The tiny nation of Barbados, the most easterly of the Caribbean islands, is located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies. With its year-round pleasurable climate, turquoise blue seas, and brilliant white sandy beaches, Barbados is justifiably one of the most popular islands in the region. Barbados has a rich and diverse cultural background and is famous for its vibrant festivals and fine historic buildings. Here are some interesting facts about Barbados.
Facts about Barbados
1. Barbados is one of the smallest countries on earth, ranking 183rd by area.
Barbados has a total area of 439 km² (169 sq mi), which makes it about 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC. Barbados’s shape has often been compared to that of a pear or a leg of mutton. It’s possible to drive around the whole circumference of the country in about 3 hours.
2. Barbados means “The bearded ones.”
The Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos sighted Barbados in 1536 en route to Brazil and referred to the island as os Barbados meaning “the bearded ones.” The magnificently bearded fig trees native to the island were once in abundance.
They have long-hanging aerial roots, and to Pedro Campos, who sighted the island in 1536, these roots made the trees look like they had beards. Hence the name.
3. Barbados was an English colony for over 300 years.
In 1625, when the English landed on the west coast of Barbados at an area now known as Holetown they found the island uninhabited. The British assumed control of the island, and within a few years they realized they could make money by cultivating a precious commodity: sugar, or as it was called by many at the time, “white gold.”
That demanded workers, and initially numerous Scots and Irish were shipped to Barbados, both as indentured servants and as slaves. However, the British soon began importing slaves from West Africa to work the plantations. The slaves came from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
On November 30, 1966, Barbados finally became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations. Many fine architectural edifices from the British Era such as churches, grand plantation houses, military forts, and signal stations can be found all over Barbados.
4. In November 2021, Barbados officially removed Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became a republic.
On 30 November 2021, Barbados transitioned to a republic and in the process severed its last remaining bonds to the British monarchy after nearly 400 years.
The Caribbean island nation ditched Queen Elizabeth II as the head of the state as a way to finally break with the demons of its colonial history. Dame Sandra Prunella Mason, who was selected to become the first president of Barbados in October 2021 replaced Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.
Barbados, however, still remains within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe.
5. A person from Barbados is called a ‘Barbadian’ or ‘Bajan’.
The term ‘Bajan’ (pronounced Bay-jun) is commonly used by locals to describe themselves. This probably stems from a localized pronunciation of the word ‘Barbadian,’ which at times can sound more like ‘Bar-Bajan’.
6. The highest point in Barbados only reaches 336 m (1,102 ft).
Located in the parish of Saint Andrew, Mount Hillaby is the highest peak in Barbados, only reaching a height of 336 m (1,102 ft).
7. Afro-Barbadians are the largest ethnic group in Barbados.
About 91% of the population of Barbados identifies as black. The remainder of the population is white, South Asian, East Asian, or mixed. Afro-Barbadians are descendants of the slaves brought over from Nigeria and the Gold Coast region, especially from what is today the countries of Ghana and Benin.
The majority of white Barbadians are primarily descended from settlers and forced indentured servants from England, Ireland, Portugal, and Scotland who arrived during the British colonial period.
8. The flag of Barbados is very recognizable.
Adopted in 1966, the flag of Barbados as we know it today is probably one of the most recognizable flags in the world. It consists of a vertical triband with a yellow stripe that features a black trident between two stripes of blue. One of the unique facts about Barbados is that its flag is the only national flag in the world with a trident.
The deep blue stripes represent the waters that surround the island nation, while the yellow stripe stands for the country’s beaches. The trident emblem likewise represents the ocean, and each of the trident’s three points also represent the three guiding principles of democracy.
The bottom part of the trident has been broken off, which represents the nation breaking away from its colonial past so that it can forge a new future as an independent country.
9. The main religion in Barbados is Christianity.
About three-fourths of Barbadians identify as Christian. The majority of Christians in Barbados are Anglican with smaller groups of Pentecostals, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and Methodists.
10. Barbados is a coral island.
Unlike many of its neighboring Caribbean islands which are mainly volcanic in origin, about four-fifths of Barbados’s surface consists of coralline limestone. It is home to a vast array of caves and underground lakes, which provide some of the purest drinking water in the world since the coral acts as a natural filter.
11. Barbados has a 97 km (60 mi) long coastline.
Barbados coastline extends for 97 km (60 mi), all of it along the Atlantic Ocean.
12. The national sport of Barbados is cricket.
Barbados has a strong cricketing tradition dating back to the early 19th century when the game was played by plantation owners and British soldiers stationed on the island. Most Bajans are cricket mad and follow the sport religiously.
Internationally, Barbadian cricketers play for the West Indies cricket team. Some of the most notable cricketers from Barbados include Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Gordon Greenidge, Joel Garner, and Malcolm Marshall.
13. Barbados’s closest neighbor is St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
As an island nation, Barbados does not share any land borders with any country. The next closest sovereign nation is Vincent and the Grenadines, located approximately 179 km (111 mi) west of Barbados.
14. The sport of road tennis originated in Barbados.
One of the fascinating Barbados facts is that the sport of road tennis originated on the tiny island. Created in the 1930s by those who couldn’t afford to play lawn tennis, road tennis is essentially a miniaturized version of the tennis we all know.
There’s one player on each side of the court and road tennis is played using two wooden paddles and a tennis ball with the fur removed. Rather than use lawn tennis’ scoring system, scores in road tennis are counted as that of table tennis, so the first player to 21 (with at least a two-point lead) wins.
15. Barbados drives on the left.
Perhaps not surprising for it is a former British colony. Cars in Barbados drive on the left side of the road.
16. The currency of Barbados is the Barbados Dollar (BBD).
The current Barbados dollar was introduced in 1972, six years after its independence when it replaced the East Caribbean dollar (XCD).
17. Barbados doesn’t observe daylight saving.
Clocks do not change in Barbados and daylight-saving hasn’t been observed in the country since 1980.
18. The official language of Barbados is English.
English is the sole official language of Barbados and is used in print, in the media, in the judicial system, and in public services all over the island. However, almost 99% of Barbadians speak Bajan Creole, an English-based creole language with African and British influences which produces a unique vocabulary and speech pattern. Bajan Creole is widely used in informal settings.
19. The capital of Barbados is Bridgetown.
Located on the southwestern coast of Barbados, Bridgetown is the nation’s capital. It is easily the busiest and most populated place on the island. It is also the commercial center of the country and home to its chief port. It is served by Grantley Adams International Airport.
20. The Pride of Barbados is the national flower of Barbados.
The Pride of Barbados blooms most of the year and the most common variety is the fiery red with a yellow margin on the petals. Its significance is underlined by the fact that it is also part of the country’s coat of arms.
21. In Barbados, it’s good luck to have a mongoose scurry across the road in front of you.
One of the strangest facts about Barbados is that it is considered good luck to have a mongoose scurry across the road in front of you. The slender, furry creature was introduced to Barbados from India as part of a plan to combat the increasing rat population, which was posing a substantial threat to the key sugar cane industry.
However, this plan hit a snag as the rat is a nocturnal animal and the mongoose ate snakes instead which were the rat’s original predator.
22. Barbados is famous for its rum.
Rum has been produced in Barbados for over 350 years and Barbados rum is recognized as one of the finest and potent in the world today. Rum is manufactured from sugarcane, which is grown throughout the island. Operating since 1703, Mount Gay Rum is the world’s oldest rum distillery and it is one of the most famous rum brands in the world.
Rum is a key part of Barbados’s culture and the island lives and breathes this elixir. It’s been estimated that there are over 1,500 brightly colored rum shops scattered around the island.
23. The grapefruit originated in Barbados.
Definitely of the lesser-known facts about Barbados is that the grapefruit originated on the island. The citrus hybrid originated in Barbados as an accidental cross between the sweet orange and the pomelo, both of which were introduced from Asia in the 17th century. Exactly how this happened, though, is a mystery.
24. Barbados is home to the world’s largest collection of 17th century British Iron Cannons.
It is often said that Barbados possesses the world’s largest collection of 17th century British Iron Cannons. More than 400 cannons can be found around the island today. Many are located at historic Bridgetown Garrison.
25. Barbados is home to one UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, an outstanding example of British colonial architecture were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site List in 2011. The area consists of a well-preserved old town built in the 17th-19th centuries, which testifies to the spread of Britain’s Atlantic colonial empire.
26. Barbadians refer to their country as ‘Bim’.
Barbadians often affectionately refer to their nation as ‘Bim’. Two theories exist as to how the name came about. The first is that Bim could have been a corruption of the surname Byam, after Lieutenant General William Byam, a Royalist leader faithful to the crown during the Civil War.
Initially exiled to Barbados, Byam later went to Suriname in South America. It is said that his followers became known as ‘Bims’ and that this became a name for all Barbadians.
The other theory is that ‘Bim’ stems from a word meaning ‘my home’ or ‘my people’ in the language of the Igbo people of West Africa, many of whom arrived from modern-day southeastern Nigeria as slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries.
27. Tourism is the biggest contributor to the economy of Barbados.
Barbados’s economy is heavily reliant on the tourism sector. Tourism directly accounts for 13% of GDP and indirectly for 40%. It is also responsible for around 40% of total employment on the island. Barbados is most popular for its pristine beaches, but also offers various other water sports and hiking opportunities. The largest number of visitors come from the US and the UK.
28. Cou-cou and flying fish is the national dish of Barbados.
The national dish of Barbados is cou-cou and flying fish. Cou-cou (similar to polenta), made from yellow cornmeal and okra, is served with fish, vegetables, rice, or pasta. The flying fish is prepared in an aromatic sauce of tomato, chives, onion, thyme, fresh pepper, garlic, and other local herbs.
29. Barbados is the most densely populated nation in the Caribbean.
Barbados is home to approximately 290,000 people. With a population of 660 km² (1,709 sq mi), Barbados is easily the most densely populated nation in the Caribbean, and also one of the most densely populated nations in the world.
30. Barbados has won only one medal at the Olympics.
Barbados first competed at the Summer Olympic Games in 1968 and has participated in each of the Summer Games since then, missing only the 1980 Summer Olympics. The country’s only Olympic medal to date is a bronze courtesy of Bajan sprinter Obadele Thompson in the men’s 100 meters at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Barbados has never competed at the Winter Olympics.
31. Barbados was the only nation George Washington visited.
This is definitely one of the obscure facts about Barbados. George Washington, the first American President, made one journey outside of the continental United States and that was to the island of Barbados. He sailed to Barbados with his older half-brother Lawrence in 1751.
However, it wasn’t a cruise vacation. Lawrence was suffering from tuberculosis and it was believed that the gentle breezes of Barbados had recuperative powers that could cure this usually fatal disease. The brothers stayed in a historic plantation house in Barbados for two months which is today a UNESCO-protected property.
32. Barbados is the birthplace of international pop star Rihanna.
Today, the successful pop star Rihanna is probably the most well-known Barbadian outside the island. Born in Saint Michael and raised in Bridgetown, Rihanna often speaks fondly of her beloved homeland. In November 2021, Rihanna was officially made a “national hero” of Barbados.
33. Barbados is home to the world’s smallest snake.
The Barbados threadsnake, the smallest known snake species in the world is found only in Barbados. With adults averaging just under 10.1 cm (4 in) in length, this fascinating reptile is as thin as a spaghetti noodle.
34. Barbados battles a shortage of freshwater.
Barbados is one of the highest-ranking water-scarce nations globally, with a per capita water use that is greater than what is naturally available. Due to its island nature, Barbados has a lack of freshwater which is worsened by reducing rainfalls.
Like many other island nations, climate change is a major stressor. Water management is also challenging due to indiscriminate freshwater pollution from distilleries and various other manufacturing plants.
35. Barbados likes to take care of its citizens.
Primary and secondary education at public schools is free for citizens of Barbados. Barbados also provides universal health care to its citizens.
36. Barbados lies outside the hurricane belt.
Although some meteorologists say there’s no such thing as a “hurricane belt,” certain Caribbean islands do get hit more often due to weather patterns and trade winds. The hurricane season runs from June to November and peaks in August through October, wreaking havoc on the Caribbean islands.
Hurricanes rarely hit Barbados directly, as it is situated farther south and east of the Caribbean’s typical hurricane trajectory. Barbados has been hurricane-free since devastating Hurricane Janet hit in 1955.
37. Barbados experiences only two seasons.
Due to its tropical location, Barbados generally sees only two seasons: the dry season, from early December to May, and the wet season, which lasts for the rest of the year. The temperature in Barbados doesn’t usually rise above 30 °C (86 °F) or fall below 21 °C (70 °F).