Beguiling Barbados

Barbados, part of the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles islands, is the eastern-most island in the Caribbean. The 166-square mile island, located about 270 miles northeast of Venezuela, is known for its sunny weather, British colonial architecture, and duty-free shopping.

History

Barbados has a mixed heritage. Originally inhabited by the peaceful Arawak tribe and later the war-like Caribs, the island was first “discovered” by Portuguese explorers in 1511. Although, these travelers didn’t stay on the island, they gave Barbados its name. “Barbados” means “bearded one” in Portuguese, presumably a reference to the island’s many fig trees and their hanging roots.

The British happened on the island in 1625 and Barbados remained part of the British Empire until its independence in 1966. The British built large sugar plantations and imported thousands of African, Irish, and Scots slaves to work the fields. Today, much of the Bajan population is descended from these 18th and 19th century residents.

What to See and Do on Barbados

Barbados is somewhat unique in the Caribbean, in that it combines beach and watersports with historical sites. Among the many things to do on the island are:

  • Beaches – Barbados boasts over 70 miles of beach. Among the best of these are Speightstown and Batts Rock in the western part of the island and Crane Beach and Accra Beach on the Southern end. The eastern, Atlantic coast is beautiful to look at, but the current and surf make it dangerous for swimming.
  • Mount Gay Rum Distillery – Mount Gay has been making rum on Barbados for 300 years. Tour the distillery’s museum and learn how rum is produced. You can even view the current production line. Of course, the tour ends at the company store, where you can buy a few bottles to take home. (Rum is very inexpensive on Barbados.)
  • Sunbury Plantation House and Museum – Dating back to the 1660s, the restored house is now open for visitors. It’s a small peak at Colonial life in 17th century Barbados.
  • Shopping – Barbados is known for its high-quality arts and crafts, art galleries, and good prices on British consumer goods. Shop for carved wooden pieces, textiles, local art, and British china and glassware.
  • Andromeda Botanic Gardens – Explore the six acres of landscaped gardens on the island’s east coast and see examples of indigenous plants and flowers.

Getting to Barbados

Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados is accessible via non-stop flights from New York, Miami, San Juan, and London. You can also reach the island from many of the other islands of the Lesser Antilles. Bridgetown is also a popular port of call of many southern Caribbean cruise itineraries.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: garybembridge

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