This up and coming destination, south of Phuket and Krabi, is the largest of 52 islands in an archipelago protected by the pristine Mu Koh Lanta Marine National Park. In addition to the vast and stunningly beautiful beaches, the principal island of Koh Lanta Yai boasts inland mountains shrouded in verdant rainforest, mangroves, waterfalls and undersea kingdoms of brightly coloured coral and marine life.
The northwest is the most popular area of the island and home to the immense Phra Ae Beach, a two mile long crescent of pristine sands whose beauty is sure to take your breath away. Towards the south lies Ba Kan Tiang Bay where the white sand beach and crystal waters are set against a backdrop of tropical rainforest reaching up into the hillside. The east coast may have no beaches but venture there to catch a glimpse of local life among the shrimp farms, fishing villages and historic Lanta Old Town.
Khao Mai Kaew Caves offer a great diversion from the beach, although it's not for the fainthearted! The adventure begins when you descend through a small hole in the rocks to enter the series of diverse caverns, some as large as church halls while others require you to crawl on your hands and knees. The reward for your efforts is sights of stalactites, stalagmites and bats, as well as a pool that you can swim in.
There are numerous dive sites within easy reach which host a variety of aquatic life including manta rays, whale sharks, turtles, dolphins and numerous reef fish. If you prefer to snorkel, it's best to hop on a boat to find the best reefs and you'll plenty of tours available to the surrounding islands.
Also recommended is Thung Yee Pheng Mangrove Forest where it's possible to kayak amongst the maze of tranquil streams, rivers and inlets. Within Mu Koh Lanta National Park there are lots of trails to explore as well as an antiquated lighthouse perched atop a dramatic cliff and offering some of the most dazzling views of anywhere in Thailand.
When it comes to shopping, roving local markets set up on different parts of the island depending on the day while Lanta Old Town has a morning market each Sunday as well as fascinating shops to find unique souvenirs. The number of restaurants has increased over the last few years and now you'll find bistros, speciality seafood eateries, bistros and local Thai restaurants in the main beach areas.
GMT +7 hours
There are no direct flights from the UK to Koh Lanta. From Bangkok, fly onwards to Krabi (approximately 1 hour 20 minutes) and then travel by road to the Pier (1 hour). From the pier the journey by sea takes between 30 and 50 minutes (depending on resort). Between May-Oct transfers are by road and public ferry resulting in longer journey times.
The weather is at its best between November and March, while the monsoon season is between May and October.