Travel By Fingertip...Turks & Caicos

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Turks & Caicos Profile

On a map of the Caribbean, this modest cluster of islands looks like a handful of confetti strewn off the south end of the Bahamas. So remote are these castaways that many guidebooks do not even bother to mention them. Such obscurity - however short-lived - is half their attraction; for travelers who want escape with a capital E, this is a choice destination.

The other half of this region's allure is a flamboyantly desolate beauty: what some will find lonely, others serene. Here, the glow of the Caribbean is at its most opalescent, and the white sands of the rambling beaches - some reached only by boat - are echoed by the arid salt flats stretching across these low islands, little more than limestone shelves jutting just above sea level. The coral below, with deep clear ravines, are a dream come true to dedicated divers and snorkelers, while the open sea beyond is sport-fishing heaven. These are the primary recreations to which these islands cater, though most hotels can arrange others. There's biking, a bit of tennis, several pools, and the occasional spa, but travelers who thrive here tend to prefer entertaining themselves: wandering barefoot over miles of stark sand, reading in a hammock strung between palms, sharing a picnic on a tiny uncharted cay. Nightlife consists of stargazing, sleep, and quiet strolls.

All together there are eight principal islands, interspersed with a smattering of others. The Turks and Caicos are a British Crown Colony, but the main cultural influence seems increasingly American, especially since the local economy rests on two renowned Yankee enterprises: offshore banking and tourism. Grand Turk and Providenciales are the two islands most eagerly engaged in the resort biz ("Provo" boasts a Club Med and the only casino), both accessible by air direct from Miami. Hotels elsewhere, however, often shun not only phones, TV, and radio but clocks and newspapers as well. Here, the most elemental of pleasures seem all the sweeter for the pristine, literally timeless surroundings. Even hot water and electricity may be limited. To make connections within the islands, one must depend on a modest shuttle service, random charters, or even hitchhiking by yacht.

For the diver, the lover of solitude, honeymooners who yearn for a world unto themselves, these islands offer an unforgettable getaway.

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