Assuming you’ve already read our counterpart article on the US version, you’re already primed on the British Virgin Islands; yet the foreign cousin of the American Virgin Islands offers quite the unique experience (while, of course, maintaining all the best bits of the Virgin vibe). This set of incredibly gorgeous tropical islands is the type of place screensavers are based on. The stuff of daydreams. Officially a British overseas territory, these Caribbean islands located east of Puerto Rico consider themselves *the* Virgin Islands. It basically amounts to a battle of branding between US, Britain and Spain to full rights of the title, of which the British claim dibs. Spain claimed first discovery and the islands passed through many hands over the centuries. For a while it was known as a notorious haunt for pirates. It’s something about its allure that makes it so desirable by all, as you’ll certainly experience firsthand.
There are about sixty islands and cays that make up the Virgin Islands and the big islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada. Approximately 27,000 people live in BVI, with full British citizenship, and of that amount 23,000 live on Tortola in and around the capital Road Town. (If that isn’t a unique name for a town I don’t know what is.) Like much of the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands were first settled by the Arawak from South America until the 1500s when the more aggressive Carib tribe took over. Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands after the legend of Saint Ursula – the princess who became a martyr after her and her 11,000 holy virgin handmaidens were executed in a massacre by the Huns (380 CE). Lovely namesake, eh. Speaking of which, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Richard Branson owns not one but two islands – Moskito Island and Necker Island. Why wouldn’t the billionaire behind Virgin Group, though, really.
The British Virgin Islands boast one of the lowest crime rates in the Caribbean and the lowest of the neighbouring Virgin Islands of America and Spain. The major economy here in BVI is tourism (duh) and financial services (a tax haven for offshore accounts). The islands are of course also known for their spectacular white sand beaches and phenomenal vacation opportunities, the best of which My Boutique Travel will hook you right up with. Now let’s have a closer look at the islands.
The largest and most populated of BVI, ol Chris Columbus is credited with naming this one too, meaning “The land of the Turtle Dove”. (No word yet on the availability of partridges in pear trees, although you might find a flamingo in a mango tree.) The first people to live on Tortola outside of the natives were actually some famous pirates, including Captain Kidd and Blackbeard. The island was a thriving plantation colony harvesting sugar cane for some time – and now it is a thriving tourist destination, where you can explore ancient ruins, park your yacht in sheltered harbours, and rock the rhythm of the ocean.
I alluded to screensavers earlier and that may be because about a decade ago I indeed had an image of Virgin Gorda as my desktop wallpaper. It’s natural beauty in abundance here on this stunning island paradise, with its trademark white sand beaches strewn with big granite boulders in the unusual geologic formation known as The Baths. These scenic grottos and arches and tunnels make for a truly breathtaking sight to behold. Another fun fact is that Columbus called this place the Fat Virgin because he thought the island looks like a fat lady lying on her side. (Dude sure was obsessed with virgins!)
Jost Van Dyke
The party island, Jost Van Dyke is known for its active nightlife and amazing bars. While only a few hundred people live on this 8 square-km (3 square-mi) island, most of them are young and contributing to the vibe in Great Harbour, the beach strip. Bars like Foxy’s and Soggy Dollar attract folks from far and wide for some genuine times and to lime and mash sand, as they say. Fun fact is that the bar is called Soggy Dollar due to boaters anchoring offshore and swimming up to pay for drinks with wet bills.
This island stands out from its volcanic cousins due to its being extremely flat and formed by coral and limestone. This makes it an incredible place to go snorkeling and scuba diving, however. Fly fishing in the flats is also quite popular. Anegada’s Horseshoe Reef is a huge continuous coral reef full of vibrancy and aquatic life. In fact the whole island is stacked with exotic and endangered creatures so if animals and nature and water are things you dig, this hideaway is right up your alley.