If you are arrive at Ko Lanta after visiting the other islands in Thailand, you will immediately notice the relatively lesser number of tourists here in spite of it being a fairly big island. And the other thing you will notice is that all the locals here are followers of Islam and even look different from the rest of Thailand.
Ko Lanta is a island that is located in the Krabi province of Thailand and has a deep south influence owing to its proximity to Malaysia.And since it gets lesser number of tourists and is part of a national park, much of it is left untouched and still retains all the natural beauty of a tropical island.
People who come to Ko Lanta more often than not end up extending their trip. Such is the easy chilled-out life here. Personally, my initial plans were to stay here for 3 days, but I ended up staying 10 days and felt like I could stay more.
The best attribute about this island is that most of the people speak better English than the rest of Thailand and this is because they have a good English based education system that they use to teach their kids.
The island used to be totally untouched in the past, but developments have been taking place quite rapidly, though not as bad as the rest of Thailand. All the basic necessities are there, like good food, ATMs, hospital, clinic, Wi-Fi, continuous electricity, good roads and more. But, in spite of this development, one can easily find their space and get lost in it.
In terms of natural beauty, the entire west coast of the island is blessed with sandy and rocky beaches. The southern part of the island like Ban Kantiang Bay, Bamboo Bay and Waterfall Bay have better beaches. There is a natural park right at the end of the island where one can see the iconic lighthouse and the true tropical evergreen forests of the island.
On the eastern side of the island, the local islanders live and hence one can see a lot of rubber plantations and that is their main bread winner along with fishing. From the east coast one can also see the other islands that make up the Lanta archipelago. There are two to three view points that offer the visitor stunning views of these eastern islands.
There are many caves on the island that can be explored along with some tropical treks. Elephant trekking is also popular on the island. The waters off the island and near sites such as Koh Haa and Hin Dang and Hin Mueang are world class diving sites and have great corals. There are many places around the island for snorkeling too. Cave diving is also very possible from the island.
In terms of island structure, the northern end of Lanta Yai is Ban Saladan. This is where the pier, most of the dive shops and the best restaurants on the island are. The place is cheaper when compared to the south side of the island. Long Beach to the south of Ban Saladan is popular for its nightlife. Popular joints are Korner bar, Galaxy bar and Opium. Khlong Khong is a favorite with backpackers owing to its low cost structure and simple bamboo hut accommodation.
Ban Kantiang Bay, Waterfall bay and Bamboo bay on the southern side of the island are more pricey, but very beautiful. It is for those folks who like a luxury beach holiday. The national park is to the southern most end and one can stay here in some basic forest bungalows, but people mainly visit the national park on day trips. The eastern side of the island also has some basic accommodation and restaurants. This is preferred by people who want to understand the local culture and do not want to see another tourist.
Lanta Nai to the north is full of mangroves and forests and no tourist infrastructure is there, though tourists can explore the place on day trips. In terms of access, Ko Lanta is connected by boat from Krabi, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lipe and Phuket and the mainland is also pretty close by if you want to go up north or south towards Malaysia.
I would definitely recommend spending your beach holiday at Ko Lanta. So many attributes of a tropical island still remain alive in it and its best attributes are its kind people and simply chilled out lifestyle. You will like it as it has something for all ages.