St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a nation of many islands in the eastern Caribbean. St. Vincent is the largest and most populated island. The Grenadines consist of more than 30 small islands and hundreds of rocks, sandbars, shoals and cays (low islands made of coral). Fewer than a dozen of the Grenadine islands are populated.

The country is part of the Windward Islands chain, a series of islands that form a barrier between the Atlantic to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west. The Windward Islands also include Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica and the French Antilles. The islands' closest neighbours are St. Lucia to the north, Barbados to the east and Grenada to the south.

The northern third of the island of St. Vincent is mountainous. Parts of the area are accessible only by boat because roads cannot be built on the terrain. The highest peak is La Soufrière, a 1,234-metre active volcano. Its name comes from the French word soufre, which means sulphur. La Soufrière's last eruption occurred in 1979; careful planning ensured that no people were harmed.

Most of St. Vincent's interior is tropical rainforest, where banana and coconut palms grow. The forest is also home to the colourful St. Vincent parrot, the whistling warbler, the manicou (a type of opossum), and the agouti (a furry rodent). In the coastal waters, there are sea urchins, turtles and many species of fish. The sea also attracts ocean birds such as pelicans, ospreys, boobie birds and frigate birds.

Most of the island's population lives near the southern coast. Northeast of Kingstown, the Mesopotamia valley contains some of the island's most fertile farmland. North of the valley, Bonhomme, a 970-metre peak, dominates the landscape. Streams and rivers cross this land from the mountains to the sea.

The Grenadine islands are also volcanic in origin, but are smaller than St. Vincent. The largest and most developed island, Bequia (the name means "Island of the Clouds"), is only 18 square kilometres. Canouan ("Island of Turtles") is known for its beautiful white beaches. Union Island is mountainous. The Tobago Cays are surrounded by coral reefs. Some islands, such as Mustique, Mayreau and Palm Island, are largely private resorts for wealthy tourists. Many of the smaller Grenadines are dry and rocky, and only a few have any freshwater sources.

Because the islands lie close to the equator, they enjoy a steady tropical temperature almost year-round. Temperatures range from 18° to 32°C. The dry season is from December to June, and the rainy season from July to November. St. Vincent's northern peaks are often surrounded by clouds, but most of the rain falls on the mountains, leaving the southern two-thirds of the island much drier than the north. The Grenadines are also drier than northern St. Vincent. The country lies within the hurricane belt, and storms periodically damage crops and houses.

   Did you know?
Radiocarbon evidence suggests that eruptions of La Soufrière occurred as early as 160 A.D. The volcano's repeated activity has created "dry rivers" such as the Wallibou and Rabacca. These rivers were so choked with volcanic matter that they were driven underground, although the riverbeds remain.