Thailand is renowned worldwide for its beautiful tropical islands. The well-known Phuket, Koh Phi Phi or Koh Samui are real true paradise islands, characterized by lush tropical vegetation overlooking stunning white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, a feature common to most of other countless Thailand’s islands. There are over 1,000 islands and islets scattered along Thailand’s extensive coastline, both off the coasts on Andaman Sea and within the Gulf of Thailand. Some of them are simple rocky outcrops that just protrude above sea surface, few are quite large, most are small to medium in size and few of them are inhabited. Formerly most of Thailand's islands were uninhabited, apart from some communities of sea gypsies, also known as Chao Ley. In last decades many have been developed for tourism, nevertheless less than 10% of them have resident population throughout the year. Many islands are grouped into archipelagos, Mu Ko in Thai, other are incorporated in clusters of several individual islands. Most of the islands and archipelagos, including the surrounding waters, are under protection of 22 National Marine Parks. Thailand has three main sets of islands; those in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of Thailand; those in the Southern Gulf of Thailand; and those in the Eastern Golf of Thailand, between Bangkok and the Cambodian border. Thailand's coast on the Andaman Sea is dotted by over 500 islands and islets, from the far north next to Burma border until to the extreme south, bordering with Malaysia. Without any doubt, here are placed the Thailand's most beautiful islands. Off the northernmost coast, in Phang Nga Province, lie the Mu Ko Similan and Mu Ko Surin national marine parks. These jewels in the Andaman Sea are true paradises, two must destinations for divers and snorkellers. A little further south there is Phuket, the Thailand's main island and its most famous beach resort. Also known as the Pearl of the Andaman, the island alone forms a province that includes, in addition to itself, other 32 smaller coral islands off its coast. The stunning Phang Nga Bay is located just north-east of Phuket, and has majestic scenery, among the most beautiful on the planet, with limestone islets and cliffs which rise from the sea as huge monoliths. Fifty kilometres further south of Phang Nga Bay, just in front of Phuket, there is Krabi the other most famous seaside resort in southern Thailand. In the far south of Andaman Sea, off the coast of Satun Province, there is the Tarutao National Marine Park, formed by the two archipelagos, Adang-Rawi and Turatao, for a total of 51 coral islands of which the best known is Koh Lipe. The island is a small diamond in the Andaman Sea, perhaps one of the most beautiful island in Thailand. Almost unknown until a few years ago, Koh Lipe is one of the most popular destinations among lovers of beach life outside the tourist mass. The southern of Gulf of Thailand is characterized by a large cluster of islands and islets, scattered off the coast between the provinces of Chumphon and Surat Thani. They are grouped into two archipelagos, the Mu Ko Chumphon and Mu Ko Ang Thong. Chumphon Archipelago includes Koh Samui, the main island and world-famous tourist destination, Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan, the twin islets of Koh Nang Yuan and about 40 islands which are part of Mu Ko Chumphon National Park. Ang Thong archipelago consists of 42 islands and islets that are under the protection of the Mu Ko Ang Thong Marine National Park. In both archipelagos few islands have resident population, most are uninhabited except for a few rangers, many are little more than small strips of land or rocks in the middle of sea. Apart from the small rocky outcrops, the majority of islands have white or golden sand beaches and crystal clear waters, many have pristine coral reefs ideal for diving and snorkelling. Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao are the only ones with a resident population, facilities and accommodation for tourists. Three groups of islands characterize the eastern side of Gulf of Thailand, they are: the few islands off the coast of Chonburi Province and very close to Pattaya; the Koh Samet archipelago in front of Rayong, about 210 km south-east of capital; and Koh Chang Archipelago off the coast of Trat Province, about 310 km south-east of Bangkok and next to the Cambodian border. Pattaya is one of the most popular seaside resorts in all Southeast Asia; nevertheless its beach certainly does not excel in beauty. Contrariwise the nearby Koh Larn, placed just 7.5 km off Pattaya coast, has white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, suitable for swimming and snorkelling. The island is connected to Pattaya with a ferry service which leaves from Bali Hai Pier, at end of famous Pattaya Walking Street. Koh Larn has resident population, facilities and several accommodations for tourist. Koh Si Chang is a small island little known by tourists, but very highly appreciated by locals. It lies off the coast of Si Racha district, about 30 km north of Pattaya. Connected to mainland with a regular boat service, it has beaches, villages, beautiful Chinese and Buddhist temples, facilities and accommodations. Koh Samet, or Ko Samed, is the largest and westernmost of a cluster of islands located just off the coast of Rayong Province, about 80 km south of Pattaya. The island is very popular among foreign tourists, thanks to its beautiful white sand beaches and crystal waters, good facilities and accommodation, and even an excellent climate. Koh Chang is the Thailand's second largest island after Phuket. The beautiful island lies just off the coast of Trat and it is the main island of a beautiful archipelago consisting of 180 pristine coral islands and islets, most uninhabited, which stretches from north to southeast on easternmost coast of Gulf of Thailand. Almost unknown until thirty years ago, in the last decades Koh Chang has become a major tourist destination in Thailand, both for foreigners and Thais, thanks its beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Koh Kood and Koh Mak are the other main islands of archipelago, both with facilities and accommodation for tourists. Koh Kood is famous for its paradisiacal beaches with crystalline waters ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Koh Mak has been inserted, from the Sunday Times, in the ranking of the 10 most beautiful beach resorts in the world and still unknown to mass tourism. The pristine island has stunning white sand beaches, accommodations and services for high-level tourists.Read More
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