British Virgin Islands Overview

By | November 10, 2021

As a country located in Central America according to, British Virgin Islands is a British overseas territory. It includes some forty islands and islets of volcanic origin belonging to the archipelago of the Virgin Islands, in the small Antilles.

Geographic location

Located to the East of Puerto Rico, they are part of the Lesser Antilles and it is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

It is made up of 36 islands, 16 inhabited and the most important Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Salt Island, Virgin Gorda and Peter Island.

Road Town is its capital city and the only one that concentrates the entire population of the islands. It is located southwest of Tortola Island, which is the largest of this group of islands, with around 62 km2.


The islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, colonized by the Dutch in 1648 and later by the English in 1666. They were inhabited by Arawak and Carib aborigines. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the islands were a refuge for numerous groups of buccaneers and pirates.

The British introduced sugar cane to the islands, which became the main crop, and a source of income for foreign trade. Slaves were brought from Africa to work on the sugar cane plantations. The islands prospered economically until the growth of the beet crop in Europe and the United States, when sugarcane production was considerably reduced. The English, Dutch, French, Spanish and Danish took control of the archipelago for the next two hundred years. ; in the end the Dutch were expelled and the United Kingdom finally reconquered Virgin Gorda and Tortola.

At the end of the 17th century, England had Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and other islands that now make up the British Virgin Islands, and Denmark had the rest of the Virgin Islands (Saint John, Saint Thomas, and Saint Croix). The II.VV.BB. they were somewhat more strategic for the British, but it was planted when economic conditions were particularly favorable. In 1917, the United States they bought Saint John, Saint Thomas and Saint Croix from the Danes for seventeen million US dollars, renaming them “United States Virgin Islands”. Subsequently, the British renamed the islands they controlled as “British Virgin Islands”.


British Virgin Islands Coat of Arms – First awarded in 1960. The arms consist of a shield, with a lady dressed in white holding a gold lamp, with another 11 gold lamps around her on a green field.

It is a representation of Saint Ursula, a Christian saint who is said to have taken a pilgrimage throughout Europe with 11,000 virgin servants. When Christopher Columbus sighted the islands in 1493, the Islands are said to have reminded him of the history of Santa Ursula, and this is how the islands get their name. The weapons were selected as a representation of this story.

Government and politics

The executive power of the British Virgin Islands is shared between the Monarch of the United Kingdom – currently Queen Elizabeth II of England – who is represented by a Governor. The Governor is appointed directly by the Queen on the advice of the British Government. Defense and Foreign Affairs are under the responsibility of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

The current governor is Boyd McCleary (since August 2010) and the premier is Ralph T. O’Neal (since August 22, 2007). It is one of the 16 non-autonomous territories under the supervision of the United Nations Decolonization Committee, in order to eliminate colonialism.


With the exception of Anegada Island, with a predominance of flat terrain, which favors the practice of diving and fishing, in addition to presenting excellent reefs, in the rest of the islands the mountainous terrain predominates.

The Norman Island, has four unmissable caves widely used for underwater tours.


On Anegada Island there is a 4.2 km² bird sanctuary.

Economic development

The main economic activity of the islands is tourism, although local production is based on fishing, livestock and the production of fruits and vegetables.


Numerous legends of hidden treasures still circulate around these islands.

It is thought that Norman Island was the one that inspired the writer Robert L. Stevenson to write his novel Treasure Island.

General data

  • Capital Road Town: (in Tortola) with 6330 residents (1991).
  • Official language: English
  • Currency: US Dollar
  • Population: 19,000 residents
  • Total area: 153 km 2
  • Highest point: Mount Sage (521 m, in Tortola).
  • Number of islands: More than 100
  • Islands:
    • Saint Croix: 215 km ²
    • Saint-Thomas: 80.91 km ²
    • Saint-John: 50.79 km ²
    • Tortola: 56 km ²
    • Anegada: 38 km ²
    • Virgin Gorda: 21 km ²

The capital city is an important port, it is the only city that concentrates the population of the islands, it is located towards the Southwest of the island of Tortola, which is the largest of the British Virgins, with around 62 km 2 of surface.


The islands have mountainous terrain, except for Anegada, which is flat, but it is a favorite place for divers, fishermen and scuba divers, and has reefs that are ideal for these practices.

La Isla Norman has four caves that can be visited by the diving enthusiast. It is believed that this island was the place that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write his novel Treasure Island.

Economic development

On Virgin Gorda Island are the ruins of the copper mines. Local production is based on fishing, livestock and fruit and vegetable products. But the most important economic activity is tourism.


The capital Charlotte Amalie, on the island of Saint Thomas, thanks to its status as a free port, attracts lovers of duty-free products. Every year it welcomes more than a thousand cruise ships, whose passengers shop at duty free shops before invading the island’s beaches.

In Anegada there is a 4.5 km bird sanctuary, to be visited by nature-loving tourists. Another place of interest is Little Fort National Park, where the remains of a Spanish castle are found.

British Virgin Islands Overview