The Caribbean country of Antigua (pronounced “antiga”) and Barbuda is a country often overlooked on the world map due to its small size. Still, the country boasts an intriguing past, diverse culture, and challenging future. Here are some interesting facts about Antigua and Barbuda.
Facts About Antigua & Barbuda
1. Antigua and Barbuda is one of the smallest countries on earth, ranking 182nd by area.
With a combined size of only 443 km², the two islands of Antigua (280 km²) and Barbuda (161 km²) constitute one of the smallest nations in the world. In fact, the country’s area is only 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC.
2. The nation of Antigua and Barbuda comprises 46 islands and islets.
As an island nation, it won’t come as a surprise that the country’s landmass is somewhat fragmented. Besides the three main islands, Antigua, Barbuda, and Redonda, 43 smaller islets and islands contribute to the country’s total area.
3. Antigua and Barbuda was once an important exporter of guano.
Because of its rich bird fauna, the island of Redonda, now belonging to the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, was an important source of guano for the British Empire between 1860 and 1914, when operations seized.
All the miners left behind were goats and rats – invasive species that ravaged the island until a coordinated effort in the 2010s to “rewild” the island.
4. The nowadays uninhabited island of Redonda was once a kingdom.
At least, according to fantasy author M.P. Shiel. According to him, his father had laid claim to the islet in 1865 and was granted the title of King of Redonda by the British Colonial Office. He then goes on to claim that he himself was crowned king of the island by an Antigua bishop at the age of 15 in 1880 – a claim shrouded in doubt about its authenticity. After his death, the title transferred to Shiel’s editor John Gawsworth who was known for “holding court” at the Alma pub in Westbourne Grove, Bayswater, London until his death.
All claims to the kingdom since have been disputed, although the supposed current king is Javier Marías, a Spanish writer. Until today, the Kingdom of Redonda has not been officially recognized.
5. Antigua and Barbuda’s closest neighbor is Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Antigua and Barbuda is part of the eastern arc of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. As an island nation, it does not share any land borders with any country. The next closest sovereign nation is Saint Kitts and Nevis, located approximately 92 km from Antigua and Barbuda.
6. The highest peak in Antigua and Barbuda is Mount Obama.
The country’s highest peak is the remnant of a volcanic crater found on the island of Antigua, standing only 402 m (1,319 ft) tall. It was formerly known as Boggy Peak until 2009 when it was renamed in honor of 44th U.S. President Barack Obama. It was, however, changed back to Boggy Peak only 7 years later in 2016.
7. The head of state of Antigua and Barbuda is Queen Elizabeth II.
Antigua and Barbuda has been part of the Commonwealth since 1981 when it reached independence from the United Kingdom. As part of the Commonwealth, the country’s queen and head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. Today, the queen holds little power as the head of the government is the prime minister.
8. Antigua and Barbuda drives on the left.
Perhaps not surprising for it is part of the Commonwealth, cars in Antigua and Barbuda drive on the left.
9. The currency of Antigua and Barbuda is the East Caribbean dollar (XCD).
The current currency was introduced to the country in 1965. Prior to this, Antigua and Barbuda used the British West Indies dollar.
10. Antigua and Barbuda doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Clocks do not change in Antigua and Barbuda and daylight-saving has never been observed in the country.
11. The capital and largest city of Antigua and Barbuda is St. John’s.
With a population of just over 20,000, the capital St. John’s is the largest city in Antigua and Barbuda. Located on the island of Antigua, it is also the commercial center of the country and home to its chief port. It is served by V. C. Bird International Airport.
12. The national language of Antigua and Barbuda is English.
The official language in Antigua and Barbuda is English and there is a distinct variation in accent between the two islands. Antiguan Creole can be described as a language of the “common people” and its use is more common in lower socio-economic classes as Standard English has long been promoted as the language of the upper classes.
Apart from Standard English and Antiguan Creole, Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the country with about 10,000 speakers resulting from immigration from the Dominican Republic, particularly after 1981.
Taíno was most likely also spoken in Antigua and Barbuda until its extinction.
13. Christianity is the most common religion in Antigua and Barbuda.
With over 77% of the population, most believers in Antigua and Barbuda identify as Christian. Anglicans are the single largest denomination, followed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Pentecostalism. Other religions practiced in the country are primarily Islam and Rastafari.
14. The majority of the population of Antigua and Barbuda is of West African descent.
The majority of the country is of West African descent with 91% of the population also identifying as black. The remainder of the nearly 100,000 population consists of people of British, East Indian, Middle Eastern, or Chinese descent.
15. Antigua and Barbuda’s most important trade partner is Poland.
One of the most surprising facts about Antigua and Barbuda is perhaps that its most important trade partner is Poland. Exports from Antigua and Barbuda to Poland comprise more than 60% of the country’s total exports and consist mostly of parts for passenger and cargo ships. Other important trade partners are Cameroon, the US, and the UK.
16. Tourism is the biggest contributor to the economy of Antigua and Barbuda.
Tourism contributes to more than 50% of the GDP of Antigua and Barbuda and employs more than 80% of the country’s workforce. The country is most popular for its serene beaches, but also offers various other water sports and hiking opportunities. The largest number of visitors comes from the US and the UK.
17. Fungi is the national dish of Antigua and Barbuda.
Known as cou-cou in other Caribbean nations, fungie (sometimes also spelled fungi or fungee) is a dish prepared primarily from cornmeal and water. It most likely has its origins in Africa and somewhat resembles Italian polenta.
18. The national bird of Antigua and Barbuda is the frigatebird.
The island of Barbuda is home to the biggest frigate bird colony in the western hemisphere. Due to its importance to the local fauna, the frigatebird has been named the national bird of Antigua and Barbuda.
19. The fallow deer is the national animal of Antigua and Barbuda.
Although not endemic to either of the islands, the European Fallow actually is the national animal of Antigua and Barbuda. Its significance is underlined by the fact that it is also part of the country’s coat of arms.
20. Antigua and Barbuda has one of the most recognizable flags in the world.
Designed by Reginald Samuel in 1966 and formally adopted in 1967, the flag of Antigua and Barbuda consists of 8 elements. The golden sun at its center represents the dawn of a new ear. Red symbolizes the blood shed by slave forefathers of the country and the dynamism of its people. Black also ties in with the country’s African heritage.
Blue represents hope and together with the gold and white also represents the importance of tourism to the country. Finally, the V-shaped arrangement stands for “Victory at last”.
21. Cricket is the most popular sport in Antigua and Barbuda.
Internationally, Antiguan and Barbudan cricketers play for the West Indies cricket team. In 2007, Antigua and Barbuda even hosted the Cricket World Cup. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) also has its headquarters in the country’s capital city St. John’s.
Some of the most famous cricketers from Antigua and Barbuda include Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Curtly Ambrose, Sir Andy Roberts, and Sir Richie Richardson.
22. The local name of Antigua is Wadadli or Waladli.
It is assumed that the indigineous name Waladli means “our town”.
23. Christopher Columbus named Antigua without ever setting foot on the island.
It is falsely believed that explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the island prior to naming it Antigua. In fact, he only spotted it at a fair distance on his way to Hispaniola when he named it Santa Maria la Antigua.
24. Sugar used to be the main crop in Antigua and Barbuda.
As a British colony, the people of the modern country of Antigua and Barbuda suffered significantly during the slave trade. Slaves (at first locals, later imported from African colonies) were primarily used in the production and refinement of sugar cane, grueling and dangerous work. Although slavery was formally abolished in 1834, “former” slaves were an integral part of the sugar production in Antigua until its ultimate decline due to soil depletion and other environmental factors.
25. Antigua and Barbuda was one of the first nations to allow online gambling.
Looking for economic opportunities, Antigua and Barbuda was one of the first countries in the world to legalize and regulate online gambling. It remains one of the most important countries for online gambling companies today. It has led to WTO disputes with several countries, particularly the United States.
26. Antigua was once on a trade route between Israel and the Colombian cartel.
The Guns for Antigua scandal made headlines in 1990 when it was revealed by Louis Blom-Cooper Royal Commission that Israeli-made weapons had been funneled to the Medellin drug cartel through Antigua. After the release of the report, Antiguans took to the streets demanding “The Birds Must Go” which ultimately led to Vere Bird Jr resigning as Minister of Public Works.
27. The Antiguan Carnival is the most important annual event in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Antiguan Carnival, held every year at the turn between July and August, celebrates the emancipation from slavery in the country. The most important day is that of the J’ouvert (or juvé). Barbuda also holds a Carnival, albeit in June, which is known as Caribana. Together, these carnivals replace the once-celebrated Old Time Christmas Festival at a time that is more conducive to foreign visitors.
28. There are no rivers in Antigua and Barbuda.
Antigua and Barbuda does not have any rivers. Antigua has a few streams, while Barbuda has no flowing bodies of water at all.
29. Antigua and Barbuda has never won a medal at the Olympics.
Although Antigua and Barbuda has been participating in the Summer Olympics since 1976, the country has yet to win its first Olympic medal. Antigua and Barbuda does not compete in the Winter Olympics. The country made its first appearance at the Paralympics in 2012 with a single athlete competing in the games.
30. The island of Barbuda is owned by its inhabitants.
According to the Barbuda Land Act of 2007, the citizens of Barbuda communally own the land. As such, the citizens must give consent before any major development can take place on the island. One of the biggest projects voted on by the people of the island until today was a resort development project initiated by actor Robert De Niro and billionaire James Packer.
31. Oprah Winfrey owns a vacation home on Antigua.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most notable (semi-) residents on Antigua and Barbuda. Other famous (former) residents include Silvio Berlusconi, Giorgio Armani, and Timothy Dalton.
32. Antigua is home to one of the rarest snakes in the world.
The Antiguan racer is one of the rarest snakes in the world. Its native population was drastically reduced during the years of sugar cane production due to the introduction of invasive species. Only recently could its numbers be increased from 50 to about 1,000 specimens in the country.
33. Nelson’s Dockyard is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Antigua and Barbuda.
Nelson’s Dockyard, also known as Antigua Naval Dockyard and located in English Harbor, is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Antigua and Barbuda. It has been recognized since 2016 for its Georgian-style naval buildings and structures, set within a walled enclosure. The site is also a testament to the country’s former slaves, without who the harbor could not have been built.
34. Sailing is an important sport in Antigua and Barbuda.
As an island nation, one of the most popular sports among locals is sailing. Each year, Antigua and Barbuda hosts the Antigua Sailing Week which attracts more than 1,500 participants and more than 5,000 spectators.
35. Antigua and Barbuda battles a shortage of freshwater.
Due to its island nature, Antigua and Barbuda has a lack of fresh water which is worsened by reducing rainfalls. Like for many other island nations, climate change is a major stressor. Water management is also challenging due to indiscriminate freshwater pollution from distilleries and various other manufacturing plants.