- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
One of the most well-developed of all the Caribbean and Atlantic Islands, Barbados retains the refined elegance and cultural customs of its British roots (think cricket and high tea) infused with a colorful West Indian vibe.
Barbados is a sovereign island country in the Lesser Antilles, in the Americas. It is 34 kilometres (21 miles) in length and up to 23 km (14 mi) in width, covering an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi). It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 km (62 mi) east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about 168 km (104 mi) east of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 400 km (250 mi) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside of the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. Its capital is Bridgetown. Barbados is 1,600 mi (2,600 km) Southeast of Miami.
The country generally experiences two seasons, one of which includes noticeably higher rainfall. Known as the "wet season", this period runs from June to November. By contrast, the "dry season" runs from December to May. Annual precipitation ranges between 1,000 and 2,300 mm (40 and 90 in). From December to May the average temperatures range from 21 to 31 °C (70 to 88 °F), while between June and November, they range from 23 to 31 °C (73 to 88 °F).
Barbados gained independence from Britain in 1966, but many of the relics from its colonial past still stand. In Bridgetown, the clean and safe capital, impressive colonial buildings, and the historic garrison are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Around the island are sprawling sugar plantations and historic museums, along with endless tropical beauty. Pretty pink and white coral-sand beaches, pale turquoise seas, and a dramatic east coast sculpted by pounding surf are some of the islands major attractions. The warm ocean waters can be turbulent, but the island offers a few sheltered beaches for swimming and snorkeling, as well as great surfing, and some popular dive sites.
Tourist Attractions in Barbados
Crane Beach, with its beautiufl pink coral sand, was once a boat landing where cargo was unloaded and lifted by a crane perched atop the cliff. Today it's one of the most famous beaches in Barbados. Cruise ship visitors, tourists, and locals alike come here to frolic in the rolling surf, sunbathe on the soft sands, and peek at the luxury Crane Beach Hotel, the oldest hotel in Barbados. Public access to the beach requires a descent down many stairs, while the hotel has its own elevator to sand level.
The quaint village of Bathsheba is the central point for the tourist attractions on the Atlantic east coast. The Andromeda Tropical Botanic Gardens and Flower Forest are nearby. At Bathsheba Beach, also known as the Soup Bowl, large rock formations, which are remnants from an ancient coral reef carved by the surf, stand like gigantic mushrooms in the sea. This beach is great for photographs and surfing, but strong undercurrents can make swimming here dangerous.
Bordered by National Heroes Square, the parliament buildings (also known as the "public buildings") are two spectacular neo-Gothic-style structures now designated as UNESCO protected properties. Both buildings were constructed of coral limestone between 1870 and 1874. The building on the east side houses the Senate and House of Assembly and features beautiful stained-glass windows depicting British monarchs. The newly refurbished west-side building with the clock tower, houses the National Heroes Gallery and Museum of Parliament where visitors can learn about the island's history from the early days of settlement to Independence. Museum entry includes a tour of the parliament buildings.
Andromeda Botanic Gardens
Specializing in tropical plants from all over the world, the Andromeda Botanic Gardens are renowned not only for their collection, but also for their scenic location on a hillside overlooking the Atlantic. Of note are the breadfruit trees descended from those collected by Captain Bligh, of mutiny fame, as well as the rare species of succulents and palms. Also interesting are the large bearded fig trees, which once covered the island in vast forests, possibly prompting passing Portuguese sailors to name the island "Barbados" meaning the "the bearded ones". The garden is also a superb place for bird watching.
Harrison's Cave, a crystallized limestone cavern, features streams, waterfalls, cascades, and deep pools. After an educational film, visitors tour a one-and-a-half-kilometer route via electric tram with a stop to walk to a waterfall plunging to a deep pool below. Lights illuminate the impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and cascading waters. Near the cave, a visitor's center displays Arawak Indian artifacts.
Offering beautiful vistas, in the hills of central Barbados, the Flower Forest encompasses 53 acres of peaceful forests and tropical flora on the grounds of a former sugar plantation. Garden lovers can stroll along a circuit of well-marked trails through lush foliage with many spots to sit and relax. The beautiful palms, gingers, and many colorful orchids are highlights. After touring the grounds, visitors can purchase snacks at the small café.
St. Nicholas Abbey
St. Nicholas Abbey, with its three gables shaped like wishbones in the Jacobean style, was once the heart of a giant sugar cane plantation and a small refinery. Today it is one of only three known remaining buildings of this style in the Western Hemisphere. The pretty gardens are well kept and encompass the rustic ruins of the farm buildings and old windmill. Built in the mid-1600s to plans imported from Britain, the abbey includes a few inappropriate features for a tropical island, such as upstairs fireplaces. The tour of the ground floor explains a fine collection of furniture, many made from mahogany and cane. A few of the pieces have been in the house since 1810. At the end of the tour, the owners share a family holiday film from the 1930s showing the sea voyage to Barbados from England, and life on the former plantation.
Farley Hill National Park
Once the grounds of a rich plantation house, Farley Hill National Park is now a picturesque hilltop garden nestled in a forest of mahogany trees. This lush 17-acre park is also a popular venue for picnics and weddings. The house was reduced to a shell of stone walls by fire and the elements, and the ruins now frame the flowers and palms. Visitors can admire beautiful views of the ocean and rolling palm-covered hills from the top of the hill behind the house.
Barbados Wildlife Reserve
At the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, opposite Farley Hill, visitors can walk among the animals. Shady paths thread through a mahogany forest populated by deer, agoutis, tortoises, iguanas, and a raucous collection of tropical birds. Wild green monkeys, imported from Africa by early settlers, are also often seen at dawn and dusk, and plant lovers will enjoy the park's vibrant display of orchids. The entrance fee includes a visit to nearby Grenade Hall Signal Station.
Crafted by Anthony Hunte, an avid horticulturist, Hunte's Gardens encompass ten stunning acres of tropical plants on the lush slopes of Saint Joseph Parish. Paths lead deep into a gully where terraced greenery erupts on many different levels. Palms, papyrus, orchids, and crotons are just some of the species flourishing here, and Mr. Hunte is an enthusiastic and convivial host. Green thumbs and plant lovers can relax on strategically placed benches and marvel at the gardens while classical music wafts through the air.