As the name suggests, this nation actually consists of two islands. The names are taken from the Spanish words for ‘ancient’ and ‘bearded’. Part of the Leeward Islands, they lie close to the Equator, giving them just the right climate for those who want to get away from the chillier weather in winter and enjoy sunshine and warmer temperature
Antigua and Barbuda are the two largest islands but the country consists of a few smaller islands, some of which are uninhabited. These include Guinea Island, the York Islands and Great Bird Island. St John’s is the capital city of the islands and this can be found on Antigua. Visitors will sense a very British air about the islands’ culture as they used to be a part of the British Empire. Lord Nelson set up Britain’s most important naval base in the Caribbean at Antigua.
Take the time during your stay to watch a cricket match, which is the national sport here. Due to the good weather, cricket is played all year round. Thanks to the coastline the islands are also popular with sailors and Antigua Sailing Week attracts people from all over the world. At only 14 miles long it does not take a lot of time to get around Antigua but there is plenty to explore while you are there. Many people who enjoy trekking will head up to Boggy Peak, the highest point on the island. In comparison, Barbuda is a relatively flat landscape but also a reasonably sized island for those who only have a couple of days to explore.
Sun worshippers will appreciate the nickname of the islands ‘Land of 365 Beaches’ thanks to the sandy coastline which surrounds the islands. The islands are considered to be the sunniest of all those in the Eastern Caribbean thanks to low rainfall and temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. They are also surrounded by coral reefs which have become popular with scuba divers and snorkelers. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy spending time at the bird sanctuary on Barbuda or take a trip out to the uninhabited island of Redonda which is now a nature preserve.
The British and military history of the islands is evident in many places and no more so than at Shirley Heights. Here visitors can see a variety of military buildings and gun emplacements and the views of the surrounding areas from here are amazing. Those who visit on a Sunday can enjoy a barbecue and reggae and calypso music. For those who want to find out more about local culture a trip to Sea View Farm Village is a must. This is one of the main producers of the local folk pottery which has been produced since the late 17th century. These pottery items make great souvenirs to take home as gifts although it does not tend to last well in a colder environment.
Cultural attractions on the islands are plentiful and a trip to the Harmony Hall Art Gallery at Nonsuch Bay is a must. The exhibits here change regularly but if you visit in November you can take advantage of the special exhibition and craft fair where you can pick up a few locally made items to take home. The Museum of Antigua and Barbuda can be found in the centre of St John’s and it is the best place to learn more about the history of the islands.
St John’s is a great place to visit for anyone who wants to mingle with the locals and soak up some of the laid-back island atmosphere. It is a very busy place as it has a new cruise ship dock and ships arrive in the city regularly. There are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants in the city and every Friday and Saturday morning there is a great farmer’s market. These stalls sell everything from crafts to vegetables and stall holders are friendly.
Rather than choose one island over the other, why not split your holiday between the two? Travelling from one to the other is fairly easy and each has plenty of attractions to keep you busy. Most people travelling to the islands will arrive in Antigua either by boat or by plane but there are plenty of good transport links between the two islands. As tourism is growing rapidly here it is not the cheapest of islands although shopping around for accommodation and extras such as travel can help to keep the costs down for those on a low budget.