Ko Lanta is so big, we’ve split it up into areas, select one of the below for detailed accommodation and food listings in that area. Sights and general overviews for Ko Lanta as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don’t know where to start? Read an overview of Ko Lanta’s different areas.Go back to Ko Lanta main page »
Officially known as Amphur Goe, most refer to Lanta's historic east-coast centre simply as the Old Town. If you're seeking a taste of culture and photogenic architecture to go with the usual fresh seafood and sea views, a day trip or extended stay on the east coast is a must.
The Old Town served as Ko Lanta's municipal centre long before bungalows appeared on the western beaches, and local longtail ferries from here were the only way to reach the island before the speedboats took off in the ‘90s. As Saladan transformed into a tacky tourist hub, the Old Town remained a relaxing village that many Lanta beach goers never make the effort to see.
Those who do visit are treated to venerable wooden houses punctuated by bright red Chinese lanterns, low-key stilted restaurants with views of the local fishing boats and surrounding islands, and an overall enchanting atmosphere that feels something like a toned-down Phuket town. We highly recommend staying in one of the heritage guesthouses where the sea splashes directly beneath the original teakwood floors at night.
The Old Town was first settled by Urak Lawoi sea dwellers who were pushed south when Chinese and Malay merchants arrived in the 18th century. Thai and Western transplants have since added to the multi-cultural mix, though many ancestors of the original settlers still live here. Monks from the local Buddhist temple go on alms round at dawn, not long before the mosques begin morning prayers and incense starts wafting from the Chinese shrines.
A few kilometres south of the Old Town lies the Urak Lawoi community at Sang Kha-U. A charming museum on traditional sea dweller ways of life is worth a peek, but please respect the fact that the Chao Lae people themselves are not a tourist attraction. The 2004 tsunami devastated much of Lanta's far southeast, and many of the villagers now reside on high ground in concrete "tsunami houses" built by charities following the disaster.
The scenic coastal road also leads north to the village of Thung Yee Pheng, where you can enjoy fish-farm homestays and kayak or longtail excursions through the mangroves. Here you'll also find shrimp farms as well as butterfly and orchid gardens. Everywhere on the east coast is far less touristy than the west, but you'll have to head back across the island to hit the beach.
By David Luekens.