Beyond the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, beyond the ever-growing hordes of tourists on Phuket, lies an abundance of smaller, less frequented islands where you can grab your own slice of Thailand paradise. The islands in the Andaman Sea and in the Gulf of Thailand conceal some of the most stunning scenery you will ever lay your eyes on, the kind of stuff the tourist dreams and idyllic postcards are made of.
Thailand is a marvelously beautiful country, and some of its shiniest pearls lie on paths less traveled. To truly experience the wonders of Thailand without rubbing shoulders with thousands upon thousands of tourists, you really need to dig a bit deeper underneath the surface. You can do your research and find the island hideaway of your dreams, or you can skip the difficult choice and try them all in one big gulp.
Consider this article an appetizer, a brief introduction meant to whet your appetites and entice you to explore on your own. Pack your bathing suit and let us not waste a single second…
Yes, the first sentence did say “beyond Phuket”, and rightfully so. Thailand’s most popular island destinations has grown a bit too popular, and between ever-rising prices, hundreds of seedy adult establishments, battalions of tourists and hotel resorts popping up like mushrooms after rain, there are plenty of reasons for you to look elsewhere.
Still, the ubiquitous Phuket still has one trump card – it is an excellent base for island hopping. If you love the crowds, good for you. You will be right at home in and around the most popular towns of Patong, Karon and Kata.
Still, there’s a reason why Phuket has grown into the most popular island destination in all of Thailand. The scenery truly is striking, the beaches are world class, and you can still find relatively affordable lodgings away from the aforementioned towns. I would personally consider it a base for further explorations in the Andaman Sea, but I’m sure plenty would find reasons to spend the majority of your holiday there.
A short distance from south-western mainland city of Krabei, Koh Lanta is mainly known as a premium snorkeling destination. Its main draw is the Mu Ko Lanta national park and its bustling wildlife, while small uninhabited islands in its vicinity offer further snorkeling opportunities.
Koh Phi Phi
This island has grown in popularity ever since “The Beach” was filmed there, so be prepared for crowds. On the other hand, if you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what kind of natural wonders awaits there. While Maya Bay, the primary location for “The Beach”, is the islands biggest draw, you will find plenty more eye candy in places such as the Pileh Lagoon (divine swimming site) and Monkey Beach with its macaque population.
Koh Yao Yai
To get a taste of what Phuket might have looked like before everyone decided to go there, you should check out Koh Yao Yai or its neighbor Koh Yao Noi. Natural wonders without excessive “resortisation” and swarms of tourists, although staying there might be a bit pricey.
We’ve left the Andaman Sea behind and we’re now entering the Gulf of Thailand.
Even though Koh Samui has gone through dramatic changes over the past few decades and transformed from a lonely island to a premium luxury destination, the tourist boom hasn’t deteriorated the island’s beauty the way it has in parts of Phuket, partly due to a local law that prevents buildings from being taller than the nearest palm tree (yes, this law really exists).
The younger travelers prefer the Chaweng beach and its surroundings with 24 hours a day partying, but if you’re looking for a bit more peaceful vacation you should look to some other parts of the island for a holiday of your dreams. Samui also boasts a few sightseeing attractions you shouldn’t miss, like the Big Buddha temple and the Ang Thong national park with its lush, idyllic scenery.
With diving clubs around every corner, you can be sure that Koh Tao is the premium diving destination in the Gulf of Thailand. Howev er, if your only interest is leisure, swimming and sunbathing, the neighboring island of Koh Nangyuan will deliver the whitest of sandy beaches and the clearest of blue waters. These two islands are a bit secluded, but most assuredly worth the effort of visiting.
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