Did you know – the entire city of Amsterdam was built on poles to counter the swampy soil. The Royal Palace on Dam Square is built on a base of more than 13,500 wooden poles, and the Central Station is built on over 6,000 poles.
If watching Casablanca left you with a lump in your throat, then a trip to Morocco should definitely be on your bucket list. Situated on the North West coast of Africa just across the narrow Straits of Gibraltar from the southern tip of Spain, its proximity to Europe along with its inimitable style and culture make it a popular destination.
Morocco has a dramatic variation in landscape across the country, with snow capped Atlas Mountains to the north, fertile plains near its western Atlantic coast, remarkable mountains, and the Sahara desert at the edge of the Anti-Atlas to the south and east.
Best Time to Visit Morocco
Similar to its landscape, Morocco’s climate varies widely – the north is Mediterranean and the south is subtropical while the sea and mountains help to maintain a pleasant climate.
Morocco has approximately 330 days of sunshine per year. It has hot and dry summers, with daytime temperatures ranging from 33 to 42º C. Winters are milder, with temperatures hovering around 16 to 23º C.
The best times to visit Morocco are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October), when the weather remains extremely agreeable.
Getting Around Morocco
Morocco is well networked and offers several options for getting around.
There are airports at Marrakech, Rabat, Fes, Tangier, Agadir, Tetouan and Casablanca, apart from a few other cities.
Trains in Morocco are comfortable, reliable and reasonably priced. The state-owned network, ONCF is an excellent option for travel between major cities. All train stations have clear signs and displays in Arabic and French to help you find your way around.
Supratours is a bus company owned by ONCF, to cover the areas east of the Atlas mountains and south of Marrakech, which are not connected by rail. Buses and city cabs connect seamlessly to intercity trains. Tickets for combined train and bus journeys can be bought in a single package called “Rail & Route”.
Major Moroccan cities have large car rental agencies. Driving around is pretty simple as the roads are usually clear and easily navigable, but petrol prices can be steep. Carry your international driver’s license and buy your own motor insurance – you’re good to go.
Shared taxis are usually big Mercedes Benz cars carrying a maximum of 6 passengers. They operate on a wide variety of routes and are much quicker than the public buses. You can flag down a taxi anywhere along the road. Fares between cities are fixed and quite reasonable.
Buses are the cheapest, and link to every corner of Morocco. You can buy your tickets at the bus terminals. Intercity buses are privately run. The three major bus companies in Morocco are – CTM whic covers the whole country, SATAS which mainly plies south of Agadir and Supratours.
Cities in Morocco
Morocco has traditional imperial Islamic cities. The quaint central medina (old town) of each city is typically still walled-in and is the historical part of these cities. A typical feature of the medina is a minaret-tipped mosque, around which are open-air markets with cafes and street entertainment. The Ville Nouvelle, or new city built around the old heart, is the modern part with distinctive colonial influence.
Rabat on the Atlantic coast has been the capital of Morocco since 1912 and is its second largest city. It is a perfect blend of tradition and modernity, Islamic and European culture. The medina inside the Almohad ramparts is a pleasurable place to stroll around. You can get some great handicrafts and Moroccan food at the medina market. The Hassan Mosque, built in 1184, is a famous landmark and close by is the mausoleum housing the King’s ancestors.
The Kasbah des Oudaias on top of the cliff is a striking fortified city offering gorgeous views. Take a stroll around the kasbah and visit the oldest mosque in town.
Chellah or Sala Colonia, to the south of Rabat, is an ancient Roman site with crumbling ruins and a beautifully landscaped Chellah gardens with a sanctuary that was used for royal burials.
The Ville Nouvelle of Rabat has some pretty colonial architecture.
Marrakech, the former capital, is a truly fascinating and artistic imperial city with beautiful, traditional buildings. Its souks, or markets offer a captivating peek into the life of the locals. Take a walk through the streets of the old town, taking in the magnificent medieval buildings and romantic gardens. The ancient square of Djemma El Fna at the heart of the city, keeps the crowds amused with regular entertainment ranging from rhythmic drumbeats, to aerial acrobatics, magicians and snake-charmers, amidst women offering henna tattoos. The towering Koutoubia Mosque minaret is visible from the square and worth a visit.
The National Festival of Folk Art held annually in Marrakesh in summer is a week-long event with performances by traditional dancers, musician and other entertainers. A highlight of Morocco’s cultural calendar, this celebration is not to be missed.
Fes, often called the Heart of Morocco, is a former capital and one of its oldest cities. Fes el-Bali, the medina (Old Fes) is one of the largest living medieval cities in the world today and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has an intricate network of 9400 twisting alleys, where you can shop for the finest leather and hand-craftwork among the many bazaars.
Fes is also home to the world’s oldest university, Qarawiyyin.
A short distance from Fes are the largest and well-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco at Volubilis. The origins of Volubilis can be traced back to 2nd and 3rd centuries AD though excavations reveal that Carthaginian traders discovered the site.
Casablanca is a sprawling metropolitan port city with a Moroccan heart and cosmopolitan appeal. It may not be the most romantic city in Morocco, but is worth a short stay for the large Hassan II Mosque. The mosque, second largest in the world, has a French exterior with Moroccan interiors.
The medina is small and typical. You can spend some time on the beach at Ain Diab Plage.
Tangier has a remarkable Mediterranean flare, with close connections to Spain. The influence of French colonization in the first half of the 20th century can be seen here, contrasting against the fortified Kasbah at the top of the city’s medina.
Ait Benhaddou is the most exotic and best-preserved kasbah in the entire Atlas area. A ksar or traditional earthen brick city along intricate lanes on the lower slopes of the High Atlas, it is a remarkable example of southern Moroccan architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The red walls of the kasbahs, fortresses and village squares glow in the orange light of sunset and present a breathtaking sight. It provides a gorgeous backdrop for film shootings, and has been one of the locations of quite a few flicks, such as Lawrence of Arabia.
Morocco has a lot more if you have the time – the whitewashed buildings in the coastal resort of Essaouira, or the market town of Tata in the Sahara – you will find plenty of reasons to return to Morocco.
Desert in Morocco
To the south and east lies the Sahara, the world’s largest desert, which is lined with a few streams and oases, with some desert vegetation and fauna typical of the landform.
Take off on an incredible adventure that begins in the Saharan settlement of Merzouge, from where you can ride a camel on a safari out into the sand dunes and spend a night in the desert.
Mountains in Morocco
Morocco has several fantastic mountain ranges with a variety of foliage, many of which get covered in snow during winter.
The Atlas Mountains form the major range, divided into the High Atlas, Middle Atlas and Anti Atlas. The High Atlas is the highest range, with Jabal Toubkal stretching to 4,165 metres. The Middle Atlas reaches 3,350 metres and the Anti Atlas does not reach higher than 2,531 metres, but it still has some very rugged landscape. At the foot of the High Atlas is the alluring and fragrant Valley of Roses, which gets blanketed by blossoms in season. The Rif Mountains on the north-eastern edge of the Atlas mountains are made up of steep cliffs near the Mediterranean coastline, where the terrain is rugged.
The Chefchaouen Mountains in the north east have two peaks – Jebel Meggou at 1625 meters above sea level, and Jebel Tisouka with a mosque on top at 2050 meters.
The charming Sarho Mountains to the south west of Marrakech is a popular winter trekking. It is a remote area with volcanic monoliths, green plateaus, canyons and tiny Berber settlements.
The Oregano Mountains to the south of Agadir are covered with oregano and fill the valley with aroma. At the top of these mountains are two caves used by goats for shelter. The pink, rocky Tafraoute Mountains to the south east of Agadir are picturesque and a draw for travelers.
The Setti Fatma at the end of the Ourika Valley in Marrakesh has seven beautiful waterfalls, breathtaking views and long trails for hardened hikers.
Morocco is vibrant, fascinating, colorful and dramatic. Come here for the cities, the markets, the landscapes and the culture. And you’ll find it difficult to leave.
Today is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, with the sun at its zenith on the sunniest day of the year. Midsummer brings with it holidays, festivals and celebrations the world over. Pagans all over the hemisphere celebrate the vitality of the sun on this day, and light bonfires to ward off evil spirits which could take over as the sun moved southward henceforth.
Here are 5 unique places from around the world which are especially worth visiting on this day –
- Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza was the cultural and religious centre of the Mayans, where the ancient civilization thrived and created several architectural wonders which displayed their advanced understanding of astronomy.
The Temple of Kukulkan, also called El Castillo is a 4 sided step pyramid dedicated to Kukulkan, the Feathered Serpent God. While the Spring Equinox here is renowned for creating an illusion of a feathered serpent crawling down the pyramid, the summer solstice also attracts huge crowds who come to see the play of light and shadow. In the early morning just after sunrise, the north and east sides of the temple are illuminated by the sun’s rays, whereas across a perfect split the west and south are drenched in total darkness.
- Stonehenge, United Kingdom
Sunrise over Stonehenge on the day of summer solstice is a marvelous spectacle, as the ancient site has been designed to perfectly align with the sun on this day. The sun rises between two Heel Stones outside the site, and goes right through to the altar stone at the centre. At midday the sun shines directly overhead the centre.
- Abu Simbel, Egypt
The Egyptians worshipped Ra, the Sun God and built several temples dedicated to him. The two gigantic rock temples at Abu Simbel are more than 3000 years old and stand as a testament to the engineering skills of the Egyptian civilization, of which the pyramids also speak volumes. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nubian Monuments, the temples of Ra-Horakhty and Hathor highlight the standing of pharaohs as divine in ancient Egypt. On the summer solstice, the sun rays line up at a perfect angle to illuminate the length the temple, including the statues of Ra and Rameses II. On February 22 and October 22, the birth and coronation dates of Rameses, the sunrays line up to light up the interiors of the temple.
- Ajanta Caves, India
The 2000 year old rock-cut Ajanta caves contain sculptures and paintings dedicated to the life and teachings of the Buddha. These Buddhist monasteries are believed to have housed wandering monks during the monsoons. There are 30 caves, of which number 26 aligns to the rays of the rising sun on this solstice, which illuminates the statue of the Buddha in the stupa (mound with Buddhist relics).
- Externsteine, Germany
The Externsteine are a unique, natural sandstone outcrop forming pillars. Once a place of Pagan worship, it attracts hordes of visitors every year who come to see the rock carvings. At the top of the tallest spire is a pre-historic temple with an altar-stone that may have been used for sacrifices below a circular hole in the wall, which perfectly aligns with the sun during the summer solstice.
For fabulous poetry this sunny Sunday afternoon, head to the Keats Festival in London which is on till 15-June.
Today is the Dragon Boat Festival in China, commemorating the death of minister and legendary poet Qu Yuan in 278 BC. After Qu Yuan jumped into the Miluo river unable to bear the loss of his motherland, local people sailed out to find him, and threw riceballs into the water to attract fish away from his body. This became a tradition which has continued to this day.
Travel. To understand people and make friends.
Croatia, also known as Hrvatska, is a small and beautiful country on the eastern Adriatic Sea coast, right across Italy in the Northern Mediterranean. A part of the erstwhile Yugoslavia, it has forged its own travel identity in Europe as a unique and offbeat tourist destination, leaving behind memories of its bloody past.
Croatia has been truly blessed by nature with stunning landscapes. It has a beautiful coastline with white sand beaches and coral reefs in sparkling, azure waters. Of course, sailing is the single most favorite past time along the coast, and for sea lovers, there are several cruises you could take on the Adriatic Sea. Croatia also has glorious mountains and national parks with cascading waterfalls and varied wildlife.
The climate is close to Mediterranean – it is pleasant throughout the year, with mild winters and warm summers. Summer temperatures average between 26 to 30°C, and early summer during May to June is the best time to travel to Croatia for sailing enthusiasts, as the breeze is good and the seas conducive. The seas get calmer later in July and August, which is when the motor boats come dominate the scene.
The best places to visit on the mainland are Zagreb, Trogir, Dubrovnik, Split, Skradin, Primosten, Ston and the Plitvice Lakes National Park. There are also amazing islands and beaches in Crotia on the Adriatic.
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is known as the ‘City of Museums’, as it has more museums per square foot than any other place in the world. A charming place, it has remained off the mainstream European travelers’ itinerary so far and maintains its delightfully peaceful ambience.
Trogir on the Dalmatian coast is a less known but marvelous city. The 14th century Cathedral of St. Lovro is one of the grandest structures in all of Croatia and worth seeing.
Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety, is a perfectly preserved medieval fortified city. Massive, ancient walls surround the old town which has an dramatic mix of Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architecture, with tall spires in the midst of vibrant market squares.
This old world ambience made it the perfect locale as King’s Landing for Game of Thrones.
The second largest city in Croatia, Split is a UNESCO world heritage site famous for the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian. Take a stroll on the seaside promenade, and hit the many lovely beaches, of which Bacvice is a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
Skradin is famous for its Krka National Park, which has the gushing Skradinski buk and Roski slap waterfalls. Within the park, there is the serene Visovac island on which the Franciscan Visovac Monastery is situated.
Primosten is another hugely popular resort on the Adriatic coast. It is a quaint place with narrow, Mediterranean-style cobbled streets and stone houses in the old town centre set on a small, hilly peninsula. The Bucavac Veliki is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with the vineyards there producing some of the finest wines in the region.
Ston is a beautiful fortified town famous for its striking ramparts known as the Walls of Ston, cultural monuments and oysters, which are the best you will get anywhere. The salt mines here are an interesting place to visit and understand the history of the place.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Plitvice Lakes National Park welcomes more than a million tourists each year. Famous for its cascading, color-changing lakes, the heavily forested park is rich in biodiversity. It is the setting of several myths and the lakes derive their names from the legends associated with them.
The only remarkable thing about this Croatian village is that Nikola Tesla was born here. The Nikola Tesla Museum and Memorial Centre at his birth home is dedicated to the great scientist, displaying models of his inventions such as the Tesla coils and Egg of Colombus.
The Kvarner Gulf is extremely popular with tourists for its soft beaches and rocky coves.
Krk is the largest and busiest island in the Gulf, with a host of activities on offer from diving and sea kayaking to mountain biking and trekking. The main towns are Baska, Krk town, Malinska, Omisalj, Punat and Vrbnik. The Baska beach is the most popular place on the island.
You must visit the Cave Biserujka, Bay Soline and Kosljun if you’re headed here.
Rab is an island known for its dramatic landscape, with desolate, barren land to the northeast and verdant pine forests to the southwest. Of course, tourists come here for the excellent beaches, and Lopar draws the most crowds. Rab Town, the main resort, is packed with medieval buildings built under Venetian rule in the 13th century. The old town walls are still visible in some places. The Rapska Fjera or Rab Medieval festival in the last week of July commemorates the history of the town and is definitely worth experiencing – so plan your trip around this time.
Opatija, also known as the Pearl of the Adriatic Sea, is well-known for its parks, beaches, rustic villas and seaside promenade as well as festivals, concerts and other cultural events.
- Cres – Losinj Archipelago
Cres is the second largest island in the Adriatic. It is grouped with Losinj and 28 other smaller islands, some of which are uninhabited. Cres Town, under Venetian rule for several centuries, looks like an Italian village and is popular with tourists. Cikat bay in Losinj, which is known for its beach with windsurfing facilities, is a tourist hub. The beautiful, touristy harbour area of Mali Losinj is believed to have been inhabited since pre-historic times, while the town of Veli Losinj is much quieter. Also worth a visit is the island of Susak, where women often dress in a unique, colorful costume during special occasions. The dress consists of a white chemise, a multi-coloured dress and pink, orange or red leggings.
Brac is the largest island in Central Dalmatia and also one of the sunniest, with 2,700 hours of sunshine a year. With such great weather comes Nature’s bounty of figs, olive oil, nectarines, wine and a variety of fruits. However, the main export is the famous pure white Brac limestone from which many buildings all over the world have been constructed, including the White House in Washington DC. The town of Bol is famous for its gorgeous Zlatni Rat beach. Other resorts include the Milna, Sumartin, Supetar and Sutivan.
According to legend, Odysseus fell in love with the nymph Calypso and stayed on Mljet for seven years after the Trojan War, instead of returning home asap to his wife Penelope. The Odysseus cave near Babino Polje is a major landmark on the island. If you visit Mljet, you might half suspect that he actually fell in love with the island itself. The western third of the island is the Mljet National Park, which has tranquil lakes and a Benedictine monastery.
The rest is a naturally forested area, unscathed by settlements. To the south are the Saplanura beaches, popular with naturists.
The Hvar Island holds an important place in Croatian history as one of the important literary centers of the country during the Renaissance.
Hvar town, Stari Grad and the 2300 year old Sucuraj are some of the historically significant places on the island. Hvar is home to Europe’s oldest public theatre dating back to 1612.
On the sunniest island in Croatia are fields of lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme, along with vineyards and hives dripping with honey. Nature in Hvar has largely remained untouched, providing several avenues for relaxation and quiet contemplation. There are naturist camps where you can completely unwind and escape from the stress and pace of city life.
Korcula, referred to as “Little Dubrovnik”, is known for its vineyards and olive groves. Marco Polo, the famous adventurer, was supposedly born on Korcula, and his house still there. Vela Luka and Lumbarda are the main resorts.
Pag is a charming place centred around the well preserved Pag Town. It has little greenery because of strong winds, and is primarily known for its lace.
The westernmost of the larger Croatian islands, it was a major British military base during World War II. It finally opened to the public in 1990, and today is a peaceful, relaxing resort. The two main towns are Vis Town and Komiza. Vis is the oldest established town in Dalmatia founded in 397 BC. Some of Croatia’s finest wines such as Plavac and Vugava are produced here.
Bisevo island to the southwest of Vis is home to the famous Blue Caves and is a great place for snorkeling.
George Bernard Shaw was so moved by this archipelago that he said, “On the last day of Creation God desired to crown His work, and thus created the Kornati islands out of tears, stars and breath.” It was described by astronauts as having the bluest water on earth seen from space. Nothing more needs to be said to describe the beauty of the islands here. The majority of the area is a National Park, with several coves and crystal clear blue waters. Most of the area belongs to the people of Murter island who come to tend to the olive groves, vineyards and orchards. Hramina is a private marina on Murter Island with good facilities including a choice of restaurants.
Dugi Otok off the Zadar coast has gorgeous ancient ruins and pebble beaches. The small fishing town of Sali on Dugi Otok is famous for summer events celebrating local folklore with a donkey race and a procession of illuminated boats. Brbinj higher up on Dugi Otok is a quiet, sheltered stop surrounded by pine woods and olive groves.
In ancient times, the islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan had a large population of deer and take their name from the Greek word elafos, meaning deer. The other islands on the archipelago are uninhabited. Kolocep is a fresh and green island with gardens, olive groves and pine forests. Lopud is little more than two hills which are connected by a beautiful valley, with ruins of medieval churches and forts.
The Sunj bay alongside white sandy beaches is good for swimming. Sipan is a tranquil island with churches and citrus plantations, a summer getaway for wealthy Croats.
Food and Wine
Croatian cuisine resembles Mediterranean, with seafood, fresh vegetables and olive oil dominating the plate. The local smoked ham and roasted lamb are very good. The brave can try Vitalec – lamb’s offal wrapped in lamb gut and roasted. There are some interesting local dishes, indigenous to particular islands, that you must try atleast once. Pag and Dubrovnik produce special sheep’s cheese – try the distinctively flavoured Paski-Sir in Pag. Dalmatian desserts, made from different combinations of almonds, eggs, honey, local fruit, dried figs and raisins are mouthwatering. Dalmatian wines have always been highly renowned, famous among which are Babic from Primosten, Dingac and Postup from the Peljesac Peninsula and Plancic from the island of Hvar.
Nature lovers, history enthusiasts and gourmands, Croatia is a true treasure of a travel destination for all.
Thailand always evokes images of tropical sun-kissed beaches with clear skies, azure waters and white sands.
The best time to visit Thailand is November to April, when the weather is dry and the climate pleasant. December and January are the busiest months, as that is when people leave their cold winters behind at home to bask in the Thai sun.
Each beach in Thailand has a distinct feature that distinguishes it from the rest, be it the kind of crowd it attracts, the type of water sports activities or the nightlife. We have picked the top 10 beaches in Thailand for your next vacation, so you can choose the one that suits you best.
Phuket, the largest and most popular of Thailand’s islands, is an exquisite getaway with its stunning mountains, rainforests, and crystal turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea that are perfect for snorkeling and diving. Connected to the mainland via the Sarasin Bridge over the Pak Prah Strait, it is easily accessible by sea, road and air. One of the best beaches on Phuket is the Pansea, which is exclusively accessible only through the luxurious Amanpuri and The Surin resorts. If you’re not staying here, there are other great beaches open to the public.
With a wide variety of activities and rocking nightlife, Patong is one of the most popular beaches on the island. A 3,000 m shoreline with pale sand, this is place for people interested in SCUBA diving, snorkeling and water sports. Avoid the jet skis, too many tourists have been scammed into paying exorbitantly for having “damaged” the skis while using them. You can also get a massage on the beach if the water sports have left you tired.
A 5 km long strip of white sand, Karon is a quiet beach, and can get gloomy at times. At the northern end, it can be deserted at times, and you can have the entire beach to yourself. At the southern end, it runs into the livelier Kata area.
Kata is a fun and lively mile-long palm-lined stretch, divided by a rocky outcrop. A good place for both families and couples to relax, Kata also has a shallow coral reef that is great for snorkeling. You can swim across the reef to reach Koh Pu (crab island). May to October is surfing season in Kata, and with mellow waves, it’s the place for novice surfers to straighten out their game.
The Kata Noi area in the south is a calm and peaceful bay, good for swimming and snorkeling.
This well-enclosed bay and fishing village is a family-friendly place, with new resorts, casual restaurants and good snorkeling facilities.
The famous Phuket Fantasea showcasing Thai culture in an extravagant light and sound setting is nearby.
This bustling bay, the primary point for dinghy and dive trips, is always teeming with bobbing vessels of all shapes and sizes. It is a busy place with several dive shops, fishing charters, tour operators, water-sports tools suppliers, and even yoga and Reiki centres next to the pier.
The lovely peninsula Panwa to the south of Phuket town, is a peaceful place with grassy hills, coves, mangroves and tidal flats far from the crowds.
The famous Similan Islands Marine Natural Park has some of the most beautiful reefs in the entire world. To get here, take a speedboat from Phang Nga (where the James Bond Island of The Man with the Golden Gun fame is located) or Phuket. The exceptional dive environment with crystal clear waters and white sands offers a visibility of greater than 45 m at times. The 6 islands in the north are earmarked for divers, while the remaining 3 in the south are reserved for turtles.
Dreamy landscapes with soft white sands, cerulean waters of the Andaman, limestone cliffs and polychromatic corals – spin a totem to ascertain that you aren’t daydreaming now! Parts of The Beach were shot here, on Phi Phi Leh along Maya Bay.
Phi Phi Don is a glamorous beach hosting crazy parties, drawing crowds from all the world over.
Yao or Long Beach has the most gorgeous reefs and is a great place to swim around.
Krabi is on the southern Andaman coast, with jade waters around the rim of pictureque beaches with limestone cliffs, and mangroves inland offering sensational views. In fact, the Kashyyyk scenes in Star Wars III were shot right here, so you can imagine what being here would be like and why it’s a favourite with honeymooners. Rock climbing is a popular activity here.
The heartstoppingly beautiful landscape at Railay makes it a crowded beach, with sea-kayaking apart from the usual diving and snorkeling activities. Inland, there’s white water rafting, elephant trekking, quad biking and rock climbing for adventure seekers.
Phra Nang Beach
Isolated from the rest of land by a wall of rock, the approach is through a cave, or a long tail boat from Ao Nang Bay. The picturesque landscape makes it one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Just swim in the temperate waters, walk along the beach, tan under the spirited sun, get a massage, indulge in fresh, mouthwatering local food by the sea – fulfil your dreams of staying on a tranquil tropical paradise here.
The queen of Thailand’s Gulf Coast, the island of Koh Samui has lovely beaches running all along its coast, with craggy karsts dramatizing the landscapes.
It is the longest beach on Koh Samui’s east coast, with calm waters and a coral reef. 100 Degrees East and Calypso Diving offer diving facilities.
It is a swimmers’ beach. At the southern end of the beach are Hin Ta and Hin Yai, the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks, strangely shaped like genitalia!
Big Buddha Beach
Overlooked by the large golden Buddha on Koh Farn nearby, this beach near Chaweng has inexpensive stays that draw a lot of backpackers. Consequently, the nightlife is good with several beach parties running late into the dark.
A bohemian island swarming with backpackers, Koh Pha Ngan is the ultimate destination for young travelers.
Haad Rin Sunrise Beach
The Sunrise beach is famous for its wild Full Moon parties which run into the wee hours of the morning. Parties which fall on Buddhist holidays are moved around, so check the dates before you head out. Pyrotechnics, alcohol buckets and international music set the scene, with Drop-In and Cactus bars drawing the largest crowds. Remember – Thailand has strict anti-drug laws, and counterfeit stuff gets passed along quite often.
Haad Rin Sunset Beach
Quiet and secluded, the Sunset beach has the relaxing resorts to get away from the crowds.
Koh Tao is SCUBA diving paradise. Gorgeous technicolor reefs and stunning landscapes will make you want to retire and spend the rest of your life there.
Sai Ri Beach
The longest beach on the island, Sai Ri has a line of accomodation options nearby, along with restaurants and bars. A protected beach with a coral reef offering swimming and snorkeling opportunities, the northern part is tranquil whereas the southern part is a party place. Get certified at Ban’s Diving School, or go to Big Blue Diving to get going as a pro.
Ao Tanote Bay
You can try snorkeling and diving here as well.
The only private island beach resort in Thailand, this tiny speck in the Gulf of Siam is a quiet, secluded place with hammocks on the beach and a serene atmosphere that’s perfect for a digital detox. Of course, there is only one resort on the island which also arranges for transportation to the island.
Koh Larn, the Coral Island off the coast of Pattaya, is so small you can walk all around on foot. A busy beach with rows of tourists relaxing under umbrellas with a beer in hand, swimming intermittently and gorging on seafood and Turkish ice-cream, this is one of the best beaches in the north. You can try snorkeling or seawalking, or take a glass-bottom boat ride.
A sleepy little fishing village till American soldiers came here for relaxation during their Vietnam war breaks, Pattaya is today notorious for its night life, and has a few strictly okay beaches. Pattaya derives its name from Phatthaya, the wind blowing from the southwest to the northeast at the beginning of the rainy season.
Pattaya Beach is a long, sandy stretch within easy walking distance from the bustling shopping and nightlife in downtown Pattaya. Pattaya Beach Road has a street life like nowhere else in the world, with food carts, scarf stalls, swim wear booths and small boutiques.
Jomtien Beach is well-frequented for swimming, water sports and activities, with a wide range of good quality hotels, bungalows and guesthouses lining the road running along its length of white sands. Along the beach is also a stretch of souvenir shops, restaurants and food stalls. Go swimming or enjoy water sports such as wind surfing and water skiing, ride a water scooter, parasail or take a speed boat ride. Many tourists also come to this area to just enjoy the scenery and the beach from under their umbrellas, with a cool beer and fresh sea food.
Naklua, the northernmost beach, is a small, quiet area with clear waters for swimming and surfing, and a chic waterfront.
While watersports, off-beat museums, wildlife and amusement parks are auxiliary attractions, Pattaya has some first class golf courses which are a major draw.
Talking of nightlife, Walking Street lined with numerous restaurants, bars, hookers and go-go bars is the hub of all activity. It can get openly sleazy there, so avoid taking kids along. It is always fun to watch Muay Thai, a traditional boxing tournament, at one of the bars there.