Located near the coast of north-western Venezuela is a small island called Curacao. Like its neighbours in the Caribbean Sea, this country features a variety of attractions ranging from beaches to important cultural sites. Its location, however, makes it hard to notice, as the general attention of tourists focus on the belt of islands in the Lesser Antilles region. This island country packs a number of landmarks and activities for a laidback Caribbean getaway.
Travellers going to Curacao will learn that it functions as an independent country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Colonisation of the island began in 1634, with the Dutch making it the centre of the Caribbean slave trade which supported the local economy. The abolition of slavery in 1863 has adversely affected the country, but the economic situation became more active again by the early 20th century. Serving at the Venezuelan oil fields, particularly the Isla Refineria, shored up the country's flagging income. Tourism is also a factor, as the number of travellers visiting here grows steadily through the years.
Where to go
Other than its beautiful beaches, Curacao has a rich history starting with its capital, Willemstad. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 due to the inner city and harbour that has developed the town and livened up its historic districts. Travellers visiting here will find that the architecture reflects European urban planning, with styles from the Netherlands as well as from the Spanish and Portuguese. There is also the Sint Anna Bay on the southern part of the island which forms a narrow gateway to the inland bay of Schottegat.
Exploring the city of Willemstad yields sights such as Queen Emma Bridge, where one can sit on the wall and watch ships pass by. This is perfect for travellers who seek a bit of solitude before heading to other attractions such as the Museum Kura Hulanda which is housed in 19th-century slave quarters. The highlight of a visit here is the exhibits on the detailed history of the Caribbean.
There is also Christoffel National Park to discover for tourists interested in nature tours. This 1,800-hectare preserve was once formed by three old plantations. Upon finishing a tour of the grounds, tourists can visit the museum here, which has an excellent inventory on the colonial era. Those going outside the national park and into the dirt roads will find various plants, trees, orchids, cacti, as well as iguanas and other creatures on the limestone cliffs and caves.
Travellers excited to go on various water sports can turn to Bonaire with its reef-lined coast and beautiful waters. Diving and snorkelling enthusiasts will have fun trying out any of the numerous dive sites where more than 350 fish species and 57 species of soft and stony corals are housed. Mangazina di Rei is also a major attraction due to its exhibits that demonstrate its role during the peak of slavery in the 17th century.
Those looking for an ecotour, on the other hand, can schedule a visit to Washington-Slagbaai National Park where one can find flamingos in the lowlands and parrots around Pos di Mangel. Iguanas and other reptiles, as well as birds, also abound in the mostly tropical desert landscape.
Travellers interested in long-haul trips can go on a 10 to 11-hour flight to the Netherlands. This European country has more attractions apart from those in Amsterdam such as Keukenhof where tulips in different colours grow in abundance. From here, tourists can move on to Hoge Veluwe National Park which covers almost 13,800 hectares of natural beauty due to the woodlands and dramatic dunes. Birdwatching, hiking, and biking are popular activities here in this side of the country.
Another fascinating sight is the windmills that somehow blend in with the grassy landscape of Kinderdijk. Built between 1722 and 1761, these surviving structures were used to originally drain the fenlands, but now serve as a popular attraction between April and October, which is the only season it opens. Valkenburg also makes a nice spot due to its medieval heritage, spa facilities, and caves. One will also see here St. Nicolaaskerk Basilica and the Velvet Caves.
How to get out
Travellers going on to the next leg of their trip can leave the country via Curacao International Airport. Airlines serving here are Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, American Airlines, ArkeFly, Avianca/Aerogal, Avior Airlines, Copa Airlines, Divi Divi Air, Estelar Latinoamerica, EZAir, Insel Air, Insel Air Aruba, JetBlue Airways, KLM, RUTACA Airlines, Sunwing Airlines, Surinam Airways, and WestJet.