Thailand boasts one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines, along the eastern shores of the Andaman Sea. Pictures of glistening white beaches and azure waters with awesome backdrops of sheer karst pillars are common on the country’s exotic-looking brochures.
A holiday in Phuket should not be without a day trip to at least one of the stunning gems that lie within a few hours boat ride of your hotel. Phi Phi is world famous for its unusual shape, while Phang Nga Bay is the stuff of James Bond settings, with its endless karst pillars. Then there’s the lovely karst backdrop at Krabi, the peaceful beaches at Koh Lanta, or the Similan islands and the Yao Islands. Find out more in this section.
Highlights of the Andaman Coast
The Andaman coast stretches from Thailand’s border with Burma at the Isthmus of Kra, 150kms north of Phuket, all the way to the Malaysian border and it’s blessed with some of the world’s most remarkable scenery. Formed by a bizarre karst landscape comprising of hundreds of limestone pillars and rocky outcrops that dot the sea and land, this part of the Andaman coast is unique.
Phuket is at the centre of the Andaman coast in Thailand, with its busy tourist trade, lovely beaches, plush resorts and every manner of convenience. Farther north, though, the coastline remains equally beautiful but far less developed in areas such as Khao Lak and smaller, more exclusive resort centres typified by long beaches lined with casurina and coconut trees, or flat inland mangrove.
Offshore in the Andaman Sea are two island groups that promise seclusion, fantastic diving and an escape from the crowds. The Similan Islands are notable for their boulder landscape and undeveloped beaches, though are drier than the lush flora of the mainland. Farther north are the Surin Islands, which are similarly known for good diving and beach camping, and both are national parks. Live-aboard yacht trips are a practical way to visit these islands, although coral bleaching has seen temporarily closure of these parks to tourism.
Behind Phuket (on the east side) lies one of the coast’s most stunning areas, stretching from the awesome theatre of Phang Nga Bay to the popular, family-orientated resort area of Krabi, including the quieter Yao islands. This entire part of the Andaman coast is noted for its concentration of the remarkable karst landscape for which the coast is famous, and it’s best seen at Krabi’s Ao Nang and Railay Beach. South of here is a popular vacation island, Koh Lanta, which doesn’t boast the same towering backdrops but offers lovely beaches at affordable rates.
And finally, the jewel in the Andaman crown are the Phi Phi islands, which are breathtaking in their natural design and featured in the Hollywood blockbuster The Beach as a result, mainly due to their stunning lagoons of turquoise water and coconut-lined tropical beaches.