Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos

The territory of Turks and Caicos includes eight main islands and many smaller islands and cays in the Lucayan Archipelago. It is located south of the Bahamas, east of Cuba, north of Hispaniola, and is technically situated in the Atlantic Ocean though commonly thought of as a Caribbean country.

The capital is Cockburn town on the island of Grand Turk. Visitors can relax on the outer islands of Grand Turk, Salt Cay, or uninhabited West Caicos, or explore the Caribbean’s largest network of limestone caves in Middle Caicos.

North and Middle Caicos are also good for exploring traditional island life and discovering local food, music, and crafts. They are the greenest of the islands, receiving the most rainfall, and are relatively undeveloped. The marshes, mangroves, and salt ponds of North and Middle Caicos are excellent for kayaking.  Turks and Caicos, particularly North Caicos, is home to a large number of stunning birds including osprey and wild flamingos.

Providenciales in the west is the best known of the islands and the most visited. It is a good starting point for trips to the other islands, with flights connecting to most of the other main islands.

The islands and cays of Turks and Caicos boast beautiful white sand beaches, many uninhabited islets and deserted beaches, excellent snorkeling, diving, and water sports, as well as seasonal whale watching (February through March), and rich local heritage.

 

People

The majority of Turks and Caicos inhabitants are of African descent. There are also many people from the Caribbean, the Bahamas, nearby Hispaniola, and elsewhere including the US, Canada, and the UK.

Tourism is an economic mainstay in Turks and Caicos as are fishing and real estate development.  The local inhabitants, who refer to themselves as ‘Belongers’ or ‘Islanders’ are generally laid back, friendly, and take plenty of time to enjoy the simple pleasures of each day (punctuality is generally not a priority).

Both native islanders as well as expatriates from all over the world converge to create a unique and international atmosphere; authentic, laid back, and multicultural.

Food

Traditionally food on the island has been based largely on fish and seafood, and what local produce could be grown on the islands. While many of the islands are not rich in fertile soil, some produce is grown (especially in in North and Middle Caicos) such as apples, sweet potatoes, and yams. Other items grown locally include okra, banana, and prickly pears. Rum is produced locally by a few small producers and is a popular beverage (try Bambarra).

In traditional cuisine simple dishes such as peas and rice or hominy are combined with the catch of the day to make a complete meal. Items prepared with conch (which Turks and Caicos is famous for) such as conch fritters and conch salad are also widely available.

Because of Turks and Caicos’ proximity to Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Hispaniola, and because many people from these places have come to settle in TCI (as Turks and Caicos is known locally) the cuisines of these cultures have merged with the local foods to make for an interesting dining experience. Influences from French, British, American, and other cultures have also contributed to the modern cuisine of the islands.

A wide variety of international cuisines are available as well as both simple and upscale dining options often featuring local seafood. Fish and seafood are still the mainstay of the local diet. Some grain and produce is cultivated on the islands, though much of it is imported. South Caicos is the prominent fishing center of Turks and Caicos.

Population

33,000

Currency

US dollar ($)

Language

English

When to Go

The most popular time to visit Turks and Caicos is January through April. The islands do experience some rain, though rainfall is heavier in the west and during these months (Jan-April) the weather is usually warm with little rainfall.

On average, Turks and Caicos has many days of sunshine (nearly year round), warm comfortable temperatures, and warm water. It can be very hot (mid 90’s) in June, July, and August, though average temperatures are between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in the winter the water temperature is pleasantly warm, at about 74-78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hurricane season runs from early June through November.

Two major festivals are the Grand Turk Game Fishing Tournament in July, and the Turks and Caicos Conch Festival in November.

Dress

Appropriate dress for the Turks and Caicos is generally shorts during the day as well as hat, sunglasses, and other sun protection. It is generally hot during the day, with the evenings sometimes being slightly cooler. Light layers are recommended for the evenings.

Travel

There are regular flights from the US, Canada, and major European cities. The main international airports in TCI are in Providenciales and Grand Turk. Ferries connect many of the islands. You can also connect between islands via domestic air services. There are flight connections between Providenciales and North Caicos, Middle Caicos, South Caicos, Grand Turk, and Salt Cay.

Island hopping by boat is a great way to explore the islands.

Health

There are two main medical facilities in Turk and Caicos, located on Providenciales and Grand Turk. There are also a number of private practices in Providenciales and basic clinics on all of the main islands.

Visas

Visas are not required for citizens of the US, UK, British Commonwealth, many Caribbean countries, and many EU countries. Check with your country of origin to verify whether a visa is required for entry into Turks and Caicos. All travelers are required to present a valid passport and proof of onward journey or a return ticket.

Top 5 Sites

1. Turks & Caicos National Museum (Cockburn Town, Grand Turk Island)

2. Grace Bay Beach (Providenciales)

3. Grand Turk Lighthouse (Grand Turk Island)

4. Conch Bar Caves (Middle Caicos)

5. The Hole (Long Bay, Providenciales)

Top 5 Things To Do

1. Visit the Wades Green Slave Plantation ruins on North Caicos – a haunting and evocative reminder of the islands’ slave roots

2. Hike the Crossing Place Trail, Middle Caicos; this pristine and isolated coastal walk follows a trail that connected slave plantations on North and Middle Caicos

3. Take a day trip to West Caicos, the country’s largest uninhabited island with excellent diving and picturesque beaches (though resort development looms in the near future so go now); no regular flights or ferries, but it is accessible by chartered boat and day excursions

4. Attend the Turks and Caicos Conch Festival (November) to sample tasty conch creations and other island specialties prepared by competing chefs and culinarians

5. Go whale watching in Grand Turk or Salt Cay – early February through late March

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