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The former British colony of Barbados won its independence from Britain in 1966 but still remains the most British of the Caribbean islands with a penchant for cricket and a cup of tea. Situated northeast of Venezuela, Barbados built its economy on slave labour and sugarcane plantations, but is now known as an idyllic tourist destination. Locals – such as singer Rihanna –  refer to themselves as Bajan.

The most popular areas to visit on this small Caribbean island are the region around the capital, Bridgetown, and the well-developed tourist sectors of Western Barbados and Southern Barbados.

Bridgetown offers a sophisticated lifestyle where, if you're lucky, you could spend a day at the races, watch the West Indies play at Kensington Oval or indulge in duty-free shopping. The west coast is home to luxurious resorts and private estates, while the south coast is the place to party with a lively and energetic nightlife on offer.

The east coast of Barbados is a renowned surfing destination due to the relentless waves of the Atlantic Ocean known as the Soup Bowl. Barbados waters are some of the most transparent in the Caribbean and offer great opportunities for swimming, snorkelling and diving among sunken shipwrecks, tropical fish, turtles and coral formations.

Another unusual way to view the depths of the ocean is by submarine tour, where you can view marine life while you descend down to 50 metres beneath the water.

The interior region of Central Barbados is where you'll find beautiful plantation houses and museums which detail the dark slavery past of this island nation. These sights are set among rolling limestone hills and lush scenery where small villages, museums, old churches and botanic gardens reflect the island's colonial and natural history.

Put the lime in the coconut and don't forget the rum

Barbados is also famous for rum, specifically Mount Gay Rum, and you can tour the distillery near Bridgetown. The island icon, the flying fish, is found on coins and souvenirs and also makes its way onto menus eaten lightly crumbed and fried, then topped with a hot pepper sauce.

Another traditional Bajan dish is pepperpot, a pork stew in a dark brown sauce. You'll often find spicy Bajan cuisine served with more sedate British fare as a nod to the country's colonial past.

As well as the laidback lifestyle, azure waters and white sandy beaches, another attribute of Barbados which makes it a popular holiday and cruise destination is the variety of accommodation to suit all budgets.

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