St Lucia, also known as the ‘Heavenly Island’ is a lush tropical Caribbean destination with beaches, mountains and exotic plant life. It was once home to two Nobel laureates: Sir Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott, and its economy is based largely on banana exports. But it’s the stunning scenery, volcanic formations and hot sulphur springs that attract visitors to this little slice of paradise.

The most famous sight is the iconic Pitons, twin peaks that rise from the ocean like a staircase. The mountains have become a symbol of the island, even appearing on the flag, which combines the colours of the Caribbean sea and sky, with the white of the sugar cane fields.

But this is just one facet of St Lucia’s culture, which is a rich mix of British, French and Caribbean influences. The indigenous Arawak and Carib peoples were expert hunters, farmers and traders, and their influence can still be seen in the cuisine. Amerindian food includes cassava and yam, as well as fish-pots and other tradiational foods. The island’s Amerindian culture was decimated by the arrival of Europeans, so it’s only a small percentage of the population who can trace their roots back to this group.

A large number of the locals are descendants of African slaves, and this proud heritage has also shaped the island’s culture. Their presence is felt in the language and music of St Lucia, as well as in the customs and traditions celebrated at festivals and events throughout the year.

These include the popular annual Saint Lucia Carnival, which celebrates the arrival of spring by using vibrant costumes and lively dances to express the island’s sense of fun and joy. Other major festivals include the colourful Caribbean Festival of the Arts, the Cap Estate Gardien International Jazz & Arts Fair and the Saint Lucia Crafts and Antiques Show.

The capital city of Castries is a bustling centre of activity. It’s the place to go for fresh fruits, vegetables and spices, and a great spot to pick up souvenirs. A visit to the thriving market is also a true insight into the daily lives of the islanders.

In terms of education, the island has a mix of public and private schools, as well as a number of colleges and universities. The University of the West Indies has a branch in St Lucia, which offers tertiary education and adheres to British educational standards.

The economy is mainly based on tourism, but the country has a diverse range of crops including bananas, cocoa, and mangoes. Banana production was once the main source of foreign income, but the industry has been hit hard by falling world prices and competition from imports. It remains an important part of the economy though, and is complemented by a vibrant services sector and the growing cultivation of exotic fruits and flowers. The government aims to promote eco-tourism as a way of increasing the number of visitors and boosting the economy.

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