Hello, start of January. This first day back to work is a guaranteed drag after two weeks of full-throttle decadence, and a month of parties leading up to it. You know what makes that better? Thinking about all the dreamy possibilities of travel in 2019.
Right about now, some sun, sea and sand wouldn’t be sniffed at – unlike the cold British weather. And while the Caribbean island of St Lucia is a sunny 28C – a temperature that’s consistent throughout the year – the idyllic shores aren’t the only reason that it’s a dream destination. For those who like to make the most of their holiday with activities a go-go, here’s what St Lucia offers away from the beautiful, beautiful beaches.
Discover its heritage in Soufriere
While the north of St Lucia has a high concentration of high-end hotels for the discerning beach-lover, the southern town of Soufriere is an urban break with a difference. For starters, its atmosphere and aesthetics are attractions in themselves. The area celebrates its French roots, as found in the New Orleans-style hybrid architecture, and the Church of the Assumption is a stunning building with colourful touches. It’s well worth spending a couple of days away from the sugar-sand beaches to explore buzzing life of the town. And yes, there are enough alluring hotels nearby for good hotel-hopping opportunities.
Get muddy at the Sulphur Springs
Near to Soufriere are the famous Sulphur Springs, effectively found in the expansive, town-wide caldera of a dormant volcano. In one area, you’ll find the bubbling geothermal waters smoking up this volcanic area, resulting in that famous bad-egg smell. But, as our tour guide points out, it’s a reassuring scent as a lack of it means the volcano might be prepping for an eruption. Further down the area, there’s a chance to strip down to a swimming costume and dive into pools of volcanic mud. Even if it didn’t enrich your skin with minerals, it’s huge fun especially as the mud comes in grey and white, allowing the opportunity for body mud pattern-making.
Eat chocolate. Lots of it
For chocoholics, there are few places better to experience than St Lucia. For starters, Hotel Chocolat’s cocoa comes exclusively from the island. But throughout the country, the culture of chocolate is ingrained. On Sundays, you’ll find an abundance of hot chocolate served at breakfast; this spicy, warming treat is made from cocoa sticks that you can buy in supermarkets. Or to turn it into an experience you won’t forget, take a bean-to-bar experience to see the process of chocolate making, from tending the cocoa plantations to infusing the choccie bars. Jade Mountain, a luxe hotel that produces their own chocolate bars, is a great place to start.
Soak up the music
Music is in the air in St Lucia. With traditional Caribbean culture still dominating outside of tourist areas and hotels, there’s ample opportunity to see it in action. If it’s not at St Lucia’s Jazz Festival in May, or the carnival in July, the Roots & Soul Festival takes place in August and September. A must-see is the Gros Islet Jump Up, a late night street party that doesn’t worry about keeping it down for the neighbours. Grab a drink from a street vendor and find the soundsystem that suits you.
Explore the rainforest
For the more virtuous among us, there’s plenty of outdoorsy activities to be found in the lush rainforests of St Lucia. The days of sunshine are often broken up by an afternoon shower, which has led to the thickest, greenest swathes of jungle you ever did see. There’s plenty to do within the area. From ziplining to nature trails, it’s there to be explored.
Practise those photography skills
We’d be hard-pushed to find somewhere as varied as St Lucia. Its rich history, many landscapes, the colour, culture and cuisine mark it as being everything a budding photographer could want. Both Instagrammers and SLR-fiends could go snap-happy, with an endearing mix of the modern and antique, weird and wonderful and classic scenes from exotic plants to romantic, secluded beaches. With a vibrant blue sky and cotton wool clouds almost always present up above, it’s a photographer’s paradise.
Get into Creole cuisine
St Lucia’s French-Caribbean heritage is reflected in its cuisine, with flavoursome Creole dishes that often benefit from locally-sourced ingredients. Try a typical meal at the Pink Plantation House, hidden away under Jurassic Park-sized palm leaves at the top of the mountains near Castries. Even a street food snack of hot bakes – puffy, delicious doughnuts – are a delicacy worth trying. To take a bit of St Lucia home with you, hot sauces are a nice treat, or for something a little different, grab a bottle of banana ketchup.
It’s not exactly Creole, but St Lucia is a fitting (and cheap) place to pick up Chairman’s Reserve Rum; you can get duty free prices in special shops in town, as well as at the airport.
For more information on St Lucia, please visit saintluciauk.org