The British Virgin Islands is currently one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean. With the North Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south, this archipelago of tropical islands is formally called the British Virgin Islands to distinguish it from its close neighbor, the former Danish West Indies now known as the US Virgin Islands. With the above said, don’t think that a vacation in the British Virgin Islands will just be the same as a holiday in other Caribbean attractions, though. A quick look at the landmarks below will show you just how special a vacation in the British Virgin Islands can be

Destinations for BVI vacations

Ideas for BVI vacations

GEOGRAPHY OF BVI

The BVI consists of 5 main islands and about 50 other tropical islands and cays make up the geography of the British Virgin Islands. The smallest islets do not have residents but the bigger ones, like Tortola which is 20-kilometer long and 5-kilometer wide, is the capital and home to thousands of people and includes some beautiful landmarks. Most of the islands have a volcanic origin, including the 3 largest ones Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and Tortola. Anegada is a large island but it is mostly composed of coral and limestone. Most of the land can be described as hilly terrain that’s blessed with tropical rainforests and a warm climate. Being an archipelago, beautiful beaches are plentiful and is a huge part of why tourism supports about 45% of the local economy.

HISTORY OF BVI

The Arawak people of South America were the first inhabitants to settle in the British Virgin Islands in 100 BC, with some sources saying that the early settlers has been in the area since 1500 BC. The Caribs displaced the Arawaks in the 15th century and various European powers followed in the 16th century. The islands were fought over by the Spanish, Dutch, English, French, and Danish even when the area became known as a haven for pirates. Tortola became the site of a permanent Dutch settlement in 1648 and was captured by the English in 1672. The English annexed Virgin Gorda and Anegada in 1680 while the nearby US Virgin Islands were under the control of the Danes. The land of the British Virgin Islands was not only considered as a strategic trade position by the English but as an agricultural colony too. Sugar plantations were established in the archipelago to boost the colony’s income. The sugar industry prospered for several centuries and only went into decline after slavery was abolished in the middle of the 19th century followed by several natural disasters.

The BVI used to be governed by the English with St. Kitts and Nevis but gained a separate colony status in 1960 and became an autonomous territory in 1967. Since then, the major industries shifted to banking and tourism, making the British Virgin Islands one of the wealthiest islands of the Caribbean.

CULTURE OF BVI

The culture in the British Virgin Islands is a beautiful blend of West African, American, and European influences. Most of the residents are descendants of former West African slaves but the people of the British Virgin Islands have welcomed Asians, Arabs, and Americans into their mix. Today, migration and tourism are huge factors influencing the continuous evolution of British Virgin Islands culture.

LANDMARKS TO VISIT AT BVI

Hotels, marinas, resorts, and private beaches are a must-visit in the BVI but be sure to save some time to also visit the following British Virgin Islands landmarks during your vacation!

* Road Town
The archipelago’s capital, Road Town is a laid-back cosmopolitan area where you’ll find many of the government offices and historic buildings such as Sir Olva Georges Plaza, St. Georges Church, Fort Recovery, Fort Purcell, H.M. Prison, St. Philip’s Church, and the Old Methodist Church. The local galleries are worth a visit too!

* Old Government House Museum
The Old Government House Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Road Town. Royal figures have visited the house throughout the years because it used to be the governor’s official residence before it was converted to a museum.

* Virgin Islands Folk Museum
Artifacts from the first peoples of the archipelago such as stone tools and pottery from the Caribs and the Arawaks are on display at the Virgin Islands Folk Museum. There are also fascinating finds from old plantations and shipwrecks on display.

* Guana Island Ecosystem
A small island famous for very high biological diversity, Guana Island Ecosystem is the only place in the world where the bromeliad Pitcairnia jareckii can be appreciated.

* Sea Caves of Norman Island
One of the best snorkeling spots in the Virgin Islands archipelago, the 3 caves that make up the Sea Caves of Norman Island are all at water level, making it quite unique.

* The Baths
One of the most exceptional beaches in the world, The Baths in Virgin Gorda have huge granite boulders and exquisite grottoes in between. There is nothing like The Baths anywhere else in the Caribbean!

* Belmont Bay Settlement
A prehistoric site that date back to around 900 to 1500 AD, the Belmont Bay Settlement features the oldest ball court in the Caribbean. There are also remains of burials, roundhouses, ceremonial areas, and many more interesting sights to see.

* The Copper Mine
An abandoned copper mine that was active from 1837 to 1862, semiprecious stones such as malachite can still be found in this site as well as the oldest Cornish beam engine in the world. Experts say that the mine was actually established by the native inhabitants centuries before the Spanish set foot in the area.

* 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum
Hosting a collection of historical artifacts, relics of daily life, and other precious items, the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum is a family-friendly site to explore. Monthly art selections from local artists are featured here as well as exhibits from natural history showing the plant and animal life in the British Virgin Islands.

* Little Fort National Park
Located behind the old post office in Fort Point, the ruins of this old fort are not known to most tourists. The area was established as a national park in 1978 to protect the local wildlife.

The Best Vacations in BVI
A posh paradise would be one way to describe the BVI, but those who are visiting the British Virgin Islands on a vacation are not confined to luxury hotels, resorts, and casinos amidst a mesmerizing tropical setting. There are other types of accommodations and entertainment available for those who want to experience BVI at a more intimate level. Be sure to book your reservations early!