Located off Thailand’s southwestern peninsula, the island of Phuket is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

At 209 square miles, Phuket is about the same size as the country of Singapore. The island is home to approximately 300,000.

Located between China and India, Phuket was once a major trading route for European sailors. During the 16th century, the French, Dutch, English, and Chinese explored Phuket in hopes of acquiring the island’s most valuable mineral; tin.

Tin quickly became one of the island’s most valuable commodities, used around the world in food canning. Some of Phuket’s original tin mines have been named as historical landmarks.

Today, Phuket’s economy relies mostly on tourism. The island has become an iconic image for tourist books - featuring some of the world’s most beautiful coral reefs and pristine beaches.

Phuket’s seaside location also made it one of the areas hardest hit by the 2004 South Asian Tsunami; much of its shoreline was destroyed. Rebuilding efforts continue today, and this coastline of the Andamana Sea, rich with mangrove forests, is still re-growing.