The island of Barbados is a desirable sun-soaked getaway in the Eastern Caribbean, just off the coast of Venezuela. This British colony of just 284,000 inhabitants was once the home of many slaves who worked on the prosperous plantations. Today it is famous for its rum, calypso music, colonial architecture and picture-perfect beaches.
Although Amerindians and South American Kalinagos inhabited Barbados for centuries, its modern history began with the arrival of 60 British settlers in 1628. It became the home for pirates, slave traders and sugar plantation owners before finally settling down as a major tourist destination. Temperatures on Barbados rarely stray outside 23-31°C (73-88°F) with tropical afternoon showers in late summer.
Bridgetown, the island’s capital city is named after the historic bridge which spans the Careenage River. It was built in pre-colonial times by the Tainos and was later improved by the British in the 1650s. George Washington was one of the early visitors of note, back in 1751, and he stayed in Bush Hill House which is now part of the historic Garrison area. Visit National Heroes Square, a miniature of London’s Trafalgar Square complete with a statue of Nelson and the neo-Gothic Parliament buildings which are open to the public when the parliament is in session. Bridgetown was once the port from which sugar cane and rum were exported all over the world. The warehouses and period buildings now house cafés and restaurants overlooking the marina.
Crane Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on Barbados with pink-hued sands at the foot of the cliffs. It is ideal for gentle strolls at the water’s edge or sitting in a shady spot and watching the sunset. Sunbathing and surfing are popular on Barbados along with snorkelling and scuba diving to nearby shipwrecks and coral reefs. On the south and west coasts, windsurfing, jet skiing, parasailing and waterskiing can be enjoyed along with game fishing for tuna, sailfish and barracuda. Visit a rum distillery to learn how this sugarcane derivative is produced, and enjoy some tastings. Horseriding and polo are popular sports, or attend a cricket match, from village friendly matches to International Test Cricket. For keen walkers, the Barbados National Trust offers guided hikes ranging from 8-22km (5-14 miles). For an encounter with local wildlife, head to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve where monkeys, deer, raccoons, otters and deer roam the mahogany forest. There is also a walk-through aviary where visitors can admire the gorgeous colours of toucans, parrots, flamingoes, peacocks and macaws.
Festivals are a large part of the annual calendar of events in Barbados. The Crop Over Festival in early July originates from the harvesting of the sugarcane and a King and Queen of the crop are crowned each year. Farley Hill Plantation is now a ruin, but the grounds are filled with exotic hibiscus and poinsettias. The Morgan Lewis Mill is one of only two remaining intact sugar mills with a delightful Dutch-style windmill. You can tour the Mount Gay Rum Distillery and see how rum is made. The recommended Cocktail Tour includes a cocktail-making contest for all participants with all ingredients provided. Alternatively, opt for the Lunch Tour which includes a tour of the distillery followed by a Bajan lunch with rum punch. After all, you are on holiday!