Located on Thailand’s Andaman coast, Phuket — the largest island in the country — is as much a tropical paradise as it is a shopping, eating and partying haven. From gorgeous, sweeping beaches to stunning temples, there are plenty of things to see and do in Phuket and here are the best of them.
Enjoy the beach life — however you like it
When it comes to wonderful beaches, Phuket has them in spades. But perhaps what’s best about them is that there’s truly a beach for everyone. For those who enjoy a beach with plenty of activities, look no further than bustling Patong beach. A long and lively beach in Phuket’s party hub, it offers water sports to enjoy, tonnes of travellers to mingle with, and drinks and activities are never far away.
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For more of a relaxing beach experience, Freedom beach and Laem Singh beach are typically much less crowded, and feature the usual hallmarks of Thailand’s beaches; sweeping bays, rocky outcrops and thick, green jungle. Want something in between lively and relaxing? The stunning beaches of Kata, Kata Noi and Karon should tick your boxes but if not, don’t worry — take your pick from our roundup of Phuket’s best beaches, and you’re bound to find the right one for you.
Pay a visit to the Big Buddha
As well as enjoying this gorgeous island down on the ground, it’s only from high up that the beauty of Phuket can be truly appreciated — and where better than at the base of the famous 45m-tall marble Buddha statue? With 360-degree views of the island, taking in Phuket Town and the bays of Kata and Karon, it’s one of the best viewpoints in the area, as well as being one of the most revered spots on the island. While the view is spectacular, the statue itself is just as impressive. Stretching up high into the sky, it sits proudly atop the mountain, looking over the sprawling city below.
As it’s a religious site, you’ll need to dress conservatively, so make sure to don your elephant pants on the day you decide to tackle the hill and climb up to the statue — which we promise you is well worth the effort.
Party on Bangla Road
If you love the bright lights and strange sights of Khaosan Road in Bangkok, then you won’t want to miss out on Bangla Road in the heart of Patong. A glowing hive of neon lights, beer bars and go-go bars, Bangla Road isn’t for the faint-hearted, but is sure to provide a night you won’t forget. While there are the more adult-entertainment-orientated bars like Tiger, there are also more straightforward nightclubs to enjoy too, such as Illuzion and Seduction.
Our specially curated 10-day tour of Southern Thailand begins with a night out in Phuket giving you the chance to discover Patong nightlife with a Local Insider who knows all the coolest bars and hangouts. If you’d rather wing it yourself, however, here are the best local bars we recommend, plus a number of restaurants to check out during your visit.
Grab a bite at the Phuket Town weekend night market
While the prices of ‘street food’ in the West are almost as expensive as the price of a sit-down meal, it still remains an incredibly cheap way to eat in Thailand. There’s no better place to sample street food in Phuket than at Phuket Town’s weekend night market. Known locally as Naka market, it offers an array of snacks and dishes to enjoy including Thai favourites like pad Thai, mango sticky rice and ‘farang food’. Once you’re done gorging on the tasty grub (or even grubs…), there’s a large shopping area where you can buy clothes, trinkets and crafts that make for perfect souvenirs.
Get your shopping fix
Unlike most Thai islands, Phuket is home to modern shopping centres and complexes that wouldn’t be out of place in a European city. For designer brands and high street stores, the likes of Central Festival, Jungceylon and the Premium Outlet are great places to visit, offering some of the best shopping experiences in the south of Thailand. If instead you’re looking for a bargain or something a little more quirky, then Phuket’s numerous markets are great places to shop, as are the picturesque streets in Phuket’s old town, where treasures can be found around every corner.
Head to an island
If you somehow get bored of the beauty of Phuket — or if you just need a change of scenery — you’re perfectly placed to explore several beautiful islands nearby. Koh Khai and Coral Island embody the paradise-like image Thai islands are famous for, with their cerulean-coloured water and white-sand beaches, and both are only about 20 minutes away by speedboat. Koh Phi Phi – home to the famous Maya Bay – needs no introduction, but the islands of Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai are equally beautiful, yet also offer a glimpse into what laid-back island life is like in the Land of Smiles.
Culture Trip’s exclusive 10-day trip in Southern Thailand includes visits to Koh Yao Yai and nearby Koh Hong – with a local insider fast-tracking you to the most beautiful parts of both islands.
Lose yourself at Fantasea
For a cultural experience like no other, you’d be wise to head to Fantasea. Part-theme park, part-show, it’s a wondrous complex that highlights Thailand’s rich culture and heritage, all while providing an unforgettable feast of top-class performances, acrobatics, stunts, elephants and pyrotechnics that never fail to captivate and amaze the audience. As well as a show, there’s the opportunity to shop, dine and get involved in various activities around the park, with plenty for all the family to enjoy. A real must-see for anyone coming to Phuket.
Marvel at the beauty of the island
Phuket’s a special place, and perhaps the best place to realise this is at Promthep Cape. Located at the southern tip of the island, it’s easy to see why this viewpoint has long been the go-to place to catch the sunset in Phuket. From the edge of the cliff, you’ll be treated to an unspoiled view of the sun setting into the ocean, with a stunning cape in the foreground. Romantic and simply beautiful, it’s the perfect place to reflect on your trip to Phuket before moving on to your next destination.
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