Virgin Islands

Posted: 11/11/2012 in Tours

The early days

On his second voyage to the New World in 1493, Christopher Columbus encountered a very special corner of the Caribbean. Dozens of virtually untouched islands dotted the landscape – so many as a matter of fact, that he let his imagination go a bit wild and named them Las Once Mil Las Virgins (the Virgin Islands) after the legendary St. Ursula, and the 11 000 virgins.

In truth, Columbus wasn’t the first to come across the Virgin Islands. Amerindian tribes had made their way up the island chain by canoe from Venezuela several hundred years earlier, settling in small villages along the shorelines where they hunted and fished. Columbus saw no traces of these Indians when he sailed by, perhaps they had died out or had just moved on. Europeans, though, soon followed Columbus lead. First the Dutch settled on the western end of Tortola in the mid 17 Th century, and later they were supplanted by the British who annexed the small archipelago to the Leeward Islands in 1672.

These early settlers built cotton and sugar plantations and before long were exporting large quantities of rum and molasses to England. The economy though, was tenuous and shortly after 1834 when slavery was abolished in the British West Indies, the plantation way of life began to decline. By the mid 19th century, the islands former slaves were virtually the only inhabitants, and for the next 130 or so years the territory became a sleepy backwater of the British Empire. The inhabitants were predominately fishermen and farmers and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the islands began to burgeon as a popular yachting center and tourist destination. Today, tourism is a mainstay of the economy along with a growing international finance industry.

The Islands

Tortola is the B.V.I. largest island and the center of its commerce and government.  With a population of approximately 22 000, Tortola has lush green mountains at its center and velvety white beaches dotting its northern shoreline. Sage mountain with an elevation of 1716 feet is its highest point and features some of the dense tropical foliage that predominated when Columbus first came across these islands.  Road Town, on the island’s southern shore, is the seat of the B.V.I. government and over the past several years has burgeoned into a bustling municipality with many shops, hotels, restaurants, two museums and several marinas.

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With over 3 000 inhabitants, Virgin Gorda is the next largest British Virgin Island. The Island is known for its crystalline beaches and its many upscale resorts. Huge granite boulders dot the area known as The Valley, and the spectacular boulder formation known as The Baths on the island’s northwest shore has become its most famous attraction. North Sound attracts boaters to its sheltered waters and high end resorts.

Jost Van Dyke, located to the north west of Tortola has its own laid-back charm. The island has just a few hundred inhabitants, but some spectacular beaches and a number of entertaining beach bars. Great Harbour, a small community hugging a half moon beach, has several good restaurants, and beautiful White Bay to its west has become popular with boaters and day trippers. Other popular destinations are at Little Harbour and Diamond Cay.

Anegada is the B.V.I. only coral atoll. Located about 20 miles to the northeast of Tortola, the sparsely populated isle is ringed by a swathe of white sand that makes it a haven for beach lovers. Much of this low-lying island is surrounded by the extensive Horseshoe Reef and is inhabited by fascinating fauna including the Anegada Rock Iguana and the Roseate Flamingo.

In all there are more than 40 islands, islets and cays in the British Virgin Islands. Some have just a hotel or beach bar and are linked to Tortola or Virgin Gorda by a ferry, others are uninhabited and can only be reached by a charter boat or private vessel. All add to the rich texture of this unique and lovely island chain.

Suggested reading:

Online Hotel Reservations

Virgin Gorda

US Virgin Island Resorts

Virgin Gorda Island Paths

Road Town Crafts

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  1. Belen Stolzenburg says:

    i really love to go to the beaches during holidays. i feel so relaxed in it. ^

    • admin says:

      If you need any suggestion take us into account. We have the best solutions

    • admin says:

      Perfect time for a vacation, holiday + 7 day paid vacation – win-win combination. Like it also whenever we have a time. Chill out at the nearest island beach.

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