Devil's Bridge, Antigua © Robert Pittman
With a whopping 365 shimmering sandy beaches, a near-perfect climate, and a laid-back attitude to life, it is no surprise that Antigua, together with its smaller sister island Barbuda, is today one of the Caribbean's most popular tourist spots.
Along with the uninhabited Redonda Island, Antigua and Barbuda form a tiny nation with a population descended largely from African slaves and a mix of Europeans. Visitors flock to enjoy the stretches of beach and miles of excellent hikes on Antigua, the exclusive resorts and superb bird sanctuary on Barbuda, and world-class snorkelling and scuba diving among wrecks along the nation's coral reefs.
In 1784, Admiral Horatio Nelson chose Antigua as the base for Great Britain's Caribbean Fleet. The warm winds that Nelson relied on to bring his ships safely into harbour now contribute to one of the world's biggest maritime events known as Sailing Week.
The capital city of St John's is a lively hub for shopping and dining. Most tourist activity is confined to the harbour-front complexes of Heritage Quay, and the more traditional Redcliffe Quay. For those interested in the early history of the island, there is the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, housed in the colonial Court House (circa 1750). Codrington (named after sugar plantation owner Christopher Codrington) is Barbuda's main city and acts as a base for explorations of the many coastal shipwrecks, as well as the island's diverse bird population.
Antigua's highest point is Obama Peak, at 1,319 feet (402m), but the island is mostly flat and covered with sugar cane, tropical fruit trees, palms and exotic flowers. For those tired of lazing on the beach, there is sailing, diving, snorkelling, and other leisurely pursuits on offer in this Caribbean paradise.