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Koh Yao

  • Koh Yao, Thailand
view from Yao Yai towards Yao Noi
also known as:
Ko Yao
Priority: Low
Location Type: Destination
Koh Yao is an island archipelago located in Phanga Bay, between Phuket and Krabi. The 2 main islands are Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai . Most tourist development has occurred on the smaller, northern island, Koh Yao Noi. Travellers come here to enjoy yoga, rock climbing, boat trips around the Phanga limestone islands, and experiencing the beautiful nature.

Located in the Phanga Bay, between Phuket to the west, Krabi to the east, and Koh Phi Phi to the south, are the islands of Koh Yao. Most of the tourist development has occurred on the smaller northern island, Koh Yao Noi. Here it is possible to stay in a range of accommodations ranging from inexpensive wooden backpacker huts at the Nam Tok bungalows in the village of Takao to the Six Senses Resort, where villas can cost up to baht 400,00 baht a night!

Kho Yao Noi may lack the idyllic beaches and clear waters of it more touristy neighbours, but this mostly Muslim island makes up for it in charm and atmosphere. A popular activity is to rent a motorcycle or scooter and drive through the forests, rubber plantations, rice paddies, and small villages. Stop off at any roadside shack selling food and you’ll experience the same hospitality that existed on Phuket decades ago. Not only will you be served great food with a genuine smile, there’s a good chance you’ll be given complimentary water and a delicious bowl of chicken soup. If you’re feeling more energetic, most resorts rent bicycles and it is possible to ride around the island easily within a day.

For climbers, on the north eastern corner of Koh Yao Noi there are the same limestone cliffs that are a feature of the Krabi coastline to the east. But don’t expect to find a party atmosphere and hordes of climbers as is common in Ton Sai Beach. Instead, it is more than likely that you’ll be the only climber, with the only noise being the sea below and the occasional sound of a longtail boat passing by. There are even more climbing opportunities on the rocky outcrops scattered around the Phagna Bay.

Koh Yao Noi has recently become a popular yoga retreat. On the east coast, close to Takaow village, is the Nature Yoga retreat, where it is possible to take a retreat or just drop into one of the yoga or meditation sessions.

On the western end of the island there are some great seafood restaurants, where you can relax amongst coconut palms and watch the sun set over the larger of the two islands - Koh Yao Yai.

Like most Thai islands the future of Koh Yao is uncertain. Speak to most locals, however, and they’ll discern the mistakes made by the other touristy islands on the west coast, and of their wish to keep their islands unspoiled and protected from mass tourism. Many resorts already have free water refill facilities and try to encourage tourists to refill their bottles rather than purchase new ones. It is a small step, but shows that the locals of these islands are serious about conserving their environment, which is not only good for themselves, but also for the tourists who come to these friendly islands looking for nature, peace, relaxation, and tranquillity.

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