The Turks and Caicos Islands are a geographical extension of the Bahamas. They comprise 40 islands and cays, with only 8 that are inhabited. The islands attract beach lovers for their seemingly endless, powder soft, white sandy beaches and their perfectly clear turquoise waters, acknowledged by many as some of the best beaches in the world. You can even escape on a boat trip and visit one of the remote islands where you can find yourself basking in the sun with a beach all to yourself. The snorkelling and diving is as good as it gets with the world’s third largest coral reef system and there are plenty of national parks to explore too.
Things to see and do in Turks and Caicos
Attractions: The main island of Provdenciales (or Provo) is home to the breathtakingly beautiful Grace Bay: a 12 mile stretch of heavenly beach and turquoise waters which is often featured in various publications’ ‘world’s best beaches’ lists. Just off the coast of Grace Bay is an extensive coral reef ecosystem, making the whole area a diver’s paradise. Another must-see spot to visit is the Chalk Sound National Park which is situated in the west of Provo and is a stunning land-locked turquoise coloured lagoon which is best explored on a kayak. Each of the other islands has their own unique appeal: from the rugged, spectacular coastline and intriguing caves of Middle Caicos, to the colonial buildings of the historic capital island of Grand Turk to the fishing wonders of South Caicos, so a bit of island hopping is a must when staying in Turks and Caicos. Also if you are visiting at the right time of year, between January to the beginning of April, make sure you take a whale watching expedition from Salt Cay or Grand Turk, where you can experience the mighty humpback whales passing through the Turks Head Passage and the Columbus Passage en route to the Silver Banks in the North of the Dominican Republic for birthing and then returning to Salt Cay.
Events/festivals: May welcomes the South Caicos Regatta which is an annual event featuring sailing regattas, maypole dancing and parades. In June, the June Fools’ Regatta takes place which is a fun event with boat and raft races and tug of war. In November, the locals enjoy the annual Conch Festival, celebrating their favourite fish plus competing in a conch blowing competition. There is also live music, parties, sailing and dancing for all to enjoy.
Sports: The waters around the islands offer incredible opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling – indeed the islands offer perfect opportunities for most types of water sports including some great sailing and fishing. A spot of whale-watching should also be on the agenda between January and April when the mighty humpbacks migrate. Birdwatching is also popular, particularly in Salt Cay, where eager twitchers will find, amongst many others, flamingos, migratory herons, kingfishers and oystercatchers.
Nightlife: The nightlife capital of the Turks and Caicos islands is most definitely Providenciales. Although not on the same level as some of the bigger Caribbean islands, the local people still know how to party. Nightlife is rather on the relaxed side, but you’ll still find a good mix of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and places with live music – many of which are situated on the beach and serving up freshly caught seafood. Much of the evening entertainment, including bars and nightclubs, is also found at the hotels. There are also two casinos on the islands.
Eating/Drinking: Seafood lovers will enjoy the range of fresh fish dishes on the restaurant menus. Conch is the region’s favourite fish and is served in a variety of ways including conch Creole, curried conch, conch chowder and curried conch. Lobster is popular too and you’ll also find that cooked in a variety of ways. Other favourites include rice and peas and Johnnycake (a sweet pan bread). The islands’ most popular tipple is a rum punch, which is a very heady mix of Lucayan rum, coconut rum, orange and pineapple juice and grenadine.
Shopping: Turks and Caicos is one of the few places where visitors are allowed to take conch shells out of the country. Each person is allocated up to three shells to take home with them. Other souvenirs include rum and coffee and homemade jewellery and accessories.
When to go
There isn’t really a time of year to avoid the Turks and Caicos as the islands enjoy pleasant all year round temperatures that stay in the 80s. The peak season is from December to March although April and May are also pleasant and slightly less busy and better value. As with most Caribbean islands, the Turks & Caicos are at threat from hurricanes during June to November but advance warning is always given. These months however do experience higher rain fall levels.
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