Koh Lanta is well known for being a quiet and secluded tropical escape, and you may be associating it with beaches, jungles, and beachside resorts, but there’s more to the island than just this.
Koh Lanta Old Town is a small and historical district that takes visitors back to an era once lost. Although only made up of a few streets, there is much to explore and discover in the historic town.
In this guide, we’ll be sharing the history of The Old Town in Koh Lanta, what there is to see and do there, and what you need to know about visiting.
History of Koh Lanta Old Town
Legend has it, that hundreds of years ago, there lived a sea gypsy community who lived in the town, making a living off of the Andaman Sea.
Known locally as “The Sea People”, they spent their days traveling across the sea, and spent their nights sleeping on their boats.
The gypsies were only temporary residents at first, but soon became permenant residents on land.
Soon after, Chinese sailors passed the town and realized it was a great spot for trade, and they too decided to settle in the town.
Overtime, the town became an integrated community of many cultures, including Malay Peninsula and Indochina immigrants. They saw the land as fertile, and the position of the sea opened up many opportunities.
The diverse ethnic groups lived harmoniously and expanded throughout the years, now known as the Sri Yaya community.
Then in 1962, during the reign of King Rama IX, a change in administration was announced and the rest of the island of Koh Lanta started to develop more.
The Koh Kanta district office was built close to the community, along with the two-storey wooden buildings, called Ban Yao, which were built on the shoreline.
The Sri Yaya community, which now lives in the Old Town, now use these wooden buildings as shops, cafes, and restaurants.
The Sri Yaya community were always a trade and market community, and not much has changed in Koh Lanta Old Town – you can still find a weekend market in the town every Saturday and Sunday, and the shops open daily.
Today, tourism is the town’s biggest income, as many tourists flock to see the integrated community and the iconic wooden buildings.
Things To Do in Old Town Lanta
1. Check Out The Wooden Stilt Buildings
The most iconic features of Old Town Lanta is the wooden buildings, which occupy stores, restaurants and cafes.
Although built in the 1960s, the buildings have a distinctive old style, which is similar to what you might find in Chinese settlements across Asia. Each building has been decorated with Chinese lanterns, plants and foliage.
The iconic wooden shutters and tiled roofs are what make the design of these buildings unique. Be sure to spend some time walking along the main high street and soak in the architecture.
2. Walk Along Koh Lanta Old Town Pier
Nestled in the heart of Old Town Koh Lanta is a pier, which stretches out into the calm waters of the Eastern side of the island.
The pier is primarily used as a fishing pier, and usually has one or two locals casting their lines and nets, looking for a catch.
As you walk along the pier, you’ll notice the small islands of the Andaman Sea in the distance, and the small long-tail boats parked in the bay. It’s a quiet, secluded and peaceful place with amazing views.
Be sure to look back at the coastline to appreciate the design of the stilt houses over the water.
3. Check Out The Shipwreck
Although there isn’t much information about where this shipwreck came from, or how old it is, it’s believed to be a Rawi Warin Grand Ship.
The ship has fallen over to one side, and despite being an obvious wreck, doesn’t look to be in too bad condition.
According to online sources, the ship was believed to have been docked too close to the shore and was wrecked after it took a beating in a monsoon in 2020.
4. Visit the Koh Lanta Community Museum
The Koh Lanta Community Museum is perhaps the only place on the island where you can get an idea for what life would have been like in a bygone era.
The museum is free to visit, though donations are appreciated as it helps to fund and maintain the museum.
Here you can learn about the local way of life, as well as about the tsunami that hit Thailand’s south coast on December 26th, 2004. Koh Lanta was one of the islands that badly suffered and you can see many signs for Tsunami shelters throughout the Old Town as a result.
The museum is small and only has a handful of rooms, but does have lots of local information and interesting artifacts.
5. Shop at The Old Town Lanta Street Market (Weekends Only)
If you’re visiting Koh Lanta on a weekend, be sure to visit the Old Town Lanta Street Market, which runs from 11.00am – 10.00pm.
During this time, the streets are alive with vendors selling everything from souvenirs to trinkets, clothing and street food.
It’s a bustling atmosphere and is when you will find the most people in the town.
6. Visit The Hammock House
Looking to buy some unique souvenirs when in Thailand? How about a hammock? The hammock house is the best place to pick up a hammock souvenir to take home with you.
The store sells handwoven hammocks in a variety of colors and styles – no doubt you will find one that suits your taste in this cute and charming shop.
7. Pay Respects At The Chinese Temple & Shrine
As homage to the Chinese traders who settled in Old Town Lanta, a beautiful temple and shrine has been built in the heart of the town.
The shrine, which juts out into the ocean, is like a small pier with a pagoda at the end. When walking along the shrine, please remove your shoes out of respect.
Across the road is a Chinese temple, where you’ll notice incense burning and statues of Chinese deities on tables.
There isn’t much information about the Chinese Temple online, but there is a sign above the shrine referring to Zhongshan Wang, who was the fifth ruler of the state of Zhongshan.
8. Shop For Souvenirs & Dresses
Of course, it would be hard to walk past all these historic storefronts and not do a bit of shopping. You’ll notice that many of the stores have women’s dresses, shirts and shorts in their storefronts.
If you want to pick up some cute dresses and clothing, this is the place on Koh Lanta to go.
9. Relax in a Cafe
The best way to appreciate the architecture of the stilt houses is to visit a cafe or restaurant, which has a terrace overlooking the water.
There are many restaurants and cafes along the main street, but Rareview Coffee & Restaurant has an excellent reputation and a lovely terrace overlooking the water and the pier.
10. Snap Selfies With The Giant Blue Lobster
The giant lobster is somewhat of an icon in the Old Town. It represents the town’s longstanding fishing trade and love of seafood.
You’ll notice that seafood is a staple on the menus of the restaurants in Old Town, and it’s not uncommon to find blue lobsters in the oceans of the Andaman Sea.
11. Attend the Laanta-Lanta Festival
This annual festival is held each year around March, and celebrates the cultural diversity of the island’s communities, to which they are immensely proud of.
The festival invites the diverse ethnic groups to come together, share their thanks to each other, and celebrate their peaceful community with their own traditions, arts and festivities.
At the festival, you’ll find many stalls selling local artwork, street food vendors BBQing snacks, as well as have the chance to watch traditional dances and performances.
A stage is usually put up on the grassy area in the town, where live music plays throughout the day. There is also a special “boat floating” ceremony.
If you happen to be on Koh Lanta in March, don’t miss the opportunity to attend this festival and experience the happiness and joy of the local people.
Map Of Koh Lanta Old Town Attractions
To help you plan your visit, here is a map of some of Old Town Lanta’s top attractions…
Related Reading: How to Get to Koh Lanta from Bangkok
FAQs About Visiting Old Town Koh Lanta
Is there a town in Koh Lanta?
Yes, there are many towns in Koh Lanta. Old Town Koh Lanta is one of 37 villages in Koh Lanta, though it’s the first settlement to have been formed on the island.
Is Koh Lanta pretty?
Yes, Koh Lanta is very pretty. The reason for this is because it’s still undeveloped in terms of tourism, and so much of its rugged charm and natural landscapes remains unspoiled by overcrowding.
When should I go to Koh Lanta?
The best time to visit Koh Lanta would be from November until February, when the weather is sunny and warm, but not incredibly hot and humid. From March until May, the weather is at its hottest. The monsoon season runs from June until October.
How long should I spend in Old Town Koh Lanta?
It will take you no more than 20 minutes to walk around Old Town Koh Lanta, however you should allocate some time to do some shopping, relax in a restaurant and visit the museum. You should allow at least 1 hour to 1.5 hours as a minimum to see Old Town Lanta.
So there you have it, this is everything you need to know about Old Town Koh Lanta and all it’s wonderful sights.
As you can see, it’s a small and quaint destination on the island and doesn’t take too long to see, and while it may be tempting to spend your days relaxing on the beaches in Koh Lanta, we recommend you take the time to see the island’s first settlement.