An archipelago of 700 islands and islets, the Bahamas attracts millions of tourists each year.
The visitors come to enjoy its mild climate, fine beaches and beautiful forests.
A former British colony and now a Commonwealth member, the country is a major centre for offshore finance and has one of the world's largest open-registry shipping fleets. The Bahamas enjoys a high per capita income.
The huge growth in the services sector of the economy has prompted people to leave fishing and farming villages for the commercial centres in New Providence Island, Grand Bahama and Great Abaco.
As with other Caribbean countries, The Bahamas faces the challenge of tackling drugs trafficking and illegal immigration.
It has taken steps to clean up its offshore banking system.
Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Area 13,939 sq km (5,382 sq miles)
Major language English
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 72 years (men), 78 years (women)
Currency Bahamian dollar
Prime minister: Hubert Minnis
Dr Hubert Minnis was elected prime minister on 10 May 2017, when his Free National Movement (FNM) soundly defeated the ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
He assumed leadership of the FNM in 2012. In December 2016, he was ousted as leader of the opposition in parliament by seven of his party's MPs. A medical doctor trained in the US, UK and Caribbean, he was elected in 2007 to the House of Assembly and served as minister of health for five years.
The government operates radio networks and the islands' only TV station. There is a handful of private radio stations. Multichannel cable TV is widely available.
Some key dates in the history of the Bahamas:
1492 - Christopher Columbus makes his first landing in Western Hemisphere in the Bahamas.
1647 - English and Bermudan religious refugees, the Eleutheran Adventurers, establish the first European settlement on the Bahamas.
1717 - Bahamas become a British crown colony.
1834 - Emancipation of slaves.
1964 - Bahamas granted internal autonomy.
1973 - The Bahamas become independent.