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Phuket Must-See Attractions and Places

Be it far from us to tell you what to do in Phuket but there are some gems that you really should not miss out on seeing while on your visit here, and we don't mean the kind sold at the jewelers.

Phuket's great advantage is that there's always something to do on and off the island whether it's raining or shining. From the sublime to the seemingly profane, the range of activities and places to visit is remarkable for a destination of this size. Here are our Top Ten 'Must See' choices, built on popular vote. If you only get through half of these destinations you'll have had an unforgettable holiday. Go for it.

1. Phang Nga Bay

Dramatic limestone formations jut from this bay, creating a picturesque backdrop for cruises, kayaking excursions, or island-hopping tours. Sights range from movie sets to villages on stilts. Eco-friendly kayaking tours explore sublime lagoons that retain the signs of an earthly Eden, while numerous deserted beaches, tiny island hideaways, and underdeveloped tropical lands wait to be discovered in Phang Nga Bay. Meanwhile, Ko Phi Phi enjoys a status worldwide for its natural beauty and for its reputation as a vibrant island party destination.

2. Similan Islands National Park

Impossibly soft white-sand beaches and emerald-coloured waters set the breathtaking backdrop for this island paradise. Renowned as one of the world's top scuba diving destinations, the underwater world here is stunningly beautiful, populated with magnificent corals, colourful fish and dramatic rock formations. The nine Similan islands also offer remarkable snorkeling and make for great day trips. Make sure you plan your trip to the Similans with a tour operator based on the mainland – scuba diving equipment is not available on the islands.

3. Wat Chalong

Although historical records are unclear, Wat Chalong was probably first constructed during the reign of King Rama II (1809-23). The temple moved locations at one point, and the original structure no longer remains. Today, this complex features sacred imagery, including sculptures and mural paintings that depict Buddha's life. The holiest object is a bone fragment of the Lord Buddha, now housed inside the Grand Pagoda. The temple is known as Wat Chaitararam by royal decree, but everybody refers to it as Wat Chalong.

4. Phuket Big Buddha

Phuket's Big Buddha is one of the island's most important and revered landmarks. The huge image sits on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata and at 45 meter tall white marble statue it is easily seen from far away.

The lofty site offers the best 360-degree views of the island (think sweeping vistas of Phuket Town, Kata, Karon beaches, Chalong Bay and more.) Easily reachable via a six-kilometre road leading from Phuket's main artery, it's a must-visit island destination. Big Buddha Close up to the image itself it is very peaceful and the only noises you will hear are the tinkling of small bells and the yellow Buddhist flags in the compound flapping in the wind plus soft background dharma music.

Known among Thais as the Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha in full, it is 25 meters across at the base. The whole body is layered with beautiful white Burmese marble that shines in the sun, making it a natural symbol of hope. The views, and the actual image itself are all breathtaking.

5. Patong

If you are dreaming of a sleepy tropical hideaway, you might want to look elsewhere – Patong is full of action. The most popular tourist area is Phuket, it features a great range of hotels, restaurants and nightlife options. Many of the area's high-end resorts are sheltered enclaves with lush gardens and private swimming pools. The seemingly endless shopping options, coupled with wild entertainment venues, legendary nightlife, and a host of daytime activities make Patong a favourite destination for people who crave activity on their beach holidays

6. Phuket Town

The historical and administrative center of Phuket traces its roots back centuries – first, to the early European traders and later to the Chinese immigrants who arrived here during the local tin mining boom of the 19th century. Today, Phuket Town continues to thrive as one of the island's most authentic cultural areas, punctuated by magnificent architectural treasures, Chinese shrines, colourful open-air markets, and restaurants that serve some of Phuket's most delicious local cuisines.

7. Sirinat National Park

A rugged and pristine beachfront, lined by pine trees, runs along Phuket's northwest coast and marks three largely undeveloped beaches: Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon. Founded in 1981, Sirinat National Park covers an area of 90 sq km, of which more than three quarters is marine territory. The clean blue waters feature large, healthy coral reefs, and Mai Khao beach, in particular, has become a well-known sea turtle nesting site. At the northern end of Sirinat is a small, but unspoiled, mangrove forest.

8. Phromthep Cape

Phromthep Cape is the Phuket's symbol and most photographed and perhaps best-known location. Every evening, large tour buses, scooters and private cars sweep through Rawai Beach and up the island's southernmost hill in order to watch the sunset at its peak. On the top of the hill stands a busy car park where vehicles disgorge crowds of people from every corner of the world. Cameras flash, fingers point and lovers cuddle as Phuket's most fabulous free show is re-enacted nightly – the sunset.

The view from the cape is like a huge eternity pool from which you can mentally project the far-flung shores of Sri Lanka and the Indian Subcontinent. Some people make the rather demanding trek down to the end of the cape's promontory but most stay up in the viewing part for sunset. By the car park there is a handicrafts shop and a series of stalls that sell shells, batik, snacks, sarongs, shawls, toys and beachwear.

9. Kata Beach

Located just south of Karon, the scenic Kata Beach, comprising two bays separated by a small rocky headland, offers an ideal balance of tropical scenery and well-developed tourism infrastructure. Kata has a number of high-end resorts, making it a popular destination for couples and families. Palm trees fringe the white-sand beach, and the turquoise waters offer good swimming conditions throughout the year. One can even swim to nearby Ko Pu, a small island, passing lovely coral reefs along the way.

10. Phuket FantaSea

Phuket FantaSea is the island's biggest show. With trapeze artists, a cast of hundreds, performing elephants and other animals and an exotic storyline that blends tradition with fantasy you'll have a wonderful evening out here.
But the extravaganza doesn't stop there as FantaSea also hosts one of the biggest buffets in Asia and is set in a theme park that offers carnival-like games, lots of shopping opportunities, a Palace of the Elephants, a Similan Adventure Centre and several other food outlets. It's spectacular, it's extravagant, it's impressive and great entertainment value for all.

With building designs that are occasionally wacky, over-the-top costumes, and elephants milling about, Phuket FantaSea has all the subtlety of a mouthful of Thai chillies. Phuket FantaSea bills itself as 'The ultimate cultural theme park', and it's tough to come up with a better description. The evening peaks with a stage show, but that's not the only excitement. There's a village with an assortment of shopping choices – from T-shirts to beachwear to jewellery – as well as carnival games, elephant rides, and restaurants.