Rising dramatically from the sea, the stunning 50-plus islands and cays that comprise the British Virgin Islands have two great assets – virgin beauty and accessibility. Unlike the neighbouring U.S. Virgin Islands, the BVI remains a relatively sleepy Caribbean outpost known mostly to sailors, who are drawn to its many sheltered bays and harbours, hidden beaches, and laid-back marina bars and restaurants. They were among the first to realise this was indeed one of "Nature's Little Secrets", which is the territory's official slogan.
These idyllic islands are a slice of paradise, with sloping hills of green, lush mountainous terrain, extensive coral reefs and famous shipwrecks. A picture of contrasts they can be dramatically different from one to the next, due to soil composition, rainfall and sun exposure.
Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands and also its gateway. You won't experience the crowds of the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the overbearing resorts on this laid back 24-square-mile island. It's best assets are the stunning, underdeveloped and untouched beaches such as Long Bay, a mile of white sand with just a few houses and one resort at one end. Or Smuggler's Cove on the west end of Tortola, hard to get to and thus perfectly tranquil.
Virgin Gorda (Spanish for Fat Virgin) is an island with many natural attractions, the most famous of these is The Baths - an area on the southern tip with giant boulders forming spectacular sea pools and grottoes. A favourite of snorkellers and sailors alike, it is now incorporated as a National Park, along with two exquisite white sand beaches, Devil's Bay and Spring Bay spanning either side of the boulders with a trail connecting both.
Peter Island, another island named after a Dutch privateer, is now home to a world-class resort complete with seaside spa and restaurants. With regular ferry service from Tortola, one can enjoy the beautiful beach at Deadman's Bay or dine al fresco by the sea. Dramatic wind-swept hills and beautifully grouped tropical plantings around the resort make a stroll through the grounds worthwhile. Just off to the east is Deadman's Chest, another island bearing the mark of pirate lore.