• British Virgin Islands
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British Virgin Islands

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
The British Virgin Islands are a small piece of paradise which is proud to host beautiful beaches with white, fine sand and turquoise water. Only a couple of the islands are inhabited. This ancient land, formerly frequented by pirates, including Blackbeard, is located between the Caribbean Sea or the 'Sea of the Antilles' and the Atlantic Ocean. Those who travel to the British Virgin Islands should venture into the sea to see the astonishing diversity of the sea life.

Travel guide

The Baths

The Baths are probably the most popular tourist attraction of the BVI's. There are a collection of large boulders strewn along the beach where pools and grottoes have formed at the bottom due to water collecting. The rocks make up the leftovers of volcanic lava residue from millions of years ago. Upon visiting the Baths there is a trek offered where you can explore the various tidal pools and sneak through all the unknown passages. There's also the chance to swim and snorkel and have a pootle around the ?Caves.' The end of the trek brings you out onto a beautiful sugar-sand beach. Unfortunately, the site has become very touristy seeing as boat trips often drop cruise ship goers or hotel guests off at the Baths half way through their trips. However, the best thing always to do is try and go early morning or late evening as the sun is setting.

Rhone National Maritime Park and RMS Rhone Shipwreck

If you're into your diving, definitely head over to the Rhone Marine National Park. It is said to offer the best diving spot around the British Virgin Islands as many fish visit the 40 feet wide wreck that sunk in two parts in 1867 and can be found at the bottom of the ocean. The exact depth of the dive is between 30 and 90 feet and the Marine Park is located 6.0 miles southeast of downtown Road Town. If you happen to get the munchies post dive, there are plenty of restaurants in the surrounding area, for example Deadman's Beach Bar and Grill which serves Caribbean cuisine, Tradewinds Restaurant and Cooper Island Beach Club Restaurant.

Sandy Bay

Sandy Bay is what can only be described as the classic island that you stare at in endless travel magazines dreaming of somewhere sunnier on a rainy day. It is surrounded by crystal clear blue sea and has one of the most picturesque beaches ever imaginable. The quality of snorkeling and kayaking that you can do off the edge of the island is excellent. Since the island is uninhabited if you arrive early enough, for example as the sun is rising, you can have it all to yourself - how romantic! The only thing it could be missing is a beach bar but if you think ahead you could bring some of your own provisions along in the boat that drops you off.

Peter Island

Peter Island is the largest private island of the 60 British Virgin Islands and is often referred to as one of the 'Best Places to stay in the world.' The 'Peter Island resort' takes up most of the room on the island, offering 52 rooms and 3 other luxurious villas. It is accessible by boat or helicopter and is home to numerous hiking and biking trails where a great variety of flora and fauna can be discovered. Deadman's Bay is one of the resorts five stunning beaches, its white blissfulness goes on for a mile and guests are able to reserve the beach exclusively for an afternoon picnic.

Our Editorial team's advice

The official currency is the American dollar, although the British Virgin Islands technically belong to the UK.

This seaside paradise is only accessible if you stop off at one of the neighboring islands: Saint-Martin, Antigua, and Puerto Rico. These transfers can be easily arranged with numerous charter companies.

The best time to visit the Virgin Islands is between January and April. The rainfall is heaviest in September, October and November. Hurricanes can take place any time between June and November. The climate is often considered as tropical, hot and humid but the weather stays nice all year around, between 20 and 30oC. As for the temperature in the sea, it's ideal for taking a dip in.

Only an in date passport and a return ticket are required, no visa is necessary.

If you are thinking about travelling around the island by bicycle, you must register your bike to the transport office, in Road Town.

Here, for sail boat rentals, a certificate proving your sailing ability is required if you wish to sail on your own. For security reasons, sailing by night or near Anegada Island where there are many rocks is forbidden. It is recommended that beginners rent a boat with the help of a skipper. On the occasions where you decide to rent a car, remember you have to drive on the left hand side of the road like in England.

pros

  • +The climate is really pleasant which means that you can come here during summer time in the West. It is sunny all year round and rainfall is not as heavy as on other islands in the Antilles.
  • +The British Virgin Islands are a real paradise for divers, with their magnificent sea beds and numerous shipwrecks.

cons

  • -The cost of living is fairly high; accommodation, food and leisure activities are expensive.
  • -The island, which is small in size, does not offer a lot of choice in terms of leisure activities, other than those which take place on the beach or in the sea.

Traditions

The archipelago's culture is marked by both African and British influences. However, no traces remain of the indigenous population. The influence of the African descendants of the population can be seen through the food, music and local arts and crafts of the Caribbean's. The British influence is reflected in the practice of cricket, the group of islands national sport.

A large number of inhabitants continue to respect African traditions and firmly believe in the presence of a spiritual world, populated with ghosts and spirits. Some supernatural story tellers on the islands predict good and bad events.

The vast majority of the population is protestant, the rest being mainly catholic. Therefore Christian holidays like Easter and Pentecost are widely celebrated. Musical celebrations and carnivals are organised for example Tortola in August, independence party at the start of July, annual regatta at Road Town in April, without forgetting the Queen's birthday which takes place in April as well.

Food

The local food is composed essentially of sea food: crayfish, shrimps, dolphins or calamaris, served with spices such as curry, butter and green lime sauce or coconut milk. Fish is also served in banana leaves, and comes with a herb sauce. As for curry and pineapple sauces, they often come with chicken and pork dishes. Barbecuing is a very common method of cooking. As for meat, you'll normally find chicken and pork accompanied in a curry and pineapple sauce. Rum based cocktails are delicious.

Generally speaking, West Indian cuisine is inspired by culinary arts coming from Africa, India, France, Spain and even the USA. Salty and sweet dishes mixed are at the forefront of the cuisine, as well as spices. As for desserts, tropical fruits can be found almost anywhere, and banana is omitted according to certain recipes.

Souvenirs

Just like for most islands in the Caribbean, you really must bring back spices from the British Virgin Islands. Also, try not to forget to bring back some pieces of art from here (which are a mixture of African, Haitian and Indian art). You will find pottery, sculptures, paintings and semi-precious stone jewellery like amber here. Shops are open Monday to Thursday, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and until 5:00pm, on Friday and Saturday.