Phuket is often called the Pearl of the Andaman, and with good reason as there are plenty of interesting and varied things to see and do all over this amazing island. As well as the obvious natural charms such as sublime beaches, dazzling islands, dense jungles and watery mangrove forests, Phuket also has a wealth of cultural and historical attractions, zoos and farms, impressive viewpoints, national parks, temples and shrines; all this can easily occupy more than a few days and make a welcome diversion from the usual beach activities. Even the most dedicated sun worshippers will surely agree there is much more to Phuket than just its fine beaches and raucous night time entertainment.
For the adventurous and independent types, the best way to experience Phuket is to rent a car or small motorbike, as the island is easily explored with a vehicle in just a few days. This way you’ll be able to experience everything at your own leisure without having to rely on the rather expensive local transport.
Here is our guide to the highlights of what to see around Phuket.
The stunning beaches in Phuket are without doubt a large part of its enduring appeal. All along the west coast, there are dozens of superb quality sandy beaches each with its own unique character; some are busy and can become quite crowded, others are quieter and much more secluded, but either way you’re sure to find one that you enjoy.
See our related article for much more on Phuket’s most popular beaches.
Islands Around Phuket
Phuket is not the only island worth visiting in the area, and there are dozens of lesser known unspoiled and undeveloped islands dotted around Phuket, that can be reached by boat within a very short time. Many of the nearby islands are ideal places to snorkel and dive, with pristine clear waters and amazing (and intact) coral reefs. Some are very sparsely populated with a few eco-resorts or home stay accommodation with local families.
Perhaps the most famous island nearby is Koh Phi Phi, which comprises two separate and distinctive islands, namely Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Ley, both home to the most gorgeous beaches and immortalised in guidebooks the world over. Phi Phi has plenty of beach activities and things to do, and the journey to reach the island passes some magnificent limestone karst rock formations that rise steeply from the water and are great to explore by canoe. Nowadays, Phi Phi is the one of the most popular destinations in the Andaman Sea, second only to Phuket. Phi Phi really is an essential destination on any traveller’s itinerary, but try stay a few days or longer, as the day tours that leave from Phuket don’t leave enough time to explore and appreciate the island in just a few hours.
Closer to Phuket, other islands worth a visit include the Koh Yao Islands (both Yai and Noi), both of which are just off Phuket’s east coast and can be reached by long tail boat. Here, you can appreciate a more simple way of life away from mass tourism in a very relaxed atmosphere. There is some simple accommodation here, and getting around is best done by motorbike or bicycle.
Just 3 kilometres from the south of Phuket is the gorgeous Coral Island, or Koh Hae as it’s known locally. The island’s name is very appropriate as it has some of the most stunning coral formations in the area, not forgetting its two pristine and sandy beaches, Long Beach and Banana Beach. From Banana beach, the snorkelling is superb and there are also banana boats, canoes and even parasailing available from Long Beach. A small forested trail leads between the two beaches.
The Racha Islands (Yai and Noi) are another splendid dive and snorkelling location, located just 12 kilometres south of Phuket, which can be reached by speedboat in just 30 minutes, or by long tail boat in less than an hour. These two islands make popular day trips or short excursions from Phuket, hence can become crowded during the day, but are much quieter and peaceful at night. Racha Noi is uninhabited and there is no accommodation on the island, but the excellent diving is the main reason to visit. Both islands can be reached from Phuket leaving from Chalong Pier or Rawai.
For a more exclusive and upmarket experience, Koh Bon is the place to be. A picturesque little island just 15 minutes from the south coast of Phuket, it has soft white sand and decent snorkelling, as well as plush luxury accommodation provided by the Evason Phuket Resort. Not far away is Koh Lone in the middle of Chalong Bay, which is quite sparsely populated and has just a few upmarket resorts. Mai Thon Island is another upscale place which isn’t overrun with day trippers, as the only resort on the island, the Mai Thon Island Resort, has the whole place to itself. Definitely a superb place to escape the crowds.
Rang Yai Island, close to Phuket’s east coast, is relatively small and has developed into something of an activity and adventure centre, with all manner of sports available such as sea kayaking, mountain biking, windsurfing, shooting, mini golf and volleyball. It’s also a become a popular place for team building and corporate events. The beach is small and quiet, with a quaint row of bamboo bungalows just a stone’s throw from the water.
Further north from Koh Rang Yai are Naka Yai and Naka Noi, two small but attractive islands that make for an enjoyable day trip. Naka Yai has a small village on the west side, and a few exclusive resorts are under development. The beaches are wide and sandy, with marvellous views towards Phang Nga bay to the east. Besides swimming, snorkelling and relaxing, there’s not really much else to do here. Naka Noi also has a working pearl farm where the beads are cultivated from molluscs, which usually forms part of most visitors’ itineraries to the islands.
Koh Maphrao, or Coconut Island, is just 5 minutes by boat from Phuket’s east coast, and is a great place to explore the rich and diverse mangrove forests. Many organised tours visit Koh Maphrao and it’s possible to arrange an overnight stay with a local Thai family. The only other accommodation is the upmarket and very exclusive resort The Village Coconut Island, a great place to stay and unwind whilst enjoying this lovely island.
Besides the islands already mentioned, Phuket is just a few hours away from other world class and popular destinations such as the Similans, the Surin Islands and Koh Lanta. Each is well worth visiting and you could easily spend a month or two on each.
Gardens, Zoos and Farm Attractions
Phuket not only boasts abundant natural attractions, but dozens of interesting gardens, animal zoos and farms. They make for an easy day trip and a break from lounging around on the beach, and allow you to get up close and personal with a variety of dangerous, exotic and beautiful creatures.
For an alternative and fun attraction, visit the small Phuket aquarium located at the end of Cape Panwa, south east of Phuket Town. There is a wide variety of saltwater and freshwater fish and other marine life on display, as well as being the main centre for breeding and hatching endangered sea turtles back into the sea, an important part of the work they do. Thailand’s marine biological research station is also based there.
Children especially will love the aquarium, and it’s easy to spend an hour or two there. The fish include moray eels, angel fish, lion fish, huge groupers, lobsters, sharks and much more. On the walls are some educational displays, but the highlight is probably the 10 metre long walkthrough glass tunnel where you can see small sharks and some eagle rays. Outside is a short nature trail to reach the turtle hatchery, where you can see incubators and different sized turtles being reared, as well as some injured ones that are being nursed back to health. You can never really tire of the Phuket aquarium and even though it’s probably not a must-see attraction, it’s certainly worthwhile and visitors always seem to come away thoroughly impressed.
The aquarium is open daily between 8.30am and 4.30pm, and the entrance fee is 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children.
Where: Cape Panwa, 51 Sakdidech Road
Tel: +66 (0)76 391 126
Phuket Butterfly Garden and Insect World
Founded in 1990, the butterfly garden and insect farm is supposedly the largest and longest running in Thailand, and concentrates mainly on breeding as well as being involved in some broader conservation efforts. At any one time, there are between 6000 and 8000 butterflies and 20 to 30 species on show, the majority of which are bred locally at the centre. Every year, thousands are released back into the wild where they continue to breed naturally.
The garden also has many informative displays, as well as an interesting silk museum, and it’s possible to observe the insects at all stages of their lifecycle which takes around 4-6 weeks to complete in full. The other creepy crawlies displayed safely behind glass include large spiders, beetles, scorpions and stick insects, but the squeamish better just stick to the butterflies. The entrance fee is 300 baht for adults and 150 baht for children.
Where: 71/6, M.5, Soi Paneung, Yaowarat Road, Rassada
Tel: +66 (0)76 210 861
Crocodile and Tiger World
To see prime examples of fresh and saltwater crocodiles in all their glory, visit the Crocodile and Tiger World, which is a private zoo near the centre of Phuket Town. Despite not being very well publicised and not even particularly busy, it’s quite an interesting place to visit as there are literally thousands of crocs (they claim to have over 10,000 specimens).
Because it’s a real farm and breeding centre, the animals sold here are eventually destined to end up as meat or handbags, and it feels like opening to the public is just an afterthought as the majority of income is from selling these magnificent creatures. You can get quite close to the crocs, and there are daily shows where the daring animal handler performs all manner of risky moves, such as putting his limbs inside a crocodile’s mouth. Feeding time is especially fun, as hundreds of the animals wrangle over the food.
Besides the impressive crocodiles, the zoo also has other exotic animals such as emus, ostriches, tropical birds, gibbons, monkeys, and of course tigers which are also bred. Open daily between 10am and 6pm, the entrance fee is quite steep at 500 baht for adults and 300 for children. Early in 2009, the zoo sparked local controversy as there were reports that it had illegally obtained some endangered orang-utans, which were successfully rescued by Thailand’s wildlife protection agencies. Since then, there have been no further reports of similar misdemeanours at the zoo.
Open: 10am to 6pm
Where: opposite Seahorse circle on Chana-Charoen Road, Phuket Town
Tel: +66 (0)76 217 408
Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre
Based in the Khao Phra Theaw National Park and on route to the Bang Pae waterfall, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project is helping to conserve and rescue white-handed gibbons from tourist sites or being sold in local markets. Previously hunted to extinction within Phuket, these magnificent animals are now being rehabilitated and reintroduced back into their natural forested environments. There is an active and successful breeding program, and the whole project is completely funded and managed by volunteers.
Unfortunately, gibbons are frequently used simply as a prop to earn money from tourists who like to have their photos taken with these cute animals. Little do they realise this is illegal in Thailand and the monkeys are often mistreated badly. Do not be tempted to have a photo taken with captive baby gibbons around Phuket’s tourist spots.
There is no entrance fee at the centre, but visitors do need to pay to enter the national park, which is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children.
Phuket Orchid Garden and Thai Village
The orchid garden and Thai village displays and celebrates southern Thai culture, as well as housing an impressive array of orchids in a tropical garden of more than 8000 square metres. Billed as a cultural extravaganza, there are four restaurants, a playground for kids, workshops and souvenir and handicraft shops, and a fairly interesting cultural show performed twice daily. Lively Thai dances (such as the Norah or bird dance) and impressive Muay Thai martial arts are demonstrated. Dances are usually at 1pm and 5.30pm, and there is a nightly re-enactment of the famous Thai festival of Loy Krathong. The orchid garden contains many exotic and rare varieties. It’s open daily and costs 400 baht for adults.
Since there are never enough pearls to meet the ever increasing demand, several pearl farms have been established in Phuket, such as those on the islands of Koh Naka Noi and Koh Rang Yai. Most people visit the farms where the pearls are cultivated (both fresh and saltwater varieties) as part of an organised trip to one of the islands, but it’s also possible to go independently. You can learn how the oysters are farmed and the pearls extracted, with demonstrations by local experts. Of course, there’s the chance to buy a few examples for those that want to splash out a bit. For an hour or so, combined with a trip to the islands, visiting a pearl farm is quite an interesting experience.
For more details contact the Pearl Island Tour Company on +66 (0)76 219 87, or any of the ubiquitous tour companies around Phuket.
Phuket’s most visited zoo is a private venue with various exotic animals, an aquarium, an orchid garden and a tropical bird park. The main attractions are the daily crocodile, monkey and elephant shows, which prove extremely popular with tourists. However you can’t help wondering if their animals should be treated simply as performers. The crocodile show has a few particularly nerve-wracking moments when the trainer puts his head in a mouth lined with razor sharp teeth. Likewise, the monkey show is fairly humorous with the animals trained to ride bikes and perform various tricks. Another popular activity at the zoo is to have a photo taken with a selection of beasts including tigers, elephants, and monkeys.
Like most zoos in Thailand, the emphasis is mainly on entertaining tourists so you might prefer to give it a miss if you prefer a more enlightened and conservation minded zoo. The entrance fee is 500 baht for adults and 300 baht for children, but like most tourist attractions in Phuket, there is a dual pricing policy and foreigners pay considerably more than Thais.
Temples and Religious Attractions
Phuket has its fair share of Buddhist temples, shrines and other religious sites, the most well known being the Big Buddha monument and Wat Chalong. However, there are dozens of smaller temples to discover all over Phuket, and Phuket Old Town has some prime examples of Chinese temples. The old adage that once you’ve seen one you’ve seen ‘em all doesn’t necessarily hold true, and it’s certainly recommended to visit at least one or two temples during your stay, at the very least Big Buddha and Wat Chalong.
The large and imposing 45 metre high Big Buddha statue can be easily seen in the distance from many places around Phuket’s southern end, and is quite an impressive sight as it looks calmly out to sea. Getting there is simple, situated on the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata, but it’s a fairly steep drive up some small and twisty mountain roads. Thankfully, there are a few good places to stop along the way including small viewpoints and various restaurants. There are also a few elephant trekking and ATV tours based along the route. It’s probably advisable to go with a tour group or take your own motorbike (which is also considerably cheaper), and it’s fairly well signposted from Phuket Town and other places such as Kata.
On arrival at the Big Buddha site, there is a large parking area and surprisingly, free entry to the statue. Below the figure is a small viewpoint with great views across Phuket Town and Phang Nga bay to the islands of Koh Yao and beyond. Visitors are often surprised just how much of Phuket is still green and forested. From here, the beauty of the island and the surrounding area is revealed in splendid fashion.
The figure itself is not yet finished and construction is ongoing, relying on donations to fund the work. Below the statue is a small area that sells souvenirs and drinks, as well as a room that contains more information about the statue’s history and plenty of pictures. It’s possible to “make merit” by lighting incense sticks or to make a donation to help complete the work. On climbing some stairs to reach the statue on the summit, it’s possible to walk around and observe the workers. To bring good luck, visitors are encouraged to inscribe their name on an artificial Bodhi leaf, which is attached to a small golden bell on the figure.
Although Big Buddha is one of the most frequently visited attractions and revered sites in Phuket, it really only needs to be experienced once. Furthermore, it’s an enjoyable ride to the hill’s summit and Big Buddha is fairly striking in its enormity. The statue embodies Thailand’s rich spiritual heritage and is a fitting and impressive tribute.
Open: 8am to 7.30pm
There are around 30 temples in Phuket, but Wat Chalong is without doubt the grandest, most elaborate and most visited Buddhist temple on the island. This beautiful site has played a major role in Phuket’s turbulent history and remains the pride of Phuket. The name Chalong means festival in Thai, and it’s here where a cast statue of the monk named Luang Pho Cham can be found, a well known figure and founder of the temple renowned for helping the people of Phuket repel a Chinese rebellion in 1876.
The building is typically impressive and features an unconventional and lofty central pagoda. Climb to the top and you’ll be rewarded with great views across the temple grounds to Big Buddha and the nearby Nakkerd hills. Wat Chalong is fairly large with several buildings including the main temple. People tend to pray near the monk statues and apply gold leaf, as well as light incense and candles. Another nearby building features delicately painted walls which portray scenes from Buddha’s life.
Anybody who appreciates culture and intricate, decorative architecture will enjoy a visit to this marvellous site. Entrance is free, though a small donation is appreciated by the monks, and it’s open daily until 5pm. The best time to visit is either early morning or during late afternoon, as it can become busy with tour groups especially between 10am and 2pm. It’s advisable to wear long sleeved clothes and trousers, not skimpy beachwear!
Open: 8am to 5pm
Where: Between Phuket Town and Chalong
Cultural, Historical and Family Attractions
Phuket is fortunate enough to have held onto its past remarkably well, and established various museums and monuments to honour its history. From the Heroines Monument, to the unique Sino-Portuguese architecture in Phuket’s old town, there is something of culture and historical interest all over the island. Even committed sun worshippers should be able to appreciate an afternoon spent wandering around the old town, as well as stopping to enjoy some delicious Chinese food that is so popular in the area.
Baan Teelanka – The Upside Down House of Phuket
Baan Teelanka is a contemporary style house like you’ve never seen before! Phuket’s newest and quirkiest attraction is due to open in February 2014 and will almost certainly become one of the islands must see attractions.
No doubt a firm favourite with the Facebook and Instragram generation, Baan Teelanka is the first attraction of its kind in Thailand. This fully furnished upside down house is fantastic lighthearted entertainment for all the family and is the perfect attraction for those looking for an alternative to the beach.
As well as the upside down house, the Baan Teelanka site will also include A-Maze-In-Phuket, which is Phuket’s first hedgerow garden maze.
Baan Teelanka is located on the main bypass road, between Premium Outlet and Siam Niramit. Open daily from 10am to 6pm, ticket prices start at 150Baht.
The Heroines Monument doesn’t really need much introduction for the residents of Phuket, as it’s an instantly recognisable landmark and important piece of local history. The landmark can’t be missed when coming from the airport, as the main north-south highway Thepkasattri Road passes the roundabout where the statue is located. It features two sisters named Chan and Mook, who successfully helped to repel a Burmese invasion, and even managed to persuade local women to dress up as male warriors to convince the Burmese that they were vastly outnumbered.
The monument is also a local shrine and many tourists stop to take a look. There are a few smaller statues of the two heroines at the monument’s base, that people rub gold leaf onto for good luck and light incense sticks. It’s worth a short visit on the way around the island, or just stop your airport taxi and ask to take a picture. There is also an annual Phuket Heroines Festival, held every March 13th in Phuket to mark the date of the battle.
Where: Thepkasattri Road, 12 km north of Phuket Town
Phuket Old Town
The old part of Phuket Town is centred around Thalang Road, Yaowarat Road, Krabi Road and Phang Nga Road. Here there are old but well preserved Chinese style shophouses selling goods, fabrics and food. They date back at least 100 years and many are built in the unique Sino-Portuguese style, which has a strong Mediterranean influence. The shops are very narrow, but stretch back a long way behind the facade. These old mansions were built during Phuket’s tin boom, and many are now being leased out and renovated to regain the grandeur that they once had. Many of these shops are still occupied by the same Chinese families that lived there over 100 years ago.
Other places of interest near the old town are the government quarter which includes the old court and Phuket prison (which is still in use today and can be visited as part of a tour), Khao Rang or Rang Hill, and the various intricate and decorative Chinese temples, particularly the ornate Shrine of Serene Light, Jui Tui and Put Jaw temples. The temples are prime examples of Chinese Taoist shrines and definitely worth a visit. Walking around the old town will take just a few hours and is a very pleasant experience; certainly a recommended part of any trip to Phuket.
Phuket Mining Museum
The mining museum is a rather new addition to the historical attractions in Phuket, and as such is fairly quiet with not many tourists just yet. Nevertheless, it presents some very interesting information and facts about the tin mining period, which was so fundamental to Phuket’s previous wealth and notoriety until just a few decades ago. The museum reportedly cost more than 180 million baht to build, which highlights just how much effort has gone into its design and exhibits.
The museum has large educational sections dedicated to geology, and life sized dioramas that show Chinese tin miners in action, as well as mock up rooms that are made to look like old streets in Phuket and some fascinating paintings. It doesn’t sound all that fun but it’s surprisingly entertaining and children will also enjoy the trip. The entrance fee is 100 baht for adults and 50 for children. Recommended.
Open: 9am to 4pm
Where: Off Thepkasattri Road, near British International School
Tel: +66 (0)86 470 7767
Sea Gypsy Villages
There are several “sea gypsy” settlements in Phuket including one at Rawai at the southern end of Phuket. They are slowly being encroached upon by increasing tourism but you can still visit the area and observe a more traditional way of life. Sea gypsies are also known as Chao Lay, and have their own distinctive language and religion, but no written language exists, which is closely related to Malay but has also been influenced by Thai.
There are three main ethnic groups of sea gypsies – the Moken, Moklen and Urak Lawoi, and they are traditionally experts in swimming, diving and other marine pursuits, which has led to the popular term sea gypsy. In Rawai, the village is close to the pier and there are several nearby restaurants and a fresh market selling fish. There are also small shops that have souvenirs such as sea shells. It’s an interesting place to visit, especially as part of an island tour around the south of Phuket.
Phuket Seashell Museum
This intriguing museum boasts an impressive collection of over 2000 species of seashells. There are ancient fossilised shells on display, and some very rare exhibits such as the world’s largest golden pearl. There is also a massive shell that weighs around 250 kilos! It’s a great place to spend an hour or so. Entrance is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children, and its based just north of Rawai.
Thalang National Museum
The fascinating but under-publicised Thalang National Museum contains many unique exhibits and artefacts, especially related to the famous battle of Thalang and the two local heroines featured in the monument nearby. There is also plenty of information on Phuket’s rich and varied history, its daily life, and well thought out exhibits that cover tin mining and the island’s Chinese heritage. An impressive statue of the Hindu god Vishnu dominates the main hall; it was found in forest overgrowth in Phang Nga in around 1900, but dates back to the 9th century AD. There is a 100 baht entrance fee to enter the museum.
Open: 8.30am to 4.30pm
Where: Near the Heroines Monument, on the airport road
Tel: +66 (0)76 379 895
National Parks and Waterfalls
Phuket is blessed with some stunning natural landscapes, which thankfully have not been completely overrun with tourists or destroyed by the rapid pace of development on the island. The national parks in particular are havens for the remaining indigenous wildlife, and contain some impressive scenery, abundant plants and animals.
Khao Phra Theaw National Park
This lovely national park and conservation area covers 22 square kilometres in the north of Phuket and protects the island’s only remaining tropical rainforest. It includes a couple of fairly impressive waterfalls, namely Bang Pae and the small but beautiful Ton Sai. Some medium sized peaks in the reserve include Khao Pae (388 metres) and Khao Phara (422 metres). The lush forest canopy is quite splendid, and protects animals such as white-handed gibbons, wild boars, Malay sun bears (almost extinct), langur monkeys, deer, pythons, lizards, and many brightly coloured tropical bird species. It’s possible to spot the wildlife but extreme patience is needed as the animals are masters of camouflage, so it can be beneficial to hire an expert local guide.
The park is a serene and enjoyable place simply to walk and get back to nature, away from all the frenetic night time activities of Patong. Based near the Bang Pae waterfall, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre is home to the Gibbon Project, which aims to rescue and reintroduce the endangered creatures back into the wild. A recommended stop on the trip.
Entrance to the park is 200 baht for adults and 100 baht for children.
Where: Take route 402. At the Thalang intersection, head east for 6 km to the checkpoint.
Sirinath Marine National Park
The Sirinath Marine National Park is located on the island’s north west coast, fairly close to the Phuket Airport. Opened in 1981 by royal decree, it covers 90 square kilometres, 68 of which are a marine environment and 22 land-based. The park encompasses Nai Yang, Mai Khao and Nai Thon beaches, and is well known for the endangered sea turtles that lay their eggs in the sand.
There are essentially two types of forest which dominate the park; the beach forest, which is characterised by attractive Casurina Pines, which are fairly typical of many coastal areas in Thailand. At the northern end of the park is a mangrove evergreen forest, which can only exist where fresh and saltwater mix and requires a delicate balance of each water type. The tangled roots protect the area from coastal erosion and form a unique ecosystem and varied natural environment. Quite rare animal species thrive here including monitor lizards, various snakes, crabs, shellfish, mudskippers, and exotic bird species such as kingfishers. A nature trail and wooden walkway have been constructed, as well as signs with information and labels, which makes it much easier to observe and identify the unique flora and fauna.
Where: Nai Yang, Nai Thon and Mai Khao areas
Kathu waterfall doesn’t contain much water in the dry high season (between December and May) but during the rainy season there’s sufficient flow to warrant a visit. There are several welcome pools at the summit where you can take a short dip and respite from the heat (you’ll need it after the steep climb). There are many stairs and several levels leading up to the cascade, as well as some convenient tables and chairs. As expected, there are some food stalls and a few hawkers hanging around. There is no entrance fee.
Where: From Patong, take route 4029 then 4020 once in Kathu. Look out for the large black waterfall sign and turn left onto Kathu waterfall street (Thanon Nam Tok Kathu).
Ao Yon Waterfall
This little known waterfall is quite a pleasant spot, and has several small pools that are deep enough to bathe in. Getting there is not that easy and involves a steep climb over sharp rocks, so make sure you wear some sturdy footwear. It’s located just behind the beach at Ao Yon, near Cape Panwa.
Viewpoints in Phuket
On reaching the very highest points in Phuket, visitors will be rewarded with stunning vistas of the island and sweeping 360 degree panoramic views out to sea. It’s only then will you fully appreciate the geography and location of Phuket and its surroundings, and realise that even though it seems quite sprawling at first, everything can be reached easily and it’s much more compact that you might realise.
From stunning west coast sunsets to aerial views of the tiny coves, beaches and nearby islands, a trip to one the viewpoints is an essential experience in Phuket. A few of the most popular ones are described below.
Several kilometres along the twisty mountain road between Kata and Rawai is the Kata viewpoint, called the hill of the three beaches in Thai as it affords great views of the beaches of Kata, Karon, and Kata Noi, as well as tiny Pu Island and even Big Buddha sparkling on the hill in the distance.
On arrival, there is ample space to park but you might be hassled by the various touts selling tours or offering the chance to have a photograph taken with a large eagle. The best time to visit is undoubtedly when the sun sets, but it gets quite busy and you might need to barge your way forwards to get a decent photo.
Promthep Cape Viewpoint
Easily the most visited and popular viewpoint on the island, Promthep Cape attracts dozens of tour buses every evening, and hordes of camera waving Japanese and Chinese tourists. The car park is very busy and there are abundant hawkers, stalls and souvenir shops on the road outside selling everything from food to beachwear. There’s no entrance fee so just go up the stairs leading from the car park to the viewpoint and you’ll enjoy great views of the nearby islands, and on a clear day it’s even possible to see Koh Phi Phi.
The viewpoint becomes crowded around sunset and early evening, but there’s enough space to get an unobstructed photo. There is a small shrine at the top of the viewpoint that contains hundreds of small wooden elephants, and a lighthouse further behind with informational displays and stairs that lead to even more impressive 360 degree views.
At the far south of the island is Panwa cape and the Khao Khad Views Tower (Khao Khad is a small village located nearby). There is plenty of space to park, as well as souvenir shops and some cafes. The tower itself has two levels and some rather steep stairs, which lead up to splendid panoramic views around the southern part of Phuket. There are also some handy photo maps, which indicate exactly what you’re looking at.
Just like the other viewpoints, Panwa gets busy at sunset when the tour groups arrive en masse. At other times it’s much more peaceful, but the views are always just as stunning.