On Monday, 29 November 2021, Barbados has officially become a new republic. Dame Sandra Mason, the governor general of the Island of Barbados since 2018, has been named the new nation’s first president. Although this island country in the southeastern Caribbean Sea is no longer ruled by United Kingdom, Barbados is still part of the British Commonwealth. The designation of Barbados as a new state coincided with the 55th anniversary of the country’s independence. This event marked the severing of the remaining colonial ties between Barbados from England, after nearly 400 years since British ships first landed on the Caribbean Island.
The name Barbados originally came from either the Portuguese term os barbudos or the Spanish equivalent, los barbados, both meaning “the bearded ones.” Although it is not 100% clear what the phrase is referring to, there are a few possibilities. One indicates to the hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree, another to the beards of the indigenous inhabitants from the island, or it possibly refers to the sea froth created when the waves crash against the coral reefs surrounding the island, looking like Barbados’ beard. Situated about 100 miles (160 km) east of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, roughly triangular in shape, Barbados measures some 20 miles (32 km) from northwest to southeast and about 15 miles (25 km) from east to west at its widest point. Although located in the most western part of the North Atlantic, Barbados is still considered a Caribbean Island instead of an Atlantic Island.
The capital and largest town of Barbados is Bridgetown, which is also the main seaport. The town is home to the oldest Jewish Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere built in 1628. Its also a home to a 1000-year-old tree in Queens Park. It is impossible to confuse this tree with any other. It is so large it takes 15 adults with hands fully outstretched to cover the circumference of the trunk.
The area of Barbados was first settled in the 1620s and this made it one of the earliest British colonies. For this reason, the culture of Barbados is probably more British than is that of any other Caribbean island, though elements of the African culture of the majority population have been prominent. With a colonization history that dates back nearly 400 years, every place on the island comes with a story. The island’s cultural roots are in its plantation and slavery history, therefore there is a unique blend of West African and European heritage all over the isle. Culture and history lovers might enjoy a visit to Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which boasts wonderfully well-preserved examples of British colonial architecture. There are a total of nine museums on the island. Each museum offers a unique experience where visitors can learn lots about the incredible history of this island in an interactive and fun way, where guided tours are also available. Another historical monument in Barbados is its rustic windmills. Once home to hundreds of windmills there is only one working windmill left on the island and it can be found in the parish of St. Andrew.
It is no secret that Barbados is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There are more than 50 beaches around the island. The serene Caribbean coast on the west is famed for its aquamarine waters and soft sands offering the gentle Caribbean Sea. Carlisle Bay of the Platinum Coast in the west for example, is a beach with a quieter section as well as a livelier area for water sports and beach bar. While the wilder beaches in Barbados on the east coast are exhilarating to visit, with the strength and swells of the Atlantic Ocean. The Barbados National Surf Championship is held in a small bay known as the Soup Bowl in a village called Bathsheba on the east coast every November – and that is just one of the many surfing and sailing competitions throughout the year.
One of the top things that Barbados is known for is its snorkelling. With impressive visibility, warm waters, and a diverse array of marine life, the conditions for snorkelling in Barbados are ideal. From Shark Bank to Little Sandy Lane, the Great Ledge and the Bell Buoy, there is an abundance of coral reefs of all shapes and sizes just off the shore of Barbados. Teaming with tropical sea life, this natural beauty around the island is a huge draw to divers who wish to explore and witness the vibrant wildlife. Barbados is home to four species of nesting turtles, including green turtles, loggerheads, hawksbill turtles, and leatherbacks. Snorkelers should keep their eyes peeled even in the shallows for these amazing sea creatures. Once considered to be important only for their meat, eggs and shells, the value of these creatures is now being recognised and the Barbados Sea Turtle Project carefully monitor the population. Flying fish are also very common in the surrounding warm waters around Barbados as the island has long been referred to as The Land of the Flying Fish.
In addition to gorgeous beaches, rich marine life, and breath-taking coastal scenery, Barbados is famed for the dramatic Harrison’s Cave, a limestone cavern discovered in the 18th century in the central uplands of the island, just outside the village of Holetown. It is an underground cavernous system made up of deep caves and winding passages that is around 2.3 km long in total. Packed full of stalactites, stalagmites, cascading waterfalls, flowing streams and deep pools, Harrison’s Cave is a very popular visitor attraction on the island, giving a total otherworldly experience.
Barbados is also an ideal spot to satisfy the needs of a growing number of wellness travellers. Visitors will find rejuvenation, not only in the calming and reenergizing waters of the Caribbean Sea but through stays at dedicated wellness retreats or standalone experiences, such as spa treatments, yoga, or meditation classes. Active options, including hiking, biking, snorkelling, scuba diving and paddleboarding, are equally restorative for mind, body and soul. The truth is that Barbados’ allure is not limited to its crystal-clear Caribbean waters, 70 miles of stunning sandy beaches or brilliantly vivid skies. The island has something special in store for every kind of traveller, from vacationing families to lone adventurers, explorers, history buffs, ecotourists, foodies and more. Thankfully, Barbados is one of those islands that can be visited at any time of the year. Barbados experiences two weather seasons each year, a wet season that runs from June to December and a dry season that runs from December through to May. Although the statistics show that there is much more rain during certain months of the year, the wet season does not need to be avoided. The rain on the island during this period usually comes in the form of short downpours or thunderstorms, which while dramatic, do not typically last for very long. Plus, the average temperatures hover consistently all year round at approximately 25-28 °C.