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This teardrop-shaped island, 4, miles south-west of Gatwick, manages to pack in lush rainforest, scores of golden beaches and striking mountains into its square miles — twice the size of the Isle of Wight, and rather more sultry. Its scenic splendours, added to the fact that many battles had been fought over it, led a British historian to give it the sobriquet "the Helen of the West Indies", after Helen of Troy. Apart from its stunning scenery and excellent climate, St Lucia offers possibly the best balance of places to stay, restaurants to savour, sights to see and things to do in the entire Caribbean.

It is part of the Windward Islands chain in the West Indies and its nearest neighbour is Martinique, officially a department of France, 21 miles north. St Vincent lies 24 miles to the south, while Barbados is miles south-east. The island's location in the trade winds keeps the climate pretty even: an average of just over 80F by day and 70F by night from November to March, increasing by about 5F for the rest of the year. The rainy season runs from June to October sometimes later. But at any time of year you can expect a warm welcome, a choice of places to stay from historic to hedonistic, and a vast amount of activity options.

The original settlers were Amerindians who migrated from the north-east shores of South America between 1, BC. They called the island Iouanalao, "the place where the iguana is found". They were eventually driven out by the more warlike Carib Indians from the ninth century AD onwards, whose version of the Amerindian name was Hewanorra - now celebrated in the island's airport, at the far south of the island.

The present name came about, according to local tradition, when a group of French sailors was shipwrecked on the island on 13 December , the feast day of Sainte Alousie of Syracuse. This story is somewhat undermined by the fact that the island had already appeared earlier that year on a Vatican globe as Santa Lucia, but the islanders still celebrate 13 December as their national day. Sadly for Sainte Alousie, a 3rd-century martyr, she had her eyes gouged out while being tortured for her faith, and so would not have been able to appreciate the beauty of the place named in her honour.

The first European settled here in the s. He was a French buccaneer named Francois Le Clerc, who in the best piratical tradition had a wooden leg and was nicknamed Jambe de Bois. Establishing a base on Pigeon Island to the north, he sallied out to raid passing Spanish ships.

When to go to St Lucia

In , 67 English colonists bound for Guyana were blown off course and landed on the island. Deciding to settle, they bought huts from the Caribs, who soon turned on them. A month later only 19 were left, and they fled by canoe.

From the s onwards France and Britain squabbled over the island, and it changed hands 14 times before it was finally ceded to the British in St Lucia achieved independence in , and is now a member of the Commonwealth. Rodney Bay is the place for you, then. Named after Admiral George Rodney, who sailed out of the bay to defeat the French in one of those interminable battles, it's the throbbing hub of the island's nightlife. Tune up with a cocktail or three in the Village at Ti Bananne restaurant and bar , whose mixologist Kirma Mongroo was crowned the island's top bartender earlier this year.

These Coco Resorts for UK sales; coco-resorts. For dinner, you're spoilt for choice, but recommended are Ti Bananne's French Caribbean cuisine, succulent seafood at Buzz , grilled fish on the beach at Spinnakers or, if you're missing your curry, a Tandoori at Razmataz Still not sleepy?

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Party on into the small hours down at the Lime Bar — "to lime" is the local slang for "to hang out" — or enjoy the disco and live music at Delirius. If you'd been out for the recent one-day cricket international at the Beausejour ground a few miles from Rodney Bay, you'd have ended up rubbing shoulders with some of the England team and West Indies legend Brian Lara. And if it's Friday night, head for the Jump Up at nearby Gros Islet, a raucous street party with barbecues, booze and Caribbean beats. The room St Lucian has long been a favourite of the England cricket team, although when they played on the island a couple of weeks ago they opted to stay elsewhere; perhaps the fact that the pedalo in which Freddy Flintoff launched himself out to sea after a late night during the World Cup two years ago is still sitting on the beach there might have had something to do with it.

However, in keeping with the excellent service they offer, it was one of the staff who rescued him. The Royal is a step up in luxury; all its accommodation is suites, most of them with a sea view. If you feel like splashing out, the Presidential Suite starts at about twice as much, and has its own Jacuzzi, a terrace the size of a tennis court, enough sun loungers to cater for a small sun-bathing army, and a king-size bed.

The Royal's go-ahead British manager, Mark Grebby, played a major part in setting up Jamie Oliver's Fifteen project in Cornwall, and one of their graduate chefs is on a placement at the hotel.

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If the mouth-watering signature dish of seared kingfish he created for the hotel's premier restaurant, Chic, is anything to go by, both sides have gained a lot from the experience. Head down south on the west coast. First stop, Anse Chastanet ; ansechastanet. No TV, no Wi-Fi, no phones in the 49 individually designed rooms scattered down the lush hillside or down by the beach - just a dreamily idyllic resort on a secluded beach, with plenty of watersports on offer, including snorkelling and scuba diving.

Its three restaurants include the island's first vegetarian establishment, with organic produce grown on its own farm. Amy Winehouse first fell in love with St Lucia while staying here, but now she's feeling friskier she's decamped to the north of the island. Wherever you're staying, though, don't emulate her recent topless antics; it's neither legal nor appreciated on this deeply Catholic island a legacy of its French past.

Perched above Anse Chastenet, and under the same ownership, is the recently opened Jade Mountain ; jademountainstlucia. Its chunky architecture looks rather utilitarian from afar as you sail into the bay, but close up the rooms are simply stunning.

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Completely open on one side, 24 of the 29 rooms feature substantial infinity pools where you can laze gently while admiring the Pitons in the distance. Caribtours ; caribtours. Prices include return flights with British Airways, transfers and breakfast. The defining image of St Lucia: Gros Piton and Petit Piton are the second- and third-highest peaks on the island at 2,ft and 2,ft respectively.

Places to visit in Saint Lucia

They are much more spectacular than St Lucia's highest, the 3,ft Mount Gimie in the central rainforest. Volcanic plugs formed by an eruption aeons ago, their foliage-covered flanks tower majestically over the southern coast, and they have been recognised as a World Heritage site by Unesco.

For an even closer look, stay at Ladera ; ladera. The u. The loudest noise you'll hear is the frogs when they start their dusk chorus. Or just visit for lunch or dinner at its restaurant Dasheene, where Chef Orlando, from Jamaica via Beckenham, devises Creole dishes with a flamboyant twist.

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And if the water pistols on the table mystify you, they're not for squirting fellow diners but to deter the birds if they get too inquisitive in the open-sided dining room. Peer down from Ladera and you will see the acre Jalousie Plantation ; thejalousieplantation. Originally a sugar plantation, it has a long history as a distinctly upmarket resort - former owners include Colin Tennant, aka Lord Glenconner, a close friend of Princess Margaret, who often visited. Guests who choose the luxury villa category from the villas and rooms can enjoy a whiff of elegance with their own butler, who will unpack their luggage, organise their laundry, make any reservations and be constantly on tap via a mobile phone.

Most of the natural tourist attractions are in this area, along with several more fine resorts and inns. Find the perfect tours and activities in St. Where to Stay Recommended Hotels in St. Quickly find St. Lucia hotels and compare prices. Where to Eat Recommended Restaurants in St. French Coal Pot. French Jacques Waterfront Dining.

Caribbean Orlando's. Caribbean Rainforest Hideaway. Asian Tao. Eclectic The Cliff at Cap. Indian Apsara.

Find the best food tours and activities in St. Need to Know. Nearby Airports UVF. Currency Eastern Caribbean dollar; pegged to the U. Taxi Travel resources Safety. See All Travel Tips. Articles See All. Lucia For a weekend full of breathtaking ocean views, vibrant local culture, and plush accommodations, look no further than St.

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