An unusual itinerary on the southern islands of Thailand

  • A corner of Koh Ngai beach
  • Sea sand palms and rest
  • Relax in Koh Kradan
  • Koh Mook lifestyle... easy
  • Koh Lipe dream beach
  • Koh Lipe by night
  • Koh Lanta National Park
  • A glimpse of Koh Lanta National Park
  • Sunset over Koh Bulon

Are you looking for a tropical paradise? Do you want to see something more of this enjoyable region washed by the Andaman Sea? Do you want to merge with the beautiful sceneries of white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, lush jungles and vibrant resorts? And above all, do you want to get away from the logic of mass tourism that characterises Phuket, Phi Phi Islands and Krabi?

A glimpse of Koh Lanta National Park

Perfect, you are in the right website, the one that takes you to visit Southern Thailand and gets you to know a series of beautiful, little-known and little-explored islands. Let me be clear: do not expect deserted islands. You can though certainly expect places where you will hardly find annoying masses of tourists, where you can find decent hotels equipped with the right comforts and where, perhaps, there is an attempt to generate a form of sustainable tourism.

Enough said. Follow us now along this enchanting journey which, starting from the island of Koh Lanta, just south of Krabi, takes us all the way to Koh Lipe, a short distance from the Malaysian border. An itinerary particularly suitable for those who want to explore beaches that will enchant you with their beauty and that will leave an indelible desire in your heart to come back in your next vacation to see for yourself all that the Andaman Sea has to offer you.

So, let’s get ready to tackle this itinerary, one that develops through three Thai coastal provinces: Krabi, Trang and Satun.

Koh Lanta – (Krabi province)

Koh Lanta National Park

This is the first stop of our tour. It is an island of remarkable beauty off the coast of the Krabi province where visitors can stay in hotels of various categories that often overlook the white, long beaches of the island. The island of Koh Lanta is already a well-known destination and there are several tourists who reach it, scattering along its entire coast.

Many are the activities that can be practiced in Koh Lanta: snorkelling, kayaking and excursions to nearby and equally enchanting islands can easily be organised.

Koh Lanta has its own merit-making corner

And of course sunbathing, relaxing on the beach and swimming a short distance from the shoreline, where you can ‘soak in’ as if there were no tomorrow.

These are the basis of those ‘non-activities’ that you can practice on any of the islands we will descrive.

In Koh Lanta there is no shortage of restaurants serving delicious Thai dishes as well as international cuisine. Most of them are located on the beach, so not only will you not go hungry during your stay, but you can also satisfy your appetite for a panoramic view of the ocean.

Koh Ngai – (Krabi province)

A corner of Koh Ngai beach

Koh Ngai is an Andaman Sea island located off the coast of Thailand. It is a paradise framed by splendid beaches of white sand and by waters so transparent that they look like panes of glass. It is the right place for those who want to get away from it all, who are not afraid of boredom and who feel good about themselves, perhaps not disdaining simply relaxing on a deck chair with a book in hand. Koh Ngai’s luxuriant tropical vegetation, among other things, offers adequate shelter from the scorching sun during the hot hours of the day.

Next, add up the usual activities such as canoeing, fishing, snorkelling and even diving to access those spectacular coral reefs that make up much of the seascape surrounding the island, easily reachable by local boats.

Koh Mook lifestyle… easy

One of the main attractions of Koh Ngai is the abundance of wildlife, including monkeys, monitor lizards and colourful birds that can be seen almost everywhere on this small paradise island.

Not enough? Then let me tell you that on Koh Ngai you will find little of everything (or none), though some shops can be found on nearby islands. Koh Ngai is the perfect place for fantasising. Just walk away from your hotel, close your eyes and imagine being on a desert island. Dream, and reach the night time, leaving worries aside and abandoning yourself to a deep and restful sleep.

Koh Kradan and Koh Mook – (Trang province)

Relax in Koh Kradan

The only difference between Koh Ngai and these two islands is that they are located in different provinces. Apart from this, everything said for the previous island also stands for the latter two. We can only add that Koh Kradan has a remarkable snorkelling site that can be easily reached by swimming from the shore, and that on Koh Mook you can visit the splendid and unmissable Emerald Cave, through which you access a hidden lagoon that will leave you breathless. Seeing is believing.

Last but not least, Koh Mook, being larger than the others, has a greater number of tourist structures and a village, where you can find local shops and restaurants.

Koh Libong – (Trang province)

This is another must-see destination when visiting the southern region of Thailand. This tranquil island offers visitors the chance to experience traditional Thai culture, with local villages filled with friendly people who will welcome you with open arms and traditional smiles. Here you can practice numerous activities, including trekking in the lush jungle and boat trips to surrounding islands or, alternatively, among the mangroves, looking for wild animals. Koh Libong is truly a unique place we will talk about in more details in the future.

Koh Bulon – (Satun province)

Sunset over Koh Bulon

I last visited the island of Koh Bulon about ten years ago. I was headed to Koh Lipe, but in the end I couldn’t resist Koh Bulon sea, its beaches, its tranquility and the cuisine of Gianluca, a friend who had a restaurant on that island: the Panka Noi Pizza, open from November to the beginning April.

Well, after ten years who knows how this Koh Bulon will have developed, you will say. It is legitimate to wonder, though I assure you that Koh Bulon has not had the growth that much better-known Koh Lipe, our next stop, has had. As a result, Koh Bulon has maintained a good part of the beauty of the past.

But if you insist, I will travel back to the island soon, and I will let you know more about it as soon as possible. What I do know is that Gianluca is always there with his restaurant so I’m also sure I’ll be adequately fed… Rather, if you happen to be in Koh Bulon, go find him: it’s worth it.

Koh Lipe – (Satun province)

Koh Lipe dream beach

And finally here we are at the end of our journey. We are in the Koh Tarutao Marine National Park, where the island of Lipe is located. This is undoubtedly the best known destination of Southern Thailand, an idyllic paradise that is slowly becoming a ‘lost paradise’ with once pristine beaches that now attract ever greater numbers of tourists.

Given our initial comments on mass tourism, perhaps Koh Lipe should be dropped from this list of ours. However, I believe that this island should be forcibly inserted into a southern islands itinerary because, despite everything, it remains, in my honest opinion, an amazing place. I would say that Koh Lipe should be awarded an ‘ad honorem green card’.

Koh Lipe by night

Koh Lipe‘s fame is also supported by the beauty of the surrounding islands, great destinations for day trips, and by the coral gardens that surround it, rich in marine life and a natural paradise for those who intend to snorkel or dive.

In all these years of growth, Koh Lipe has also developed a lively nightlife made up of bars, restaurants and clubs where you can have a drink and listen to music. In short, there is something for all tastes on the island. As you can see, there is no shortage of choice and I assure you that we are talking about quality places.

How to reach the islands

At this point the last thing to tell you is how to reach these islands which, although off the beaten track, are well connected to each other, to the mainland and to the main tourist centres.

Sea sand palms and rest

Scheduled speedboats connect Phuket, Phi Phi Islands and Krabi with each of these islands. Certainly some distances can be long and perhaps not very suitable for those suffering from back pain or seasickness, but in this case there are alternative solutions.

You can travel by car or minivan, privately or by public transport, the latter obviously cheaper, until you reach one of the ports of embarkation closest to your chosen islands.  From there, a traditional ‘longtail boat’ carries you to your destination.

Should you arrive from further afield, for example Bangkok, you can fly to one of the three International airports close to the above islands: Krabi, Trang and Hat Yai.

And for those who have the time and the wish, you could hop on a catamaran cruise which touches each of the destinations described, and perhaps some other pearl of the Andaman where you can have an intermediate stops. In short, even in this case there is no shortage of solutions, the choice is yours.

Photos by Guglielmo Zanchi (Pluto)


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About the author

Pluto, alias Guglielmo Zanchi, was born in Rome, Italy, on 19 December 1960. After obtaining a Degree in Political Science at the La Sapienza University and working six years at an accountant office, PLuto moved to Phuket, Thailand, in 1993. He had a short spell at a Gibbon Rehabilitation Center in the protected area of Bang Pae, then worked for 15 years for a local tour operator first in Phuket, and eventually in Krabi where he still lives since 2000. Pluto now works self employed in the tourist sector, managing to keep enough time free for his real passions: photography, travels and Vespa, at times merging the latter two. Pluto is one of photo reporters.

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