The sheer number of Phuket temples and shrines can be a bit daunting if you’re an amateur anthropologist keen on learning about the religious and spiritual history of the island.
The vast majority of these are Buddhist temples, although there are some famous temples built for other religions that are well worth a visit. But let’s face it, the simple fact is that unless your holiday is based only around seeing all Phuket temples, you won’t be able to. With that being said, you can definitely see a wide range of designs and motifs that show off the sheer breadth of amazing places of worship without having to scour the entire island.
Phuket temple etiquette
There are a few things to note when visiting a temple, mostly regarding your state of dress.
Most temples ask for an entry fee, which is usually minimal.
Shoulders, stomachs, and legs must be covered at all times; around the bigger temples there will be vendors selling loose fitting cotton trousers, usually at a fair price, so if you only have shorts or a skirt on it shouldn’t be too much of an issue to fix. Most will ask you to remove your shoes if you go inside.
Women will occasionally have to cover their hair, and it is asked that women on their period don’t enter certain temples, although obviously nobody is checking this. If you decide to sit in the temple, you should make sure your feet are facing away from the Buddha.
Aside from that, as long as you obey any signs and remain respectful, you’re sure to be welcomed in by the monks and other religious people.
If you’re ready to explore and find out which Phuket temples are the best to visit, then look below; we’ve compiled a list of beautiful, unique, and historically important temples that would even satisfy Indiana Jones’ curiosity.
The best Phuket temples to visit
Wat Chaitararam (Wat Chalong)
Chinese in design, this is one of the busiest and most famous temples in Thailand, not just Phuket.
The pagoda is said to contain a splinter of Buddha’s bone, which lends itself to tales about miracles happening there, and it is decorated with an intricate set of paintings that tell the life story of the Buddha. Other local heroes are lionised here too, some of whom have statues. One such example is Ta Khee Lek, a man who won the lottery several times after praying at the temple and consulting the Poh Than Jao statue that resides in the temple too.
This Phuket temple is less than a fifteen-minute drive from Phuket Old Town, and just over twenty minutes from Patong. It’s incredibly easy to get to via scooter or car.
It’s open from 8am to 5pm, which is a bit of an early close compared to some others, so make sure you time your visit correctly.
Known primarily for this gargantuan statue, this holy site is one of the most spottable landmarks on Phuket. It’s located right in the heart of the island.
The statue itself is 45 metres tall and 25 metres wide at the base, and it’s made of reinforced concrete with a jade marble finish. The view from the hill it sits atop are also stunning, offering a glimpse of most of the island, probably making it the best temple in Phuket for great scenery.
There are plenty of tourists here, but the atmosphere is usually quite serene. It’s an excellent place to visit for sunset, as the unforgettable view is accompanied by bell chimes. It is a religious site, so the usual rules apply, but sarongs to wear over your clothes are available to borrow if you’ve forgotten your temple wear.
Wat Khao Rang
Home to a huge Golden Buddha that was once the biggest on the island, Wat Khao Rang is also blessed to be surrounded by serene woodland.
Considering how beautiful it is, there are far fewer tourists here than other temples, so if you’re keen to see how Thai Buddhists practice their religion you might want to visit here. If you make it for the morning, you may even see locals offering alms to the monks; it’s definitely one of the best temples in Phuket to watch this ritualistic giving.
There are a century of steps to get up to get the best view in the temple, but it’s certainly worth the walk. There are also several statues of characters from Thai myths, as well as other art from the region on display and some unique carvings depicting the respected monks who used to live in the temple.
Wat Khao Rang is also incredibly close to Phuket Old Town, so if you are a strong walker or you are staying in the area you won’t need to rent a vehicle (however, remember to take plenty of water!).
Wat Phra Thong
This Phuket temple is mostly known for its half buried golden Buddha, called Luang Poh Phra Throng.
The legend around the statue is that a farmer boy hitched his buffalo to what he thought was a post in an open field, before laying there to rest. He rapidly fell ill and died, alongside his buffalo, and when his father came to look for the body he found the thing the buffalo had been tied to was the top part of the Golden Buddha.
The townfolk then managed to excavate half of it, but despite their best efforts they couldn’t dig up the rest. The statue is said to have cursed everyone who has tried to dig it out since. The more likely explanation is that a canal was rerouted, covering the statue in silt, but the legend is fun and gives a bit more mystery to the artefact that dominates this temple.
This is one of Phuket’s oldest temples and is quite quaint compared to some others. However, despite being a bit simpler, it doesn’t lose the beauty that Buddhist temples in the region have. There’s also an attached museum which has a lot of local paraphernalia and Chinese artefacts. The temple is quite isolated, but easy enough to access by tuk tuk or rented vehicle.
Wat Suwan Khuha (Wat Tham)
Worship thrives everywhere, as evidenced by this Phuket temple housed in a cave.
Home to a massive reclining Buddha (important in Buddhist culture as it represents the Buddha in a dream state), you get the majesty of nature and the serenity of a house of worship in one when you visit Wat Suwan Kuha.
There’s something transcendent about the eerie cave lighting and the bouncing candlelight that really adds to the ambience, making it well worth a visit. The drive there is also pretty spectacular, with most of it along cliffside roads with amazing views.
The temple also has a few other Buddha images, and the surrounding area is home to several stray but mostly tame cats and dogs. There’s also a troop of famously playful monkeys who hang around near the cave entrance, so make sure to keep all food packed away. The temple is an active one despite its primitive feel, so the usual modesty rules apply. This temple is technically just outside Phuket, about a forty-five-minute drive from the airport.
Excited to explore the best temples of Phuket? And if you’re after more, be sure to check out our other Phuket guides, including the best of Phuket golf, Muay Thai in Phuket, diving in Phuket and choosing an ethical animal sanctuary.
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