Fortune favours the bold in Phuket, where authentic gourmet and cultural experiences are hiding in plain sight. Buckle up – we're going off the beaten track.
Phuket is an island paradise, justifiably famous for flawless golden sands, mighty rainforest-clung peaks and peacock-blue lagoons. But for the inquisitive, the intrepid and the bold, Phuket rewards curiosity. Venture beyond the pristine beaches and luxury resorts and discover a captivating piece of Thailand’s rich culture. A tremendous wealth of unusual experiences, exceptional flavours and unforgettable adventures are waiting to be explored — here are just a few of our favourite unique things to do in Phuket.
Planning your own Thailand adventure? Check out the award-winning The Shore at Katathani.
Eat until you’re complete at Naka Market
There’s no better place to take a bite out of Thailand’s magnificent food culture than with a visit to Naka Market. Each weekend night, this vibrant labyrinth comes alive with stalls hawking t-shirts, fresh fruit, jewellery and much more. Head to the western side of the market for a booming food hall brimming with mouth-watering delights. Shops proudly specialise in a single dish – mastered after decades of preparation – and it’s the perfect place to chow down on mega-fresh favourites like pad Thai, basil stir-fried chicken and fiery papaya salad.
If you’re hungry for adventure, seek out stalls selling whole deep-fried sandwiches, barbecued crocodile sticks and dancing shrimp. Courageous culinary explorers may wish to seek stalls selling protein-rich pupa, spiders and grasshoppers – dunked in hot oil, spiced, served on banana leaves... and surprisingly delicious.
Savour every sip at Chalong Bay Rum
Phuket’s premier rum distillery blends traditional French distilling methods with Thailand’s rich sugarcane history to make an agricole that dances lightly upon your tastebuds. Entirely made from natural Thai sugarcane instead of molasses, the rum is sharp, grassy and refreshingly warm. The distillery runs daily masterclass tours that delve into the history of Thailand’s liquor industry and the company’s unique processes and handcrafted approach.
Afterwards, take the opportunity to make four signature cocktails, taste the entire Chalong Bay Rum range and savour the best mojito in Thailand, all surrounded by gently swaying sugarcane fields. If you’re hungry, repeat Michelin Guide-recognised Suay Restaurant has taken over the distillery’s kitchen. If you stop in for a bite, the Thai-Mexican fusion beef tacos are divine.
Hunt for knick-knacks in Phuket Old Town
A technicolour blend of Portuguese, Chinese and Thai influences, Old Town’s collection of antique shops, museums and sumptuous patisseries should be high on your list of things to do in Phuket. Start on Dibuk Road – literally, ‘tin road’, referring to the valuable metal that made the island’s European colonisers filthy rich – and wander past marvellously preserved ancient houses and shopfronts, each a different shade of soft pastel.
The Sunday Walking Street Market, found on famous Thalang Road, is a bustling affair, brimming with handicrafts, street food and local musicians serenading the crowd. For those seeking a glimpse of Thailand’s mysterious folk traditions, the friendly Amulet Market Phuket sells powder talismans, carved tiger teeth and enchanted blades for the brave and the curious.
Take a chef’s tour of Phuket Old Town’s secret flavours
Like the lofty papaya salad, Phuket’s flavours are layered, hidden, spicy, sour and sweet. It’s a mighty melange of Thai, Malay, Burmese and Chinese cuisine celebrated by chefs, locals and UNESCO, who crowned it Thailand’s ‘Creative City of Gastronomy’. Take a well-deserved nibble of Phuket with a chef’s tour of Old Town – woodfired naan, mango sticky rice, ancient Burmese teashops and grilled pork satay cooked over an open flame await. Along the way, become immersed in the colour and history of the district – there’s no better way to uncover the stories of a people than by enjoying their food.
Looking to explore Thailand’s vibrant food scene? Check out our guide to the best of Thailand’s gastronomy
Check out Phuket’s best sunset at Promthep Cape
The light rippling across the dazzling Andaman Sea during sunset at Promthep Cape is legendary – it ignites the sky in a million fiery reds, royal purples and midnight blues. The lookout’s profound dusk is cemented in the island’s psyche – the proud palm trees standing watch over the cape are immortalised on number plates and t-shirts across Thailand.
On clear days, you can make out the distant shapes of the nearby Phi Phi Islands and the monastery tucked on Koh Kaeo Yai. Round out the perfect romantic excursion with a visit to Promthep’s small lighthouse and nearby Elephant Shrine, where a collection of elephant statues celebrate the Hindu god of creation, Brahma.
Experience local handmade art and live music at Phuket Art Village
An authentic artists’ colony hidden deep in the heart of bustling Rawai, Phuket Art Village offers endless surprises and delights. Open Friday nights from 5pm to 11pm, the village consists of an eclectic collection of galleries, each showcasing a unique, vivid artistic talent – from tiny, sketched faces giving life to rocks found on the beach to grand, absurd Buddhist masterpieces and tie-dyed surrealism.
Come for the art and stay for easygoing, speakeasy-style live music and the village’s delicious chicken sticks, grilled over a charcoal flame and best appreciated with an ice-cold beer. The company, comprising of the artists themselves and their friends, is warm and wonderful, and outsiders are welcomed with open arms.
Witness a fast and furious Muay Thai fight
Lightning-fast Muay Thai boxing matches are a thrilling glimpse into Thailand’s vibrant martial arts culture. Nestled off the beaten path but easily known to Phuket locals, Patong Boxing Stadium offers a chance to see shirtless, fierce-eyed rising stars compete for glory. Tickets are available at the door, and the coveted ringside seats are well worth the cost.
Each fight begins with a traditional Ram Muay, or ‘boxing dance’, functioning as a stretch, warmup and meditative reflection of Buddhist gratitude while hinting at the structure of the brutal match to come. Each thunderous elbow and knee strike is met by the eager roar of the surrounding crowd, and guests are encouraged to join in – it’s an experience that can’t be missed.
Travelling with family? Check out the best family resorts in Phuket.