At a glance
Phuket, pronounced "Poo-get," is Thailand's largest, most populous and visited island, a whirl of colour and cosmopolitanism that's a province itself. The coastal terrain of the 810sq km island encompasses broad, sandy bays, rocky peninsulas, limestone cliffs, forested hills and tropical vegetation.
Phuket has a culture of its own, combining Chinese and Portuguese influences with that of the Southern Thais and the chao naam, a seafaring, semi-nomadic group that depend on fishing and boat building. This is Thailand's wealthiest province, and since the late 1980s tourism has eclipsed tin mining as the island's largest source of income.
There is a lot to do in Phuket; there are also more tourists in Phuket than on any other Thai island, though most flock to three beaches on the south-western side - Patong, Karon and Kata. Beaches like Nai Han near the southern tip, and Kamala on the western coast, are relatively quiet, in spite of major tourist development at both, while Nai Thon, Nai Yang and Mai Khao to the north remain mostly untouched.