It’s easy to fall back on stereotypes when discussing the Caribbean. The locals are so-laidback-they’re-horizontal; the sand is white, the sea turquoise and the weather sunny all year round; and come nightfall, everybody dances on the beach, listens to reggae and drinks their weight in rum. There is, of course, some truth to all of the above. But there’s also an unexplored, unexpected side to Caribbean islands like Jamaica – and putting aside the usual activities for a venture into the unknown can make for the holiday of a lifetime.
Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park
Perhaps the biggest misconception about Jamaica is that it’s a flat landscape of palm trees, beaches, and seaside towns. In truth, Jamaica is dominated by soaring mountain ranges. Head to the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, at the eastern end of the island, and you can make the seven-mile hike up to Blue Mountain Peak to watch the sunrise. While you're there you’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled for the Homerus swallowtail, the second largest butterfly in the world.
The Georgian Town of Falmouth
It’s a fairly common quirk of the Caribbean that you will come across Georgian architecture in the midst of a modern beach resort. In the case of Jamaica’s Falmouth, the town is dominated by 18th and 19th century buildings, and as a result it’s a must-see stopover for history buffs. Founded in 1769, Falmouth flourished as a market town and port over the following century; today it’s a popular cruise destination that blends modern vibrancy with old-world charm.
The Glistening Waters
Just to the east of Falmouth lies a sheltered coastal inlet known locally as the Luminous Lagoon or the Glistening Waters. If it sounds like something out of Harry Potter, that’s because it delivers on the magic in a big way. The lagoon marks the meeting point of the Martha Brae River and the Caribbean Sea, and the mixing of these bodies of water creates the perfect environment for bioluminescent micro-organisms, which light up whenever they are disturbed by movement. If you do pay a visit to the Glistening Waters, make sure you go on a clear, moonless night.
The National Gallery of Jamaica
If you’re planning a trip to Jamaica it’s likely that you’ll be spending some time in the capital city of Kingston, a place famed around the world for its lively atmosphere, rich history and excellent night life. While you're there, carve out an afternoon for the National Gallery of Jamaica, where you can delve into the unique cultural heritage of the island and get a feel for traditional Jamaican art.
Actually, the Rum and Reggae…
No trip to Jamaica would be complete without experiencing these two staples of Caribbean life. Kingston has the best reggae clubs (Redbones Blues Café is one to check out) but for the finest rum, you’ll want to head to the Appleton Factory, the largest and oldest distillery in Jamaica.
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