Unpick a story of warring colonial powers in crumbling fortresses, discover a chocolate factory with a bohemian past, and meet a rare, indigenous Caribbean population ready to show you ancient traditions and craft. From the island that inspired such luminaries as Jean Rhys, let Dominica inspire you.

Cabrits National Park

This pretty, forested headland offers idyllic trails that delve deep into this enchanting national park; but the highlight for any culture seeker are crumbling remnants of old Dominica. Head first to the Douglas Bay Battery, an evocative set of ruins hidden deep in the jungle, beset with hulking cannon and stellar views. This is almost the stuff of Indiana Jones, relics of British colonial defences. For a better picture of this history, head back down the mountainside to the restored Fort Shirley. This impressive coastal fort was the backdrop to a fascinating slave-soldier rebellion, that paved the way for all slave soldiers in the British Empire being freed. The revolt is one of Dominica’s most historically important moments, a spark which ignited the emancipation of millions.

Kalinago Barana Autê

The last remaining community of Kalinago, the native population of Dominica, display centuries-old traditions and customs at this remarkable cultural centre. With a clutch of traditional-style buildings to explore, plus craft and dance displays, this model village offers a glimpse at a rare way of life in the Caribbean. Dominica’s Kalinago held firm to the island in a way most other indigenous peoples couldn’t manage, making this a unique experience amongst the island sprawl.

Pointe Baptiste Chocolate Factory

Bohemian history and a unique taste of Dominica await at the Pointe Baptiste Chocolate Factory. The rolling estate was purchased nearly 100 years ago by Lennox and Elma Napier, looking for their very own paradise following the horrors of the Great War. Lennox, a political radical, and Elma, the first woman elected to council in the whole of the British West Indies, were liberal and notably social; their lives were bohemian through and through, encapsulated in Elma’s book Black and White Sands. Now, their grandson continues this rather hippy sentiment with a small chocolate factory that stands as a symbol for sustainable and locally-sourced production. In short, his chocolate is a little square of heaven, infused with locally-grown ingredients and island favourites like rum, mint, tangerine and chilli.

Roseau

Dominica’s capital is a colourful patchwork of old colonial-era buildings, some resplendent in bold colours and showing off architectural features that read like a who’s who of ex-colonial powers. A splash of French, a bit of English, a smattering of Spanish; explore it on foot to get a good sense of the island’s history and culture. The Roseau Cathedral is another interesting sight, a familiar gothic structure at odds with the tropical setting it sits in. Don’t miss the Dominica Museum, with a collection covering indigenous archaeology, the slave trade and colonial history. When you’re done there, pop into the local Ruins Rock Cafe, set in a crumbling military leftover serving rather eccentric rum punches.

Roseau Old Market

Roseau’s Old Market is a hub of Dominican life, with a chequered history stretching back 300 years. With the daily influx of the cruise-ship crew, the market becomes a vibrant spot for browsing handmade souvenirs and trinkets – the seasonal fruits and veg are delicious and all grown locally, with a few street food spots to satisfy your cravings. For all its buzz, it's pertinent to remember that this square was the site of slave auctions for hundreds of years. It’s an uncomfortable truth of the colonial Caribbean, creating pause for thought as you wonder the old cobbles of the square.

World Creole Music Festival

The highlight of the Dominican calendar has to be this three-day musical extraordinaire. The downtown streets of Roseau fill with syncopated rhythms, as musicians take to the streets and hawkers offer street food, rum punch and ice-cold Kubuli’s. If you’ve got tickets, the festivities continue for the main event in Windsor Park Stadium. Expect hypnotic island sounds from zouk to soca, calypso to bouyon and beyond...

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