British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are a substantial portion of the larger Virgin Islands archipelago which fall under the jurisdiction of the British government. There are four main islands in the British Virgin Islands – Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada – as well as several dozen other, smaller islets. The vast majority of the British Virgin Islands’ population is found on Tortola, which is also home to the capital city of Road Town. The British Virgin Islands have approximately twenty two thousand permanent residents, spread out over a total land area of fifty nine square miles. The British Virgin Islands have been inhabited for at least two thousand and possibly for as long as three thousand, five hundred years. The British Virgin Islands were first settled by Amerindians known as the Arawak, who were then supplanted by the Caribs. The British Virgin Islands were first discovered by European settlers in the year 1493, when Christopher Columbus sailed past the archipelago and named them after the legend of Saint Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins. Although Spain was the first nation to explore the British Virgin Islands, the archipelago successively passed through the control of the English, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, and French Empires, while also hosting a substantial population of pirates.
During direct British colonial rule, the British Virgin Islands had an economy heavily based on the cultivation of sugarcane, although it has since moved away from agriculture. In the modern day, the British Virgin Islands depend heavily on a combination typical of Caribbean Islands – tourism and finance. Tourism thrives in the British Virgin Islands thanks largely to the beautiful weather that dominates this part of the world. The islands boast an average temperature that seldom dips below seventy degrees Fahrenheit in the winter or rises above ninety degrees in the summer. The tourist industry is responsible for nearly half of the British Virgin Islands’ gross domestic product, and capitalizes on the remarkable natural beauty of the archipelago. Some of the top tourist destinations in the British Virgin Islands are the archipelago’s white sand beaches, which are outstanding spots for swimming, sunbathing, and just relaxing. More remote islands are accessible by sailboats or chartered ferries, while the offshore waters are popular for snorkeling and fishing.
More than eight hundred thousand individuals visit the British Virgin Islands in an average year, including more than four hundred thousand cruise ship passengers. While cruise ships arrive in the British Virgin Islands by way of the Road Town Harbor, air passengers arrive at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport. The British Virgin Islands have an excellent public education system, highlighted by the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. The archipelago is a worldwide sailing destination, hosting events such as the annual Spring Regatta, while cricket is also popular among island residents. The British Virgin Islands have a unique musical tradition, highlighted by a fusion style called fungi, which utilizes instruments such as ukuleles, calabashes, and bongos. The archipelago still shows the strong influence of British colonialism, although it has developed a unique culture as well.