Looking for something different? Are you tired of crowded beaches, fully booked hotels and crammed restaurants? What do you think of a small tropical island, situated between Martinique and St. Vincent, with unspoiled natural beauty and colorful villages. Bright blue skies, unending beaches and lovely bays, rain forest, palm trees and banana plantations are all the ingredients which will give you a pleasant and unforgettable holiday.

St. Lucia is one of the most uncommonly beautiful islands in the Caribbean. Its rich, volcanic soil supports lush, green rain forests that are home to giant ferns, stands of bamboo, and the colorful national bird, the St. Lucia parrot. Two dramatic peaks, Gros Piton and Petit Piton, tower over the southern end of the island. The coastline is dotted with lonely coves and beautiful white- and black-sand beaches, such as spectacular Reduit Beach to the north and secluded Anse Chastanet and Marigot Bay, where Dr. Doolittle was filmed.

The island's early inhabitants were the peaceful Arawak Indians, whose remnants have been unearthed on Pigeon Island, just off the northern tip of St. Lucia. 

The fierce Carib Indians conquered the Arawaks by the early 16th century and were in turn conquered by Europeans, starting in 1502 with the arrival of Columbus.

For the next 300 years, St. Lucia alternated repeatedly between French and British control, until it was ceded to the British in 1814. In 1979, the island was granted sovereignty as a member of the British Commonwealth.

Since then, it has gained international recognition, partly for the works of native writer Derek Walcott, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.

The discovery of the island of St. Lucia by the Europeans is steeped in ambiguity. Some historians believe Columbus landed there on December 13, 1502, but other records show Columbus could not have been anywhere near the island on that date. Many historians now believe St. Lucia was actually discovered by Juan de la Cosa, Columbus' navigator, in 1499. At any rate, St. Lucians still celebrate Discovery Day as December 13, 1502.

When the European settlers did arrive on the shores of St. Lucia, they were met by the fierce Carib Indians, who, by that point, had eliminated the peaceful Arawaks living there since before AD 200. In 1605, a ship carrying English settlers headed for Guiana was blown off course and landed on St. Lucia. Only 19 passengers managed to escape death at the hands of the Caribs, fleeing the island in a canoe. Thirty years later, another group of British settlers fared no better. Eventually, in 1660, the French were able to sign a treaty with the Caribs, and subsequently conquered the island.

That date marks the beginning of a long, historic struggle for control of St. Lucia between the French and the British. For 150 years, the two empires fought each other for the island and caused a great deal of turmoil for its inhabitants. Finally, in 1814, the English took permanent possession.

During those trying times, the Europeans who settled on St. Lucia established sugarcane plantations there and imported slaves from West Africa until slavery was abolished in 1838. Today, most of the island's population is descended from the vast number of African slaves brought there by the Europeans.

In 1883, the coal industry was introduced on St. Lucia and the capital city of Castries became one of the West Indies' leading coal ports until 1920. The economy depended next on revenue from sugarcane, and in the 1960s, bananas.

Since February 22, 1979, St. Lucia has been an independent state within the British Commonwealth. The island's government is led by a resident governor-general, who is designated by the Queen. The influence of the French is not gone from the island, however; it remains namely in the island patios spoken there, the Creole cooking and in the names of places and people.

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