Saint Lucia is a mountainous country of volcanic origin ringed with sandy beaches.
The country has more Nobel laureates per capita than any other country: poet and playwright Derek Walcott, born in Castries, Saint Lucia, on 23 January 1930, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992; and Sir Arthur Lewis was Nobel economics laureate in 1979.
Saint Lucia is part of the Windward Islands group, which form an arc jutting out from the Eastern Caribbean into the Atlantic. It lies south of Dominica and north of Barbados.
Castries (capital, pop. 67,700 in 2010, including Bexon, Babonneau, Ciceron and La Clery), Dennery (3,700), Laborie (3,500), Monchy (3,100), Vieux Fort (3,000), Grande Rivière (2,700), Augier (2,500), Micoud (2,200), Soufrière (1,500) and Anse La Raye (1,400).
There are 1,210 km of roads, mainly unpaved. The main cross-island route runs from Castries in the north to Vieux Fort in the south.
The main ports are Castries and Vieux Fort. A fast catamaran service operates between Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica. Several cruise lines call at the island.
Hewanorra International Airport lies 67 km south of Castries and George F. L. Charles, 3 km to the north-east.
Saint Lucia is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
Saint Lucia hosts the headquarters of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Saint Lucia is a pear-shaped mountainous island of volcanic origin, 43 km long. In the centre of the island, Mt Gimie rises to 950 metres, while Gros Piton (798 metres) and Petit Piton (750 metres) lie to the west, rising sheer out of the sea. Sulphurous springs, steam and gases bubble out of a volcanic crater a few kilometres from Petit Piton. The mountains are intersected by short rivers, debouching in places into broad fertile valleys.
The hot tropical climate is moderated all year round by the north-east trade winds. The dry season is January to April, the rainy season May to November.
The most significant environmental issues are deforestation and soil erosion, particularly in the north of the island.
With its economy traditionally based on agriculture, about 30 per cent of the land area is under cultivation. Elsewhere there is rainforest with exotic and varied plant-life, many with brilliant flowers. Forest covers 77 per cent of the land area.
This small island has rich birdlife including several unique species, for example the Saint Lucia oriole and the Saint Lucia black finch. The Saint Lucia parrot was the subject of a successful conservation programme established in 1978 which raised the population from some 150 birds to over 400. Native reptiles include the Saint Lucia tree lizard and the pygmy lizard.