Two widely separated groups of islands in the Caribbean, in the Lesser Antilles, formerly an autonomous region of the Netherlands.
The southernmost group, situated just off the north coast of Venezuela, comprises the islands of Bonaire and Curaçao. The northern group comprises the islands of St Eustatius, St Martin, and Saba. The islands were originally visited in the 16th century by the Spanish and were settled by the Dutch in the mid 17th century. In 1954 the islands were granted self-government and became an autonomous region of the Netherlands, with the capital at Willemstad on Curaçao. The Netherlands Antilles were dissolved in 2010, with Curaçao and St Martin becoming self-governing territories and the other islands becoming municipalities of the Netherlands