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Introducing St Lucia, the Helen of the West Indies

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

Surrounded by the equally beautiful islands of Martinique, Saint Vincent and Barbados, Saint Lucia captures the real essence of the Caribbean. Long fought over by several colonial powers, the island's mythical beauty has given it the nickname of 'Helen of the West Indies' and those who travel to St Lucia will see why.With Arcadian beaches, quaint fishing villages and luxury resorts, Saint Lucia has long been a popular stop-off on the tourist trail. Remarkably, it hasn't lost its charm, with its volcanic landscape and profound heritage largely still intact.

Travel guide

Friyay

In order to seek out the best nightlife in St Lucia it's essential to head to the North of the island. Every Friday the fishing town Gros Islet hosts a Friday Night Jump Up street party. Cars are no longer able to pass through the streets, loud reggae and calypso music goes on until the early hours and a huge range of pop up food and drink stalls align the area.

Les deux pitons

The Gros Piton and Petit Piton are the most snapped attractions in St Lucia and prove extremely popular with hikers and mountain climbers. Both mountains are over 2,000 feet and are located on the South Western Coast of the island. Hikes up Gros Piton, the easiest of the two mountains, are highly recommended, even if just for the breathtaking views. The climb is estimated at 2 hours and you are accompanied by a guide at all times. Beginners will also be more than able to complete the Gros Piton climb.

Plantation tours

If the history of St Lucia interests you, be sure to visit the plantation on the Morne Coubaril Estate. It is the only estate on the island that has remained in the same family for more than two centuries. The plantation grows a large selection of fruits including orange, grapefruit coconuts and lime as well as cocoa, coffee and copra. The most exciting part is the gift shop at the end where you are able to buy coconut candy, cocoa sticks, pepper sauce and even banana ketchup!

Anse Chastanet Marine National Park

If you're more of a swimmer than a hiker get yourself down to the coral reef of Asne Chastanet. Upon diving into the water you are able to see coloured sponges, soft corals, boulder corals and brain corals. As you get deeper there's a drop of 46 meters where lobsters, crabs and eels start to become visible. Even if you're not keen on getting into the water, the beach there offers fantastic views of the Pitons.

Turtle watching

Believe it or not, St Lucia is home to the largest turtle in the world. These jelly fish eating giants are called leatherbacks and weigh a whopping 2,000 pounds. The best place on the island to view the turtles is in the North on Grande Anse Beach and you're more likely to catch a glimpse if you're there from March to August. Unfortunately, Leatherbacks are a critically endangered species as they often ingest plastic bags mistaking them for jellyfish.

Our Editorial team's advice

British holidaymakers, honeymooners in particular, are regular visitors here. Our advice? You'd do well to swap the sea and sand for the lush, mountainous landscapes of the island's interior. Alternatively, find a compromise in between the two on the historical peninsula, Pigeon Island.

Being so close to many of its neighbours, Saint Lucia is a real gateway to the Caribbean. If you are keen to travel around Martinique is only 33km across from the island. However, St Lucia is said to be a lot livelier than its Francophone neighbour and offers a sufficient amount of parties to keep you entertained. The capital Castries is renowned for its Friday night club nights. On Saturday, the daily market there is also worth a visit if you are keen on buying local products and souvenirs.

Carnival, which takes place in early July, is a great time to visit Saint Lucia. The same can be said for May's International Jazz Festival, where a host of world-class musicians (the Neville Brothers and George Benson are among the big names who have performed in the past) take to the stage. If you're visiting later in the year, don't miss Jounen Kweyol or Journée Créole; a lively celebration of Créole culture, which takes place during the run-up to All Saints Day. If you fancy a bit of down time a day-long cruise on board a catamaran is always a good idea. Or if you stomach doesn't fare well on the sea, enjoy a picnic on a secluded beach or a snorkel in the clear blue waters.

pros

  • +The beaches and mountain landscapes are really superb.
  • +Quaint and luxury hotels seamlessly blend into the surrounding scenery.

cons

  • -It is the stopover for quite a lot of cruise passengers.
  • -Saint Lucia is a destination that is rarely mentioned in the brochures of British tour-operators and the offers are quite limited if you're after an all-inclusive deal.

Traditions

Many foreigners come to get married in Saint Lucia, where the law officialises marriage between foreign nationals after only a twelve day residency period! Some hotels take care of the administrative formalities in preparation for the arrival of the fiancés. Documents to be supplied: passport and birth certificate (translated into English if necessary), a divorce or widowhood certificate (if this is the case), XCD 300 for the charge and a XCD 102.50 fiscal stamp.

Almost all the locals are able to speak English and French fluently and St Lucians living in more rural areas speak ?Kewyo I', a Creole language that mixes French and African languages. Children are taught in English and it's also used in formal scenarios, for example in the office. At the moment English is still the official language of St Lucia but Kewyo I is becoming more and more popular and heading towards becoming the second national language of the island.

Food

Creole cuisine is a fusion of local and international influences, artfully blending spices and using fish, seafood and poultry. Cured meats, 'colombo' curry powder, accras de morue (an Antillean cod fritter just as popular in the French overseas departments) precede desserts which would be equally at home in Blighty (carrot cake), as well as bowls of fresh local fruit - one of Saint Lucia's primary exports is bananas.

A St Lucian favourite is callaloo soup, made from locally grown spinach and often served with crab. The local cuisine is based on a large variety of spicy sauces and lots of sweet and sour flavours. Local ketchup is also a must to try! St Lucians also produce their own rum called the 'Chairmans Reserve' which is made up of local spices and fruits including cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, vanilla, coconut, all spice and lemon. The local lager is Piton.

Ideal Weather Search

Find weekly weather forecasts for St Lucia . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to St Lucia . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in St Lucia .

Reviewed hotels

Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin

Our journalists' reviews for you 17 hotels St Lucia . Take a look at our hotels, their facilities or their value-for-money score according to your departure dates so that we can find the best offer to suit you St Lucia . Book a hotel St Lucia it's never been so simple !

Souvenirs

Though Saint Lucia can't claim to offer the Caribbean's finest handicraft, you'll be able to get your hands on a rag doll, batiks, sculptures or a traditional multicolour costume. Remember to stock up with some of the local ketchup, some rum and, of course, some spices. Shops are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm and from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm on Saturdays. Supermarkets and shopping centres are open until late.

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