The Turks and Caicos Islands are only about 60 km (37 miles) long, and consist of over 40 islands and cays. They form a British Overseas Territory and have rapidly gained popularity as a beach destination. There are roughly 30,000 inhabitants on the islands and they welcome about 450,000 arrivals by air and 650,000 cruise ship passengers each year.
The archipelago consists of two island groups, the Turks islands and the Caicos islands, of which Grand Turk and Providenciales are the two main islands. Daylight savings time is observed and they are in the Eastern Time Zone. These islands are in the Atlantic Ocean and not the Caribbean Sea, although they are included in the Caribbean region. The nearest other islands are the southern parts of the Bahamas, about 100 km east and northwest. Haiti is a similar distance due south. At considerably longer distances, Cuba is southwest and Florida northwest.
Before Christopher Columbus set foot on the island of Grand Turk during the journey to the new world in 1492, the island was inhibited by Taíno and Lucayan tribes. These earlier settlers left behind a rich heritage and new words (canoe, Caribbean, Caicos) and the names of the island. The indigenous Turk's head cactus named Turks island, while the Lucayan term “caya hico”, meaning string of islands, was mangled to become "Caicos".