Surrounded by shimmering blue waters, dazzling white sand beaches, dramatic rock formations and lush untouched forests, Phuket, the Pearl of the Andaman, is Thailand's largest and best-known island. With its balmy climate, natural beauty, and rich and diverse cultures, the island attracts millions of visitors from around the globe, including the world's rich and famous, drawn by the luxury hotels, spectacular scenery and world-class diving. Phuket holidays offer an unrivalled choice of attractions and activities, whatever type of destination you are looking for.
Phuket has of course developed a reputation for lively nightlife and energetic partying, thanks partly to the wealth of bars and clubs in some of the busiest areas. However, away from these areas, there are traditional and authentic sides of Phuket to discover, as well as miles of beautiful white-sand beaches and spectacular unvisited interiors. If you are looking for peace and tranquillity, there are plenty of places where you can find it in abundance.
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Variety of Beaches
If you are in fact interested in the nightlife and party scene, the centre of the action is Patong on the west coast, and particularly Bangla Road and Beach Road, cutting through the middle of the town. Here you can find all the late night bars and huge nightclubs you desire, where you can party the night away. However, although Patong Beach is the busiest and most crowded on the island, it's also one of the most beautiful, and very family-friendly, close to all the main attractions.
For a more laid-back beach experience, try the beautiful sands of nearby Karon Beach or Kata Main beach, or Kalim Bay, considered a cool place to hang out with lots of trendy bars, but also surrounded by mountains and great for surfing. To find real peace and quiet, you can escape to hidden bays like Kata Noi just south of Kata Main beach, or Laem Sing north of Patong, reached by extremely steep steps. Kamala Beach, just south of Laem Sing, is quiet and family friendly.
Just south of Kata Noi at the southern tip of the island is one of Phuket's most notable landmarks, Prom Thep or God's Cape, high on the cliffs and renowned for its fabulous sunsets. Close to its peak there is a small but fascinating shrine, featuring numbers of carved wooden elephants. A couple of kilometres away, on the east side, is Rawai Beach and Rawai Village, where you can catch a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Moken people, a tribe of sea gypsies, who have retained their distinctive beliefs and customs over centuries.
Amazing Boat Trips
One of the major attractions of holidays to Phuket is the opportunity for boat trips in the surrounding waters, including the iconic Phang Nga Bay, with its dramatic limestone karsts jutting out of turquoise waters. A particular draw for tourists here is Koh Ta-Pu, or James Bond Island, which featured in the film, "The Man with the Golden Gun." Even more fascinating is Koh Panyee, a Muslim fishing village built entirely on stilts.
The most famous of the neighbouring islands are the Kho Phi Phi chain of six islands, known for their stunning natural beauty, with sheer cliffs and fascinating rock formations. Particularly popular is Maya Bay on Phi Phi Ley, the famous setting for the 2000 film "The Beach." There is no overnight accommodation, but you can spend a whole day island hopping, exploring the caves and coves, or hire a longtail boat to snorkel over the coral reefs.
For inland adventure, a must for Phuket holidays is the scenic Khao Phra Thaeo National Park in the north-east, Phuket's only significant virgin rainforest, with buffalo, wild boar, elephant and many monkey species roaming under the towering canopy of giant trees. You can trek through the forest trails, and visit the beautiful Ton Sai and Bang Pae waterfalls, the Bang Pae falls being located within the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre. Alternatively you can cross the road bridge to the Phang Nga mainland and visit the spectacular Khao Sok National Park, one of the oldest rainforests in the world, with dramatic limestone formations and magnificent cascading waterfalls.
There are plenty of temples to visit, the largest being Wat Chalong, just inland from Chalong Bay, elaborately decorated in red and gold with imagery from Thai and Buddhist mythology, and featuring a 60-metre-high pagoda. Not far away is the huge Big Buddha in white marble, one of Phuket's most iconic landmarks, seated on one of the island's highest points with spectacular views. Further north near Thalang is Wat Phra Thong, steeped in legend, and containing a half-buried statue of Buddha which is said to be untouchable.
Phuket holidays are fantastic at any time, though January and February should be avoided if if you don't like crowds. The rainy season is from April to October, and many people regard this as the best time to visit, as it's cooler, quieter and cheaper, and it only rains briefly once a day. With its limitless beauties and attractions, Phuket is an island paradise at any time of year.