Sloping hills of green, lush mountainous terrain, extensive coral reefs and famous shipwrecks sum up the thrills and spills of the British Virgin Islands. With myriad nautical pursuits on offer, the 50 idyllic islands are a slice of paradise.
Norman Island was supposedly the location where Robert Louis Stevenson set the novel Treasure Island on. Today's visitors might not stumble across swashbuckling pirates or half-concealed treasure troves, but they will find a highly prized booty of soft sand and gentle, teal waters. For travellers who prefer to watch the sea rather than get into it, there is a chance of spotting dolphins and whales swimming at the surface.
Throughout much of their history, the string of islands and cays were sleepy and unnoticed. Today, colossal cruise ships glide to a halt in the shadow of Road Town on Tortola, the largest of the islands. Smaller ships also take in Virgin Gorda, the second biggest island, docking outside the curiously named Spanish Town. Hardly qualifying as a town, the latter has a few shops and a pretty marina and is a quiet, picturesque settlement. Road Town offers a little more action, with a gleaming harbour and waterfront, as well as plenty of pastel-coloured West Indian architecture. Sir Olva Georges Square is a pleasant spot to take a seat and admire the views.
Although the tourism industry is booming here, you can easily get away from it all. Much of the accommodation beyond Road Town offers utter tranquillity, while some of the hotels elsewhere in the territory pretty much have islands to themselves.
Paradise does come at a cost. Overall, the British Virgin Islands are quite an expensive destination. But, for some, this is the necessary price of saving a Caribbean gem from over-commercialisation. And if that's the intention, the British Virgin Islands are, for now, a resounding success.