When most people think of a Caribbean holiday destination, they imagine white sands that go on for miles, crystal-clear water that stretches as far as the eye can see, and a healthy dollop of sunshine. Anguilla is an island that embodies all of those virtues. It’s the sort of untouched, naturally-beautiful spot that makes visitors want to stay forever – and many do!
The island a preferred destination for wealthy tourists, particular from the States – and you’ll often find Hollywood A-listers rubbing shoulders with dot-com billionaires on the streets of its capital, The Valley.
Where is Anguilla Located?
The island can be found in the western part of the Caribbean. It’s among the northernmost of the Leeward Islands, which in turn constitute the northern half of the Lesser Antilles chain of islands which stretch from the east coast of Puerto Rico to the coast of Venezuela.
Naturally, such a location brings about a number of benefits – not least of which is the spectacular weather, especially during peak tourist seasons from December to April, when the climate is hot without being overwhelmingly humid. Anguilla also enjoys excellent travel links with neighbouring Saint-Martin, and offers a convenient stopping point for Caribbean cruises – an option which might appeal to tourists looking to take in a larger chunk of the area in a single trip.
How Big is Anguilla
If you look at a map of the Caribbean, then you’ll notice that Anguilla is virtually imperceptible. It’s dwarfed by nearby Puerto Rico, and it’s minuscule even be the standards of neighbouring islands along the Lesser Antilles.
The island draws its name from its shape: the word ‘Anguilla’ comes from the French, Spanish and Italian terms for ‘eel’. The island was once called ‘Snake Island’ for much the same reason: It’s a long, thin stretch of land, measuring around sixteen miles from head to tail. If you were feeling energetic, you might be able to walk around the entire circumference in a single day – though most Caribbean holidaymakers prefer to enjoy their trip from a more sedentary position!
History of Anguilla
Thousands of years ago, Anguilla was first settled by humans by travelling by raft from South America. These early settlers were known as the Amerindians, and the remains of their villages can still be found in excavation sites in Anguilla, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. Many of them date as far back as 1600BC.
For the following few millennia after the first settlers made landfall, life on the island proceeded relatively uneventfully. Of course, all of that was to change with the arrival of settlers from Europe. First came the English, who settled in 1650, only to be driven away by tribesman from another nearby island. It took the French to reclaim the island in 1666 – and they were obliging enough to return it to English control just a year later, as part of the Treaty of Brenda which brought an end to the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
Of course, an island paradise such as this wouldn’t go uncontested for long. The French would attempt to retake the island during two 18th century wars – first in 1745, during the War of Austrian Succession, and then a half-century later in 1796, during the Napoleonic Wars. On both occasions, the invaders were repelled.
Eventually, the British decided that Anguilla was too small a colony to warrant its own independent control, and so merged it with neighbouring Saint Kitts. This state of affairs would persist for more than a century – until the British Empire came to be dismantled.
When did Anguilla Gain Independence?
Throughout its history, this little island has been the grounds for many exchanges, peaceful and warlike, between the world’s great powers. It was only as recently as the 1960s, however, that it was granted independence from British rule – but not from the rule of nearby Nevis and St Christopher. The three islands endured a fractious relationship following independence, and eventually Anguilla seceded and became a separate crown colony. It now exists as a British Overseas Territory – and welcomes more tourists than conquerors!
Who Governs Anguilla?
Being a British overseas territory, Anguilla is officially ruled by its monarch – the Queen of England. Leaving this technicality to one side, Anguilla is a self-governing territory, whose people elect their own legislature. The democratic process in Anguilla is thriving, with a turnout at the last election of more than eighty percent of the population – which amounts to just over seven thousand people.