Southern Thailand

Southern Thailand

Stretching from just south of Bangkok down to the Malaysia border, Southern Thailand plays host to some of the Kingdom's biggest tourism drawcards. From diving off Ko Tao, to climbing in Krabi, partying on Ko Phi Phi or just laying in a hammock pretty much anywhere, the south is not short on choice.

Elsewhere on Travelfish: Highlights of Southern Thailand

The southern region is climatically split in two: the southeast (Gulf of Thailand) and the southwest (Andaman Sea). Each is affected by a different monsoon through the year, meaning that regardless of when you're in Thailand, you should be able to find a slice of good weather somewhere.

Phuket, Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Tao are the best known of Southern Thailand's many islands, though Ko Lipe and Ko Lanta have also caught on in more recent years. Beyond these you still have dozens more islands to choose from, and many of the more obscure options often provide the best experiences. When selecting an island or two for your trip, it pays to do some research.

Phuket is Thailand's largest and most popular island, with over a third of all tourists to Thailand finding themselves here at some stage during their trips. While it was badly damaged in places by the 2004 Asian Tsunami, the main beach areas are now fully recovered and the crowds have long-since returned.

Many budget travellers have long steered clear of Phuket, put off by the higher prices and heavily touristed nature of the place, instead spending their time on the more backpacker-orientated islands off the west coasts of Ranong, Phang Nga, Krabi, Trang and Satun provinces. To see all of the Thai islands that we currently cover, check out our dedicated Thailand islands page.

But don't make the mistake of ignoring the mainland in your rush to get to that tropical beach paradise. The coast of Krabi province, including the Ao Nang and Railay areas, is home to some of Thailand's most spectacular scenery. The stunning beaches and towering limestone karsts have made Krabi a major rock-climbing destination.

Heading up the west coast, north from Phuket, you'll find Khao Lak -- almost totally destroyed by the tsunami, it has been rebuilt and the tourists are back -- big time. Further north again you can hike through millions-of-years-old rainforest in the spectacular Khao Sok National Park.

If the season is wrong, many don't even bother with the west coast, instead plying their time in a hammock on the east coast islands of Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao. If you're not up on the Thai weather, be sure to give our page on Thailand's weather a read.

These east coast islands are all well-developed nowadays with regular ferry connections both to each other and the mainland. Ko Samui (the largest of the three islands) has an international airport, large-scale shopping centres, hundreds of resorts and even three international hospitals -- and yet it continues to develop at a rapid pace. Ko Pha Ngan, infamous for its Full Moon Parties, and Ko Tao, famous for its diving, are both big drawcards. However long you're planning on staying here, don't be surprised when you suddenly find yourself staying twice as long.

If you're headed out to one of these Gulf islands, you'll be transitting through either Chumphon (for Ko Tao) or Surat Thani (for Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan). It's a straightforward deal to get a through ticket to any one of these islands from Bangkok.

On the mainland, the east coast includes the popular resort towns of Hua Hin and Cha-am, long-running family favourites that continue to attract a mixed crowd of Bangkok-based Thais and expats, along with heady crowds of primarily European tourists.

While the beaches are not as good as those further south, they are very convenient to Bangkok and Hua Hin in particular is developing as a popular spot for retirees. Other points of interest along the coastal strip between Bangkok and Chumphon include Phetburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Bang Saphan Yai.

Further south you have the little visited provinces of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phattalung -- both fine options if you're looking to step off the tourist trail.

For those comfortable travelling in a region with heightened security concerns, the predominantly Muslim far southern cities of Hat Yai, Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala are fascinating and certainly rewarding areas to visit, though we'd suggest you read our feature on travelling in the far south of Thailand, and kept abreast of current affairs before planning a trip through there.

63 destinations in Southern Thailand

Learn more about Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan

More to it than Full Moon Parties

Learn more about Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park

Wise old wilderness

Learn more about Ko Chang Noi
Ko Chang Noi

The other Ko Chang

Learn more about Ko Yao Noi
Ko Yao Noi

Leave the crowds behind

Learn more about Ko Yao Yai
Ko Yao Yai

A bay all to yourself.

Learn more about Ko Lao Liang
Ko Lao Liang

Let’s keep this one a secret

Learn more about Ko Jum
Ko Jum

Ready to relax?

Learn more about Ko Surin
Ko Surin

Breathtaking above and below the water

Learn more about Ko Ra
Ko Ra

Unspoilt island wilderness

Learn more about Ko Phra Thong
Ko Phra Thong

Golden Buddha island

Learn more about Natai
Natai

Fancy pants beach time

Learn more about Ko Rawi
Ko Rawi

Pristine beaches and jungle

Learn more about Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

Land of 300 peaks

Learn more about Ko Bulon Lae
Ko Bulon Lae

The tranquility runs deep

Learn more about Phetchaburi
Phetchaburi

Caves, beaches and a palace

Learn more about Ko Samui
Ko Samui

Dozens of beaches to choose from

Learn more about Ko Tao
Ko Tao

A popular spot to learn to dive

Learn more about Krabi
Krabi

Lively gateway to the islands

Learn more about Railay Beach
Railay Beach

Rock climbing paradise

Learn more about Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi

Popular party island

Learn more about Ko Lanta
Ko Lanta

Where the beaches stretch for miles

Learn more about Ko Muk
Ko Muk

More to it than the Emerald Cave

Learn more about Ko Libong
Ko Libong

Great choice for the quiet life

Learn more about Songkhla
Songkhla

Relax by the sea

Learn more about Ko Phayam
Ko Phayam

One laid-back island

Learn more about Kaeng Krachan National Park
Kaeng Krachan National Park

Thailand‘s largest national park

Learn more about Ko Sukorn
Ko Sukorn

Settle into a slower pace

Learn more about Ko Kradan
Ko Kradan

Great beaches, pricey food

Learn more about Prachuap Khiri Khan
Prachuap Khiri Khan

Mountains to the west, ocean to the east

Learn more about Ban Krut
Ban Krut

Set your internal clock to Thai time

Learn more about Khao Lak
Khao Lak

A family favourite

Learn more about Ko Kho Khao
Ko Kho Khao

No need to leave that beach chair

Learn more about Khanom and Sichon
Khanom and Sichon

Just kick back

Learn more about Similan Islands
Similan Islands

Say hi to the sea turtles

Learn more about Takua Pa
Takua Pa

Crossroad between islands and mountains

Learn more about Ko Rok
Ko Rok

Unspoilt twin islands

Learn more about Hua Hin
Hua Hin

Mainstream tourist hotspot

Learn more about Trang
Trang

Before you hit the islands... Eat!

Learn more about Ko Lipe
Ko Lipe

Welcome to paradise

Learn more about Ko Tarutao
Ko Tarutao

Awesome

Learn more about Ko Adang
Ko Adang

Ko Lipe’s wild neighbour

Learn more about Ranong
Ranong

Wave to Burma

Learn more about Ko Ngai
Ko Ngai

A comfortable island getaway

Learn more about Nakhon Si Thammarat
Nakhon Si Thammarat

Unadulterated Southern Thailand

Learn more about Phuket
Phuket

Thailand’s biggest and busiest island

Learn more about Narathiwat
Narathiwat

Muslim fishing life

Learn more about Bang Saphan Yai
Bang Saphan Yai

Low-key beach town

Learn more about Phattalung
Phattalung

Mountains, lakes and no tourists

Learn more about Ko Si Boya
Ko Si Boya

Take a break from it all

Learn more about Phang Nga Town
Phang Nga Town

Your base for Phang Nga Bay

Learn more about Hat Yai
Hat Yai

Largest city in Southern Thailand

Learn more about Satun
Satun

Don’t miss the local iced tea

Learn more about Cha-am
Cha-am

Like Hua Hin lite

Learn more about Chumphon
Chumphon

Gateway to Ko Tao

Learn more about Ao Nang
Ao Nang

Beach holiday hotspot

Learn more about Betong
Betong

Almost Malaysia

Learn more about Surat Thani
Surat Thani

Gulf coast island gateway

Learn more about Sungai Kolok
Sungai Kolok

Gateway to Malaysia

Learn more about Pattani
Pattani

Once a proud kingdom

Learn more about Khuraburi
Khuraburi

Gateway to little-known islands

Learn more about Pakbara
Pakbara

Gateway to the Satun islands

Learn more about Yala
Yala

Well off the beaten trail

Learn more about Tak Bai
Tak Bai

Historic for more than one reason