2 February 2016
Road Town, Tortola BVI: A Small Place with Big Plans

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Tortola is the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands, which sounds very impressive.

Except that none of the islands are very large or have all that many people. Tis a pity, though, since they are very nice places.

Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands, about 60 islands and rocks about 100 kilometers or 60 miles east of Puerto Rico. About 15 of the islands are inhabited.

Mountainous Tortola, formed by volcanic activity, is about 20 kilometers or 12 miles long, and 5 kilometers or 3 miles wide. Minor earthquakes are common.

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The islands—in total—have a population of about 28,000. Of that number, about 23,000 live on Tortola, many near the capital city of Road Town, which is where we arrived on Silver Wind.

The port has undergone rapid growth in the past few years,  with the installation of a large new dock,  capable of handling some of the biggest ships afloat. In fact, some cruise lines have begun moving away from nearby Saint Martin in favor of Tortola. It’s a matter–in terms of crowds–of a temporary respite, I expect.

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Silver Wind at anchor off Road Town

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A pair of monster ships at the new pier

The other significant islands are Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost van Dyke. And then there are the lesser islands include Norman, Peter, Salt, Cooper, and Beef; some historians (and tourist bureaus) maintain that pirates like Blackbeard, Bluebeard, and Sir Francis Drake visited one or another of them.

Some would have you believe there is buried treasure here, too. For a small fee, they might even sell you a map.

More than thirty years ago, my wife and I visited the outlying islands. On Salt Island we found a tiny settlement, mostly made up of one extended family.

They had no interest in or need of our money or trinkets. But they deeply desired to have some of the glossy color magazines we had with us, with pictures of places that must have seemed like the moon to them. We gladly gave them the magazines; I sometimes wonder what dreams and wants we may have introduced, for better or worse.

We’re going to be visiting Tortola three times this season, coming back again on February 11 and again on February 18. I’ll be posting more commentary and photos about Tortola on those days, and you can check back for more details.

Text and images copyright 2016 by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.


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