A chronology of key events:
1503 - Navigator Christopher Columbus sights the islands.
The islands are home to the Blue Iguana, one of the rarest species of reptile
1670 - Spain cedes the islands, along with Jamaica, to the English under the terms of the Treaty of Madrid.
Early 1700s - First permanent settlers arrive.
1794 - Legendary "Wreck of the Ten Sails": A ship hits a reef off Grand Cayman, closely followed by its convoy of nine vessels.
1832 - Legislative assembly set up.
1863 - Caymans become a Jamaican dependency, administered by an appointed commissioner.
1877 - Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman come under common administration.
1932 - Hurricane kills scores of people on Cayman Brac.
1959 - Caymans join short-lived Federation of the West Indies.
Jamaica ties cut
1962 - Federation of the West Indies dissolves. Jamaica declares independence. Caymans stay under British rule; a separate administrator is appointed.
The islands are popular with cruise ships
1971 - Title of administrator is changed to governor.
1972 - New constitution provides for a greater autonomy.
1994 - Constitution modified.
2001 - Constitutional review launched but later put on hold.
2001 November - United Democratic Party (UDP) is formed. Leader of government business, Kurt Tibbetts, ousted after vote of no-confidence. UDP's McKeeva Bush assumes the role.
2002 May - British Overseas Territories Act grants British citizenship to all Caymanians.
2004 September - Hurricane Ivan, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, causes widespread destruction on Grand Cayman.
2005 May - Opposition People's Progressive Movement, led by Kurt Tibbetts, wins general election.
2007 March - New constitutional review launched.
2009 May - US President Barack Obama singles out Cayman Islands in an attack on tax havens.
2009 May - United Democratic Party wins elections.
2009 August - Territory joins OECD's global "white list" of countries using internationally recognised tax standards.
2009 September - Britain refuses to allow territory to take out loans to plug a budget deficit, suggesting it raise funds in other ways.
2010 April - British police brought in to help tackle gang-related crime and preserve territory's reputation for safety.