Last updated: 12:54 PM ET, Wed September 12 2018
Port Zante in Basseterre town, St. Kitts And Nevis (photo via mikolajn / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

St. Kitts and Nevis

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The Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis, also known as the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis, is a two-island nation located in the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. It’s the smallest sovereign nation in the Americas, in both area and population. St. Kitts & Nevis were among the first Caribbean islands to host European settlements. St. Kitts was also home to the first British and French colonies in the Caribbean.

The capital city and government headquarters is Basseterre on St. Kitts. The smaller state of Nevis lies only two miles southeast of St. Kitts, across a shallow channel called "The Narrows.” The islands are volcanic in origin, with large central peaks covered in tropical rainforest; the steep slopes leading to these peaks are mostly uninhabited. The majority of the population on both islands lives closer to the sea, where the terrain flattens. There are numerous rivers descending from the mountains of both islands, providing fresh water to the local population. St. Kitts also has a small lake. St. Kitts’ topography features rich, highly productive volcanic soil, while Nevis is distinguished by abundant freshwater and hot volcanic springs. The highest peak, at 1,156 meters, is Mount Liamuiga.

St. Kitts & Nevis offers an island-wide natural beauty that exemplifies the best the Caribbean has to offer. In addition to sandy beaches, imposing mountains and lush rainforest, St. Kitts has many species of tropical birds rarely found elsewhere. St. Kitts also features colonies of gentle, playful monkeys said to have been introduced hundreds of years ago by pirates. The tropical climate is tempered by constant sea breezes, and there’s little seasonal temperature variation, with the rainy season extending from May to November.

Basseterre's historic district features excellent examples of Creole and West Indian architecture. Basseterre is among the oldest Caribbean settlement towns; French Basseterre dates to 1672 and by the end of the 18th century Basseterre had a population of 3,000 and 800 houses. Devastating fires eventually resulted in much of the town being rebuilt, and it has been faithfully restored to indigenous styles, including the government headquarters and the courthouse. A walk through Independence Square, The Circus and Liverpool Row offers excellent examples of public, commercial and residential styles.

Brimstone Hill Fortress was built in stages between the 1690s and 1790s, offering a well-preserved example of a large, complete military community of the 18th century. Nearly 800 feet high, the fortress has steep, precipitous slopes and walls made predominantly of stone skillfully fashioned from the hard volcanic rock of which from which the hill itself was formed. The mortar to cement the stones was produced on site from the limestone which covers much of the middle and lower slopes, making the Fortress in essence a man-made outgrowth of the natural hill. The Fortress’ prominent Citadel is one of the earliest and finest surviving examples of a new style of fortification known as the “polygonal system.”

The physical location of the Fortress presents attractive panoramic vistas of forested mountains, cultivated fields, of the historic township of Sandy Point, and of the neighboring Dutch, English and French islands across the Caribbean Sea.