Unlike most Thai islands, Phuket’s sheer size means there are a number of wildly different towns that make up the island, each with their own experiences and vibe. Picking where to stay can be a tough decision, so here’s a little more about Phuket’s top towns to help you decide.
Located on the western coast of the island is the bustling town of Patong. Well known to locals and travelers alike for its party scene and infamous Bangla Walking Street, it’s the place to be if you’re planning on late nights and strobe lights whilst you’re here. Though as well as the well documented bars and nightclubs, there’s also a tonne of other things to get up to in Patong. There’s a wealth of shopping opportunities, from the beach-side shops to the impressive Jungceylon shopping centre, as well as a number of great beaches, from the lively Patong Beach to the quieter Freedom Beach. Ideal for backpackers and party people.
The capital of the province of Phuket, what Phuket Town lacks in beaches it more than makes up for in architectural beauty. Its Old Town quarter features colourful, Sino-colonial heritage buildings that host a number of quaint shops and cafes, and is also home to the impressive, vintage-styled walking street market. Away from the shopping, Phuket Town is also a great place to take in a spot of culture. Not only is it home to a couple of museums, it also hosts the impressive Jui Tui Chinese temple, which plays an important role during southern Thailand’s Nine Emperor Gods festival. Phuket Town isn’t the place to be if you’re looking for a beach escape, but its cosy streets and beautiful buildings are more than worth a look.
Much like Patong, Karon is home to a number of beaches, resorts and bars and restaurants, but it’s much more family friendly and laid back. Despite being popular with tourists, the long length of Karon Beach means you’ll never feel overcrowded, and its calmer waves makes it ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Away from the beach, the center features a number of different eateries and bars. There is nightlife here, but unlike Patong it tends to be less invasive and in your face. Whilst it may not have huge shiny shopping complexes, the Karon Bazaar is a great spot for souvenir buying and bargain hunters. For culture lovers, Wat Karon features a striking statue of a Naga, a creature from Buddhist mythology, and there’s an equally beautiful Naga statue by the beach.
The go-to destination for the high-so and well-to-do of Thailand, Surin beach plays host to a range of stunning luxury resorts and once hosted the former king for a round of golf. Both Surin beach and the nearby Pansea beach are the textbook definition of Thai beaches; soft, white sands and gleaming turquoise seas, with a backdrop of lush, green coconut trees that are amongst the best and most inviting on the island. Away from the beach, Surin Plaza offers the chance for some retail therapy, whilst there are a number of high-end restaurants and spas nearby to take your pampering to another level. Surin beach isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it.
Situated to the south of Karon is the busy beach of Kata. Popular with families and travelers all year round, its long beach ensures it never feels too cramped and crowded, and there’s always enough space to feel comfortable. Kata beach offers a wealth of activities, from water sports and surfing to scuba diving, whilst its soft sand means it’s also perfectly okay to laze on the beach all day and catch some rays. There are numerous restaurants and bars nearby offering stunning views of the bays, and the modern Palm Square complex is a popular hangout spot for locals and tourists alike to grab a drink or a meal. There’s also the opportunity to shop here, with Kata Night Market selling a number of handmade Thai crafts, clothes and foods as well. With enough to do to keep you busy, it’s perfect for families or those wanting a break from the likes of Patong.
Chalong might not have the beaches of Kata or the parties of Patong, but it is home to two of Phuket’s most famous cultural sites. The famous Big Buddha statue is one of the top attractions in Phuket, and for good reason. At 45m tall, and at the top of a hill, this giant marble statue can be seen as far away as Phuket Town, and the views from the summit are breathtakingly beautiful. As well as the Big Buddha, Chalong is also home to Wat Chalong, a fantastically ornate temple that’s open to visitors and is well worth an hour or two looking around. There isn’t much in the way of nightlife here, but there are enough eateries to keep yourself well fed and busy, and the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery makes for an interesting trip. A perfect place to spend a day, but perhaps not an area you’d want to base yourself in.