Ko Lanta, also spelt as Koh Lanta, is a beautiful island off the southwestern coast of Thailand, part of the province of Krabi. Surrounded by the Andaman Sea, the warm clear waters lap up against the pristine white beaches where you can laze away a sunny day, before experiencing a fiery beachside nightlife scene that will have your hair standing on end. Average temperatures hover around 30 degrees C (86 F) and the area is thought to be one of the origins of the Thai people, with evidence dating back to the prehistoric period. Ko Lanta is a place to relax, where the words “island life” seem to resonate with ubiquity.
Read on to find out about the best things to do in Ko Lanta, Thailand:
1. Grab a bite from the Traditional street markets
When in Thailand, going to a street night market is a must. As in the rest of the country, Ko Lanta proudly hosts such markets everywhere. Perhaps the best of the markets is the night market in Baan Saladan on Wednesday evenings. Market stalls are open all day long, but the night market really gets going at around 4 pm and goes through until around 9 pm. An array of food, clothing, and souvenirs are available, at often very cheap prices. If you like to eat your street food from a skewer, you will very much enjoy this market. You’ll find meat on a stick, fish on a stick, and deserts on a stick. In fact, if the vendors found a way to achieve it, I’m sure they’d sell massaman curry or pad Thai on a stick too. The clothing and souvenir stalls will be like many you have seen throughout Thailand if you have been elsewhere in this wondrous country. There’s definitely something that will appeal to you here with all the numerous things to do and sights at the street markets.
Traditional Street Market
Address: Baan Saladan
Website: Baan Saladan market
Sunday Morning: Old Town central square
Monday: Southern Haad Khlong Dao
Tuesday and Friday: East of Khlong Nin
Wednesday: Baan Saladan
Thursday: Between Haad Phra Ae and Khlong Khong
Saturday: Haad Khlong Dao
2. Let the Fire shows take your breath away
No evening spent on Ko Lanta would be complete without taking in one of the breathtaking fire shows that can be seen on beachfronts up and down the island. Watch the sunset away in the distance and retire to one of the many beach bars and soon enough you will be able to spot the glow of fire along the shore. A typical example will see between 2 and 5 young Thais with fire sticks, throwing them high into the night sky before catching them, often behind their back, between their legs, or with their arms outstretched above their faces. One particular show I took in saw an electrifying tightrope performance in which the performer juggled with fire sticks whilst walking a rope suspended above the gathered crowd.
Address: Beachfront bars all over Ko lanta
3. Explore the Khao Mai Kaew Cave
A collection of caves and tunnels found in the centre of the island of Lanta Yai, Khao Mai Kaew Cave will leave you in awe of the power of nature and a little sweaty. The hot air inside the cave can be stifling for those not used to being literally inside the earth. You will find an underground lake in one of the caves as well as a whole host of wildlife including bats, snakes, and spiders. Visitors will need to dress appropriately for the caves as it takes around 2 hours to complete in humid conditions and will involve a lot of climbing, walking over naturally formed rocky terrain, and some crawling through very tight spaces at times. The visit also requires a short trek through the jungle to arrive at the cave’s entrance.
Khao Mai Kaew Cave
Address: Tambon Ko Lanta Yai, Amphoe Ko Lanta, Chang Wat Krabi 81150, Thailand
Website: Khao Mai Kaew Cave
4. Take a leisurely boat tour
Walk along any main road on Ko Lanta and you will find no shortage of tour operators offering boat trips to neighbouring islands, back to the mainland, or even to Langkawi, an island belonging to Malaysia. One particular tour operator – Lanta Dream & Paradise – offers private longtail boat tours daily to islands such as Ko Rok and the Phi Phi islands as well as snorkelling sites around each island.
Lanta Dream & Paradise
Address: Lanta Dream & Paradise
Website: Lanta Dream & Paradise
5. Help out with the Lanta Animal Welfare
Ko Lanta, similarly to the rest of Thailand, sadly does have a culture of stray animals. Roaming dogs and cats are taken to Lanta Animal Welfare to be cared for in a shelter that gives the animals the care and attention needed. Visitors can help the shelter with cash donations, animal adoption as well giving their time to help look after the animals. Dog walking is encouraged by the shelter and organised walks are offered each day to fit around the searing midday heat. The shelter provides medical services to many homeless, abused, and injured animals and is working to educate its visitors on the causes of distress to these unfortunate animals.
Lanta Animal Welfare
Address: 629 Moo.2, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand, 81150
Website: Lanta Animal Welfare
Ko Lanta is blessed with some of the best beaches you will find in southern Thailand. Long stretches of white sandy beach are flanked by crystal blue waters on one side and relaxed resorts and beach bars on the other. My favourite beach is Klong Dao Beach in the north of the island. Around 1 mile/1.6 km from the pier in Saladan, the beach has golden sand, a gentle wave break, and is lined with young and old alike enjoying the pleasures of being beside the sea. The west coast of Ko Lanta is where you will find all of the beaches on the island, which means each beach will enable you to watch the sun set on the horizon. I stayed at Lanta Summer House, which gives direct access to the beach from the hotel front.
Klong Dao Beach
Address: Sala Dan, Ko Lanta District, Krabi 81150, Thailand
Website: Klong Dao Beach
Lanta Summer House
Address: 208 Klong Dao Beach, T. Sala Dan, Ko Lanta, 81150
7. Take a stroll around Lanta Old Town
Lanta’s old town is a beautifully preserved village on the eastern side of the island. Originally a sea gypsy settlement, the town was once the main trading port of the island. A historic feel runs through the town with a distinct Chinese influence coming from the settlement of Chinese traders over the last few centuries. Houses built on stilts jut out into the sea, with views of the mainland and at high tide, the waves crashing beneath your feet. The first full moon of March sees the Old Town host a festival of culture, known as the Laanta-Lanta festival, which lasts around 3 days and invites revellers to enjoy local food cooked by some of the islands best chefs as well as live music performances. Shine Talay restaurant is built on stilts above the sea and features a wooden swing overlooking the bay, offering excellent photograph opportunities.
Lanta Old Town
Address: East cost of Ko Lanta Yai
Website: Lanta Old Town
Shine Talay Restaurant
Address: 37 m.2 Sririya road | Ko Lanta yai, Ko Lanta 81150, Thailand
8. Visit the Koh Rok Island
Clear blue water, coral reef and an abundance of fish make Koh Rok Island a must see when on Ko Lanta. Beautiful beaches and warm seas make for a memorable day trip swimming with the abundance of tropical fish that the Andaman Sea houses. Around an hour speedboat ride from Long Beach on the south of Lanta Yai, the Koh Rok islands form the southern part of the Mu Koh Lanta Marine National Park. Wether diving or snorkelling is your activity of choice, the Dive and Relax tour company give travellers the opportunity to witness the wonders of the sea, from your very own Finding Nemo challenge to diving with native sea turtles.
Koh Rok Islands tour with Dive and Relax
Address: 223 Moo 2, Saladan, Koh Lanta, Krabi
Website: Dive and Relax
9. Pay a visit to the Mu Ko Lanta National Park
Opened in 1990, Mu Ko Lanta National Park is home to a diverse array of animals including coral reef animals, tigers, and cobras. It consists of many islands in the south of Krabi Province. Once on the main island, you can participate in water sports such as boating, scuba diving, and snorkeling. You can also hike through the islands through the mountainous terrain, rain forest, and beach forest. After an exciting, but perhaps exhausting tour of the park, you can lounge on one of the park’s iconic beaches. The park is well known for its pristine beaches with impossibly blue waters and fine white sand, so you will definitely love your beach experience.
Mu Ko Lanta National Park
Address: Mu Ko Lanta National Park, Moo 5, Tambon Ko Lanta Yai, Amphoe Ko Lanta, Krabi, 81150, Thailand
Website: Mu Ko Lanta National Park
10. Browse the wares over at the Hammock House
Is there anything more relaxing than a store that sells vividly colored hammocks? The vibrant hammocks sold in this store are special. They are handmade by people of the Mlabri tribe of Thailand. Mlabri translates to “saved” because the tribe’s way of life was threatened by deforestations. The members were displaced and have sustained themselves by making and selling their quality, hand-woven hammocks. Not only can you get a beautiful, durable hammock but also, you can help the tribe prosper.
Address: Ko Lanta Yai, Ko Lanta District, Krabi 81150, Thailand
Ko Lanta, like so many islands around the world, enjoys that “island life” feel of a relaxed attitude and a slower pace of life. Lanta is often used as a stepping stone between the mainland and the other islands in the region, most often the hugely popular Phi Phi islands and I forbid you to look out onto those islands off in the distance without longing to go and explore them. I spent four days on Ko Lanta in April 2017 and endured (oh no, it wasn’t tough) long hot days, relaxing on the beach and stormy nights with some of the loudest thunderstorms I have ever witnessed. Ko Lanta’s biggest appeal is the picture perfect surroundings it enjoys, clear waters, and distant islands. Take a walk around the island at night and spot the fireflies lighting your way after witnessing a breathtaking sunset behind the islands dotted along the horizons.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.