Lesser Antilles

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The Lesser Antilles (also known as the Caribbees) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most form a long, partly volcanic island arc between the Greater Antilles to the north-west and the continent of South America.[1] The islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Together, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles (or the Caribbean in its narrowest definition). When combined with the Lucayan Archipelago, all three are known as the West Indies.

Region of the Caribbean
Location within the Caribbean

Location within the Caribbean
Region Caribbean
Island States
 • Total 14,364 km2 (5,546 sq mi)
Population (2009)
 • Total 3,949,250
 • Density 274.9/km2 (712/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Lesser Antillean
Time zone AST (UTC−4)
 • Summer (DST) ADT (UTC−3)


The islands of the Lesser Antilles are divided into three groups: the Windward Islands in the south, the Leeward Islands in the north, and the Leeward Antilles in the west.

The Windward Islands are so called because they were more windward to sailing ships arriving in the New World than the Leeward Islands, given that the prevailing trade winds blow east to west. The trans-Atlantic currents and winds that provided the fastest route across the ocean brought these ships to the rough dividing line between the Windward and Leeward Islands.

The Leeward Antilles consist of the Dutch ABC islands just off the coast of Venezuela, plus a group of Venezuelan islands.

Geological formation

The Lesser Antilles more or less coincide with the outer edge of the Caribbean Plate. Many of the islands were formed as a result of the subduction of oceanic crust of the South American Plate under the Caribbean Plate in the Lesser Antilles subduction zone. This process is ongoing and is responsible not only for many of the islands, but also for volcanic and earthquake activity in the region. The islands along the South American coast are largely the result of the interaction of the South American Plate and the Caribbean Plate which is mainly strike-slip, but includes a component of compression.

Political divisions

The Lesser Antilles are divided into eight independent nations and numerous dependent and non-sovereign states (which are politically associated with the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and the United States). Over one third of the total area and population of the Lesser Antilles lies within Trinidad and Tobago, a sovereign nation comprising the two southernmost islands of the Windward Island chain.

Sovereign states

Name Subdivisions Area
(1 July 2005 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
 Antigua and Barbuda Parishes 440 85,632 195 St. John's
Barbuda 161 1,370 9.65 Codrington
Redonda 2 0 0 n/a
 Barbados Parishes 431 284,589 660 Bridgetown
 Dominica Parishes 754 72,660 96.3 Roseau
 Grenada Parishes 344 110,000 319.8 St. George’s
 Saint Kitts and Nevis Parishes 261 42,696 163.5 Basseterre
Nevis 93 12,106 130.1 Charlestown
 Saint Lucia Quarters 616 173,765 282 Castries
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Parishes 389 110,000 283 Kingstown
 Trinidad and Tobago Regional corporations 5,131 1,299,953 253.3 Port of Spain
Tobago 300 54,000 180 Scarborough
Total 8,367 2,179,295 260.5

Non-sovereign states/countries and territories

Name Sovereign State Subdivisions Area
(1 July 2005 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
 Aruba Netherlands 193 103,065 534 Oranjestad
 Anguilla UK 91 13,600 132 The Valley
 Bonaire Netherlands 288 14,006 246.3 Kralendijk
 British Virgin Islands UK Districts 153 27,000 260 Road Town
 Curaçao Netherlands 444 180,592 406.7 Willemstad
 Guadeloupe France Arrondissements 1,780 440,000 249.1 Basse-Terre
 Martinique France Arrondissements 1,128 400,000 340 Fort-de-France
 Montserrat UK 120 4,655 38.8 Brades
 Saba Netherlands 13 1,424 109.5 The Bottom
 Saint Barthélemy France 21 7,448 354.6 Gustavia
 Saint-Martin France 53 35,000 675 Marigot
 Sint Eustatius Netherlands 34 3,100 147.6 Oranjestad
 Sint Maarten Netherlands 34 40,917 1,704 Philipsburg
 United States Virgin Islands United States Districts 346 108,448 313.1 Charlotte Amalie
 Nueva Esparta Venezuela 1,150 491,610 402.15 La Asunción
 Federal Dependencies of Venezuela Venezuela 342 2,155 6 Gran Roque
Total 5,997 1,769,955 303

Several islands along the north coast of Venezuela and politically part of that country are also occasionally considered part of the Lesser Antilles. These are listed in the section below.


The main Lesser Antilles are (from north to south to west):

Leeward Islands

Windward Islands

Leeward Antilles

Map of the Leeward Antilles

Islands north of the Venezuelan coast (from west to east):

See also



  • Rogonzinski, Jan. A Brief History of the Caribbean. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

External links

The dictionary definition of Lesser Antilles at Wiktionary

Coordinates: 14°14′N 61°21′W / 14.233°N 61.350°W

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