Barbados, in the eastern Caribbean, is an independent island nation within the British Commonwealth. Bridgetown, the capital, is a cruise-ship stop with shopping, colonial buildings and one of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest synagogues. Barbadian traditions range from afternoon tea and cricket (the national sport) to pursuits such as scuba diving at Dottins Reef and golfing on designer oceanside courses.
Currency: Barbadian dollar
Continent: North America
Population: 284,644 (2013) World Bank
Official language: English
Here are 15 brilliant things to do while in Barbados:
1. Do a walking tour of Bridgetown
Aside from having a great selection of shops and street markets, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is filled with fascinating historic sites to explore. See the National Heroes Square, formerly Trafalgar Square – home to Lord Nelson’s statue. And marvel at St Michael’s Cathedral, the Bridgetown Jewish Synagogue and Parliament Buildings – all accessible by foot. Why not end the day with a refreshing rum punch by Bridgetown harbour at sun down, watching fishermens’ boats and catamarans sail by.
2. Visit the Garrison Savannah
A historic military base, Garrison Savannah is home to architectural splendour and is worth taking a day to explore. You’ll see the beautiful Matthias Church once used by British Forces, the ruins of St Ann’s Fort and the famous Savannah race course where plantation owners used to race their horses. These days, the track is home to many other sporting activities. And many people come here to fly kites, go jogging or simply watch the world go by!
3. Find flora and fauna
From the Andromeda Botanic Gardens to the lush oasis of Hunte’s Garden, Barbados is heaven to the green-fingered types. With dense Caribbean jungle and leafy paths filled with tropical plants, Hunte’s Gardens is an enchanting place to explore. The legendary horticulturalist Anthony Hunte sometimes even greets visitors himself, with welcoming stories and a refreshing glass of rum punch. You can make a day of it by visiting the nearby Welchman Hall Gully, a tropical forest cave home to 2,100 exotic plant species and green monkeys. And close by, Harrisons Cave unveils stalagmites and stalactites that date back thousands of years.
4. See the giant Baobab Tree
Visit Queen’s Park and you the magnificent Baobab Tree will be easy to spot. One of the largest trees on the island, it takes approximately 15 adults to stretch their arms all the way around its enormous trunk and it looks like it’s come straight out of a fantastical story book.
5. Sample local delights
Wherever you visit in Barbados, trying the island’s soul food is a must. Street side stands offer the best in macaroni pie, and of course fried chicken, rice and peas. And Speightstown is home to the Fisherman’s pub, a no-frills locals’ spot where you’ll get some of the best flying fish, and traditional specialties like cou-cou and pepper pot. For something more upscale, The Cliff, a celeb spot in St James and Daphnes, a waterfront restaurant in Paynes offer seafood and fusion cuisine in a romantic setting.
6. Drink in the Bajan spirit
It’d be wrong to visit Barbados and not sample its most famous tipple. A cheeky tour around Mount Gay Rum Distillery reveals a fascinating insight into the island’s identity. Smell the heady aromas as you pass huge vats of molasses and sample a variety of aged rum blends. Or why not visit the family-run Foursquare Rum Distillery that’s home to Rum Sixty Six. The more modern Malibu Visitor Centre is worth a visit too. It offers tastings of its coconut-flavoured Malibu, all by the picturesque Brighton Beach front.
7. Visit the home of sporting heritage
Horse racing, polo and car rallies are all popular sports in Barbados, although a trip to the Sir Garfield Sobers stadium leaves you with no doubt at what the reigning sport is here. Bridgetown’s historic Kensington Oval, the ‘mecca’ of cricket, was once the grounds of a plantation house. Now an ultra-modern stadium and home to a statue of Sir Garfield Sobers himself, it hosts rum-swilling crowds, lively entertainment and some of the best cricket action in the world.
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