The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the most southerly of the Caribbean islands, is northeast of the South American country of Venezuela.
The capital city is Port-of-Spain in Trinidad. Scarborough is the main urban centre and port in Tobago. Ports and harbours in the Gulf of Paria (Trinidad) are Point Fortin, Point Lisas, Pointe-a-Pierre and Port-of-Spain.
Trinidad is the larger of the two islands. The terrain consists of plains with hills and three low mountain ranges. Tobago has a central mountain chain. The Ortoire and the Caroni are the longest rivers in Trinidad and the Courland is the longest river in Tobago.
The climate is tropical with the rainy season lasting from June to December.
Trinidad and Tobago is very close to South America, separated from the mainland by the Gulf of Paria.
There are a variety of landscapes on the islands: mountains, rainforests, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, savannah, coastline and mangrove swamps.
Tobago's Main Ridge Forest Reserve was established in 1776. Little Tobago, a small island northeast of Tobago, is a bird sanctuary for almost sixty species of birds. Other protected areas include the Asa Wright Nature Centre and the Caroni Bird Sanctuary on the island of Trinidad.
Trinidad's Nariva Swamp, on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, is an extensive complex of freshwater swamp forest, permanent herbaceous swamp, seasonally flooded marshes, and mangrove forest. The area supports a rich fauna: at least thirteen species of birds, various mammals and reptiles.
Over four hundred species of birds inhabit the islands, a migratory crossing point. Birds include the scarlet ibis and the blue-footed booby. Over sixteen types of hummingbirds live in Trinidad, a fact that gave Trinidad its name before the arrival of the Europeans: Land of the Hummingbirds.
There are over six hundred species of butterflies and a number of different species of mammals and reptiles. Wildlife includes anteaters, armadillos, deer, red howler monkeys, ocelots, wild pigs, porcupines, iguanas, frogs and toads. Manatees and turtles (loggerhead, hawksbill and leatherback) are found in the sea surrounding the islands. Other sea life includes seahorses, flying fish, groupers, seabass, rays, blue marlins, whale sharks and sharks.
Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, is a modern city with skyscrapers, hotels, offices and shopping centres. Some Colonial architecture remains, together with churches, temples and mosques.
Buildings of historical interest listed by the government include the Residence and Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago, Queen's Royal College (a government college for boys since 1904), Red House (the seat of the National Parliament) and Whitehall (the Office of the Prime Minister).
Tobago is a small island. Scarborough, the modern administrative centre, is its largest urban area. Richmond Great House, a restored Colonial house, can be seen outside Scarborough. There are also examples of red tin-roofed houses and traditional wooden houses on stilts.
The population of Trinidad and Tobago was estimated at 1,047,366 in 2008.
English is the official language. Other languages spoken include Hindi, French, Spanish and Chinese.
Over half of the people are Christians, over a fifth are Hindus and some are Muslims. Orisha, a traditional African religion, is also practised.
The cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago is influenced by the diverse cultures of its population: African, Creole (African and French), East Indian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Syrian and Lebanese.
Creole dishes make use of ingredients such as coconut, cassava, sweet potatoes, plantain, fish and meat. Roti bread is a popular East Indian food, eaten with curried meat and vegetables. Spanish pastelles are meat filled corn pastries cooked in banana leaves. Chinese food is also very popular.
Fish is prepared in a variety of ways: barbecued, baked, stewed and curried. A favourite recipe is for callaloo, a soup made from spinach or dasheen leaves; sometimes crab or other meat is added too.
Desserts use tropical fruits such as guavas, mangoes and papayas. Indian sweets and ice creams flavoured with tropical fruits are also popular.
Ginger beer is a local non-alcoholic drink; others are fruit juices and coconut water. Beer is brewed locally and rum and Angostura bitters are produced in the Republic.
Before Christopher Columbus claimed Trinidad and Tobago for Spain, islanders were Arawaks and Caribs who had migrated from South America. Spain began colonization in the 1530s enslaving the population; many died from unfamiliar diseases, brought to the island by the Spanish, and others died in slavery. African slaves were shipped to Trinidad and Tobago to replace the Amerindian labour.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century the French Revolution led to an influx of colonists from the French Caribbean. More migrants arrived following the Spanish government's offer of land on favourable terms for Roman Catholics.
By the end of the eighteenth century Trinidad had been acquired by the British and soon declared a British possession. The UK abolished slavery in the 1830s and indentured labour for the plantations was brought in from India. Migrants also came from China and the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Tobago, which had been colonized by the Dutch, Spanish, Latvians, French and English, was ceded to the British in 1814. The islands of Trinidad and Tobago remained under British control until independence in 1962. The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the UK's Commonwealth.
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most industrialized countries of the Caribbean. Deposits of oil and natural gas are a great asset to the economy. Other industries include cement, chemicals, cotton textiles, food processing and beverages.
The agricultural sector employs the smallest percentage of the labour force. Agricultural products are cocoa, coffee, rice, vegetables, poultry, citrus and tropical fruits and flowers.
The services sector employs a large percentage of the working population. The Tourism and Industrial Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (TIDCO) was established to promote investment, trade and tourism. The tourist industry is mainly centred in Tobago. (2008)
Trinidad is well known for calypso music that began as a way of communication between slaves working in the plantations. Later, calypso developed and became an important feature of the Carnival festivals.
The use of the steel drum began during the Carnivals of the 1930s although steel bands did not emerge until the 1940s. In 1951 the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra performed at London's South Bank - a successful performance introducing the steel band to a wider world audience.
In the world of literature V.S Naipaul is the country's most famous writer. Born in Trinidad in 1932 Naipaul moved to England at the age of eighteen. An internationally known author of short stories, novels (A House for Mr. Biswas) and works of non-fiction, Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.
Cricket is a very popular sport in Trinidad and Tobago; the main cricket ground is Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain. A number of the country's cricketers have played for the West Indies Team including Brian Lara, Trinidad and Tobago's most famous player.
Football and rugby are also popular sports and basketball is a particular favourite amongst the young. Other sports include motor racing, powerboat racing, kayaking, sailing and scuba diving.
All religious holidays are celebrated. Other holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), Labour Day (19 June), Emancipation Day (1 August), Independence Day (31 August) and Republic Day (24 September).
Trinidad and Tobago is especially well known for Carnival, a national event that lasts for two days in March.
The islands of Trinidad and Tobago are the most southern in the Caribbean chain of islands.
Trinidad was part of South America until the last Ice Age.
Trinidad is separated from Venezuela (in South America) by the Gulf of Paria.
The highest point on the islands is El Cerro del Aripo (940 m) in Trinidad.
Pitch Lake, on the island of Trinidad, is the world's largest natural reservoir of asphalt.
The natural phenomenon of mud volcanoes occurs on and around Trinidad and Tobago. In 1997 a mud volcano erupted in the village of Piparo (Trinidad) with mud flying up to one hundred and fifty feet.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Carib people called Trinidad the Land of the Hummingbird.
Christopher Columbus named Trinidad the "the Trinity" after the three peaks in the south east of the island.
The Coat of Arms of Trinidad and Tobago includes Columbus' ships on his voyages of discovery to the New World. The ships were the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.
In the mid 1600s, Tobago was briefly a colony of the Duchy of Courland, now part of Latvia. The use of the name Courland in Tobago dates back to this time.
The islands of Trinidad and Tobago were ceded to the UK in the early nineteenth century.
The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807) prohibited the slave trade within the British Empire. (Slaves in the British colonies did not gain their freedom until the 1830s. The Abolition of Slavery Act (1833) began the process leading to emancipation).
Contract workers from India were employed between 1845 and 1917.
The first successful oil well was drilled in Trinidad at Aripero in 1866.
In 1889 the islands were united as one territory.
Trinidad and Tobago remained under British control until independence was achieved in 1962.
Trinidad and Tobago became a republic in 1976.
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the UK's Commonwealth.
Minority groups living in Trinidad and Tobago include those of Syrian and Lebanese descent whose families worked in the textile and retail sectors of the country.
Sir Trevor McDonald, born in Trinidad in 1939, is a well known television newsreader in the UK.
In 2007 the government decided to close the sugar industry.