Phuket is a beautiful island in Thailand located in the Andaman Sea. The island is popularly known as ‘Pearl of the Andaman Sea’ draws visitors for its mountainous landscapes, pristine coastline consisting of the white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and rich marine life. There are plenty of high-end seaside resorts, villas, and spas if you are looking for a relaxed vacation. And the delicious Thai cuisine and culture-rich performances make sure that you have a memorable holiday. Here is a list of top things to do in Phuket.
How to Get to Phuket
Phuket International Airport located in the north of Phuket. Most of the best beaches and Phuket attractions are located in the south of Phuket, getting to these places from the airport will take around an hour. Phuket has a good frequency of flights from Bangkok and other major International destinations including India, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Germany.
If you want to get to Phuket from other cities in Thailand, there are buses connecting Phuket with Bangkok, Krabi and Surat Thani. Bangkok to Phuket takes around 12 hours and Phuket to Krabi is around 3-4 hours drive. There are also ferries connecting Phuket and Krabi but the frequency is very low and you can expect some delay if the weather is not good.
There are plenty of options for getting around in Phuket. One of the best options is to rent a scooter which is also the cheaper option and explore the city on your own. Other available options are Songthaews which are basically modified version of pick-up trucks, taxis which are priciest option and tuk-tuks.
For longer distance like from Phuket to Krabi, we rented a car and drove on our own.
Top Things to do in Phuket
Enjoy Views from the Big Buddha
The Big Buddha or Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri (the official name) is one of the top Phuket attractions. The 45 m gigantic statue of Buddha sitting in a giant lotus on the peak of Mt. Nagakerd in Karon overlooks the town of Phuket.
The statue of Buddha is made up of reinforced concrete and decorated with beautiful Burmese white jade marble which gives it the mesmerizing white color.
The temple grounds also has another small white statue of Buddha and a stunning golden statue of Buddha made of brass along with several other statues of Buddha and of revered monks. There are information boards with information on birth and enlightenment of Buddha and about the Buddhist festivals.
To reach the summit one has to climb a 6 km winding road shaded by trees for the most part of the road. The road is in good condition but sometimes very steep with curves which makes it difficult to ride a two-wheeler. You can also hike your way up which will take you around an hour.
The temple grounds and several vantage points along the way up offer breathtaking panoramic views of Phuket and the coastline. The statue of Big Buddha sitting on the hill is visible from most of the places in Phuket. There is no entrance fee to visit the temple but voluntary donations are welcome. There is no strict dress code but as it is a religious site visitors are required to dress decently. Sarongs can also be hired at the entrance if need be. The entrance to Big Buddha is open from 6 AM to 7 PM daily.
Visit the Stunning Temples of Wat Chalong
Wat Chalong or Wat Chaiyathararam is a magnificent Buddhist temple in Phuket. The grandeur temple built in the early 19th century has elaborate decoration in red and golden color. The grand pagoda part of the temple complex is a 3-story 60 m ‘Chedi’ which shelters a splinter of bone from Buddha. The interior walls and ceilings of the building have rich paintings illustrating the life of Buddha and numerous golden statues of Buddha in different positions. One can climb to the top floor for a wonderful panoramic view of Phuket.
When we were visiting a man lit a bunch of firecrackers in a brick cave-like structure which created loud explosions for several minutes. We later learned that this is a way the Thai thank when their wishes come true.
There are many shops along the route to the temple selling souvenirs, flowers, flower garlands, and other religious items.
Visit the Neighboring Province of Krabi
The town Krabi is about 3 hours drive from Phuket. There is a plenty of things to do in Krabi. Krabi lures tourists and travelers with its breathtaking karst landscapes, gorgeous beaches, mangrove forests, and the beautiful islands.
While the beautiful temples of Wat Kaew and Tiger Cave Temple and the Night Markets are major points of interest in the town, the popular Krabi attractions Koh Klang Fishing Village and Khao Khanab Nam Mountain Cave is only short boat ride from the Krabi Town center. You can also take a day trip to four islands – Tup Island, Koh Mor, Chicken Island, and Poda Island or to the laid-back island of Ko Lanta.
Railay Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand is 30 minutes boat ride from the town center and is yet another major draw for tourists to Krabi. The beach surrounded by limestone mountains has numerous restaurants, resorts, and caves to explore.
Explore Phuket Old Town
The major draw to Phuket are its beaches and island hopping tours but a visit to Phuket is incomplete without visiting the historic Phuket Old Town. The historic streets of Old Town are lined with colorful and charming mansions decorated with beautiful stucco work and some of which are over a century old.
The most beautiful and the oldest street is Soi Rommane which interestingly used to be the red light district. The main street Thalang also has color-coded buildings but are occupied by quaint cafes and souvenir shops. The Old Town is compact enough to explore on foot.
There are numerous Buddhist and Chinese temples and several night markets in the Old Town. The Thai Hua Museum housed in a Sino-Portuguese building on Phuket history and the Phuket Philatelic Museum is also located in the Phuket Old Town.
Learn About the Thai Culture at Siam Niramit Phuket
Siam Niramit is a spectacular performance showcasing the Thai history, culture, and heritage. The show illustrates the history of Siam kingdom, the Thai customs, and festivals, the concept of heaven and hell through folk dance and enactments. Each of the performances is accompanied by traditional music which is very riveting. The show also has surprise elements where real elephants and goats walk the stage and sometimes the dancers and elephants perform amidst the audience. Book tickets here.
The stage set up with huge props, special effects and the colorful elaborate costumes of the dancers are incredible. The beautiful performances enacted by over 100 performers with traditional background music will transport you into a completely different world. The most breathtaking part of the show is the last act depicting the heavens where you will see performers dressed as mythical creatures ziplining through the roof of the hall.
There is a small recreated Thai village where you get to see and experience the authentic Thai lifestyle. You can see floating markets, learn about traditional puppet-making, Batiks, garland making, silk weaving and watch Thai boxing. There is also a magnificent Naga light and fountain show in the theatre premises. There are also sections offering a myriad of activities for the visitors.
It is recommended that you arrive early if interested to explore more of the Thai customs and cultures in the traditional Thai Village. The village is open from 5.30 PM and the show starts only at 8:30 PM so you have enough time to walk around and explore.
Taking pictures or videos of the Siam Niramit show is not allowed. The cameras need to be deposited at the entrance to the theatre. But once the show was over the performers/dancers spread all along the route to the exit and we could click plenty of pictures with them.
Enjoy Sunset at Promthep Cape
The Promthep Cape is a popular sunset spot in Phuket offering incredible views of the Andaman Sea. The viewpoint is located near Rawai Beach in Mueang Phuket District. Make note that it is very famous and gets pretty crowded with tourists looking to snap that picture-perfect sunset.
The cape also has a lighthouse which houses a museum on maritime history. A climb to the balcony of the lighthouse offers commanding views of the sea and the surrounding islands. There is also a small temple on top of the hill dedicated to elephants and houses many small wooden elephant sculptures.
Phromthep Cape Restaurant is an open-air restaurant where you can enjoy meals with the serene views of the sea and the beach. There are ample parking space and numerous souvenir shops around the viewpoint.
Visit Sleeping Buddha of Wat Sri Sunthon
Wat Sri Sunthon or Wat Lipon is a beautiful temple in Thalang, close to the Phuket Old Town. The temple built in 1792 houses a large statue of reclining Buddha in the ‘Pang Sai Yat’ posture on top of a building. Visitors can climb the building and walk around the reclining statue of Buddha. The statue is easily visible from the road, and you can spot it on the way to the international airport from Phuket Old Town.
In the same temple premises, there are 9 other statues of Buddha in different positions. There are also statues of lions and giants which act as the guards of the temple. Amongst the statues in the premises are that of Phets which depict the ghosts from Thai mythology. There is also a small bell tower in the temple complex, you can climb up the tower to have a closer look at the bell.
Phuket Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Phuket if you are visiting with kids. The aquarium is located at the end of Cape Panwa about 12 km from the Phuket Old Town. The sections of the aquarium include Rainforest Zone, Mangrove Forest Zone, Ornamental FIsh Zone where you see myriad of colorful and beautiful fishes, coral reefs and a 10 m long tunnel where you can see some large fishes like sharks, rays and snapper.
Apart from the marine life, the collection at display includes are models of large fishes, a touch pool where you can touch and experience the animals, a mermaid cave where you can learn about mythical creatures.
Outside the aquarium, there is a nature trail along the coast with information boards on regional birds, animals and plant species. At the end of nature trail is a turtle hatchery where you can see some old and rescued turtles.
Phuket to James Bond Island Tour
James Bond Island is a popular landmark located in the Phang Nga Bay consisting of Khao Phing Kan island and Ko Tapu limestone karst. The island is famous as the shooting sight of the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. The Phang Nga Bay part of the Ao Phang Nga National Park is located in a picturesque setting surrounded by dramatic karst mountains rising out of the emerald waters of the sea.
The tour dropped us at the Khao Phing Kan which offers picture-perfect views of Ko Tapu towering limestone karst rising out of the emerald waters 40 m from the shores of Khao Phing Kan island. Khao Phing Kan island has numerous shops selling souvenirs like magnets, items made of seashells and jewelry accessories.
We stopped at the beautiful calm fishing village of Pan Yee Island island where we had lunch in one of the restaurants. We did sea canoeing at Talu Island and explored the spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations inside the cave. Each of the canoes had a guide to paddling us through the caves. Our tour ended with a visit to the famous Monkey Cave of Wat Suwan Kuha. Wat Suwan Kuha consists of a large golden statue of reclining Buddha along with several other statues and lots of monkeys in and around the temple.
Enjoy Sunset at Promthep Cape
Promthep Cape located near Rawai Beach is a popular sunset spot in Phuket. The setting sun on the horizon paints the sky in shades of orange, red and purple, a mesmerizing sight to behold.
There is also a lighthouse near the viewpoint which houses a small museum on maritime artifacts. The climb up to the top of the lighthouse offers even spectacular views of the surrounding Andaman Sea and far islands. There is a small Buddhist Shrine near the cape decorated with several elephant statues in various sizes. There are numerous restaurants and souvenir shops around the viewpoint.
Go on a Shopping Spree at the Phuket Markets
One of the most popular things to do in Phuket is to visit and explore the night markets. The markets start at around dusk and are open until late at night. These markets sell handicrafts, souvenirs, jewelry accessories, they also have food stalls where you get to taste some local delicacies and often accompanied by music and live performances.
Similarly, Walking Street markets are set up on a busy street which will be temporarily closed to the traffic.
Some of the popular markets in Phuket Old Town are Chillva Market Phuket on Yaowarat Road, Phuket Weekend Market on Chao Fa West Road, Phuket Walking Street on Thalang Road and Phuket Indy Market located at Limelight Avenue on Dibuk Road. Banzaan Market, OTOP and Malin Plaza in Patong and Karon Temple Market near Karon Beach are also few markets not to miss for shopaholics.
Phuket to Phi Phi Islands Day Tour
As we were based in Phuket we planned a day trip to Phi Phi islands from Phuket. Our speedboat started at Phuket Royal Marina. Our first stop was Phi Phi Leh Island which was an hours ride from Phuket Royal Marina.
The Phi Phi islands are part of the marine national park and offer some of the breathtaking landscapes consisting of limestone karst mountains, white sandy beaches, and crystal clear turquoise waters with rich marine life. The islands are ideal locations adventure activities like swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and canoeing.
Visitors can join one of the group tours which includes pick up from your hotel or hire longtail boats and set to explore the scenic landscapes. The tour includes several stops including the Monkey Beach, Maya Bay at Phi Phi Leh Island popular for the shooting of the movie ‘The Beach’ (Bay has been closed indefinitely), Viking Cave, Bamboo island and Coral Bay for snorkeling, the amazing natural pool of Pileh Lagoon and Phi Phi Don which is the largest and the only inhabited island of Phi Phi islands for lunch.
Enjoy the Nightlife at Patong Beach
Patong is a popular beach resort town in Phuket known for its cafes, restaurants, live music bars, massage parlors, and nightclubs. During the day Patong is like any other beach destination where you try some local delicacies in the beach restaurants, enjoy water sports activities or relax on the golden sandy stretch of beach, rent umbrellas, and beach mats and enjoy some watersport activities like jet skiing and parasailing.
But as the dusk falls the resort town comes to life with partygoers from around the island looking for an exuberant nightlife. Bangla Road in Patong Beach is a bustling street with neon lights and loud music and lined with beer bars, pubs, discotheques, and restaurants. You may also spot street performers like cabaret dancers, ladyboys posing for pictures and much more.
Phuket is also a great place to go shopping. There are fresh markets, night markets, local markets like Patong OTOP Shopping Paradise and even large shopping malls like Jungceylon. You can shop from a myriad of souvenirs, fashion accessories and clothes, electronics and more.
Like Siam Niramit, Phuket Fantasea is also a popular cultural program must see when in Phuket. The enchanting show introduces the visitors to the rich cultural heritage and beauty of Thailand. The show is performed by over 400 dancers and performers wearing colorful costumes and doing acrobatics, and aerial performances. Visitors also get see elephants, tigers, and other animals performing in the show.
There is a carnival village which offers a wide range of activities, games, parades, shopping options and two restaurants offering Thai and international cuisines.
Taking pictures during the show is not allowed. Visitors need to deposit the camera at the entrance of the theatre.
Explore the Beautiful Beaches
The Phuket coastline is lined with over 30 popular and hidden beaches. Some of the popular beaches where you can expect tourist crowds are Rawai Beach, Karon Beach and Patong Beach. Rent a scooter and go beach hopping for some non-touristy and off-the-beaten-path beaches like Freedom Beach, Kata Noi, Ya Nui, and Surin Beach. Some of these beaches are ideal spots for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Sunrise at Rawai Beach
Sunrises and sunsets at these beaches create a mesmerizing splash of colors over the horizon.
View Points for Wonderful Panoramic Views
Phuket is a mountainous island with plenty of vantage points which offer incredible panoramic views of the city, the coastline, and the surrounding landscapes. The summit of Big Buddha offers great views of the Phuket City, Karon, and Chalong Bay. Another popular viewpoint is the Karon View Point which offers views of the Andaman Sea and three different bays Kata Noi Beach, Kata Beach, and Karon Beach. Also worth visiting are the Kata Noi Viewpoint, Windmill Viewpoint, Promthep Cape, Khao Rang Hill, and Radar Hill Viewpoint.
Best Time to Visit Phuket
The best time to visit Phuket is from November to March which is busy months when you can expect a lot of tourist crowd. The climate is pleasant and warm. April-May and September-October are the hottest months which you would want to avoid. September-October months also have chances of rain. June to October are usually the rain months when you can expect heavy showers. During rains, the ferry operations and the tours by speedboat and boats can be affected.
We visited end of September it was hot but not unbearable. The tourist crowd was ok and we were lucky enough for it did not rain the week we stayed.
Other Suggested Phuket Tours
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