Home / Central America / Dutch Caribbean - Netherlands Antilles / Netherlands Antilles: remains of the Dutch colonial empire

Netherlands Antilles: remains of the Dutch colonial empire

This post is also available in: Deutsch

The Netherlands Antilles (Nederlandse Antillen) are part of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea and are made up of two groups of islands almost 1,000 km apart.

The first group, the southern one, is made up of the islands of Curaçao, Klein Curaçao, Bonaire and Klein Bonaire. These islands are located just off the coast of Venezuela. In the past, the island of Aruba was also part of it, but today it has a different status.

The second group of islands, the northern one, is made up of the islands of Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten (of this island only the southern part of the island is Dutch, the rest is French). This second group of islands is located southeast of the Virgin Islands and northwest of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The Netherlands Antilles dissolved in 2010 and the islands that were part of it went to form the states or municipalities of the Netherlands. The capital was Willemstad on the island of Curaçao.


The largest and most important island in the Netherlands Antilles is Curaçao (444 sq km). The island is formed by a semi-arid savannah. The territory is flat with some undulating hills. In the north-west side there is the highest peak, the Christoffelberg (375 meters). Twenty  kilometers southeast of Curaçao is the small uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao.

The island of Bonaire (288 sq km) is located east of Curaçao. It too has a semi-arid soil, but there are numerous salt water lakes. In the northern area there is Mount Brandaris (240 meters). At the center of the west coast of Bonaire, less than 1 km away from it, is the small island of Klein Bonaire (6 sq km).


The other three islands of Sint Eustatius (21 sq km), Saba (13 sq km) and Sint Maarten (34 sq km, the Dutch part) are of volcanic origin and rich in vegetation. These islands are higher than the Curaçao group, in fact, Sint Maarten rises up to 414 meters of the Pic Paradis (which is however located in the French part of the island). The island of Sint Eustatius reaches 601 meters with Mount Mazinga and the small Saba is formed practically by a single volcanic peak, Mount Scenery (877 meters), which is the highest peak in the Netherlands Antilles.

The economy of Curaçao and Bonaire is based on tourism, on oil refining, on agriculture (sisal, citrus, aloe and liquor production (Curaçao)) and on financial activities. The other islands have an economy mainly related to tourism and agriculture (sugar cane, cotton, fruit, potatoes).

The climate of the Netherlands Antilles.

  • Area: 800 sqkm.
  • Population: 183,000 (2005 data) (Mulattos (descendants of European and Africans) 85%, others 15%).
  • State Capital: Willemstad (Curaçao).
  • Language: Official languages are Dutch, English and Papiamento (a creole language with roots in primarily Portuguese and Spanish, and to a lesser extent Dutch, African, and Native Indian languages).
  • Religion: Christian 92% (Catholic 72%, Protestant 20%), Jewish 1%.
  • Currency: Netherlands Antillean Gulden (ANG)
  • Time: UTC -4 hours.

This post is also available in: Deutsch