Blessed with an abundance of natural riches – white powdery beaches, pellucid waters and some of the best reefs in the Caribbean – the Turks and Caicos Islands have a reputation for exclusivity. That may not be entirely fair, but this 40-island archipelago is certainly skewered towards the well-heeled, with its credit card-melting hotels and private island resorts, where the rich and famous go to escape the hoi polloi.
If your bank balance can’t stand the heat, there are affordable options to be found on the likes of Grand Turk, the largest island, where visitors can take in the delights of Governor’s Beach or head offshore to bathe on Little Sand Cay, a tiny island comprised of white sand and a handful of swaying palms.
A visit to Salt Cay off Grand Turk offers a rare opportunity to view migrating humpback whales. Come on a full moon and you could also be treated to a natural light show courtesy of the bioluminescent glowworms, which inhabit the local waters. Swimming with stingrays off Gibbs Cay and kayaking through nearby salt marshes are just some of the other diversions.
It’s not all about the coast, though. There are numerous parks, reserves and historic attractions inland, such as Cheshire Hall, a crumbling colonial plantation where guides regale visitors with historical anecdotes about the islands.
Those seeking culture should head to Grand Turk, where you will find the archipelago’s capital, Cockburn Town, which is home to exquisite colonial-era buildings, a smattering of museums and a handful of restaurants. A sophisticated, more upbeat vibe prevails on the island of Providenciales, which boasts lively beach bars, some excellent restaurants and the venerable Provo Golf & Country Club, one of the Caribbean’s finest. Those who fancy escaping the crowds can hop on a ferry to nearby North Caicos, an island of few people and many flamingoes.