Barbados

Barbados differs from the rest of the Caribbean in small but distinctive ways. Geographically, it is the furthest east of any country in the Sea (100 miles from St. Lucia), not to mention one of the most diverse. Divided into eleven different parishes, they are each separate entities with different ways of life - moving from the capital city of Bridgetown towards the expensive villas to the west or to the busy bars of the south is as different as taking a ferry between, say, Dominica and Guadeloupe. Culturally, Barbados island is exceedingly British. Tea time, cricket matches and English pubs are firmly entrenched into everyday life here. Barbados history is relatively peaceful, too, in comparison to neighboring islands. From 1627 until 1966, the British enjoyed steady reign over the island, despite importing the ugliness of slavery. Though Barbados history is freckled with attempted uprisings, the bloodshed was nothing compared to many of the other Caribbean isles.

Of all the different locations on Barbados island, the three most popular are the luxurious west coast, the area surrounding the capital city, and the southern coast, where the party ends at dawn. Usually.

Along the west coast you will find secluded Barbados villas, some of the most opulent (and, naturally, expensive) places to stay in all of the Caribbean. The Barbados beaches surrounding the unfortunately named Holetown are where you go for the definition of luxury vacations - Sandy Lane and Tamarind Cove hotels are famed for housing British aristocrats on holiday. The Barbados villas here are remarkable, a wonderful place for honeymoons, weddings and those unafraid to splurge while on vacation.

The capital city of Bridgetown is another tourist favorite. Not only do you get instant access to some of the most scenic Barbados beaches (the ever-popular Brighton Beach, for instance), you get to see the rich culture reflected in the city architecture. Other than the glistening acres of sugarcane that lie in the center of the island, Barbados history is best reflected here - not to mention that most of the nation"s population resides around the busy port. A sense of British sophistication mixed with the elegant Caribbean lifestyle is a wonder to behold. Not to mention that just south of the city is another enclave of posh Barbados villas, though not nearly as secluded as their cousins to the north.

But the finest part of Barbados Island lies on the shining southern coast. Thousands (no, really, thousands) of rum shops (island translation: bars) are found on the island, with the multitude of them located along the Barbados beaches here. Another island tradition here is the "fish fry," when villages become party central, and drinks, dancing and heroic amounts of food are laid out for anyone to enjoy. Calypso, soca and steel drum are alive and well here, and insanely popular. The price of all this fun is relatively small, too, making this a fantastic destination for the budget traveler.

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