Present day Turks and Caicos is still strongly influenced by its history, even after becoming one of the top Caribbean destinations. You may know of it for its pristine beaches, beautiful luxury resorts, and thriving tourism industry, but the TCIs had humble beginnings.
History of the Turks and Caicos
The original settlers of the islands were Taino and Lucyan Indians and their heritage of seafaring, salt raking and farming, and use of conch in their diet still persists and continues to play a significant cultural role today.
Even the name of the country comes from these early cultures. “Turks” is a reference to the indigenous Turk’s head cactus and “Caicos” is from the Lucayan term “caya hico,” meaning string of islands.
Some scholars believe Christopher Columbus’ first New World landfall was on Grand Turk in 1492. At this time, the Lucayan civilization had already disappeared and the islands were only sparsely populated.
Turks and Caicos 1600-1800
The Turks and Caicos was a popular place even in these times. From 1600s to the 1800s, the islands have passed from Spanish to French to English/Britain control. However, no settlements were established by any of these countries.
Instead, the Turks and Caicos islands were a common hiding place for pirates. Spanish treasure galleons were often attacked on their routes between Spain and Central America.
Bermuda (under British rule) was the Turks and Caicos first colonizers in the late 1600s, establishing the first permanent settlement on Grand Turk Island. Salt was a major commodity at this time because of its use in food preparation and preservation, and salt was more easily raked in the TCI than Bermuda. Salt became the backbone of the Turks and Caicos economy for the next several hundred years. Bermuda’s colonization established British dominance that is still in effect today.
In 1706, the French and the Spanish briefly captured the Turks & Caicos Islands from the Bermudians. Four years later, the British reclaimed the islands for Bermuda.
After the American Revolution, displaced British royalists were granted land on the uninhabited Caicos Islands where they established plantations to grow cotton. Unfortunately, the soil of the islands was ill suited for growing cotton and the royalists left when cotton stopped being a viable crop. However, the royalists’ plantation slaves remained and their descendants are today’s local inhabitants.
Modern Turks and Caicos
The Turks and Caicos became a British Crown colony in 1962. In the early 1980s, the Turks and Caicos (with Providenciales in particular) began its road to becoming the Caribbean tourist powerhouse today when Club Med Turkoise Resort opened.
Since then, the TCI government began pouring more money into its tourism industry and infrastructure development.
Turks and Caicos Tourism
There are so many Turks and Caicos resorts and villas that now cater to family getaways that you’ll have plenty of options in choosing a place to stay. You can easily find entire homes or private villas that offer private pools, balconies, grills, and recreational equipment, including snorkel masks, flippers, and bikes.
However, you can also visit various historic sites with out-island eco tours to see the roots and culture of the Caicos Islands on North, Middle & South Caicos.
Inspired By Turks and Caicos History?
Turks and Caicos excursions are very popular and spots fill up fast. It’s important that you book early so your guide can help customize the trips to specific interests.