Not far from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands lies the West Indian island of Antigua. Named in 1493 by Christopher Columbus for a beautiful church in Spain, the first permanent European settlement on the island was established by English colonists in 1632. Thanks to the British influence, native Antiguans speak English as their first language, making Antigua one of the easier Caribbean holiday destinations for UK visitors to navigate.
The climate in Antigua is as close to perfect as it gets. It never gets cold – or even cool – yet in the summertime it stays below the outrageous 32 degrees Celsius and higher found in holiday destinations such as Florida. The warm air temperature means warm water, making a dip in the clear blue water feel like slipping into a comfortable bath.
Of course most holidaymakers visit Antigua for the beautiful beaches, the tropical climate, and the water sports, but Antigua, like all of the Caribbean islands, has a rich culture and history that are also fun to explore.
For example, take a trip to Sea View Farm Village, the center of Antiguan folk pottery. Pottery in Antigua dates back to the eighteenth century, when African slaves used local clay to form cookware. Today, Antiguan pottery is still fired in the traditional style, and Sea View Farm Village is the best place on the island for shopping for these gorgeously-crafted clay vessels.
Art lovers should visit Brown's Bay and stroll around the Harmony Hall Art Gallery. The epicenter for Atigua's art community, the Hall hosts several rotating exhibits each year. The most exciting time to visit Harmony Hall is November, when the annual Artists' Exhibition and Craft Fair are held. After admiring Harmony Hall's art, relax at the nearby bar. The bar, built in an old sugar mill tower, provides one of the best panoramic views in all of Antigua.
History buffs should be sure to stop by the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in St. John's. The museum traces the history of the islands from its geological origins to the present day. One of the best features of the museum is the life-size replica of a traditional Arawak dwelling.
The English Harbour, once an important Caribbean sea port for English sailors, is today a part of Antigua's charming historic district. Abandoned in the latter part of the 19th century, Nelson's Dockyard has since been completely restored, and today is the only Georgian dockyard in the world.
Above the English Harbour is Shirley Heights. Students of history will be interested to see the old military buildings and gun emplacements, but the reason most people visit Shirley Heights is for the incredible view. On Sunday afternoons, Shirley Heights hosts informal parties, filled with barbecue to eat, rum punch to drink, and reggae music to relax to.
Since the island is relatively flat, there's not much hiking to be done, but birdwatchers will find Antigua an enchanting island. Over one hundred and twenty bird species make their home in Antigua, ranging from tiny hummingbirds to ospreys, gulls, herons, and egrets.
What would a tropical island in the Caribbean be without beautiful beaches? Antiguans like to joke that the 365 beaches on their little patch of paradise mean that there's one beach for each day of the year. On the Caribbean side of the island, the beaches are calm and tame. Antigua is not the world's best location for surfing, but for snorkeling, laying in the sand, or just relaxing in the water, Antigua is perfect.
The beaches near St. John's are more developed and convenient to accommodations, but the beaches in the southwest corner are perfect for holidaymakers looking for a little more solitude and rustic environment. Doigs Beach and Rendezvous Bay are especially quiet, although reaching them requires a bit of rough travel.
Antigua is a great holiday destination for anyone looking for a quieter, more relaxed vacation. Although Antigua doesn't have the exciting buzz of places like Cuba and Jamaica, it's a great spot for honeymoons, family vacations, and sailing or fishing. Don't pass up a chance to enjoy the charm and history of Antigua.
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