Southern Thailand draws millions of visitors each year and is a “must-do” because if its archipelago of incredible tropical islands, white sand beaches and warm weather all-year-round. A scattering of islands can be found across the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, making it easy to go island hopping along the South Thailand map. With so many diverse activities on offer, Southern Thailand has something for everyone.
The Andaman Sea on the Thai west coast is composed of several of Thailand’s most popular islands, with the largest being Phuket. With its own convenient airport, it is world-renowned for its numerous white sand beaches, balmy seas and water activities with ten main beaches. Phuket is also known as the spa capital of Thailand, with endless wellness packages to leave you feeling shiny and new.
Another popular destination on the southern Thailand map is Khao Sok National Park. It highlights Thailand’s preservation efforts on bio-diversity. Covering a huge 739 square kilometres, it features rich rain-forests, wildlife sanctuaries, limestone structures, and the scenic Cheow Larn Lake in the heart of the park. Its climate and weather remain consistent throughout the year making it a must-see destination at any time.
Phang Nga Bay is a bay nestled between Phuket and Krabi with breathtaking limestone rock formations, caves, beach havens and hidden lakes. Many tour operators can arrange trips but sea canoeing is a fun way to explore this spectacular region.
Ko Phi Phi consists of six islands located off the mainland coast of Krabi. Ko Phi Phi Leh is the most popular, made famous by the year 2000 film named “The Beach”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. However, the Thai government closed this area in 2018 due to damaged coral reefs impacted by tourism. The region remains closed for coral rejuvenation but new eco-tourism projects see it eyeing a possible 2021 opening.
Krabi province boasts impressive natural attractions and is home to Ko Lanta National Park with famous diving sites. Nearby Ko Lipe is known for its natural beauty and is an idyllic paradise featuring a marine park with impressive coral-rich snorkelling and diving spots. Further afield, Koh Lanta is developed and yet still uncrowded enough to enjoy pristine beaches, ancient caves, dense jungle, and a myriad of waterfalls. After sundown, luminescent plankton can be found in the warm surrounding waters.
Moving across Thailand southern islands into the Gulf of Thailand, you will find the largest island in this region- Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Ko Tao and the lesser-known Ang Thong islands.
Koh Samui also houses an international airport and is popular for its palm-lined white sandy beaches, luxury spas and resorts and iconic Big Buddha statue at the Wat Phra Yai temple.
The island of Koh Phangan is a well-known backpacker party destination for its full moon parties. Also home to Than Sadet-Ko Pha Ngan National Park, which boasts a beautiful waterfall and good hiking routes.
Koh Tao island (known as Turtle Island) is a recreation lovers paradise. It is a favourite among scuba divers, rock climbers and adventure seekers. It gets its name from being a special breeding ground for hawksbill and green turtles.
The Ang Thong Islands were declared a national park in the 1980s, They form an impressive a group of islands characterised by magnificent limestone cliffs and hidden coves, coral reefs and rich marine life, rugged jungle and waterfalls, native wildlife and fine white sandy beaches. The perfect day trip from Koh Samui or Phang Nga.
Overall Thailand is considered safe. While some areas in Southern Thailand are not deemed safe due to socio-political reasons, they are mostly far outside of the usual tourist routes – in the deep south provinces bordering Malaysia. All other areas in the south are safe to visit.
Southern Thai cuisine is characterised as much spicier, hotter and saltier, than the milder dishes of the north. Fresh fish and seafood also feature heavily along with coconut-based curries.
The best time to visit the south is during the cooler dry season from November to April. The east and west coasts have different weather patterns. The Andaman Coast beaches are at their sunniest best and temperatures around the mid-30s (°C) from November to May. June to October should be avoided due to the rainy monsoon season. The Gulf of Thailand coast is best from May to September. October and November are the wettest months in this region, so best be avoided.
Take your pick! Each island offers something unique- it just depends on what you’re looking for.
Phuket is one of the most popular tourist destinations, offering white sandy beaches, temples, festivals, luxury resorts, spa retreats, shopping and nightlife. Koh Phang Nga remains a party magnet, best known for hosting full moon parties. Phang Nga Bay possesses some of the most breathtaking protruding limestone rock formations, caves, beach havens and hidden lakes. Koh Samui remains a tourist favourite as it has a more relaxed feel to it than the busy vibe of Phuket. It is family-friendly and has a range of natural and man-made attractions to discover.
If you are passing through to the islands, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Hat Yai are good options to visit shrines and temples, try local street foods in the night markets, do a spot of shopping and engage in local provincial city life.
The best time to visit is during the cooler dry season from November to April. Keep in mind that the east and west coasts have different weather patterns. The Andaman Coast beaches are sunny from November to May. June to October should be avoided due to the rainy monsoon season. The Gulf of Thailand coast is best from May to September with October and November being the wettest months.
Discover Thailand's top must-see destinations & everything you need to know for your next trip to "the land of Smiles".
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Plan for an unforgettable holiday escapade and uncover the fascinating assortment of things to do and see in Thailand's most popular destinations as well as those lesser known travel spots and routes.