Thailand – the Land of Smiles charms travellers with an incredible diversity of unique experiences. From stunning natural landscapes to delicious cuisine and fascinating culture, every corner of the country has its own unique attractions and magnificent sights. If you’re a fan of beach breaks, southern Thailand is a must-see destination. Wondering what Southern Thailand has to offer?
Which islands are worth exploring, what’s the climate like? Follow our guide to get a complete overview of Thailand’s southern region, and be fully prepared with all the information you need to make your dream trip a reality!
Map of Southern Thailand
Southern Thailand is an enchanting landscape dotted with islands of varying sizes, nestling between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Although part of the same southern region, the distinction between these two expanses gives the climate of southern Thailand a remarkable diversity. The common features of southern Thailand are long, dazzling white sandy beaches fringed by a crystal blue sea of enchanting hues.
The cuisine of Southern Thailand is characterised by its intense spiciness and penchant for spicy, savoury flavours, in contrast to the milder dishes typical of the north. Fresh fish and seafood are common, as are coconut-based curries.
Best time to visit southern Thailand
Due to the geographical complexity between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, weather conditions differ on the Thai islands.
Gulf of Thailand (Gulf of Siam)
The best times to visit the islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Gulf of Siam) are from November to April. The islands in this gulf include Koh Samet, Koh Chang, Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, among others.
The Andaman Sea
The best time to visit the islands of the Andaman Sea (the eastern extension of the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean) is from October to May (avoid the monsoon season from July to September). The islands in this region include popular destinations such as Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Koh Tao, Koh Lip, Koh Lanta, and many more.
Southern Thailand attractions
The largest of Thailand’s islands, Phuket alone embodies all the wonders this country has to offer. Located in the south of the country, along the Andaman Sea coastline, this must-see destination is easily accessible via Phuket International Airport, which welcomes travellers all year round.
Phuket boasts pristine beaches, numerous coastal islets, bustling markets, exciting nightlife and an exhilarating variety of water sports. It is undoubtedly one of Thailand’s most accessible seaside destinations.
Beyond its splendour and sophistication, Phuket offers a range of traditional activities and experiences. Bathed in a tropical climate throughout the year, the waters surrounding Phuket come alive, home to a diversity of marine ecosystems, particularly between November and February.
It’s worth noting that Phuket is world-renowned and easily accessible, attracting an influx of tourists.
Located on the east coast of southern Thailand, 800 kilometres south of Bangkok, the province of Krabi boasts exceptional natural beauty. The Krabi coastline is dotted with tropical islands, beaches shaded by elegant rows of palm trees and waterfalls…
Although relatively new to the world of tourism, this region has been developed with great attention to detail. Krabi is the perfect place to relax, where the pace of life is peaceful. Many of the beaches are only accessible by boat, an approach that minimises the impact on the environment.
A large part of the province is even classified as a national park. The Hat Noppharat Thara-Ko Phi Phi National Park, for example, is home to numerous small beaches and over 80 islands, including the famous Phi Phi Islands.
Another example is Ko Lanta National Park also in Krabi province. It encompasses several islands fringed by coral reefs, offering exceptional diving sites and a peaceful atmosphere.
Beyond its superb, soothing scenery, Krabi is a paradise for the adventurous. If you’re keen to discover the great outdoors, the options are varied: kayaking, sailing, birdwatching, snorkelling, island hopping…
Koh Phi Phi
The Phi Phi islands located in the north of the Andaman Sea, are among the most famous and beautiful places in Thailand and Southeast Asia. Koh Phi Phi is part of the province of Krabi in Thailand.
The Koh Phi Phi archipelago is a group of islands with impressive rock formations, cliffs hiding immaculate beaches and bays with turquoise waters and abundant marine life.
This enchanting place is now widely recognised, largely thanks to the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo Di Caprio, which has boosted its worldwide fame.
Exploring the Phi Phi Islands on a day trip by boat from destinations such as Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak or Koh Lanta is simple, leaving plenty of time to discover major sites such as Maya Bay. The magnificent Phi Phi Islands are just 45 minutes by speedboat from Krabi or Phuket.
It’s important to note that Koh Phi Phi is one of most expensive destinations in Thailand, particularly when it comes to affordable accommodation options.
Koh Lanta occupies a picturesque position along the west coast of the Andaman Sea, between Krabi and Phi Phi Island. Its coastline, bathed in the rays of the setting sun, reveals nine distinct beaches stretching from north to south.
Koh Lanta offers impressive scenery with wide white sandy beaches, an endless shoreline and a rich biodiversity including lush forests, coral reefs and abundant marine life. The island is characterised by mangroves, coral shores and forested mountains, creating a fascinating panoramic diversity.
Like other popular spots in Krabi province, Koh Lanta is famous for its scuba diving opportunities and large stretches of pristine sandy beaches.
The island has several beaches, each with its own unique personality. Whether you want to snorkel, scuba dive or simply relax on small, tranquil beaches, Koh Lanta is a natural paradise that continues to captivate.
Koh Lipe (Ko Lipe) is a relatively unknown paradise in the Andaman Sea, 60km from the Thai mainland and just 30km from Malaysia. The island is covered in lush vegetation and boasts beautiful, tranquil sandy beaches surrounded by calm, crystal-clear turquoise water – the perfect place for snorkelling and diving.
Koh Lipe is notable for being less accessible than some of Thailand’s popular islands. As a result, it is less popular than destinations such as Phuket or Koh Phi Phi. This makes it the ideal island getaway, offering a unique experience far removed from the usual crowds.
The southern province of Phang Nga is home to welcoming beaches, delightful islands and stunning seascapes. If you’re looking for a seaside holiday or an island getaway steeped in local ambience, consider a stay in Phang Nga.
Phang Nga is less than 100km from Phuket, making it the perfect destination for a day trip, but also ideal for a complete holiday. What’s more, as the neighbouring province of Krabi, Phang Nga offers a convenient stopover for travellers from that region.
Koh Samui – Tropical Elegance
Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand and is Thailand’s second largest island after Phuket. Its interior boasts breathtaking panoramas, picturesque waterfalls and abundant coconut plantations. To the north of Koh Samui lie the islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, attracting many visitors keen to explore several destinations in one trip.
Among the island’s beaches, Chaweng Beach on the east coast stands out for its tourist development. This vast expanse of fine sand offers a magnificent and generous landscape, with plenty of space to relax in the sun.
From mighty waterfalls and white sand beaches to nearby national marine parks, nature and adventure lovers won’t be disappointed here.
There’s plenty of sightseeing, eating, swimming, relaxing and hanging out on the beach, while still having time for a day trip off the island.
Koh Tao – Diving Paradise
There are many impressive things to do on the island of Koh Tao, which is one of South East Asia’s most popular diving destinations, attracting scuba diving enthusiasts from all over the world. Located north of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is a small island nicknamed ‘Turtle Island’.
Koh Tao’s natural beauty, both on land and underwater, attracts many visitors each year. With its magnificent coral reefs and abundant marine life in clear, warm waters, the island is an unforgettable destination for divers, adventurers and travellers.
Koh Phangan situated between Koh Samui and Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, is a unique and attractive destination, less famous than other tourist islands but with its own charm.
The island offers an enticing mix of lush jungle and golden sandy beaches creating a true tropical paradise in the heart of the Gulf of Thailand. While Koh Phangan is a major party destination, particularly around the bustling Haad Rin (home of the Full Moon Party), the quieter, more relaxed beaches to the north and east of the island offer a peaceful alternative.
For those not just drawn to the lively nightlife, Koh Phangan also offers a range of yoga resorts and nature retreats, providing opportunities for relaxation and recuperation.
Koh Chang also known as ‘Elephant Island’ in Thai, ranks as Thailand’s third largest island and is part of Mu Ko Chang National Park.
Compared to the crowds found on Phuket and Samui, Koh Chang has a quiet and relaxed atmosphere, making it an ideal retreat for travellers seeking a peaceful escape. With a variety of accommodation options, exceptional restaurants and a plethora of bars, Koh Chang offers a fine balance between relaxation and adventure.
Its main attractions are concentrated along the west coast, stretching from White Sand Beach in the north to Lonely Beach in the south. Sandwiched between the two is Klong Prao, the island’s most extensive beach, as well as the charming Kai Bae Beach.
How to visit southern Thailand?
Phuket International Airport is the main gateway to Thailand’s famous resorts. Direct flights from Europe are rare, but stopovers in Bangkok are possible. To get from Phuket town centre to the airport, taxis with a taximeter or airport taxis are convenient. Shared minibuses are an economical, if slower, option, and the Smart Bus links the airport to the beaches on the west coast.
Samui International Airport on the island of Koh Samui, offers direct flights from various cities. Taxis or shared minibuses are available to reach the city centre.
Hat Yai International Airport linking Thailand with other countries offers blue Songthaew or minibuses for transport. Fixed taxis or the Grab app are options for getting into the city, with car hire available at the terminal.
These airports are key entry points for exploring southern Thailand, offering a variety of ways to reach desired destinations. Once in the south, boats or yachts are options for connecting the islands.
Visiting Southern Thailand – How many days?
The South of Thailand reveals a landscape dotted with countless islands and magnificent beaches, as we recently explored.How you plan your trip will depend above all on what you like and your personal preferences.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a suggested itinerary for a 7-day discovery of the most remarkable places in this southern region. However, if you have less time, you may want to consider carefully selecting the places you wish to include. So here are our recommendations to give you a flavour of the experiences to come.
Tips for travelling
When travelling in Southern Thailand, here are a few important tips to avoid the pitfalls and make the most of your experience:
Authentic Tuk-tuks: Before getting on a tuk-tuk, take the time to chat to the locals. Their advice can help you avoid problems and scams. Pay particular attention to drivers who offer ‘short cuts’ or unusual routes, as this can often be a tactic to increase the price of your journey.
Water sports and jet-skis: Ask for prices and conditions clearly. Take photos of equipment before use to avoid false accusations of damage. Choose reputable operators with good online reviews.
Price negotiation: In local markets and small shops, price negotiation is often the norm. Don’t take the first prices advertised as definitive. Try to negotiate respectfully to get a more reasonable price.
Hydration and sun protection: Temperatures can be high in Thailand, especially on the islands. Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day. Don’t forget to apply sun cream regularly to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
Security of personal belongings: As in any tourist destination, it’s important to protect your personal belongings. Use secure bags or inside pockets to avoid pickpocketing. Avoid wearing conspicuous valuables.
The south of Thailand is an ideal choice for a seaside getaway, offering superb islands and islets. By following these recommendations, you can fully enjoy your stay on the Thai islands while avoiding the tourist traps and immersing yourself deeply in the local culture.