Over 500 years ago the Chao Ley (sea gypsies) were the first to settle on the island. This nomadic clan previously roamed the seas, moving from island to island. They were from the Urak Lawoi clan and probably originated in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Around 300 years ago Muslim communities from Malaysia, Indonesia, and from south of Thailand began to arrive. Most of these people were initially involved in fishing before moving into other trades and business as the island developed.
Around 200 years ago came the Chinese. Merchants, tin workers and fishermen came to seek new opportunities and quickly developed a thriving trading post with their relatives in other Asian ports. Goods traded included tin, charcoal, dried fish and later on included western goods from the British colonies. Lanta Old Town is predominantly occupied by Thai-Chinese families who have descended from those original settlers and has the only Chinese shrine on the island.
During the eighties backpackers, divers and Scandinavian tourists discovered the island, and so the seeds were sown for the island to develop into the popular holiday destination it is today.
1996 – The electricity network connected to the mainland was installed, the car ferries introduced, and in 2001 the first phone lines were put in.
2004 – The tsunami struck. Fortunately the shape of the island and the direction of the wave protected the island to some extent, limiting damage and destruction. Koh Lanta developed the nickname ‘Lucky Lanta’, as the biggest impact of the tsunami was a fall in tourism over the following few years.
2016 – The first bridge to Koh Lanta was built, linking the island of Koh Lanta Noi and Koh Lanta Yai. With the approval of a second bridge to link Koh Lanta Noi to the mainland, it will soon be even quicker and more convenient to visit these islands from other locations