Phuket is one of the southern provinces of Thailand. Neighbouring provinces are Phang Nga and Krabi, but as Phuket is an island there are no land boundaries. The island is served by Phuket International Airport, located in the north of the island. The ph of "Phuket" is an aspirated "p", so the name is pronounced "Poock-get". The name Phuket is apparently derived from the word bukit in Malay which means mountain or hill, as this is what the island appears like from a distance.
Before that its old name was Ta-lang (in Thai): The word is derived from the old Malay "Telong" which means "Cape", which is still in use for one of the main districts in the Phuket area.
Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, located in the Andaman Sea off southern Thailand. The island is mostly mountainous with a mountain range in the west of the island from the north to the south. The mountains of Phuket form the southern end of the Phuket mountain range, which ranges for 440 km from the Kra Isthmus. The highest elevation of the island is Mai Thao Sip Song (Twelve Canes), at 529 m above sea level.
70% of the island is covered by forest. The western coast has several sandy beaches, while on the east coast beaches are more often muddy. Near the southernmost point is Laem Promthep (Brahma's Cape), which is a popular sunset viewing point.
In the mountainous north of the island is the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary, protecting more than 20 km² of rainforest. The three highest peaks of this reserve are the Khao Prathiu (384 m), Khao Bang Pae (388 m) and Khao Phara (422 m). The Sirinat National Park on the northwestern coast was established in 1981 and protects an area of 90 km² (68 km² marine area), including the Nai Yang beach where sea turtles lay their eggs.
One of the most popular tourist areas on Phuket is Patong Beach on the central western coast, perhaps owing to the easy access to its wide and long beach. Most of Phuket's nightlife and its cheap shopping is located in Patong, and the area has become increasingly developed. Patong means "the forest filled with banana leaves" in Thai.
Other popular beaches are located south of Patong. In a counterclockwise direction these include Karon Beach, Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach, and around the southern tip of the island, Nai Harn Beach and Bang Tao Beach. These areas are generally much less developed than Patong, and sought out by individuals, families and other groups with a preference for more relaxed and less crowded environs than Patong.
There are several coral islands to the south of Phuket, the Similan Islands lie to the north west, and Phi Phi Islands to the south east. All the islands are suitable for diving.