Overview

Lake Gunn, South Island
Lake Gunn, South Island © Jocelyn Kinghorn

The friendly Turks and Caicos Islands rely almost solely on tourism for their livelihood and welcome visitors to this Caribbean British Overseas Territory with open arms. The TCI, as the archipelago is known colloquially, is situated at the end of the Bahamas chain, around 575 miles (925km) southeast of Miami, Florida. The Turks, with their dry and scrubby landscape, are divided from the more lush Caicos by the Columbus Passage.

The pristine white beaches, vast coral reefs and crystal clear warm waters that surround this set of eight inhabited islands and numerous deserted cays draw honeymooners, scuba divers and vacationers in droves, with many visitors arriving by cruise ship. Everyone leaves smiling and relaxed, and most return to enjoy the tranquillity of this unspoiled tropical paradise.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are famous for being home to the third most extensive coral reef in the world, making it a prime destination for divers and snorkelers. Visibility and an abundance of marine life, as well as excellent dive facilities, ensure that diving is the number one activity on the islands. The channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands is a deep passage that is a major route for humpback whales, dolphins and rays. The reef wall around the southern edge of South Caicos Island is said to provide the finest diving in the archipelago. The shallow reefs close to the shore are excellent for snorkelers and with visibility up to 200ft (61m) there is no need to be underwater to appreciate all the sights.

The most popular islands for holidaymakers are Grand Turk, the site of the quaint capital, Cockburn Town, and Providenciales, both well equipped with modern hotel, condominium and spa complexes that offer every tourist amenity. The other islands offer more rustic accommodation suited to romantics and nature-lovers who want to unplug from the real world for a while. Clocks, televisions and radios are hard to find on the laid-back cayes, and the nightlife mostly consists of sundowners and stargazing.