Ko Pha-ngan – A Dream Destination
The far Eastern island of Ko Pha-ngan in the Gulf of Thailand is a well-loved location in the backpacking community. Luckily, this island remains has escaped the notice of large hotel and tourist chains, allowing the island to maintain its natural and untouched atmosphere. The majority of individuals who travel to this spot are backpackers and independent travelers, seeing as large travel agencies seem to be unaware of the lovely island.
We completely understand why backpackers flock to Ko Pha-ngan. With its idyllic beaches, picturesque hiking trails past huge waterfalls, and tours through the jungle, the options for enjoying and exploring this paradise are endless! Due to this plethora of activities, travelers can easily stay on the island for several weeks.
Are you thinking about vacationing on this fascinating island? In that case, we suggest that you keep reading to get an idea of what you can expect from the island.
Ko Pha-ngan’s Geography
This island is located in the Gulf of Thailand ─ about 65 kilometers from the mainland. It neighbors the island of Ko Tao in the north and Ko Samui in the south. They, along with fifty other islands, make up the Samui archipelago. Ko Pha-ngan measures 125 square kilometers, with beautiful beaches that span the coastline, making for a paradisiacal experience that is very different from many other destinations.
How to Get to Ko Pha-ngan
There are many ways to reach Ko Pha-ngan. The ferry is the best option when traveling from the mainland. We recommend that travelers who are arriving further inland should purchase a combined ticket for bus and ferry. For those who are arriving in either the airport on Ko Samui or on the mainland in Surat Thani, taking the ferry will also be necessary to arrive in Ko Pha-ngan.
The final option is to travel by train to Surat Thani, followed by a ferry ride to the island. Overnight connections that run from Bangkok and arrive at Surat Thani the following morning are also available. This way, you’ll have the entire day to explore before spending the night traveling while you sleep.
When to Visit Ko Pha-ngan
The climate on Ko Pha-ngan has many tropical characteristics while simultaneously being similar to the African savanna. Throughout most of the year, it is rather hot and humid, with a dry season that typically occurs throughout the month of February.
While temperatures barely fluctuate on Ko Pha-ngan, it frequently feels hotter than it is due to extreme humidity. This condition is a year-round experience, seeing as it continues throughout the other eleven months of the rainy season. Temperatures are highest from April to June, with highs commonly reaching 33 °C. During the rest of the year, temperatures rarely fall below 25 °C.
Most tourists visit Ko Pha-ngan in January, July, or August. Because of this, prices for accommodations are understandably higher during these months. Nevertheless, it is still possible to find an affordable hostel if you book far enough in advance. The absolute opposite is true during the month of May. There are very few tourists and prices are significantly lower, making it the cheapest month for visiting.
Places of Interest on Ko Pha-ngan
Thong Sala, the capital of Ko Pha-ngan, is the arrival point of the ferries. Since Ko Pha-ngan is extremely popular with backpackers, numerous hostels are available at reasonable prices.
We found that staying in Thong Sala offered the perfect opportunity for a night in the city to try out the countless bars it has to offer. If you are a fan of both adventures and food, we suggest stopping at the Thong Sala Night Market. At first glance, the run-down location doesn’t seem very inviting. However, it is well worth visiting.
You will find every delicious street food dish that Thai cuisine has to offer at this market. The huge selections of fresh seafood are a guaranteed delight for every palate. If you want to try some traditional Thai dishes, we highly recommend Pad Thai or Massaman curry. And since this location is quite international, you’ll likely encounter a dish or two that is typically found in your home country.
Haad Rin ─ a beach that runs for several hundred meters ─ is located at the southern tip of Ko Pha-ngan. It is particularly famous for the Full Moon Parties that are hosted here every month on the night of the full moon. This festival is a must when visiting the island. Booming sound systems lure both international and local party goers to the beach.
The beach turns into a massive open-air club filled with people looking to dance under the moon. Performers stage fire shows and body painters transform their customers into unrecognizable pieces of art.
On every other day of the month, Haad Rin is the ideal spot for a quiet and relaxing day at the beach. If you desire more adventurous activities, try going jet skiing or playing beach volleyball along the gorgeous sands.
Than Sadet National Park
This national park on Ko Pha-ngan is well suited for a variety of hiking tours. The park is an especially ideal destination for those who enjoy photography. With its many waterfalls, it is impossible not to feel as though you’ve been swept away to a tropical paradise! The park also offers an avenue to peacefully enjoy some of the natural beauty that the island has to offer. We were pleasantly surprised that most of the sights in Than Sadet National Park can be visited free of charge.
The largest waterfall on the island – and also one of the most beautiful – is Phaeng Noi Waterfall. The hike to the fall is easily manageable from the parking lot. Once you reach it, you will surely understand why it is the main attraction of the entire park.
The Sadet Waterfall is also considered particularly beautiful due to its number of cascades. Located in the middle of the dense jungle, it is rumored that even some of Thailand’s kings have visited here to enjoy the majestic environment.
Ang Thong National Park
In order to visit the Ang Thong National Park, we suggest renting a kayak. This seems to be the best way to explore the park, seeing as it consists of hundreds of islands that are only accessible by watercraft.
Kayaking through the emerald waterways between the islands is a tranquil yet demanding adventure that will remain in your memory for years to come. Some hiking trails cross a variety of the park’s islands. These tours offer lookouts that were specially built to offer a breathtaking, panoramic view of the entire archipelago. One of these overlooks is the Ang Thong Viewpoint on Ko Samui Island.
Besides the many islands, the underwater world is also very beautiful. Ang Thong National Park is a popular destination for diving and snorkeling, and the coral reefs are among the absolute highlights of the park.
Ko Pha-ngan and its neighboring island, Ko Tao, are among the best destinations to explore the underwater world. Some of the most popular diving sites ─ like Sail Rock and Southwest Pinnacle ─ are accessible from both islands. For snorkeling, we recommend the beaches of Haad Yao and Haad Salad.
Ko Pha-ngan is one of Thailand’s most impressive vacation sites and especially popular with backpackers. While the tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand is not unheard of, it also maintains a remote and authentic feel, seeing as it is not overrun by tourists. This spot is considered particularly special because of how easily backpackers can mix with the locals. They don’t mind visitors at all.
If you plan to visit Ko Pha-ngan, you will be surprised by the diversity of the island. The gorgeous beaches and the vast jungle will take your breath away. Party enthusiasts will have to plan their trip around attending the Full Moon Party.
No matter what expectations you have for your visit to Ko Pha-ngan, they will definitely be met. We can assure you that the island offers many avenues to a wonderful vacation in paradise.