I love Antigua. You may wonder what is so exciting in Antigua that I should almost travel 24 hours to get there. From Medicine Hat to Calgary to Toronto to Antigua – yes it is a long way from where I am sitting at home. If I am looking for a direct flight with minimum number of changeovers then there is a choice of only one airline – Air Canada twice a week from Toronto to Antigua.
Apart from the inconvenience of a long flight for Westerners (Torontonians have to just hop over the ocean and be in Antigua), Antigua offers breathtaking beauty with blue waters, 365 beaches (one for each day of the year), good food, cocktails and relaxation. It is sunny and warm all year with soothing trade winds.
Antigua (pronounced an-TEE-gah) is an island in the West Indies. It has a circumference of 87 kilometers. It has a population of about 70,000. It is the largest of the Leeward Islands, and the most developed and prosperous due to its upscale tourism industry, offshore banking, internet gambling services and education services, including two medical schools.
The capital city is St. John with a population of 30,000. The island has an international airport (VC Bird International Airport) which is serviced by many major airlines. It has deep harbour to accommodate large cruise ships.
It has secluded, powdery soft beaches. The island is internationally famous for yachting and sailing. It has two 18-hole golf courses and they charge US$40 for green fees and US$30 for power cart. You cannot complain about that.
There is no shortage of enticing bars, Calypso music and Caribbean cuisine with peace and tranquility to go with it. It is a slow paced island, requires patience for pleasure and happiness. There is no shortage of soft adventures like scuba, snorkeling, boating, fishing, and much, much more.
In 1784, the legendary Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed to Antigua and established Great Britain’s most important Caribbean base. And now over 200 years later Antigua and Barbuda have become premier tourist destinations. Barbuda is just 15-minute flight or 90-minute ferry ride from Antigua. Barbuda has a 17-mile pristine and untouched pink shell beach. It is also a haven for seabirds.
Going to Antigua, you get to enjoy two islands in one. Not a bad deal. Except for me. In Barbuda, I was rock climbing and missed my step, fell and got a bad wound on my right leg. Being a surgeon, I had to fix it myself.
Antigua is home of one of the world’s foremost maritime events, Sailing Week. The coral reefs attract snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world. There are several historic sites such as Betty’s Hope sugar mill, St. John’s Cathedral and Nelson’s Dockyard. You can tour the island in one day without any rush. And there is duty free shopping.
You have to spend one evening at Shirley’s Heights. It is a lovely hill with a view of Antigua’s southern coast. You can watch the sunset while drinking Jamaican rum. There is a barbecue every Sunday at 4:00 p.m. which is popular with tourists and locals. There is food, bar, music and dancing late into the night. Long live Shirley Heights!
Next time you are planning a holiday, say “Yaman, it is Antigua!”
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