Where Are The Warmest Beaches

The Daily Mail's Rob Crossan travels to St Lucia and takes part in the Caribbean ritual of mud bathing 

  • He also visits the Gros and Petit Pitons - but avoids climbing the peaks in favour of something more relaxing

  • Windjammer Landing has a beachfront bar ideal for enjoying a pitcher of beer and fried calamari, he says

  • By Rob Crossan For The Daily Mail

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    This is a Caribbean ritual that has previously escaped me. I’m furiously rubbing mud on to my torso, scooped with my hands from a rickety bucket positioned perilously close to the edge of a large trough.

    Beneath me, people are submerging themselves into waters the colour of prison porridge — only quite a lot hotter.

    Here, a couple of miles inland from the south-west coast of St Lucia, a sulphurous, volcanic mud bath has long been considered a perfectly normal way to relax and a solution for fixing any rheumatic pain in the process.

    Perfect blend: Windjammer Landing on the north-west coast of St Lucia is a mix of old-fashioned charm and up-to-date luxury

    Taste of the tropics: A mango seller

    Taste of the tropics: A mango seller

    It’s a pastime dating back to Louis XVI, who decreed (while the island was a French possession) that the stone troughs built for bathing should be filled with sulphurous waters by plugging the holes with banana skins.

    The banana skin technique has vanished, but little else seems to have changed. And it’s easy to spot their location from the billowing tapers of smoke.

    My skin, afterwards, feels softer and smoother than it has been at any time since I started shaving. But after so much contact with the bubbling browns and greys of the sulphur spring waters, I’m keen to see some of the other brighter hues and tones that St Lucia offers away from the beaches.

    Shaped like a raindrop and fought over between the French and the British in the manner of two children bickering over a favoured toy (both countries ran it seven times each before a final, lengthy spell of British rule after the Napoleonic Wars that ended with independence in 1979), today’s St Lucia has English as its official language, but town and village names almost exclusively of French progeny.

    Covid rates are currently high by Caribbean standards, but the only real restriction to visitors (and locals alike) is a curfew which means residents and tourists must be back at home (or at their resort) by 7 pm from Monday to Saturday.

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    On Sundays, the whole island is in lockdown, meaning I am confined to my resort, but able to partake in most of the activities on site, or lounge by the pool or on the beach just as I would have done regardless of any pandemic. The rules will be reviewed this weekend, when the curfews could be lifted.

    The island’s small size means it’s still easy to get to attractions without breaking the evening curfews and I quickly adapt my thinking to interpret Sunday as a day of ‘enforced laziness’ which, let’s be honest, is why most people holiday in St Lucia in the first place.

    Refreshed, but thankfully not scalded from my volcanic bath, I take a water taxi from the docks of Soufriere, the south-west coastal village located a mile or so from the volcanic baths. The streets of Soufriere are a ramshackle sprawl of stout Catholic chapels and pastel-coloured wooden slatted houses with bijou verandas occupied by sleeping cats.

    The colourful streets of Soufriere feature wooden houses painted in Caribbean pastels 

    As I sail further south down the west coast, cauliflower clouds bulge and cascade across the skies, the natural totems (and perennial poster boys) for the island slowly reveal themselves.

    The pitons, two vertiginous spikes of lava, carpeted with greenery, are named Gros and Petit — the former, at a shade under 2,620ft high, is about 160ft taller than its sibling.

    Gros Piton can be climbed in about 90 minutes if you’re fit as a fiddle, but the midday heat and the desire for something a little more relaxing defeats the last of my rapidly depleting enthusiasm for scaling these giddy heights.

    Majestic: Pictured is an aerial view of Soufriere with the towering twin volcanic Pitons peaks in the background

    Majestic: Pictured is an aerial view of Soufriere with the towering twin volcanic Pitons peaks in the background 

    TRAVEL FACTS

    From November 15, BA is increasing its London to St Lucia flights to four a week from Gatwick and three a week from Heathrow. Returns from £541. Doubles at Windjammer from £233 per night B&B (windjammer-landing.com). For more info, visit stlucia.org

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    Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/escape/article-10145693/St-Lucia-holidays-Discovering-Caribbean-islands-captivating-beaches-warm-hearted-people.html

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