Phuket, the Pearl of the Andaman, is Thailand’s largest island, with a curvaceous coastline of wide sugary beaches strung between jutting peninsulas and craggy rock formations.
Though it has long been one of Thailand’s most popular destinations, it is easy to avoid the tourist traps. Venture into Phuket Old Town, a former South-east Asia tin trading hub and the island’s cultural centre. Its Sino-Portuguese architecture is currently being restored and spruced up – the droopy webs of telephone wires are being moved underground and designers, artists and baristas are making themselves at home amid the traditional shop-houses, temples and barbers that line the streets.
If lying on a four-poster day bed on an intravenous drip of cocktails loses its polish however, there are plenty of quieter escapes. Head north to the Khoa-Sok National Park and you can partake in the full jungle experience, complete with elephants, lazy rivers and treehouse lodgings.
Sail east and explore the spectacular Phang Nga Bay, where sheer limestone karsts rise dramatically out of the water and, for a few baht, long-tail boats ferry sunbathers between desert island beaches. Head north-east and after a couple of hours you’ll hit the pristine islands of Similan and Surin, where divers can swim with leopard sharks, octopus and a concerto of colorful fish by day and camp on empty islands by moonlit night.