Antigua and Barbuda , independent Commonwealth nation, West Indies, in
the Leeward Islands. It consists of the island of Antigua (108 sq mi/280 sq km)
and two smaller islands, Barbuda and Redonda. Saint John's is the capital.
Antigua is a hilly island with a heavily indented coast, while Barbuda is a flat
coral island dominated by a large lagoon on its western side. Most residents are
of African ancestry. Anglicanism is the predominant religion. English is the
official language, but most islanders speak a local patois. Agriculture,
fishing, and manufacturing (bedding, handicrafts, and electronics) also
contribute to the economy. Periodic hurricanes can cause heavy damage to the
Antigua was sighted by Columbus in 1493 and named for a Spanish church in
Seville. The islands were successfully colonized in 1632, when the British
introduced sugarcane from St. Kitts. Barbuda was colonized from Antigua in 1661.
The abolition of slavery in 1834 hurt the sugar industry; sugar has not been
commercially grown on the island since 1985. Antigua, with Barbuda and Redonda
as dependencies, became an associated state of the Commonwealth in 1967 and
achieved full independence within the Commonwealth in 1981.
Away from the resorts, Antigua retains a traditional West Indian character,
manifest in the gingerbread architecture found around the capital, the
popularity of steel band, calypso and reggae music, and in festivities such as
Carnival. English traditions also play an important role, notably in the
popularity of Anglicanism and cricket. Several Antiguan cricketers are
considered among the best of all time. It has great reefs and wrecks for diving
and snorkelling. On neighbouring Barbuda you can track the island's fabled
frigate birds and visit the Caribbean's largest rookery.
Barbuda shares the West Indian culture of its larger neighbor, but its
isolation has given it some peculiar traits. Most of its 1100 people share half
a dozen surnames and can trace their lineage to a small group of slaves brought
to the island in the late 1600s.
Barbuda is a quiet, single-village island that has less than 2% of the
nation's population and gets very few independent visitors, mainly ardent bird
watchers and a few yachties enjoying its clear waters and tranquil beaches.
Antigua is a touch more happening, but the pace is still deliciously slow.
Both the islands are best visited during the cool and dry winter months
(mid-December to mid-April), the peak tourist season. In January and February,
the coolest months, the average daily high temperature is 81°F (27°C).
The islands get even hotter in the summer. In July and August, the warmest
months, the average daily high is 86°F (30°C). It's less dry in the autumn,
during the rainy season, though Antigua's fairly dry year-round.