Introduction

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas located where the North Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, about 40 miles East of the Bahamas island chain and 90 miles North of the Dominican Republic/Haiti/Hispaniola. The capital is Cockburn Town, on Grand Turk Island. There are thirty islands in the territory that make up the Turks and Caicos, and only eight of them are inhabited. The Turks and Caicos Islands are home to the third most extensive coral reef system in the world; the islands are globally recognized as a top-rated scuba diving and water sports paradise.

The Turks and Caicos Islands have a treasure trove of activities to occupy the most energetic visitor, including windsurfing, fishing, and exploring old historic buildings. You can also just spend an afternoon browsing the artistic works of locals at the art gallery. If you decide to go in the water, keep an eye out for 'JoJo' the 7 foot male Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin that calls Turks and Caicos his home, and visit the only conch farm in the world, where Caribbean Queen conchs are raised from veliger to adult!

People

Eight of the thirty islands in the Turks and Caicos are inhabited, with a total estimated population of about 22,352 in 2008. One-third of the population is under 15 years old, and only 4% are 65 or older. Natives of the Turks and Caicos Islands call themselves 'belongers', but an estimated 90% of the Turks and Caicos Islanders are descendants from African slaves who were originally brought over to grow cotton on the island of Providenciales. The rest of the community consists of British, American, French, Canadian, and Scandinavian people that give the islands some European influence. The people of the islands have a very relaxed attitude that helps to create a perfect environment where you can unwind.

Geography

If you like sunny weather you'll love the Turks and Caicos Islands, with an average of about 350 sunny days per year. Rainfall is limited and the weather is hot and dry - varying from 90 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. The Turks and Caicos Islands are two groups of North Atlantic islands. They are primarily limestone based and are made up of flat and relatively plain landscapes. Temperature variations in the Turks and Caicos Islands are never drastic, and the regular sweep of the easterly trade-winds helps in maintaining this balance.

History

The Turks and Caicos Islands are named after the indigenous Turk's Head "fez" cactus, and the Lucayan term "caya hico," meaning string of islands. The first people to truly discover the islands were the Taino Indians, who unfortunately left little behind but ancient utensils. The 17th century saw the arrival of settlers from Bermuda who used slaves to rake salt for British colonies in America, and were later joined by British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. The economy of the island revolved around the rich cotton and sisal plantations, but because of strong competition among plantations and the thin soil, the cotton plantations slowly deteriorated until most of them finally perished in a hurricane in 1813.

At various points in history the islands have been under the control of the Spanish, French and British. In 1776 Turks and Caicos became part of the Bahamas colony, but attempts to integrate failed and were abandoned in 1848. Turks and Caicos became a British Crown Colony in 1962.

Famous Attractions

If you like to play in the warm Caribbean Sea, Turks and Caicos is the place to be. The luxuriant island territory is a balm to the senses. However, there are so many things to experience other than the magnificent views and the soothing waters.

On Providenciales you can play one of the Caribbean's top golf courses, visit an art gallery or craft store showcasing local artists, try your luck at the casino, take a guided eco tour on foot or by mountain bike.

On Grand Turk you will find the historic Cockburn Town and the National Museum, located in the oldest stone building on the island, or you can visit the lighthouse that was brought in pieces from the UK where it had been constructed in 1852.

You can go bird watching at Flamingo Pond on North Caicos and learn about or observe iguanas in their natural habitat on Iguana Island.

Nightlife

When the sun goes down Turks and Caicos comes alive. The islands have some good bars, nightclubs, and beach party spots where you can dance the night away under the beautiful Caribbean skies or play some poker, black jack, or roulette.

The natural phenomenon of the glowing worms is also a draw for visitors. From two to six nights after the full moon, the natural phenomenon occurs in the ebbing tide on the Caicos Bank. About one hour after sunset the glowworms perform their mating ritual, as the female worms spiral to the surface, emitting a pale green luminescence. When the males encounter the egg masses they glow an even brighter green; it's a sight to behold and a must see.

Culture

The majority of the people in the Turks and Caicos Islands are Christians. There are many different denominations represented in the islands including Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Church of God, Roman Catholic, and Seventh Day Adventists. There are several churches all across the islands, some of them uniquely eye catching, and situated in picturesque spots with wonderful views. The official language in the Turks and Caicos Islands is English; the islanders speak a patois among themselves reminiscent of the Bahamian Islanders.

Cuisine

Both traditional and international cuisines can be found in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and there are also various Western and European meals, and such snacks as sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

In the center of Cockburn Town there are various cafes and open bars on the coast that include a variety of fish, seafood dishes, and exotic desserts on their menus.

The islands are rich in various species of fish, and these are used for the local delicacies. Plants that are endemic to Turks and Caicos such as bananas, citrus, and corn are all integrated in the Turks and Caicos cuisine. A very traditional Turks and Caicos meal is grits, made with dried conch or peas, served with chicken or fish and various local veggies.

Rum is also an important ingredient in dishes and is used to flavor various cakes and even steaks - and also served in drinks. A popular drink found in local bars and eateries is a tropical punch made with rum.