Tortola, British Virgin Islands - Stein Travel
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Tortola

The largest island in the British Virgin Islands archipelago, Tortola, or 'land of turtle doves', is also the main commercial centre of the group and is within a 45-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Characterised by large rolling hills and sandy beaches in addition to its charming and relaxed atmosphere, Tortola is also the sailing capital of the territory and the jumping off place to many of the region's secluded little pieces of heaven on earth.

Rising up in the centre of the island is the highest point in the archipelago, Mount Sage, which reaches up 1,780 feet (524m) above the sea and affords wonderful views over Tortola's lush tropical vegetation, uncrowded beaches and lovely bays, and the surrounding islands. Ruins of 18th-century buildings are also visible, a scattered reminder of the plantation era when rum and sugar were the source of the island's economy. On the south shore is the scenic capital city, Road Town, situated around a deep yacht-filled harbour that is lined with cheerfully painted restaurants, hotels and quaint island-style shops. International as well as local cuisine features on the menus of this varied community with specialities like fresh lobster, coconut curries or turtle dishes to tempt the palate.

The way of life on Tortola is resolutely Caribbean despite the infusion of so many people from different countries around the world; the people are known for their warmth and hospitality and new comers to the island soon find themselves slipping into a slower pace of life and easing into 'island time'.

Information & Facts

Climate

Tortola has a sub-tropical climate with warm weather year-round. The high humidity and warm weather are eased by trade winds. Summer temperatures average from 79-88°F (26-31°C) and in winter it's between 72-82°F (22-28°C). Rainfall is erratic and there are occasional droughts.

Language

English is the main language spoken on the islands.

Money

The official currency is the US Dollar (USD), which is divided into 100 cents. Most establishments on the larger islands accept credit cards and travellers cheques, but on Anegada it is best to have cash. Banks and exchange facilities can be found in Road Town, Tortola. ATMs are available in Tortola and Virgin Gorda.

Sightseeing

Tortola's main attractions are its pristine white beaches, which provide the perfect setting for swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing, and occasionally surfing in the perennially warm waters of the Caribbean. Popular beaches like Cane Garden Bay, Lambert Bay, Trellis Bay and Long Bay are all good locations for relaxing and watersports.

Scuba divers only need to go 6 miles (10km) off the island to reach the Chikuzen, a wrecked Japanese refrigeration ship covered in extensive coral reefs that offer some of the best underwater photography opportunities in the world. Other good dive sites in Tortola include Smuggler's Cove and Brewer's Bay Pinnacle.

If you can drag yourself off the beach, sightseeing in Tortola can be rewarding, as there are a few interesting ruins and cultural sites that hint at its colourful past. You can view the ruins of the St. Philips Church, the grand William Thornton Estate, and the remains of a fort known now simply as 'the Dungeon'.

Road Town has a number of markets and museums, including the Virgin Islands Folk Museum and the HMS Prison. It's also the centre of Tortola's nightlife, with a variety of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs ranging from romantic garden restaurants to laid-back beach bars.

Time

Local time is GMT -4.

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