Leeward Islands

Shutterstock/44457904/Ritu Manoj JethaniThe Leeward Islands are a geographical grouping of small, mostly volcanic islands in the northeastern Caribbean. They share a chequered history of territorial struggles between colonial powers, plantation agriculture and slavery, but, despite swinging between English, French, Spanish and Dutch control, they have diverged nationally. French is spoken on St-Barthélemy and St-Martin, Dutch on Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius, and English everywhere.

St-Barthélemy is unmistakably French, from the aroma of croissants and coffee to the Parisian traffic and parking problems. Saba's neat and tidy villages are typically Dutch, though the landscape is far from flat. Nevis is the quintessential tropical British colony, despite its independence, with elegant plantation houses, verandas and manicured gardens. In colonial times they were nearly all sugar producers, but today their economies rely on tourism. Huge cruise ships block out the light when they dock at Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, and shopkeepers look forward to a bonanza, while English harbour in Antigua hums with the rigging of hundreds of yachts when a regatta is in full swing and the bars are filled with music and noisy revelry at night.

Antigua, Sint Maarten and St Kitts all receive long-haul flights, with smaller planes fanning out from these hubs to connect with the other islands. This makes it easy to island hop and plan a two- or three-centre holiday. From Antigua it is easy to visit Barbuda and Montserrat, from Sint Maarten it is a short hop to Anguilla, Saba, Statia and St-Barth, while St Kitts is paired with Nevis.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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