EXCLUSIVE: Know Best of Barbados- home to natural, cultural wonders

Experience the natural and cultural wonders of this spectacular island- from beach beauties to botanic gardens, reef snorkelling to rum tasting in Barbados.

EXCLUSIVE: Know Best of Barbados- home to natural, cultural wonders
EXCLUSIVE: Know Best of Barbados- home to natural, cultural wonders

Barbados: Barbados is home to natural and cultural wonders which can make the visit memorable and exception. Experience the natural and cultural wonders of this spectacular island- from beach beauties to botanic gardens, reef snorkelling to rum tasting in Barbados.

KNOW HERE: BEST OF BARBADOS

FIND PERFECT BEACH

Head to the west coast for the calm, shallow waters of the Caribbean, or east for the more rugged and feisty Atlantic coast. Pink-hued Crane Beach is a favourite spot for sun worshippers, while sheltered Rockley Beach is ideal for families.

If travellers want more of a castaway feel, however, get away from it all at palm-fringed Bottom Bay. Buy a coconut, freshly topped, from a local vendor, then walk over to tiny Shark Hole where a rocky ridge just offshore creates a sheltered swimming spot.

CELEBRATE CROP OVER

With its origins way back in the 1780s when Barbados was a major sugar producer, Crop Over is still a big celebration on the island.

Marking the end of sugar season, it kicks off with an opening gala, the Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes and the crowning of the King and Queen of the Festival (traditionally the most productive of the season’s cane cutters).

Then the carnival begins! Expect outrageous costumes in a colourful parade throbbing with calypso and soca music.

SNORKEL AT CARLISLE BAY MARINE RESERVE

Lying just offshore from Bridgetown, this protected area is teeming with reef fish, making it a magnet to snorkellers and divers. No fewer than five shipwrecks can be found within the reserve, their hulks festooned with corals and sponges.

None lie deeper than around 17m. Sunk in 1919, the 21m-long Berwyn is particularly rich in life, its hull swarming with shoals of sergeant major damselfish. But it’s the impressive numbers of green and hawksbill turtles that are the real crowd-pleasers.

TAKE IN THE VIEWS FROM CHERRY TREE HILL

Tucked away in the hills of St Peter in the north of Barbados, the 400-acre estate of St Nicholas Abbey encompasses sugar cane fields, formal gardens and tropical gullies.

Take the road along Cherry Tree Hill into this historical site and they’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the island’s east coast, framed by gnarled mahogany trees and swaying palms.

The Jacobean mansion at the heart of the estate dates from 1658, while the distillery here produces fine rum with a 350-year heritage.

DON’T MISS FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE FISH FRY

The best way to kick off the weekend in Barbados, head to the south coast village of Oistins on a Friday evening to mingle with locals and sample delicious fish, grilled over open fires. Peruse dozens of kiosks for tuna, marlin, kingfish, mahi-mahi and flying fish, served with ‘mac and cheese’ macaroni pie and washed down with a cold beer or cocktail.

There’s a lively party atmosphere at Oistins, with plenty of soca (funk, soul and calypso) and ‘wukking up’ (dancing) in the streets.

HIKE WELCHMAN HALL GULLY

The whole of Barbados was once smothered in dense forest and you can get a strong sense of that primeval landscape by delving into Welchman Hall Gully. A 1.2km-long path weaves beneath an emerald canopy of ferns, palms and grapefruit trees.

Don’t miss the feeding platform which tempts a resident troop of green monkeys into the open, or the lookout with its spectacular views towards the Atlantic coast

EXPLORE ANIMAL FLOWER CAVE

Chiselled into the limestone cliffs of St Lucy in the north of Barbados, this hidden gem is named after the colourful sea urchins that stud its shallow pools. Clamber down the rocky steps carved into a blowhole and you enter a subterranean world where the oxidation of iron and copper has created colourful orange and green formations on the cave walls.

The seaward entrance to Animal Flower Cave frames a stunning ocean vista, while the clifftop bar serves great lemonade.

TASTE RUM AT MOUNT GAY

The birthplace of rum, Mount Gay has been distilling the sugar cane-based liquor since 1703. The signature ‘1703 Master Select’ is renowned as the finest Bajan rum. As well as sampling rums, they can get a taste of heritage by touring the distillery.

They’ll visit the original artesian well (bearing pure water filtered through coral caverns hundreds of feet below ground) as well as the molasses, fermentation and distillation houses.

STROLL ANDROMEDA BOTANIC GARDENS

Germinating from the mind of Barbadian gardener Iris Bannochie in the 1950s, this stunning organic garden is a must- visit. The Chelsea Flower Show gold medallist developed the site as 20 interconnected gardens, displaying over 500 plant species.

As well as colourful tropical borders and palm-fringed pools, the gardens also offer training in garden design and horticulture and encourage the use of sustainable practices.

A new Tropical American Ethnobotanical Garden showcases native plants and the cultural importance of the island’s trees.

RISE EARLY FOR THE HORSES

On most mornings, around sunrise, grooms lead magnificent racehorses from their stables at Garrison Savannah down to Pebbles Beach, near Bridgetown, for an invigorating wash and scrub in the sea.

It’s definitely worth setting an early wake-up alarm for this unusual photo opportunity and a chance to chat to the grooms. The steeds aren’t for tourists to ride, but if you fancy saddling up, head over to Ocean Echo Stables on the east coast of Barbados for an unforgettable trot along Bath Beach or towards Conset Bay.