St Lucia is the sort of island that travellers to the Caribbean dream about a small, lush tropical gem that is still relatively unknown.
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. St Lucia is only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, with a shape that is said to resemble either a mango or an avocado.
The Atlantic Ocean kisses its eastern shore, while the beaches of the west coast owe their beauty to the calm Caribbean Sea.
In natural beauty, 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 rainforest is broken only by verdant fields and orchards of banana, coconut, mango, and papaya trees.
St Lucia has been inhabited since long before colonial times and its cultural treasures are a fascinating melange of its rich past and its many different traditions. The islands 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.
There is a broad array of exciting and exotic activities available on St Lucia. The islands steep coastlines and lovely reefs offer excellent snorkelling and scuba diving. The rainforest preserves of St Lucias mountainous interior are one of the Caribbeans 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 Lucias Soufriere volcano, the worlds only drive in volcanic crater.
The island was probably sighted by Columbus in 1502. Resistance from the Carib inhabitants defeated several attempts at colonization by the English in the early 17th century, although France succeeded in establishing a settlement in the mid 1600s. The island changed hands several times between the two powers until the end of the Napoleonic Wars, when it passed definitively to Great Britain. St Lucia joined the West Indies Federation, gaining self government in 1967 and full independence in 1979. Castries is the capital.
A place to visit any time.