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Rihanna, rum and a female PM: The new republic of Barbados is a hot spot for 2023

Mount Gay Distillery bar, Barbados
Mount Gay Distillery bar, Barbados   -   Copyright  Visit Barbados   -  
By Nichola Daunton

It may known by most as the birthplace of rum - the Mount Gay Distillery was founded here in 1703. But in recent years, Barbados has gained a reputation for its powerful women too, most notably music megastar Rihanna and Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

Mottley, who took on the premiership in 2018, has earned an impressive reputation on the global stage thanks to her impassioned speeches about climate change and its impact on SIDS (small island developing nations).

When did Barbados become a republic?

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Houses in Bridgetown, BarbadosCanva

The country became a republic in November 2021 too, removing the British Monarch - the now late Queen Elizabeth II - as Head of State. Barbados opted to remain part of the Commonwealth though, and Minister of Tourism Ian Gooding Edghill is keen to stress that Barbados still remains a close friend of the UK.

For some visitors it’s like a second home - and long may that continue.”
Ian Gooding Edghill
Minister of Tourism, Barbados

“The UK is important to us, even from a traveller’s perspective. We get the bulk of our visitors from the UK, and people from the UK like Barbados, for some visitors it’s like a second home - and long may that continue.”

While Mia Mottley and her team have plans to take Barbados in a green direction - the country has committed to being fossil fuel free by 2030 - tourism remains a hugely important part of life in Barbados, as Gooding Edghill explains.

“Our Prime Minister is very clear, very focused, on the direction that we have to go in respect of tourism and that has been communicated to me, and we fully endorse the position going forward,” he says.

“One message I like to say is that we are back and open for business.

“Barbados is open. Come and enjoy the warmth of the people and meet up with the local community.”

What are the best places to eat in Barbados?

Visit Barbados
A boat off the coast of BarbadosVisit Barbados

If you want to sample the true flavours of Barbados, then head to Oistins. This historic fishing town near Barbados’ southern tip is home to the annual Oistins Festival which, every Easter, celebrates the local fishing industry.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll find lots of fresh fish on offer in the town, with everything from barracuda and snapper, to flying fish and swordfish being caught in the surrounding waters.

If you want to learn how to cook Bajan food yourself, there are a variety of cooking lessons on offer across the island too. Accent Kitchen in St Michaels offers tourists the chance to cook some traditional Barbadian cuisine, with everything from macaroni pie to flying fish on offer.

The Barbados Food and Rum Festival is another must-attend event on Barbados’ culinary calendar. Taking place every October, this year’s event showcased the cooking skills of 32 local chefs and mixologists.

When is the Crop Over Festival?

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Crop Over Festival, BarbadosCanva

One of the best ways to soak up the spirit of Barbados is at the Crop Over Festival. Held every summer to celebrate the conclusion of the sugar cane harvest, Crop Over is Barbados’ biggest party.

With events from dusk until dawn, the festival brings together arts and craft markets, street food and events for families. The festivities culminate in Grand Kadooment Day, when you can expect to see masked dancers, feathers and sequins galore.

If you want to party in Barbados, then Crop Over is the event for you. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of Rihanna, who is a regular attendee at her country’s biggest and best party.

The best road trip in Barbados

Visit Barbados
People stand in a cave in BarbadosVisit Barbados

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds though, you should head to the more rugged and windswept east coast of Barbados, which faces the Atlantic Ocean.

“The east coast of Barbados is very picturesque,” says Gooding Edghill. “When you drive the east coast and you just look to the Atlantic side, the breath of the fresh air, the scenery, it’s wonderful.”

Along this rocky coastline you’ll find Lakes Beach and Walkers Beach, two long stretches of golden sand surrounded by green, verdant hills. Though this isn’t a safe place to swim, it's an excellent place for a spot of hiking.

Or if you prefer running, why not visit Barbados in December for the 39th edition of Run Barbados? The two-day event will include a scenic run along the east coast, or if running isn’t for you, you can take part in the family-friendly 5k walk instead.