Ao Phang Nga National Park, Thailand

The Ao Phang Nga National Park north of Phuket is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Thailand. The numerous rocky islands scattered in the sea of Phang Nga Bay became world famous overnight thanks to James Bond.

Ao Phang Nga National Park is located in the south of Thailand in the province of Phang Nha, north of the tourist stronghold of Phuket. It is especially known for Phang Nga Bay with its towering rocky islands: One of the most beautiful landscapes Thailand has to offer. You may have already seen this from the plane to Phuket, the landing approach is considered one of the most spectacular in all of Southeast Asia.


PICTURES: Ao Phang Nga National Park

Photo gallery: Ao Phang Nga National Park

The Ao Phang Nga National Park was opened in 1981 with an area of 400 square kilometres, 80% of which lies in the Andaman Sea west of Thailand. On the emerald-green surface of the water, 42 large and small limestone islands are scattered as if by chance by a giant, some of which are close to 300 metres high. The bizarre rocks have been formed over the last 100 million years by erosion, ocean currents and weathering and are riddled with caves and grottos.

Visit Ao Phang Nga National Park

Ao Phang Nga National Park is located in southern Thailand, north of the tourist destination of Phuket, and is one of Thailand's most beautiful landscapes - © Pavinee Chareonpanich/Shuttersto
© Pavinee Chareonpanich/Shuttersto

Due to its proximity to the popular tourist destination of Phuket, Ao Phang Nga National Park is a popular destination for day trippers. If you're ever in Phuket, you can't miss a boat trip through this fantastic island world. The parade excursion boat through Phang Nga Bay is the picturesque junk "June Bathra", the smaller passages between the rocky islands are navigated by long boats.

You can also only get into the so-called hongs by low boats. These passages are entrances to hidden grottos and fantastic lagoon landscapes in the labyrinth of waterways and boulders. A wonderful example of a hidden paradise is the almost circular island of Koh Hong with breathtaking nature and a hidden dripstone cave.

Tip: A boat tour is recommended in the early morning or evening, as the low sun then shows off the green-speckled island labyrinth with its caves and grottos to best advantage.

Places of interest in Ao Phang Nga National Park

Paradise beach in Ao Phang Nga National Park in Thailand - © mrmichaelangelo / Shutterstock
© mrmichaelangelo / Shutterstock

The entire national park is blessed with lush nature that is often overlooked by the noise of the tourist boats and the colourful souvenir stalls. The rocky islands are mostly covered only by bushes, ferns and low trees, the coast of Phang Nga Bay is covered with the most extensive mangrove forests in Thailand. They provide a protected habitat for a variety of crabs, snakes and lizards. Giant monitor lizards, up to over 2 metres long, can be found here.

The islands are mostly inhabited by birds, of which over 100 different species have been catalogued, flying foxes and monkeys, mainly macaques. In the water, cod, mackerel, cuttlefish, manta rays, dolphins and hammerhead sharks cavort. The warm, shallow and plankton-rich waters of Phang Nga Bay cause many mothers to lay their eggs or raise their young there.

Koh Khao Ta-Pu

The "needle rock" is said to have been created by an angry fisherman who found nothing but a single needle in his nets for a whole day. Enraged, he then smashed it into two pieces in the evening. One of them is still stuck on the seabed today.


Khao Phing-Kan ("James Bond Rock")

The Ao Phang Nga National Park in the south of Thailand, with its spectacular rocky islands, is one of the most beautiful landscapes Thailand has to offer - © osa90 / Shutterstock
© osa90 / Shutterstock

Phang Nga Bay and the Khao Phing-Kan ("Shale Rock"), which until then had only been known to globetrotters, achieved worldwide fame through a James Bond film. In "The Man with the Golden Gun", 007 Roger Moore lands by seaplane on a neighbouring island of the Khao Ping-Khan. On this island, the villain Scaramanga, masterfully played by Christoper Lee, is hiding himself and his secret weapon made of solar energy. Incidentally, the island and the beach are much smaller than they appear in the film and, what's more, they are crammed with souvenir stands.

Tip: The James Bond Rock, as it is also known, is characterised by tourist crowds, even though the island itself is not very spectacular. Those who do not absolutely want to enter the island because of its cinema fame should save themselves the hustle and bustle and see it from a distance.

Koh Panyee (floating village of the sea gypsies)

The floating village on Koh Panyee Island in Ao Phang Nga National Park in Thailand is inhabited by so-called sea gypsies - © Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock
© Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock

Not to be overlooked is the floating village on the island of Koh Panyee. The settlement, built on stilts, is inhabited by so-called sea gypsies and even offers a school, a football pitch and a mosque with a minaret. The tours usually use the floating village for a stopover for lunch, after which you can explore the pile dwellings and take home lots of (junk) souvenirs.

Tip: If you want to avoid mass tourism, avoid the tourist hot spots like James Bond Island and the floating village and focus instead on the breathtaking nature of Ao Phang Nga National Park. Less noisy, less stressful and absolutely unforgettable. By the way, instead of the expensive tours offered in hotels, you can also rent a cheaper boat on your own. The prices are negotiable.