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Lesser Antilles: Map


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Location of the Lesser Antilles (green) in relation to the rest of the Caribbean

The Lesser Antilles, also known as the Caribbees, are part of the Antilles, which together with the Bahamasmarker, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Greater Antilles form the West Indiesmarker. The islands are a long partly volcanic island arc, most of which wrap around the eastern end of the Caribbean Seamarker on the western boundary with the Atlantic Oceanmarker, and some of which lie on the southern fringe of the sea just north of South America. The Lesser Antilles more or less coincide with the outer edge of the Caribbean Plate, and many of the islands were formed as a result of subduction when one or more Atlantic plates slipped under the Caribbean Plate.

Regional terminology

The two main groups of the Lesser Antilles are the Windward Islands in the south and the Leeward Islands in the north. The Windward Islands are called such 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.

A third category which is part of the Lesser Antilles is the Netherland Antillesmarker. The Netherlands Antilles consist of two groups of islands, one in the southwest (the Leeward Antilles or the ABC islandsmarker) just off the coast of Venezuelamarker, plus several others in the northeast (several of the Leeward Islands).


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

Leeward Islands:

Windward Islands:

Leeward Antillesmarker – islands north of the Venezuelanmarker coast (from west to east):

See also


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

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