Recently, we published ‘Top 5 Phuket Tours‘ and ‘Adventure Tours and Activities in Phuket.‘ But when doing most of those activities, you visit places far off the island, which means many interesting sites of Phuket itself are unfairly left behind.
To make the most of your time on Phuket Island, we will highlight five great places to visit. They’re not only interesting, but most of them are also free!
1.Wat Chalong: Learn about Buddhism and admire beautiful temples.
Phuket—here you can find Catholic churches, Chinese shrines, Muslim mosques, Sikh temples, Hindu temples, and many more. Despite the huge religious diversity and different animistic beliefs, 70 percent of the local population are Buddhists. Buddhism plays a significant role in daily life in modern Thai society. And Buddhist temples are everywhere here.
Thai Buddhist temples are somehow unique in their art and architecture styles (though you still may find some similarities with Buddhists temples in Myanmar and Laos). If you haven’t seen any yet, here is your chance! Visit the most beautiful Buddhist temple on the island: Wat Chalong. (The word wat means ‘temple’ in Thai.)
When visiting Thai Buddhist temples, try to avoid beachwear, short skirts, and t-shirts with offensive text or images. Especially for ladies—the shoulders and legs should be covered (to the knees). Don’t worry If you have nothing appropriate to wear; almost all big and popular religious sites offer sarongs for visitors. (A sarong is a garment consisting of a long piece of cloth worn wrapped around the body.)
This is the only place on our list where you have to pay a 200 baht entrance fee, because the waterfall is a part of a national park. Bang Pae waterfall is the biggest waterfall in Phuket, but we have to admit that it isn’t really big by international standards.
However, nature and hiking lovers will definitely find it interesting. A few hours’ trek through dense jungles is available here. You can meet some not-dangerous animals and even gibbons freely jumping from tree to tree. The plant life here is just amazing, with trees, lianas, colorful flowers and more growing up to twenty meters high.
Not far from the waterfall, you will see Gibbon Rehabilitation Center. Many gibbons are caught and kept as pets in Thailand, but this is illegal. The center takes in gibbons who have been rescued, either taken away from their “owners” by the police or handed in by owners who no longer wished to look after them. They then go through a long rehabilitation before often being released back into the forests.
Here you can see some cages with Gibbons. The center’s volunteers will tell you more about the animals and their daily routine. If you like, you can even join their volunteer program and spend more time helping animals. (See the project website: http://www.gibbonproject.org)
3. Big Buddha Hill: Be inspired.
Undoubtedly it is the most recognizable landmark in Phuket, Big Buddha Hill can be seen from everywhere in the southern part of the island. Soon after construction started in 2004, the 45-meter high marble statue became one of the most remarkable symbols of Phuket.
Why should you visit it? First of all, it is a giant shining and inspiring marble statue; second, it is a Buddhist temple*; third, the view from here is just amazing! (You also may check our ATV to Big Buddha and elephant riding tour.)
*Don’t forget about the dress code for religious places!
4. Old Phuket Town: Find real Phuket.
Exploring every corner and street after street, you will always discover something new. If you want to experience the authentic lifestyle which hasn’t changed through time. Old Phuket Town is where the real Phuket can be found.
Almost two centuries ago, it was the busiest place on the island. Numerous shops sold various goods from all around the world.
Initially built by Portuguese businessmen, later it was predominantly occupied by Chinese immigrants. It’s no wonder this architectural style, which is called Sino-Portuguese, has a Mediterranean layout and picturesque Chinese patterns.
We recommend you start your walking tour from the tourist information center located at Phangnga Road. Here, absolutely free, you can get a brief historical introduction and pick up an Old Town map.
On the map, you will find the locations of all the important sites, such as Chinese shrines with porcelain dragons, small Buddhist temples, great old mansions, and remarkable authentic shop houses—much to every photographer’s delight
Don’t think that you are having deja vu if you see something familiar. Not so many people realize it, but the Robin Williams film Good Morning Vietnam and some parts of The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio were filmed right here in Old Town.
5. Sunset Viewpoint at Promthep Cape: Phuket’s best evening show!
Located in the island’s southern end, Phromthep Cape is the island’s favorite sunset meeting point. Every evening, many people with cameras or mobile phones gather here to take a memorable shot of Phuket’s most beautiful free show: sunset.
Here you will also find a lighthouse that houses interesting historical maritime artifacts. Walk up onto the rooftop and enjoy a 360-degree scenic view. From here, you also can spot some distant islands such as Phi-Phi, Ko Racha, etc.
Sunsets in Phuket are always around 18:30 throughout the year, so be sure to get into sunset-watching position by about 18:00.
How to Visit—and Some Tips
To visit it all, you will need to join a tour or use your own transport—you can rent a car or a motorbike. All the places described can be easily found with Google maps. However, if you feel lost, just ask locals: they will always point you in the right direction. If you wish to go trekking at the waterfall and to visit all these places, then you will need at least two days for it. But if you skip the jungle trek and can be quick, one day might be enough.