In the Middle Ages, portulans - ancient maps of the world used by sailors - depicted Antilia, an island in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Portugal. Judging by its size and rectangular shape, the island was almost a mirror copy of Portugal itself. The sailors did not find Antilia, but this ghost island gave its name to the whole archipelago, located thousands of kilometers from Europe, in the Caribbean Sea.
At the end of the XV century, at the very beginning of the era of the Great geographical discoveries, the expedition of Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic and discovered previously unknown shores. Taking the newly discovered lands for the legendary Antilia, the researchers gave them the name Antilles.
The archipelago forms an extensive semicircle located between South and North America and washed by the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the neighboring Gulf of Mexico. It is divided into two large groups - the Big and Small Antilles. The first includes Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. The second includes about 50 small islands forming an arc connecting Trinidad and Puerto Rico.
The Greater Antilles are fragmented fragments of the mainland. Most of the territory of each of them is occupied by mountain systems. Almost all of Jamaica and the south of Puerto Rico are occupied by plateaus and block mountains, while in Haiti, four ridges extend along the longitudinal fault valleys along the meridional direction. The exception is Cuba, where mountains of two kilometer height border only the southeast coast, while the rest of the island is occupied by a lowland plain.
Small Antilles are biogenic (coral reefs and atolls) and volcanic origin. In the central part of many of them (Dominica, Saint Vincent, Martinique, Guadeloupe and others) there are extinct or active volcanoes, bordered by lowlands, which form the products of eruptions. The coastline of the archipelago is very rugged and very picturesque due to the abundance of alternating capes and bays, as well as ancient and modern coral reefs.
The composition of the Lesser Antilles includes the possessions of France, Great Britain and Venezuela, in addition, a separate group stands out - the Netherlands Antilles, consisting of two subgroups. These are the islands of Bonaire, Aruba and Curacao, located in the south of the archipelago, off the coast of Venezuela, and the islands of Saint-Martin, Saba and Saint Eustatius, located almost a thousand kilometers north.
The archipelago has a difficult and tragic history that has left its mark on the culture of each state located in the Caribbean. Pirate romanticism and the tragedy of the colonial past are closely intertwined, and the sonorous names of the islands remind of the glorious era of great discoveries.
Now the Antilles is one of the most popular tourism destinations. The blooming nature of the tropics, the azure waters of the ocean, the traces of ancient civilizations and the spirit of freedom preserved after centuries attract people from all over the planet. Each island has a bright personality, each state has its own unique characters. Haiti is famous for outdoor activities, Jamaica - for reggae rhythms, Martinique - for elite cane rum, Barbados - for marvelous orchids, Cuba - for colorful carnivals and vibrant nightlife, and Saint-Martin - for culinary art.
Since ancient times, the life of the archipelago is inextricably linked with the ocean. And in the modern tourism industry, marine entertainment plays an important role. Their choice here is simply huge: diving to coral gardens, underwater caves and sunken ships, snorkeling, cruises on sailing yachts, boat trips on a submarine with panoramic windows, fishing in the ocean, excursions to uninhabited islets. There are also opportunities for cliff diving, surfing, kite and windsurfing and deep water solo (climbing over the sea without insurance).
Land trips dedicated to the colonial and pirate past, as well as the modern culture and magnificent nature of the archipelago are also interesting.