Antigua and Barbuda is a Caribbean country, located in the Lesser Antilles, comprising fundamentally two main islands: the island of Antigua and the island of Barbuda. Antigua is the largest and the most populous, while Barbuda is a small piece of paradise, with wonderful beaches, but a still incipient touristic infrastructure. In total, some 80,000 people share an area of 440km² (170mi²).
St. John’s airport, located in northwestern Antigua, is the country’s main gateway, providing direct connections to Europe, North America and several other Caribbean islands. Besides that, the capital, St. John’s, is also in the itinerary of some of the main cruise ships of the world, contributing to make the number of tourists frequently soar during daytime.
The landscape of St. John’s is dominated by the Anglican Church building, rebuilt at least three times since it was first built in 1683 – several earthquakes have brought it down or damaged it profoundly. At the moment of this writing (early 2016) the cathedral is once again undergoing renovation due to a recent seismic event. Nearby, the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda is located at one of the country’s oldest buildings, originally built in 1750 to host the courthouse. This museum, while modest, covers the history of the country, from pre-history to the British settlement, until the present.
Whenever a cruise ship is in port (and there are frequently more than one), a great number of drivers and tour guides gather near St. John’s dockyard to offer their services. Here in Antigua it is much easier and convenient to hire this kind of service than to try to rent a car and explore the island on your own (tours are generally inexpensive, can include the main highlights of the island, avoid the need of purchasing a local license and driving through poorly signed roads – when doing so, it pays off to research the local vendors for the best deal in terms of price and itinerary).
The main attraction of Antigua is Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, located 18km (11mi) away from the capital. This park encircles a dockyard used by some of the best known British admirals, like Nelson, Rodney and Hood. Nowadays the park also includes a nice museum remembering the history of the age of pirates and corsairs, besides several Georgian buildings. A small distance away from Nelson’s Dockyard, and also accessible through a trail going up a hill from English Harbour, Shirley Heights offer some of the prettiest panoramic views of the island from its viewpoints located some 150m (500ft) above the sea. The Dow Hill’s Interpretation Center stands nearby, offering the opportunity to learn more about the historic relevance of the region through a video session, and also allowing for more spectacular sights.
Leaving the area where Nelson’s Dockyard and Shirley heights are, it is worth it to take the Fig Tree Drive and head towards Antigua’s southwest beaches, like Turners Beach, Valley Church, Darkwood Beach and Ffryes Beach. From any of these beaches, the way back to St. John`s will require only 10km to 15km (about 8mi).
The island of Barbuda can be visited taking a ferry from St. John`s. The trip takes about one and a half hour and can be offered as infrequently as only once a day on each way. Time allowing, other islands of the region can be easily reached from Antigua. Barbados, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin and Saint Lucia, among others, are just a flight away.