The two mountainous islands of St Kitts and Nevis are of volcanic origin, with a highest point of 1,156m in St Kitts; many beaches in St Kitts are of black volcanic sand, while those in Nevis are silver. Celebrated author Caryl Phillips, born in St Kitts in March 1958, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2004 with his book, A Distant Shore.
The two-island country of St Kitts and Nevis lies in the northern part of the Leeward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles in the Eastern Caribbean. The two islands are separated by a channel some 3km in width.
Basseterre (capital, pop. 13,400 in 2010), St Paul’s (1,300), Sadlers (1,000), Middle Island (900), Tabernacle (840), Mansion (830), Cayon (810) and Sandy Point (790) on St Kitts; Charlestown (2,200) on Nevis.
There are good road networks on St Kitts and Nevis, 43% paved.
A regular passenger ferry service operates between Basseterre and Charlestown, taking 40 minutes. Basseterre has a deep-water port, with berthing facilities for cruiseships and cargo vessels. There is a smaller port at Sandy Point. Nevis has a 126m pier at Charlestown. There is also a smaller port at Newcastle.
The Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport at Golden Rock, St Kitts (3km from Basseterre), receives direct flights from the USA and Canada, while flights to other continents generally go via Antigua. The Nevis airfield is at Newcastle.
St Kitts and Nevis is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
The country consists of two mountainous islands of volcanic origin in the Eastern Caribbean. The larger island, St Kitts, is 37km long, with a central mountain range broken by ravines and a spacious fertile valley running down to the capital Basseterre. The highest point is Mount Liamuiga (1,156m). The beaches are mostly of black volcanic sand except for the south-eastern peninsula, which has beaches of golden sand. The almost circular island of Nevis to the south-east has beaches of silver sand and coconut groves, and rises to a central peak (Mt Nevis, 985m) which is usually capped with white clouds.
Tropical, cooled by the north-east trade winds. There is no distinct rainy season. The heat is not searing; the highest recorded temperature is 33°C. Hurricanes may occur between June and November.
The lower mountain slopes of St Kitts, particularly to the north, are arable and used for growing sugar cane. Uncultivated lowland slopes are covered in tropical woodland and exotic fruits. The higher slopes provide short grass for pasturage. Tropical rainforest or dense bushy cover occurs on the central range; unusually, the forested area is increasing in size. Nevis, where much of the land is cultivated by peasant farmers growing vegetables and coconuts, has a large coconut forest on the west side. Forest covers 42% of the total land area of St Kitts and Nevis and there was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990-2010.
Before the arrival of Europeans the only land-animal life was small rodents and reptiles. The French introduced the green vervet monkey to the islands, and mongooses and deer later followed. Birdlife includes pelicans and frigate birds on the coast, hummingbirds in the forested areas and quail and pigeons in the mountains.