St Vincent & The Grenadines is a group of 32 Caribbean islands and cays which are including among the Windward Islands. The country’s closest neighbors are Grenada, 75 miles (120 km) to the south, St. Lucia 24 miles (40 km) to the north and Barbados 100 miles (160 km) to the east. St. Vincent is the largest of the islands that comprise the tiny nation. The Grenadines extend 45 miles (72 km) from St. Vincent to the southwest. The major islands, north to south, are Young Island, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island, Palm Island, and Petit St. Vincent.
The English and the French both claim colonial history on these islands. It is said that the English first discovered them while the French first settled the islands. However, settlement did not come without a price. The Carib Indians fiercely protected the island from Western invasion. In the end they relented and England and France traded the islands back and forth from 1700 until 1783 when Britain gained total control. In 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence. Today, the population is descendent of African slaves, the Carib Indians and European settlers.
In more recent history, the 20th Century has been fraught with natural disasters. In 1902 and again in 1979, the island’s volcano, La Soufriere, erupted, bringing with it much agricultural destruction and, in the case of the 1902 eruption, many deaths. In addition, 1998 and 1999 saw active hurricane seasons which devastated the islands’ banana and coconut plantations. However, the tiny island nation has persevered and is now attracting more tourism than ever before.
As a well-known luxury destination with a burgeoning tourism trade, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a good range of topside attraction to keep you busy on non-diving days. Visiting the Tobago Cays, a group of five uninhabited islands, is a must for anyone who loves pristine corals and a variety of marine life. Both divers and snorkelers claim its the best day trip from St. Vincent. Visitors can also opt for a catamaran trip through the Grenadines to take advantage of above the water vistas. On St. Vincent, there are many hiking trails that crisscross the mountainous landscape and tourists can also visit the Western Hemisphere’s oldest botanical garden just north of Kingstown. History lovers should visit Fort Charlotte or Fort Duvernette to explore the island’s colonial past. Finally, Friday and Saturday bring a colorful and bustling market to the streets of Kingstown that is perfect for picking up souvenirs and trying local gastronomic delights.
At the moment, arriving to St. Vincent and the Grenadines is quite difficult, but this is sure to change soon as a new international airport is currently under construction. For the time being, the largest airport is E.T. Joshua Airport just outside Kingstown on St. Vincent. This airport welcomes island hopper flights from Canouan, St. Lucia, Barbados, and Saint Kitts.
There are other, smaller airports on the islands of Bequia, Mustique, Canouan and Union Island which host domestic flights and some flights originating in Barbados.
Visitors may also arrive by private boat or cruise ship. For those wishing to transfer from St. Vincent to one of the Grenadines, local ferries are available.
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