History of turks & caicos islands


The official Turks and Caicos tourism website claims Columbus set foot on the island in 1492.

The history of the Turks and Caicos Islands can be traced back to early European explorations of the Americas. The first recorded sighting of the islands now known as the Turks and Caicos Islands occurred in 1512. In the subsequent centuries, the islands were claimed by several European powers with the British Empire eventually gaining control. After the islands' settlement, the 18th century African slave trade brought many Africans to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Their descendants form a large part of Bahamas' population. The islands were governed by the British indirectly through Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. When the Bahamas gained independence in 1973, the islands received their own governor and have remained a separate autonomous British Overseas Territory since.


The Turks and Caicos Islands, archipelagos comprised of 40 low-lying and mostly undeveloped islands boast miles of white powdery beaches, superb diving, accommodations, and gourmet restaurants. Much of the underwater excitement is found off the Turks, where wall dives are outstanding, and along West Caicos and Provo. Sport fishing is a big international draw, and the mangrove salt flats offer a prime habitat for bonefish.

Providenciales (known as Provo) is the hub for tourism. The island’s crowning glory is Grace Bay, a 12 mile stretch of velvety sand. Also on Provo, bird watchers enjoy acres of inland lakes frequented by white herons and pink flamingos. Just a dozen miles from Provo is North Caicos, which receives the most rainfall, making it notably greener with tall trees and lush vegetation. The southern part of North Caicos is swampy, with broad estuaries that are home to a vast colony of West Indian flamingoes. North Caicos is popular with vacation-home buyers, especially around Whitby, with its stunning seven-mile beach. The Turks and Caicos Islands is a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean near the southeastern Bahamas. As a British territory, the educational system of Turks and Caicos is based closely on the British model, and the primary language of instruction at all levels is English. Because residents are widely scattered among the island system consisting of the Caicos Islands and the Turks Islands, which are separated by the Turk Passage, the creation of a standardized education system offering equal access to all of the islanders has proved difficult. To counter this problem, several church groups, businesses, and individuals launched their own schools

On Middle Caicos, you can sign up with a local guide and head for a settlement called Conch Bar where a labyrinth of caves are home to limestone formations and resident bat populations. Elsewhere, recent archaeological excavations have uncovered ancient Lucayan artifacts dating back more than 1,200 years. Uninhabited West Caicos and East Caicos are lined with fine beaches accessible by boat, and South Caicos was once a salt-producing island. Today it has a fishing port and a yachting center, along with miles of deserted beaches.

The capital and center of government lies east of the Columbus Passage on Grand Turk, where visitors can tour several restored churches and the Turks and Caicos National Museum. From January to March, visitors flock to nearby Salt Cay to spot humpback whales on their annual migration to the Silver Banks off Hispaniola.


None of the Arawak Indians, who occupied the islands when Columbus first discovered them, survived the 16th century. Until the 19th century, the islands were a source of salt for the American mainland, with slaves being used as labour. During the 19th century, control of the islands changed hands several times. In 1962, having been a Jamaican dependency for some 75 years, the Turks & Caicos Islands became a separate British Colony – a status that it retains to this day.

The islands held their first general election in 1976, and the winning party, the People's Democratic Movement (PDM), pursued a policy of full independence for the islands. The next election, in 1980, was effectively a referendum on the independence issue and was won by the anti-independence Progressive National Party (PNP), which claimed victory again four years later. Since then, the PDM and PNP have enjoyed a duopoly of power which was only briefly challenged in the late-1980s by the National Democratic Alliance , which has since faded from the political scene. The PDM under Derek Taylor won both the 1995 and 1999 polls, but the most recent election in 2003 narrowly returned the PNP to office. PNP leader Washington Missick, who served a term as Chief Minister in the early 1990s, was appointed once again.

High-level corruption, usually related to drug trafficking and/or money laundering, is fairly common in the Caribbean - and the Turks & Caicos have not been immune from it. Since the international crackdown initiated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, representing the world's leading industrial economies) in the mid-1990s, several Caribbean countries specialising in offshore financing, including the Turks & Caicos, have come under pressure to introduce tougher sanctions against money laundering. As a British colony, the Turks & Caicos could hardly defy the OECD, but it faced a dilemma familiar to many small island states seeking to boost their economies through offshore financial services – how to stamp out criminal activity without deterring investors looking for financial privacy.

More history

Turks Island Passage, which is 22 miles wide, separates the Turks from the Caicos. Lush green vegetation keeps the islands from being all sand and sun. Though they reside in the Atlantic Ocean, the Turks and Caicos Islands are home to the best of the Caribbean, including the world’s third largest coral reef—only those near Australia and Belize are larger—230 miles of white sandy beaches, and warm, crystal-clear waters in a dozen shades of turquoise and aquamarine.

Turks and Caicos’ average temperature of 83F attracts visitors year-round. Temperatures reach 95F (33 to 35C) in September and October, the hottest months, but eastern trade winds help keep the beach comfortable. Only 35” of annual rainfall means that vacationers spend their days sunbathing, not indoors.

If you’re looking for peace and tranquility, then Providenciales Turks and Caicos Islands is your destination in the Caribbean. All the islands are on Eastern Standard Time, the US dollar is the official currency, and the locals, or “belongers,” as they call themselves, speak English, so travelers from the U.S. will have a particularly easy transition into “island time” and everything it connotes.

Though Grand Turk is the capitol, Providenciales Turks and Caicos Islands is the most popular tourist destination. The twelve miles of Grace Bay Beach are frequently voted the best in the world by Condé Nast and other publications.

Provo is relatively small, 38 square miles, or 98 square kilometers, and has a population of 31,000. There’s plenty to see and do, but I’ll write more on that later. TripAdvisor, Condé Nast, and Turks and Caicos Islands Review all agree that Providenciales Turks and Caicos Islands is a must-visit beach destination.

Turks and Caicos Islands






CapitalGrand Turk

CurrencyDollar (USD)

Area430 km²


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