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Thailand's Best Unspoilt Islands

22nd September 2015

Thailand is more than its major cities and dominant tourist hubs. Search a little harder and it's possible to find stunning island escapes that focus more on relaxation and natural serenity.

Here, in images, are some of Thailand's best havens for embracing traditional island life instead of bar crawls.

1. Koh Phayam

 Plenty of space to lay out on Koh Phayam (Image: AP/FOTOLIA)

With broad beaches fringed by palm and casuarina trees, a hilly interior and an easy pace of life, Koh Phayam remains a very low-key destination.

There are no coral reefs, so lazing in the sand or renting a motorbike are the only real activities. There are rubber plantations to explore in the interior and small restaurants dot the island.

2. Koh Phra Thong

 Seek out native wildlife in Koh Phra Thong's grasslands (Image: ALAMY)

Close to the mainland, yet a world away from Thailand’s typical beach resorts, Koh Phra Thong is partly surrounded by mangrove forests and features extensive grasslands in its centre, populated by deer, wildcats, hornbills, sea eagles, otters and snakes. There’s a dive centre on the island and some good shallow coral reefs.

There are two villages on Koh Phra Thong’s coast, both populated by indigenous sea nomads (the Moken people). Accommodation can be found on the island’s west coast, along Phrathong Bay.

Nearby Koh Ra Island is mountainous, jungle-covered, unpopulated and part of a national park. Camping and day trips are possible.

3. Moo Koh Surin National Park

 Expect awesome snorkelling at the Moo Koh Surin Marine National Park (Image: AP/FOTOLIA)

To find your inner Robinson Crusoe, head to the Moo Koh Surin Marine National Park, a tiny archipelago in the Andaman Sea.

The five hilly isles are populated by monkeys, birds, giant crabs and monitor lizards, while the surrounding coral reefs are among the best in Thailand with regular sightings of turtles and reef sharks.

Basic but excellent seafood is served in just two park restaurants and electricity stops at 10pm - allowing guests to enjoy the stargazing opportunities.

Most visitors camp in large, comfortable tents provided by the park, but forest bungalows can be rented on Koh Surin Nua.


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4. Koh Ngai

 A tiny island paradise (Image: AP/FOTOLIA)

Not far from the Surin Islands is tiny Koh Ngai, also called Koh Hai. It is just four by two kilometres wide, partially covered in low mountains and evergreen rainforest inhabited by crab-eating monkeys and giant lizards.

Roads are happily absent from Koh Ngai – the only way to get around the island is on foot. If paradise somehow does get boring, the offshore coral reefs are worth exploring.

The nearby island of Koh Mook and its spectacular Emerald Cave is best visited either early in the morning or late afternoon when the domestic tourists have been and gone.

5. Koh Jum

 Enjoy an idyllic coastline on Koh Jum (Image: AP/FOTOLIA)

Koh Jum lies between Krabi and Koh Lanta and actually has two names. Locals call the flat southern part Koh Jum and the mountainous northern part Koh Phu ('crab island').

There are roads and a few cars on the island and Koh Jum is a kind of halfway house between the fleshpots of Koh Lanta and the quiet idyll of the Andaman coast’s most remote spots, with the most adventurous activity for visitors not bar-hopping but snorkelling. There is a large choice of accommodation on the west coast.

6. Koh Yao Islands

 Unbelievable accommodation on Koh Yao Yai (Image: AP/FOTOLIA)

Despite their proximity to Phuket, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai have barely been touched by mass tourism.

There’s plenty of local life to be observed and the mostly Muslim inhabitants are not yet jaded by the presence of visitors - so expect happily waving kids and oblivious water buffaloes.

The best way to get around is by bicycle. Accommodation ranges from backpacker shacks to upmarket resorts; there’s also a yoga retreat and a Muay Thai boxing camp.

The much larger Koh Yao Yai also offers good mid-range and high-end accommodation, but is less developed and best navigated by motorbike.

There’s no party scene, and flaunting bikinis outside the resorts is not appropriate. In return for this rather reticent vibe, visitors are rewarded with glimpses of traditional island culture.

7. Koh Kradan

 Explore Koh Kradan via boat (Image: AP/FOTOLIA)

A little to the south of busy Koh Lanta, tiny Koh Kradan is part national park, part resort island, but wonderfully unspoilt.

The island’s two-kilometre-long main beach offers fine white sand and views towards several limestone outcrops. About 50 metres offshore, a coral reef teeming with fish runs the length of the beach.

It takes just three hours to kayak around the entire island. Koh Kradan is very much family and couples-oriented.


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This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.