tourists can still get the opportunity to see and interact with these beautiful, gentle, giant animals. 

Staff and visitors with an elephant at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

5. Wat Suwan Kuha / monkey cave

Wat Suwan Kuha is a beautiful limestone cave which shelters an immensely sized reclining sparkling gold Buddha statue. It is just a short drive from Phuket Town and is a chance to explore another side of Phang Nga. Many tours include this trip. Just 10 km before reaching Phang Nga Town, the famous cave is easy to spot with a large temple gate. Monkeys are everywhere in this area and do watch out as they are certainly not shy! If you want to get as close to monkeys as possible this is your chance, pick up some food or nuts from the local street vendors and you won’t be short of their attention!

6. Old Town 

The old part of town is an exciting, bustling and rich historical attraction. You’ll see streets lined with Sino-Portuguese style intricately decorated and colourful shopfronts, local Thai restaurants and coffee shops. Street food and local market stalls also scatter across the bright and busy streets. The most recommended roads are Thalang Road, Soi Romanee which is the red light district and Wat Mongkol Nimit which is of much cultural significance and home to a stunning temple with a gold Cheri (a stupa) in the backdrop for your photographs. 

Old Town is located in the heart of Phuket Town, which is the capital of the island. There are numerous ways to travel to this historic district. The vast majority of travellers stay on the west side of the island where the best beaches and resorts are but the old town is easy to get to by tuk-tuk or private vehicle rentals. From the popular areas of Kata and Patong, there is an open-air bus called the Blue Songthaew that has service running. 

Food Market on Thalang Road lit up in the evening

7. Koh Khai Nok, Khai Nai, and Khai Nui Island Day Trip

Phuket is known for its beaches and their ability to provide a deep sense of escapism. Koh Khai consists of 3 small islands, Khai Nok, Khai Nai and Khai Nui. Koh Khai Nok is a small island nestled in Phang Nga Bay, only a 30-minute drive from the east coast of Phuket. The island may be small in size but has plenty to offer. The enclave of islands hosts crystal clear waters dotted with vibrantly colourful corals and diverse marine life and so it is a perfect snorkelling spot for any ability. A myriad of different water sports are available for the adrenaline junkie and there are also a vast array of different food spots and bars for the foodie. The fresh tropical fruits here, such as the pineapples and watermelons are renowned and best with the local fish produce. 

8. Phuket Open Water Diver/ Freediving Certification Tour 

Phuket is the perfect place to get your diving qualification. The water conditions here are impeccable. PADI offer a freediving open water course at basic, silver and gold levels. Their packages include trips around the Racha islands which are known for pristine visibility underwater and soft silky white sandy bottoms with a series for both hard and soft corals. The island hopping and free diving or recreational diving experience with the outcome of becoming a certified diver is an appealing prospect in such a beautiful location. 

Divers amongst Lion fish at a coral reef of Racha Island

 

Top 5 spots to island-hop, snorkel and dive around Phuket, Thailand 

1. Coral Island 

Coral Island, also referred to as Koh Hey, is an idyllic little island just under 20 minutes from South Phuket if you take a boat from Rawai Beach. The two most popular beaches, Banana Beach and Long Beach, are home to sweeping long bays with soft light sands and both offer much relaxation. The atmosphere is busier in high season and around midday but is a fun and family-friendly attraction by day and a tranquil escape by nighttime. The waters are shallow by the beaches so are perfect for snorkelling and scuba diver beginners. There are also plenty of water sports to try here! 

2. Racha Islands

The Racha Islands are located just 20 kilometres south of Phuket and consist of twin islands Racha Noi and Racha Yai. These two serene islands were once a kept secret but now have risen to fame. Nearby, Koh Phi Phi, thanks to the film “The Beach” which bolstered its popularity, was closed down due to over-tourism. In contrast, the Racha Islands remain pristine and idyllic. Crystal clear waters catch the rays of the sun and here you’ll find the best snorkelling and scuba diving conditions with vibrant coral reefs and schools of colourful fish. It’s one for the family to make a splash in, friends to explore or a romantic escape.

3. Maiton Island

Maiton Private Island is just off the east coast of Phuket and spans 2.5 kilometres with long, sweeping gold sands dotted with tall palm trees. The beach is privately owned so tours and boat hires are the best way to access the shores here. It is unspoilt by the masses and so is the quietest and most peaceful place to visit. A swim or picnic lunch here on a boat trip would be a real treat to indulge in!

4. James Bond Island Luxury Sunset Cruise

Several different cruise companies sail to James Bond Island, a famous landmark in Phang Nga Bay an hour away from Phuket, and most do it in style! From bottomless drinks to buffet meals, from catamarans to yachts,  James Bond Island, Lawa Island, and others neighbouring these islands are stunning sites and perfect snorkelling spots. James Bond Island’s international fame and place on the tourist map was paved by its starring role in the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun”. The striking sheer number of sharply cut limestone cliffs and the dazzling bright emerald-green water deservedly catches anyone’s attention. Sunset remains the ultimate time to experience this exciting outing and to feel like you’re on a movie-style mission yourself, but certainly with less exhilaration and much more relaxation in the luxury conditions. 

5. Phi Phi Islands and Maya Bay Tour

Maya Bay, situated in the heart of Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands, off the coasts of both Krabi and Phuket, is known for its silky soft white-sand beach and jaw-dropping limestone cliffs surrounding it. The crystal clear waters are abundant with schools of tropical fish and so it is a dream for snorkelling. Venturing inland to see the lush greenery and stunning scenery from within has been indefinitely closed as tourism grew but the boat tour trips allow the site to at least to be seen and admired from the water. It is advised to go in a long boat for an authentic approach and to go early in the morning to beat the crowds of boat traffic and make the most of the water. Often, the tours will organise all the transport onshore too from Phuket, with bus services and private taxis to take you anywhere you need to be! Hassle-free and very much affordable, this is a tour of islands and an unforgettable underwater experience!

All Images sourced from Shutterstock.

 

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