Country guides Caribbean
Antigua Travel Guide
Nestled in a string of Caribbean islands stretching north from Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda pair up to form the perfect beach holiday destination. Indeed, Antigua is famously home to 365 beaches, one for each day of the year.
Antigua is the more developed of the two. The bustling capital of St John's welcomes cruise liners full of tourists ready to explore the old colonial forts and restored Georgian-harbour, before venturing further afield to the colourful Caribbean villages and mellow, welcoming smiles of the locals. Visitors can take in the view from Shirley Heights, hike to the secluded beaches, or marvel at rock formations and carvings such as the Pillars of Hercules and Devils Bridge.
Barbuda shows off the wilder side of the Caribbean, with extensive reefs, endless pearly white beaches, and more birds than people protected in the Codrington Lagoon National Park. Codrington is the capital city, from where adventurous souls can book shipwreck dives, or head out to explore the world's largest colony of Frigate birds.
Visitors flock to the islands to enjoy miles of perfect beaches, excellent hiking trails, exclusive resorts, and world-class scuba diving and snorkelling on the coral reefs. Events such as Sailing Week and the Summer Festival are also big drawcards.
Best time to visit Antigua
Situated in the tropics, Antigua has sunshine and warm temperatures year round. There is no bad time of year to visit. Hurricane season falls in summer and autumn, from June to October, but while there may be slightly higher rainfall, big storms are rare. Winter and spring, from December to April, are the best times to visit, when visitors can enjoy slightly cooler temperatures. However, because this is peak season, prices will be higher.
What to see in Antigua
-Take in the view from Shirley Heights, a restored military lookout overlooking English Harbour. Be sure not to miss the Sunday afternoon barbecue parties.
-Nelson's Dockyard National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Georgian-era marina is home to historic forts and the Dockyard Museum.
-Watch the world-class yachting and sailing regattas during Sailing Week (usually in early May).
-Visit the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, housed in St John's oldest building, for an insight into the island's history.
What to do in Antigua
-Explore the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, protected by Codrington Lagoon National Park off the coast of Bermuda.
-Visit some of the 365 beaches (one for each day of the year) for which Antigua is famous.
-Brave the 90-minute hike through the rainforest to the lovely, remote Rendezvous Bay.
-Extensive coral reefs provide perfect territory for scuba diving. See tropical fish and old shipwrecks in crystal clear, warm water.
Getting to Antigua
Passengers can arrive in Antigua either via cruise ship at the port in St John's Harbour, or at VC Bird International Airport. There are direct flights from various major US cities, as well as from the UK and Europe.
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid.
Spirited Band, Hell's Gate Steel Band.
The Sweetest Mango (2001), The Island (1980).
Cavalier Rum, Wadadli (Antiguan beer).
Fungie and pepper pot (the national dish); and other local dishes such as ducana, seasoned rice, saltfish and lobster.
What to buy
Antigua is one of the only places to find lavender-coloured jade, which is turned into stunning jewellry. Search for wood-carved masks in Chichicastenango Market. Other great souvenirs include bold-coloured textiles, local pottery, and Caribbean clothing.
What to pack
Visitors should be sure to pack plenty of sun cream, a swimming costume, light summer clothes, a hat and sunglasses. Anyone who is a magnet for the mozzies should also add bug-repellent. A waterproof jacket will be useful for the odd tropical downpour. Casual wear is frowned upon in town in the evening, so it's best to bring along a nice dress or a collared shirt and long pants for an evening out in St John's.
What's on in Antigua
Summer is festival time in Antigua. Each year the trade winds provide the stage for Sailing Week, the biggest maritime event in the Caribbean, with a great selection of world-class sailing and yachting races. For those not taking part, there are spectacular vantage points from which to take in the action, while also enjoying the scenery and some delicious local food and drink. The end of July heralds Summer Festival, a ten day long feast of steel pan drums, dancing, and vibrant colourful costumes. The Summer Festival ends with the Antigua Carnival, when the islanders parade the streets of St John in full masquerade costume.
Did you know?
-The highest point on Antigua was known as Boggy Peak. It was renamed Mount Obama in 2009 to honour the former US president on his birthday.
-Cricket is almost a religion in Antigua. Despite its small size, the island gave the world greats of the game such as Sir Vivian Richards and Curtly Ambrose.
-Antigua is one of the Leeward Islands, which separate the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.
A final word
A friendly local welcome, endless white sand beaches, miles of coral reefs perfect for snorkelling or scuba diving, and the unique atmopshere and flavours of the eastern Caribbean await those lucky enough to arrive on the shores of Antigua and Barbuda.