25 interesting facts about Barbados

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The most interesting facts about Barbados, from the world’s oldest rum to the home of pop star Rihanna and some of the world’s best cricketers

A beautiful beach in Barbados
Interesting facts about Barbados its popularity with tourists (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Barbados
Capital city: Bridgetown
Population: 294,560
Area: 430 sq km
Major languages: English, Bajan
Time zone: UTC-4 (Atlantic Time Zone)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Barbados

1. Barbados is an island nation located in the southeastern Caribbean Sea of North America.
– Source: Britannica

2. Little of Barbados’s prehistory is known, but archaeological evidence suggests it may have been settled as early as 1600 BC by people from South America who later vanished from the archaeological record.
– Source: Britannica

3. From around 500 to 1500 CE, Arawak and Carib Indians likely lived on Barbados, which they called Ichirouganaim.
– Source: Britannica

4. The name Barbados derives from Portuguese and means “the bearded ones”. This either refers to the long, hanging roots of the island’s fig trees or to the alleged beards of the native Carib inhabitants.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

5. Barbados was depopulated because of repeated slave raids by the Spanish during the 16th century. It is thought that any Indians who evaded enslavement likely migrated to elsewhere in the region. 
– Source: Britannica

6. Barbados was uninhabited when first settled by the British in 1627.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

A defunct sugar mill in Barbados
A defunct sugar mill in Barbados (Shutterstock)

7. British settlers then developed Barbados as a major sugar plantation economy employing slaves transported from Africa. Slavery was finally abolished in 1834 following a revolt in 1816.
– Source: BBC News

8. Barbados was a huge sugar producer as the plantations flourished. Landowners imported huge numbers of African slaves. It is estimated that around 500,000 slaves worked in Barbados and the wider Caribbean. Even after the abolition of slavery, emancipated slaves had little choice but to continue working on the plantations for meagre wages.
– Source: New York Times, Lonely Planet

9. In 1966, Barbados gained complete independence.
– Source: BBC News

10. Singer Rihanna is from Barbados. The artist, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, is an ambassador for the country and has even had a street named in her honour: Rihanna Drive.
– Source: BBC News

11. Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison are Barbados’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the country’s capital, the site is identified “an outstanding example of British colonial architecture consisting of a well-preserved old town built in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries”.
– Source: UNESCO

Bridgetown in Barbados
Bridgetown in Barbados (Shutterstock)

12. Today, Barbados is a major tourist destination receiving over 664,000 tourists every year.
– Source: UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

13. In 2021, Barbados became the world’s newest republic after ending the tenure of British Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.
– Source: The Guardian

14. One of the surviving Concorde planes is located in Barbados. Of the 20 supersonic airliners built, 18 are still in existence with one parked in Barbados. There used to be a weekly Concorde flight to Barbados from London.
– Source: The Telegraph

15. People from Barbados are officially known as Barbadian(s) but are also commonly referred to as Bajan.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

16. Barbados is home to the world’s oldest rum, Mount Gay, established in 1703 by English businessman Sir John Gay.
– Source: Rough Guides, Lonely Planet

Bottles of Mount Gay rum
Mount Gay is the world’s oldest rum (Shutterstock)

17. Rum is an integral part of Bajan culture and history. As such, there are believed to be over 1,500 rum bars located on the island.
– Source: Lonely Planet

18. Cricket is the country’s national sport with Barbados producing some of the West Indies’ and the world’s most celebrated cricketers. Stars include Garry Sobers, Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall and West Indies’ current captain Jason Holder.
– Source: The Telegraph, BBC Sport, Visit Barbados

19. In 2018, Barbados elected its first female prime minister, Mia Mottley.
– Source: BBC News

20. Every few years, Barbados has been deluged by waves of sargassum – a type of seaweed – that washes up on its eastern shores. The island has been hit by severe volumes in 2011, 2015 and 2018. The smelly algae attracts insects, discourages tourism, prevents fishing and entangles sea turtles and dolphins.
– Source: The Atlantic

A beach covered with sargassum seaweed
A beach covered with sargassum seaweed (Shutterstock)

21. In 2020, Barbados was also blanketed by an enormous cloud of Saharan dust that had moved from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea.
– Source: BBC News

22. Music plays a big role in Barbados and the country is home to several major music festivals including the Barbados Reggae Festival, the Barbados Gospelfest and the Barbados Celtic Festival which celebrates the island’s connection with Ireland, Wales and Nova Scotia.
– Source: The Telegraph

23. The Crop Over Festival is a three-week-long traditional festival that initially marked the end of the annual sugarcane harvest. Today, the festival is a lively collection of parties, calypso competitions and street markets. The festival finishes with a Carnival-style parade and firework display.
– Source: Visit Barbados

24. The flag of Barbados is vertically striped blue-yellow-blue which represents the sea, sand and sky. There is a central black trident head featured which is associated with Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea.
– Source: Britannica

The flag of Barbados
The flag of Barbados (Shutterstock)

25. According to the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), Barbados is the most developed nation in the Caribbean and the third most developed in North America after Canada and the USA.
– Source: United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

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