Home>>Caribbean Atlas

Panda Volunteer Picture

Printable Caribbean Maps, Caribbean Country Maps

The Caribbean is a region consisting of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (most of which are enclosed by the sea), and the surrounding coasts. The region is located southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and North America, east of Central America, and to the north of South America.

Situated largely on the Caribbean Plate, the region comprises more than 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and cays. These islands, called the West Indies, generally form island arcs that delineate the eastern and northern edges of the Caribbean Sea.These islands are called the West Indies because when Christopher Columbus landed there in 1492 he believed that he had reached the Indies (in Asia).

The region consists of the Antilles, divided into the larger Greater Antilles which bound the sea on the north, the Lesser Antilles on the south and east (including the Leeward Antilles), the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands or the Lucayan Archipelago, which are in fact in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba, not in the Caribbean Sea.

Geopolitically, the West Indies are usually regarded as a subregion of North America and are organized into 27 territories including sovereign states, overseas departments, and dependencies. From January 3, 1958, to May 31, 1962, there was a short-lived country called the Federation of the West Indies composed of ten English-speaking Caribbean territories, all of which were then UK dependencies. The West Indies cricket team continues to represent many of those nations.

One Region, 7000 Islands
Rocked by music, rolled by change, lapped by turquoise water, blown by hurricanes-the Caribbean is not a place anyone could call static. It's a lively and intoxicating profusion of people and places spread over 7000 islands (fewer than 10% are inhabited).

But, for all they share, there's also much that makes them different. Forming a huge swath around the Caribbean Sea, the namesake islands contradict in ways big and small. Can there be a greater contrast than between socialist Cuba and its neighbour, the bank-packed Cayman Islands? Or between booming British-oriented St Kitts and its sleepy, Dutch-affiliated neighbour Sint Eustatius, just across a narrow channel? Travel long enough in this region and you¡¯ll soon discover there is no typical Caribbean.

Every Colour Everywhere
Azure seas, white beaches, green forests so vivid they actually hurt the eyes-there is nothing subtle about the bold colours of the Caribbean. Swim below the waters for a colour chart of darting fish and corals. Wander along the sand and stop at the paintfactory explosion that is a beach bar, from the garish decor to the rum punch in your glass. Hike into emerald wilderness and spot the accents of red orchids and yellow parrots.

Even the food is colourful, with rainbows of produce brightening up the local markets.

You'll also see every colour but dull at intense, costume-filled festivities like Carnival, celebrated throughout the region. And all this colour is infectious. Like birds shedding dull adolescent plumage, visitors leave their wardrobes of gray and black behind when they step off the plane and don the Caribbean palette.

Panda Volunteer Picture