It’s no secret that Thailand has some of the most idyllic islands in the world – hundreds of islands in fact. While you’ll have heard of some, there are others that bob blissfully under the radar. Here are three to add to your 2021 itinerary.
Why Rainforest clings to mountainous Phuket, the country’s largest (and inarguably most popular) island, in the Andaman Sea. This place is seriously diverse, catering to nature lovers with turquoise water and verdant jungle; hedonists with open-all-hours bars and clubs; culinary enthusiasts with standout restaurants; and culture-seekers hunting shrines and markets.
Do After checking out the eye-popping Peranakan architecture in Phuket Old Town, head to the beach – they come in all shapes and sizes. Karon and Patong draw crowds, but there are plenty of secluded coves like Ao Sane (Rawai Beach). Get some perspective on a helicopter tour of the islands, or jump aboard a luxury yacht and explore the archipelago.
Shop Interiors addicts will want to make a beeline for the Underwood Art Factory, stocked with handmade pieces like copper ceiling fans and ornate steel screens.
Spa Keemala resort’s spa pods are the ultimate perch to try interesting treatments: book the raindrop therapy or seaweed massages.
Eat Thailand has 29 restaurants with Michelin stars. The only one on Phuket it Pru, a serene space with a culinary philosophy based on locally sourced produce – much of it comes from the establishment’s own farm. Five- and seven-course menus might include black crab with bitter herbs, or sunchokes with caviar, with each dish inspired by different parts of the country.
Sleep Ocean views don’t get much better than those enjoyed from the villas at Sri Panwa, clinging to the cliffs and home to the island’s hottest rooftop bar, Baba Nest.
Want to get cruising? Try it with these companies.
Where Ko Chang
Why One of the largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Chang is an adventure-lover’s dream. Here, the jungle of Mu Ko Chang National Park tumbles all the way down to sweeping bays, home to powdery stretches of palm-lined sand that look like the Thailand you see on postcards.
Do Lace up your hiking boots and explore the park’s many trails, or slip on your flippers and head off on snorkelling and diving expeditions.
shop Don’t come here expecting the flashy boutiques of Phuket and Samui – Chang’s shopping experience is all about rabbit-warren markets, many of them lining the sand.
Spa The Spa Ko Chang Resort offers multi-day wellness packages, but even if you’re not checked in you can enjoy treatments in the day spa.
Eat There’s no forgetting where you are when you eat at Oasis, an upscale Thai restaurant in a jungle-shrouded treehouse.
Sleep With a barefoot-luxe ethos, Soneva Kiri is like a little slice of Thai paradise. The resort – on a slip of land just minutes from Ko Chang, is all about immersive cultural experiences, from paddleboarding through mangroves to learning where your meal comes from while exploring the extensive kitchen gardens. Luxury jungle villas feature from one to six bedrooms.
Dive right in
Where Ko Samui
Why Many visitors come to Samui for the prospect of sun-soaked days and party-fuelled nights. Many more linger in lavish resorts, hilltop bars and holistic spas. The country’s second-largest island, in the Gulf of Thailand, is surrounded by Ang Thong Marine National Park, so bring your mask and flippers and prepare to get wet.
Note: The park is usually closed to visitors from 1 November through 23 December yearly, to give nature and its creatures a break.
Do A necklace of 42 islands, Ang Thong is a dramatic union of towering limestone mountains, thick jungle and white-sand beaches. Hop in a boat to explore above the waves, then tumble overboard to snorkel with turtles and tropical fish.
Shop Explore the transformed Chinese shophouses in Bo Phut, now home to cool boutiques, bars and restaurants and known as Fisherman’s Village.
Spa Holistic hotspot Kamalaya offers transformative multi-day wellness programs that might include acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine and Thai massage. The new Kapuhala Koh Samui, meanwhile, is all about improving your cognitive function and physical performance through wellness workshops and experiences.
Eat If you like your view with a side of food, head to The Height. Perched at the top of a cliff, this stunning aerie is not all style – there’s plenty of substance in the southern Thai cuisine.
Sleep The blood-red-tiled pool at The Library cuts a dramatic beachside form – the rest of the resort is just as quirky and colourful, with 26 high-style rooms festooned with lacquerware, designer lighting and original art.
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