rolling hills and sandy bays - a pocket-sized paradise
Barbados is arguably the most beautiful host to any democracy on Earth – a place where local fishermen sit shoulder to shoulder with international celebrities in rum bars built on stilts overlooking palm-fringed bays, an isle where the great outdoor happy go lucky Caribbean culture is celebrated communally by rich and poor alike.
Go for a week – you’ll want to stay longer
The reason – Barbados has year-round sunshine, stunning beaches, friendly locals, a plethora of eateries for all budgets, and it’s safe to leave your house or hotel and wander around. Public buses, ghetto blasters blaring, stop and the driver asks if you’d like a lift; roadside rum shacks look like sheds but offer a truly warm welcome; taxi drivers become your friends; alfresco five-star cliff-side dining has a canopy to protect you from the rain in seconds; and there’s the most beautiful beach in the world – the Crane.
Combined with daily flights from all over the world and only eight hours in the air, from London, it’s a very doable destination for just a one-week holiday – although you’ll want to stay much longer.
A feast for the senses and little green monkeys
Barbados is many people's all-time favourite holiday destination. It may be a small island, but there’s an enormous amount on offer: culture, history, beautiful scenery and friendly people. One can play golf, shop, dine well and sample the energetic nightlife.
But it has many simpler outings – a stroll in the mysterious depths of the Welchman Hall Gully, where it’s likely you will glimpse green monkeys, or viewing the beauty of the Andromeda Botanic Gardens.Go to Bathsheba, on the east coast, for the best lunchtime view in the world, at the Atlantis Hotel.
Take beach walks, the bright turquoise sea and soft, warm sand, eating freshly chopped papaya and mango.
Barbados truly is a feast for the senses. You may leave counting the days until you return?
Welcome to a kind, friendly, reggae-filled paradise
Many destinations have stunning scenery, great food, fine weather and atmosphere. Of course, the Caribbean islands have all of this, but the relaxed and generous approach of the local people really takes Barbados to the next level. On a previous trip I ended up chatting with three Bajan water sports instructors at a local hotel. They invited my brother and I to drink beer and watch cricket all day in their workers’ hut while teaching us how to water ski for free when they had no customers. What other holiday destination can boast locals with that kind of natural kindness?
Another unforgettable experience is riding the small yellow buses around the island. For just BBD$1 you can travel from one side of Barbados to another, with reggae music blasting through the bus. I’m sure there are safer journeys. However, you feel like you aren’t killing time when you are travelling this way!
The most easterly island in the Caribbean, Barbados is found south of St Lucia and north of Tobago. It is arguably the easiest of the Caribbean nations to get to from the UK – there are a number of carriers offering regular flights.
Travel by powerboat down the Platinum Coast, as the western shoreline is known, and a local skipper will point out villas and mansions in a litany that sounds like a contents listing for Hello magazine.
Barbados, like a football match, is a game of two halves. This odd statement is highly relevant to sightseers going around the island because you can basically divide the place east and west. The West Coast has fabulous beaches and safe calm seas, and somewhat built up as a result. One of the best ways of seeing it and learning more is to cruise up the coast in one of the many charter boats.
Enjoy a day out in a sleek catamaran – you will find a few of them, but a well-known one is called Silvermoon – and you will find a happy crew ready to keep you wined and dined for hours, stopping here and there to dive over reefs and meet gentle giant sea turtles.
The East, or Atlantic Coast, is breezy and beautifully wild. Its rugged terrain sweeps down to miles of untouched, windswept beaches bordered by rough seas.
Swimming here is not recommended, but walking most definitely is. There's even a disused railway line that takes you along the dramatic cliff-tops safely away from traffic. It was opened in 1881, closed in 1937, and makes for an ideal hiking route.
You will be amazed to discover just how clear the East Coast is. It is no exaggeration to say that the 20-mile long littoral is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world – but you can walk an hour or two without seeing a soul.
Tucked just behind the booming beach is the mainly green, hilly and scenic bit of the island, the remote Shorey Village, where you can visit Aunt Benn's Bar – the aunt involved being the relation of British boxer Nigel Benn.
What you get is a concrete shack boasting a counter and two homemade stools, but this belies the great charm of the place, which seems fossilised in the steamy sugary syrup of the Bajan rural idyll. This is where you can hear local men talking in a pure Somerset dialect – albeit one with a touch of Africa about its vowels
Further down the coast is the beautiful and peaceful Bathsheba, where a stately church on a hill looks down upon a windswept tropical beach-fringed paradise – and many have wanted to stay here forever, tempted to make permanent retirement plans!
From here, head west across the widest part of the island to descend the how hills to the capital, with its famous cricket stadium – host of 20-20 matches, a heady experience seen here on the island
Bridgetown boasts an amazing array of shops as well as some excellent restaurants, as talked about in our other pages.
The country's culture is a lovely blend of English and West African traditions – a primarily Christian ethos punctuated by pockets of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and the rapidly growing Rastafarianism.
This peaceful multicultural society is one of the real charms of Barbados; the people kind, helpful and open.