It’s safe to say that Phuket as a travel destination is a bit of a household name. Whenever visiting Thailand is mentioned, the island casually pops into the conversation alongside Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Kho Phi Phi Leh.
The honour is well-deserved. As the largest island in the country, Phuket is permeated by lush green jungles and rimmed by glistening white beaches curved along limestone karsts and emerald waters. Without the longtail boats bobbing along its glassy shores, you might’ve mistaken it as the Maldives. Thankfully, it’s nowhere near as uneventful. Here’s our list of the top 6 must-see attractions in Phuket.
Relax on the Beaches
Walk a few kilometres anywhere on Phuket, and you’ll come across a clean white beach lapped by azure waters. With more than 30 beaches on the island, you will never run out of beach-related things to do as beach hopping or getting away from the crowded resort waterfront has never been easier.
Some beaches like Karon Beach and Surin Beach are in walking to bars and restaurants, but still peaceful enough to spend the day lounging and diving into the crystalline waters. Others, such as Ao Sane Beach and Freedom Beach are near lookout points, perfect for taking in an uninterrupted view of the island’s breathtaking landscapes.
Day trip in Phang Nga Bay
With pillar-shaped limestone karsts and emerald waters made famous by the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, Phang Nga Bay is a day-trip destination in a league of its own.
Take a boat out from northern Phuket and see the jutting limestone cliffs carpeted by tropical forests and towering over the rustic fishing village of Koh Panyee. The bay’s many lagoons and caves can be explored with canoes or longtail boat tours.
Koh Panyee is highly walkable, with hundreds of huts, shacks and restaurants perched above stilts over placid shoals, hemmed in by limestone monoliths and jagged cliffs. Both picturesque and a marvel of makeshift engineering, this metal sheet and concrete built community begs to be explored.
Walk around Old Phuket Town
Old Phuket Town is a world apart from the rest of Thailand’s booming metropolises. You won’t find skyscrapers here or buildings over five-storey tall. Instead, its historic streets are lined with rows of brightly painted Sino-Portuguese colonial townhouses and whimsical street arts along alleyways.
Stroll down the nostalgic Walking Street (Thalang Road), and visit its many quirky and quaint vintage shops and bohemian restaurants, or circle around the block and visit the photogenic side street, Soi Romanees that’s lined by rows of vibrantly painted bars and cafes.
Nightlife and Market
The beating heart of Phuket nightlife, Bangla Road in Patong, is notorious for its go-go bars and the somewhat pervasive gritty sin city vibe. But this neon-soaked red-light district also offers more laidback bars and disco clubs, along with live concerts and street performances.
At night, the Walking Street in Phuket’s Old Town transforms into a giant night market, with hundreds of stalls lining up along the centre of the streets between rows of painted townhouses and lantern lights. Here, you can spend hours browsing handicrafts, shoes, t-shirts, and jewelry. Nearby, on Dibuk Road, the Indy Night Market, is where independent vendors set up shop to peddle handmade goods and handcrafted souvenirs.
Visit Wat Chalong
Ornately decorated with gold and red tiles, Wat Chalong is the most visited temple site on Phuket and venerated for housing a splinter of Buddha’s bone in its 60-metre tall chedi.
Within the carefully manicured temple grounds stand the Grand Pagoda. Inside its marbled halls are prayer rooms with wall paintings showing the life of Buddha, along with several life-sized golden statues.
Hike to the Big Buddha
Sitting high on top of the summit of Nakkerd Hills, this 45-metre tall Buddha is made from white Burmese marble and weighs around 135 tonnes. The massive statue is visible from the foothills and around southern parts of the island.
Hiking to the Big Buddha will take you across a pristine stretch of rainforest and emerge at one of the highest lookout points in Phuket, where you can take in a panoramic view of its jungles and beaches stretching as far as the eye can see.