Antigua and Barbuda Highlights
Your comprehensive travel guide to Antigua and Barbuda - All in one place!
Former British colonies in the eastern Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda boast some of the most ravishing beaches in the world. Antigua proudly proclaims it has "a beach for every day of the year," and Barbuda, Antigua's sleepy sister island, is also blessed with some pristine stretches of pink-tinged sand sprinkled with chic resorts. Not surprisingly, many movie stars and moguls jet to these islands to swim, surf, sun, and swoon on the dazzling shores.
Antigua draws the majority of visitors. Many arrive at the cruise ship port in the colorful capital of St. John's where shopping, museums, and historic buildings are the prime draws. The island preserves its history as a strategic naval port, and animal lovers can swim with friendly stingrays. Peaceful Barbuda has less than two percent of the islands' combined population. Seclusion seekers and nature lovers cherish the tranquility, while birders love the fabled frigate sanctuary. Water sports abound on both islands; diving, swimming, fishing, sailing, and windsurfing are all popular, and golfers will find a couple of scenic courses on Antigua.
History and Government
The island of Antigua was explored by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named for the Church of Santa Maria de la Antigua in Seville. Antigua was colonized by Britain in 1632; Barbuda was first colonized in 1678. Antigua and Barbuda joined the West Indies Federation in 1958. Full independence was granted Nov. 1, 1981.
The Bird family has controlled the islands since Vere C. Bird founded the Antigua Labor Party in the mid-1940s. While tourism and financial services have turned the country into one of the more prosperous in the Caribbean, law enforcement officials have charged that Antigua and Barbuda is a major center of money laundering, drug trafficking, and arms smuggling. Several scandals tainted the Bird family, especially the 1995 conviction of Prime Minister Lester Bird's brother, Ivor, for cocaine smuggling. In 2000, Antigua and 35 other offshore banking centers agreed to reforms to prevent money laundering.
Geography and Environment
Antigua and Barbuda are positioned in the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles and help separate the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. When compared to their peers, both islands are relatively low-lying limestone formations. The highest point is located in the hilly region of southwestern Antigua, as there, Mount Obama (formerly Boggy Peak), the remnant of a volcanic crater rises to 399 m (1309 ft).
Barbuda's highest elevation is 44.5 m (146 ft), a part of the highland plateau on the eastern edge of the island.
Both islands are ringed by reefs and sandbars and indented by beaches, small lagoons, and natural harbors.
There are no rivers of note and only a few streams, as rainfall amounts are quite light.
Antigua and Barbuda is a very small country in the Atlantic Ocean near Puerto Rico Nicknamed the "Land of 365 Beaches," it has the 4th smallest population in the world with an estimated 2019 population of 97,118. The country consists of two main inhabited islands Antigua and Barbuda that are miles apart, along with many small islands.
Despite its small population, it has a fairly high population density with 186 people per square kilometer (481/square mile).
The island of Antigua is more populous with about 82,000 residents. The capital of the country and the largest port is St John's on Antigua Island with a population of nearly 25,000.
About 96 percent of Antigua and Barbuda’s current population is descendants of the African slaves brought to the islands to work on sugar cane plantations. Most of the other three percent of residents are descendants of their British masters. Antigua and Barbuda’s main British influences are the islands’ dominant Anglican religion and obsession with cricket. Many of the world’s finest cricket players come from these small islands.
Antigua and Barbuda’s ever present calypso music was first created as a way for slaves to communicate with each other when activities were forbidden during the 18th century. Lacking bamboo instruments, the slaves instead made their music from steel pans and drums still played across Antigua and Barbuda today. Reggae is another popular type of music throughout the islands, which has been used to freely celebrate Carnival every summer since 1957.
Food and Drink
The national dish is fungie and pepper pot. Fungie is a dish very similar to the Italian Polenta being made mainly of cornmeal. Other local dishes include ducana, seasoned rice, saltfish and lobster (from Barbuda). Local confectionaries include sugar cake, fudge, raspberry and tamarind stew, and peanut brittle. The various restaurants around the island sell both local and international food. Lunch might be anything that can be easily bought from a nearby shop, especially a bakery.
Adults like beer and rum, many of which are made locally. On Saturday be prepared to find many drive-by barbecues at important road crossings all over the island. They are serving rice and chicken, dumplings, soup, and alike. Sunday is the day when the culture is most reflected in the food.
Festivals and Events
The most important cultural celebration is Antigua and Barbuda Carnival. It has historical value as it was inaugurated in 1834 to celebrate the end of slavery, it is a two-week event in the last week of July and first of August. It features parades, Carnival Queen pageants, live entertainment on the streets of St. John‘s, and food that can be purchased from booths set up for the occasion. It breathes spontaneity and the only rule is to join a party where locals and tourists mix.
Best Time to Visit Antigua and Barbuda
The best time to visit Antigua is between December and April when it's peak season, making it the perfect destination to escape wintery conditions. A good second option is to go to Antigua in May or June. This is the period right after peak season and just before the rainy months of July, August, September, October and November. Between June to November, the hurricane season can sometimes put a damper on things. However, that may not be a worry during your vacation as the last hurricane to hit Antigua directly was in 1999, and in 50 years’ time there have been only 6 direct hits.
The currency of Antigua and Barbuda is the Eastern Caribbean dollar. US dollars are widely accepted on the island, though you will usually be given change in EC dollars, and at a less favourable exchange rate.
The official language of Antigua and Barbuda is English, though there is also a widely spoken Creole that blends English and West African influences. There are also around 10,000 Spanish speakers.