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Ah, Barbados. Birthplace of rum, national dish Flying Fish and superstar Rihanna. But what do people continuously flock to this island for? The infectious party atmosphere conjured from a rolling calendar of festivals ensure that this idyllic island keeps going all year round. Those images that spring to mind of extravagant headdress’ and bejewelled outfits, with smoky aromas of delicious food and sounds of beating steel drums, will all come to life. Barbados may be an island of true beauty, but the fuse of cultural, culinary, musical and sporting events creates the perfect setting to immerse yourself into the way of local life. We give you the rundown of the carnival calendar and we guarantee there will be at least one to tickle your taste buds and whet your whistle.

February - The Holetown Festival

February 10th - 17th. One of the most renowned festivals across the island, and rightly so, The Holetown Festival is a celebration of Barbados’ history and culture. Dating back to 1977, it was first held to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the first English settlement in the area named Holetown. Now, more than 40 years later the festival opens with a re-enactment of this historical event, followed by nightly concerts featuring gospel, classical, Tuk band and calypso music. Harnessing parades of local people in a rainbow spectrum of beautiful clothes and costumes, the pride of the island radiates through the excitement and happiness. There are also a range of day tours and cultural events including the Vintage & Classic Car Parade, 7K Road Walk & Run and Queen of the Festival Pageant so there’s no way you’ll be rushing back to the pool anytime soon. 

March - The Sandy Lane Gold Cup

March 2ndIf you’re looking for prestige and glamour, The Sandy Lane Gold Cup is the place to be. One of the biggest events in the Eastern Caribbean horse racing calendar and, indeed, the biggest sporting event on the island is hosted by our top pick of luxury resorts on the island. International jockeys and trainers with thoroughbred horses from the UK and North America – some owned by the world’s leading investors in thoroughbred racing – flock to the island, where they compete alongside local and regional jockeys in this sought-after event. Join visitors from all over the globe to spectate ‘The Big Race’, which is run over a turf course at 1,800 metres (8.95 furlongs) and is open to horses aged three and over. Garrison Savannah is a fitting location for such a milestone event, as the home of horse racing in Barbados since 1845, offering up traditional Barbadian food to accompany the anticipation.

April - Barbados Reggae Festival

April 27th. Now in its 15th year, The Barbados Reggae Festival is a fusion of parties, shows and unique venues, all paying homage to the Caribbean soundtrack of reggae. Held for the first time in 2005, it now attracts more than 25,000 people during the four-day event and features a range of top local, regional and international acts. Think reggae beach parties and party cruises, as well as the yearly favourite ‘Reggae on The Hill’, a one-day mini festival featuring stars and DJ’s of the genre, which takes place at the historic Farley Hill National Park. This year’s festival will see Buju Banton, a Jamaican musician who has collaborated with the likes of Busta Rhymes and Trey Songz, headline – so make sure to park your dancing shoes because every little thing is gonna’ be alright here.   

August - Crop Over

August 4th and 5th. This is the longest festival Barbados hosts – a summer celebration of the end of the sugarcane harvest over six weeks where fairs, fetes, parades and competitions entice people from the north to the south of the island to join in the party. Formally known as Harvest Home, Crop Over began in the 1680’s on sugarcane plantations, where singing, dancing and feasting made for an appropriate celebration of a successful harvest. Sugarcane may not be produced in Barbados anymore, however the island appoints the number one festival accolade to Crop Over, rivalling carnivals on other Caribbean islands. Arts and crafts markets are in abundance, with foodies more than satisfied at the culinary street fairs. The festival ends on Grand Kadooment Day, where an explosion of colours, feathers, jewels and Masquerade Bands dancing along the crowded streets behind music trucks and moving bars, to the pulsating beats of Calypso, make for the most sensational street parade the island hosts.

October - Barbados Food and Rum Festival

October 24th - 27th. Barbados is often thought of as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and where better to showcase the island’s exquisite textures, tastes and tangs to wake up your tongue than The Barbados Food and Rum Festival. The line-up this year includes the Festival Opening at the Oistins Bay Gardens; The Signature Rum Event at Limegrove Lifestyle Centre, with food and rum samples on the Friday, followed by the Dine Around event on Saturday night which offers a wide selection of restaurants hosted by the best of local chefs. The festival comes to a tantalising end on Sunday with an afternoon at the polo paired with rum cocktails and canapes. This year will also see UK chef Tom Aikens joining the festival, one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs with his innovative and creative interpretation of modern French cuisine, so make sure to look out for him! The unforgettable culinary and beverage experiences will give you a true understanding of how this island came to be known worldwide as a hub for flavourful, imaginative and just greatly-put-together food and drink. If there’s ever a reason to stray from your hotel restaurant, it’s this. 

December - Barbados Run

December 6th - 8th. There ain’t no running away from this one, trust us. Barbados Run is a weekend jam-packed with running festivities and no matter your skill or ability, there’s an opportunity for everyone to get involved. The weekend kicks off with a fun run and pasta buffet, followed the next day by an afternoon party of live music and entertainment to pump up the runners of the 5k and 10k races which take place just after the Caribbean sounds begin. The Run Barbados 10K is one of the oldest in the Caribbean, going since 1983, and with the route looping the picturesque Bay Street Esplanade, opposite the Prime Minister’s office, overlooking the magnificent Carlisle Bay, this is one you don’t want to miss. Since launching, Barbados Run has grown through all barriers and now includes a midnight fun run, half-marathon and marathon, all weaving their way through the winding streets showcasing the beauty and heritage Barbados has to offer. 

The lure of Barbados isn’t just whitewashed sands, towering palm trees and sapphire seas – although these don’t hurt right? The island’s pride is really in its culture, heritage and history, which all merge together to create legendary festivals and carnivals inviting everyone to get involved, local and tourist.
If you fancy dancing into a world of luscious food, addictive music and heart-stopping entertainment then give one of our personal travel managers a call on 0203 816 0985 or enquire here to let us start planning your Barbados getaway now.
 
Ellena Rowlin

Ellena Rowlin is a Content Writer

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