|Country Information & Lifestyle|
A world apart, simply too beautiful for words
St Lucia, a mango-shaped island, is one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, it is located midway down the Eastern Caribbean chain between Martinique and St.Vincent, and north of Barbados.
Known as "the Helen of the Windward Islands" St.Lucia is the sort of island that travellers to the Caribbean dream about--a small, lush tropical gem that is still relatively unknown.
The Atlantic Ocean kisses its eastern shore, while the beaches of the west coast owe their beauty to the calm Caribbean Sea.
St.Lucia has been inhabited since long before colonial times, and its cultural treasures are a fascinating m'lange of its rich past and its many different traditions. The island's people have earned a well-deserved reputation for their warmth and charm, and the island itself is dotted with aged fortresses, small villages, and open-air markets.
The first people were the Arawaks and the Caribs, Amerindian peoples indigenous to the entire Caribbean. They were expert hunters, farmers, fishermen, and skilled artists. The Amerindians were decimated by the arrival of the Europeans, and only a small number of St.Lucians can still trace their roots back to this group.
Europeans didn't settle in large numbers but they did have an impact on the island's history and culture. The British contributed their language, educational system, and legal and political system, the French culture is more evident in the arts - music, dance and Creole patois.
At the same time African culture was becoming established through the arrival of slaves for European plantations, and later indentured labourers. Their descendants constitute the largest percentage of the island's population, and their proud heritage has had an enormous impact on St.Lucia's character as a nation.
After the abolition of slavery, East Indians came to St. Lucia as indentured servants. Most worked in the large sugar factories in the Cul-de-Sac, Roseau, and Mabouya valleys, and in Vieux Fort, where there is still a significant East Indian community. In comparison to other immigrant groups, their numbers were small. Although their traditional culture has almost disappeared, the East Indians have had a notable and lasting influence on the island's fine cuisine.
The island gained its independence in 1978 and has a culture evolved from the intermingling of the many different groups who have participated in the islands history and traditions all reflected in the island life of today.
St. Lucia has some of the most overwhelmingly beautiful scenery to be found anywhere in the world. Among the natural beauty of its splendid forests and soaring peaks are ancient fortresses, gem-like fishing villages, and gracious town squares, places waiting like buried treasure to be discovered by newcomers.
The fertile, volcanic soil produces numerous kinds of tropical fruits such as mangoes, papayas, passion fruit, pineapples and St.Lucia is the leading banana exporter in the Caribbean with six varieties.
The lush interior has rain-forests where you will hear the elusive parrots squawking in the trees, the buzz of hummingbirds, smell the orchids in the air and have the eerie feeling that you are being watched by the spirits of 2000 years ago. The Arawak tribe associated the dark wood with evil spirits, and for centuries the forest remained untouched, and the spirits of the Amerindians evolved into island folklore.
Sailing towards St. Lucia's southernmost coast, you'd have an easy time confusing the dense, green island for one in the south Pacific. Lush tropical jungle stretches across much of this Windward Isle, which makes up part of the West Indies' northeasterly arc between the islands of Martinique and St. Vincent.
St. Lucia seems like an island plucked from the South Pacific and set down in the Caribbean. Its dramatic twin coastal peaks, the Pitons, soar 2,000 feet up from the sea, sheltering magnificent rain forests where wild orchids, giant ferns, and birds of paradise flourish. Brilliantly-plumed tropical birds abound, including endangered species like the indigenous St. Lucia parrot. The rain-forest is broken only by verdant fields and orchards of banana, coconut, mango, and papaya trees.
The island's steep coastlines and lovely reefs offer excellent snorkelling and scuba diving. The rain-forest preserves of St. Lucia's mountainous interior are one of the Caribbean finest locales for hiking and bird watching. Of course, the island also possesses excellent facilities for golf, tennis, sailing, and a host of other leisure pursuits. Not to be missed is St. Lucia's Soufriere volcano, the world's only drive-in volcanic crater.
St. Lucia's culture has evolved from the intermingling of the many different groups of people who have participated in its history. Each has brought different beliefs and traditions, all of which are reflected in the life of the island today.
One of the most accessible expressions of St. Lucia's rich cultural heritage is its cuisine. The fertile, volcanic soil of the island yields an enormous supply of produce, and the island is one of the leading banana exporters in the Caribbean, with six different varieties available. In addition to bananas, St. Lucia's abundant tropical fruits include mangoes, papayas, pineapples, sour sops, passion fruit, guavas, and coconuts.
The cuisine is becoming well known around the world and the local chefs are producing some of the most tantalising dishes using local fresh seafood to create mouthwatering curries, pepper-pot stews, Creole-style entrees and mouthwatering soups made from pumpkin and callaloo. The hottest pepper in the world PIMENT MA JACQUES is grown on this Caribbean paradise island and is not for the feint hearted!!
But St. Lucia's culture extends far beyond the table, as the island has long held a reputation for its intellectual and artistic talents. St. Lucia has produced two Nobel Prizewinners: the late Sir W. Arthur Lewis, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1979, and poet Derek Walcott, who won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Castries the bustling capital is home to several of St.Lucia's historical sights, like the La Toc Battery, and beautiful architecture, including the uniquely decorated cathedral and the central library. There is excellent shopping in the town market and Bagshaws, where the art of silk screening can be observed.
Overlooking Castries is Morne Fortune. It was a key battleground during the period of skirmishes over colonial possession of St Lucia. Another vital wartime base is Marigot Bay, where a British Admiral once ambushed the French by camouflaging his fleet with palm fronds. This picturesque bay is one of St.Lucia's most beautiful spots.
An afternoon visit to the tiny fishing villages of Anse-le-Ray & Canaries offer an interesting study of one of St.Lucia's main traditions, fishing in dug-out canoes.
Located in the south is the oldest town, Soufriere, established by the French in 1746. The unusual marketplace is decorated with colourful murals and gingerbread trim. Soufriere is an extraordinary town in the south of the island wherein dwells the only walk-in volcano in the world at Sulphur Springs. It is the collapse of a crater of a volcano where the temperature is still hot and in some points boiling.
Midway between Soufriere and Vieux Fort on the southwest coast is the village of Choiseul. Rich in history, crafts and spectacular views, it is home to a petroglyph carved centuries ago by the island's early inhabitants, and Fort Citreon, where only a single cannon remains.
Gros Islet is like Cinderella preparing for the Ball. This fishing village transforms itself every Friday night into a colourful carnival scene, featuring soca and the reggae music, and a "jump up"(dancing in the streets).
Pigeon Island is a beautiful nature park, a 40-acre islet connected by a causeway to St. Lucia's west coast. The museum displays the island's history where visitors can learn about the first Carib Indian settlers and the island's role in the French/British battles during colonisation.
There are a number of plantations on St.Lucia all ready to welcome the visitor and show how the estates were worked in time gone by. The Errard Plantation, near the village of Dennery, crosses the interior of the island and borders the rain forest. It is possible to tour the plantation and have a Creole lunch. La Sikwe Historical Sugar Mill & Plantation borders the village of Anse la Raye and is a 400-acre estate set in a beautiful botanical garden. The estate has a 40-foot water wheel depicting the sugar-growing years of the 18th century.
St.Lucia's largest estate, the Marquis Estate, is located just outside of Castries and is a working plantation of copra and bananas, as well as principal crops of previous years, coffee and coca. Morne Coubaril Estate overlooks the picturesque town of Soufriere, and it is possible to see a demonstration of cocoa, copra and manioc processing, worker's village and walk on an original street formerly used by mule carriages.
St.Lucia, the names conjures up the majestic Pitons, waterfalls, happy, friendly people, delicious fruit , excellent cuisine and miles of glorious beaches, St Lucia is SIMPLY TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR WORDS.