Situated in the middle of the Leeward Islands, 17 degrees north of the Equator, Antigua, encompassing 280 square kilometres (108 square miles) is larger than its neighbour, Barbuda, which is a flat coral island to the north.
The island’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism and visitors will find a warm welcome from the locals, and just as warm a welcome from the sea on the island’s 365 beaches which help provide the classic picture postcard Caribbean break.
Life in Antigua is governed by the sea; it has a huge sailing and yachting scene and Antigua Sailing Week is one of the premier regattas on the planet. But there is more to the island than messing around in boats and lazing on the beach. Popular attractions include Fig Tree Drive, which comprises 32 km (20 miles) of winding roads through the fishing villages and hills, the markets at the south end of the capital, St John’s and exploring the caves at Two Foot Bay in Barbuda. Back to the water, Devil’s Bridge is a natural arch carved by the sea in limestone ledges to the north-eastern part of Antigua and is a popular spot for a swim with the locals.
The island gained independence in 1981, having been discovered and claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus in 1493. There followed periods of English, and a brief French, occupation with Horatio Nelson arriving in 1784 to develop the British naval facilities which resulted in the building of Nelson’s Dockyard, a popular visiting place for tourists.
Antigua can be an expensive place to eat and drink, although a visit to a local bar to watch the locals playing Wari, an ancient board game, normally involving bets for the next round of drinks, or a trip to take in the slightly more eccentric pastime of crab racing, also put on at local pubs, comes cheap enough.