A tourist magnet and a fuel exporter, Aruba is an autonomous territory of the Netherlands and one of the most prosperous territories in the Caribbean.
Colonised by the Dutch in the 17th century, Aruba lies 15 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. Away from the beaches, hotels and casinos, much of the island is desert-like but a strong indigenous heritage, colonisation and Latin American influence have given it a distinctive social and linguistic character.
A gold rush in the 1820s triggered an economic boom, with a petroleum refinery opening a century later. Its temporary closure in 1985 sparked an economic crisis and Aruba has since invested in tourism which is its economic mainstay.
Aruba is susceptible to drug smuggling and illegal immigration but has passed laws to combat money-laundering.
In 1986 Aruba pulled out of the Netherlands Antilles - a federation of Dutch Caribbean territories - and obtained separate status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch government controls defence and foreign affairs while the island's government handles local matters.
Head of state: The King of the Netherlands, represented by a governor.
Prime Minister: Mike Eman
Mike Eman was sworn in as prime minister of Aruba for a second term on 30 October 2013, following the parliamentary election win by his Aruba People's Party (AVP) on 27 September 2013.
He first became prime minister in October 2009 after the AVP won parliamentary elections, defeating the centre-left People's Electoral Movement of Nelson Orlando Oduber, who had been prime minister since 2001.
Mr Eman comes from a political dynasty. His grandfather Henny Eman was first prime minister of Aruba in 1986-89, and served a further term in 1994-2001, sandwiching the first term of Mr Oduber.
Aruba observes freedom of the press, as guaranteed under Dutch law. The mostly widely-read newspapers are in the Papiamento language.
There are two commercial TV stations. A cable TV subscription service provides access to foreign channels and there are a wide range of commercial radio stations available.
2500 BC-1515 - First inhabited by Amerindians of the Arawak tribe.
1499 - Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda discovers the island and claims it for Spain.
1636 - Aruba is colonised by the Dutch and forms part of the Dutch West India Company.
1806 - Aruba comes under British rule during the Napoleonic Was but is returned to the Dutch in 1816.
1954 - Aruba becomes part of the autonomous federation of the Netherlands Antilles.
1971 - Pro-independence struggle led by the People's Electoral Movement party (MEP) seek separation from Dutch Antilles administration.
1986 - Aruba obtains autonomous status within the Dutch kingdom.
1990 - Transition to full independence is postponed indefinitely at Aruba's request.
1996 - Aruba is included on US list of major drug-producing or transit countries.
2009 - OECD removes Aruba from an international list of uncooperative tax havens after it improves standards of transparency.