Known primarily as an all-inclusive beach vacation spot and the perfect place for a destination wedding, the island of St. Lucia also boasts rich culture and history.
With many traditions, historic sites to go to and a plethora of cultural events, those who want to split their time between the beach and other activities will find plenty of reasons to visit St. Lucia.
Saint Lucia is located in the Caribbean Sea, with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the south and Martinique to the north. While the island is quite small, only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, its volcanic topography is absolutely stunning and it's one of the reasons Saint Lucia attracts so many visitors every year.
Similar to other Caribbean islands, Saint Lucia's history holds strong ties to the centuries of colonial rule by the French and the British, as well as its indigenous and African traditions. The result is a vibrant mix that makes the culture of Saint Lucia so unique.
The best place to start exploring St. Lucia's history is in the Castries, the island’s capital. Here, visitors will find a quaint mix of colonial and Caribbean architecture, including the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and museums, such as the Saint Lucia Folk Research Center, where you’ll be introduced to local folk dress and stories.
You can also discover the historic town of Soufriere, where tourists can visit the Diamond Mineral Baths and Soufriere Estate to see the restored mansion, botanical gardens and sugar mill. The town itself is also picturesque, with a lovely French square, as well as two other nearby estates – Morne Coubaril and Stonefield.
Some of the top historic attractions in Saint Lucia are located just off the coast of the main island. This includes Pigeon Island National Park, where you can visit the island museum to learn more about the events that took place here, and Fort Rodney, which was built in the late 18th century.
You can also enjoy the beautiful views over Saint Lucia. The Vieux Fort on Maria Islands gives visitors the perfect opportunity to spend a day out in nature, for example.
One of the top reasons to visit St. Lucia is to take in the vibrant culture of the island. No matter what time of the year you travel, there is bound to be a festival or an event going on. Saint Lucian people celebrate their culture with pride, music and cheer, like in June when Castries transforms into a site of glamorous parades, soca concerts, extravagant costumes and Mardi Gras-style street parties.
There are also a few music festivals throughout the year. Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival takes place annually after Easter, around the end of April or beginning of May. At the end of August, mark your calendar for the Roots & Soul Festival, and October brings the Arts & Heritage Festival of Saint Lucia.
Smaller events include the Rose Festival, Feast of La Marguerite and International Creole Day. Of course, if none of these match up with your vacation dates, there are Friday night street parties all year long in Gros Islet and Anse La Raye.
No cultural experience is complete without tasting local delicacies. Saint Lucian traditional foods are rooted in the island’s diverse culture and influences, with a combination of French and Creole flavors and a touch of the West Indies. The national dish of the island is green fig and saltfish, which features salted cod cooked with spices and served alongside savory green bananas.
Callaloo soup is another local favorite, prepared with leafy greens indigenous to the Caribbean islands. Stews are also popular on Saint Lucia, like pouille dudon, which is made with chicken, treacle and coconut. There are also some traditional foods you shouldn't miss during your visit to St. Lucia, like roti stuffed with curried chickpeas or veggies.
If you are after the culinary experience in Saint Lucia, then try to visit during the Rum and Food Festival. This is the perfect time to sample the best foods the island has to offer as well as specialty demonstrations by renowned chefs, rum tastings, concerts, parties and more.
Saint Lucia may be known best for its beaches and nature – and these should definitely not be missed – but the island offers vibrant cultural and historic experiences as well. If you visit Saint Lucia, make sure you have a chance to take in all of it.