While Phuket is home to plenty of its own delights to entertain travellers; a wealth of natural and cultural attractions are situated just a short journey away form the island, on the Thai mainland. This means you can combine island and mainland attractions during a stay in Thailand’s most popular destination.
From ice-white beaches to gleaming golden temples, Phuket boasts a whole host of attractions—both natural and cultural. However, there’s no reason to stop there. The island is also a good base for further exploration, with yet more treasures waiting in the nearby mainland provinces for day trips.
To the north of Phuket lies Phang Nga; a province known for its mystical ocean seascapes offshore, and waterfalls, mountains and hot springs inland. As if that wasn’t enough, Krabi province to the southeast of Phuket beckons with its own selection of spectacular beaches and craggy coastal scenery.
With both of these stunning provinces around an hour away from Phuket by car, mainland trips offer an appealing addition to your travel itinerary.
Pleasures of Phang Nga
While many visitors enjoy exploring Phang Nga Bay by boat, the eponymous mainland province is also easy to reach from Phuket with a quick 58km ride along Highway 402. Travellers can look forward to the laid-back atmosphere of the province, which replaces the bustle and glitz of Phuket. To the north of Phang Nga Town lies Manora waterfall, one of the region’s most popular sights, while to the south there’s an abundance of small streams and rivers which all feed into dazzling Phang Nga Bay. Many visitors take the opportunity to relax on one of the deserted mainland beaches. Natai Beach, a charming stretch of unspoilt sand is an ideal choice for a post-lunch sun bathing session. The beach also boasts a number of stunning private rental villas and is a mere 25 minute drive from Phuket Airport.
Hat Khao Lak is another of Phang Nga’s oceanside gems, and an ideal jumping off point for travellers seeking to explore the northern Andaman region. Known simply as Khao Lak, the area is a tranquil dream for visitors seeking a peaceful day out, and while it is less developed than many of Phuket’s major resorts, it is an ideal destination for those craving comfort, a spot of shopping and a good meal in an authentic seafood restaurant. Immediately south of Khao Lak lies the Khao Lak/ Lam Ru National Park, an enticing patchwork of lofty hills, sandy beaches and lush mangroves. Keep your eyes peeled for hornbills, tapirs, monkeys and even Asiatic black bears.
For a slightly longer jaunt (the journey from Phuket takes approximately four hours so its probably best to stay for a night or two), visitors in search of a jungle adventure should visit Khao Sok National Park. This lowland jungle dates back 160 million years, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Dramatic limestone karsts and waterfalls are among the highlights, and visitors shouldn’t miss the chance to visit the impressive Rajaprapa Dam and the lake it created. Eagle-eyed wildlife enthusiasts might catch a glimpse of gibbons, deer or even elephants that inhabit the lake’s stunning shoreline.
Whether you are travelling in a hire car or by bus, the short run from Phuket to Krabi makes the province an ideal mainland hotspot for an extended side trip. Stretching across 1,800 miles of Thailand’s southern peninsula, and boasting a charming assortment of archipelagos, Krabi’s major draws are its natural treasure. Railay beach is the province’s signature beach; widely regarded as one of the most attractive beaches in the whole of Thailand, even the world. The Railay area is also something of a mecca for rock climbers, who can scale the craggy surface of the sheer limestone cliffs that surround the beach, dangling over the aquamarine ocean below.
Amazing Ao Nang
Ao Nang is another of Krabi’s prime beach resorts. Small but full of dining and shopping options, its an easy place to explore on foot, and just a 20-minute long tail boat ride from Railay, which means you can explore both beach areas in a day. Mangrove tours and snorkelling trips rank highly on most visitors’ to-do lists here, but he town is also a great place to pick up a few handicraft souvenirs. The beach does not disappoint either, especially the southern end with its backdrop of forested limestone cliffs. Swimming and kayaking are the most popular activities.