Yala is the southernmost province (changwat) of Thailand. Neighboring provinces are (from north-west clockwise) Songkhla, Pattani and Narathiwat. Yala is the only land-locked province in the south of Thailand. The southern part borders Kedah and Perak of Malaysia.

Historically Pattani Province was the centre of the semi-independent Malay Sultanate of Patani, but paying tribute to the Thai kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. After Ayutthaya fell in to the Burmese in 1767, Sultanate of Patani gained full independence but under King Rama I (reigned 1782-1809) again came under Siam's control.

In 1909, it was annexed by Siam as part of Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 negotiated with the British Empire. Along with Narathiwat, Yala was originally part of Pattani Province but they were split off and became provinces of their own. There is a separatist movement in Yala, which after being dormant for many years erupted again in 2004. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel in the province.
The provincial seal shows a miner with simple mining tools including hoes, crowbars, and baskets. Yala was originally a mining town with tin and tungsten ores.

The provincial tree is the Red Saraca (Saraca declinata), and the provincial flower is the Bullet Wood (Mimusops elengi).