Grenada Dubbed the 'Spice Island' because of its impressive production of nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, ginger and cloves, Grenada has a rugged mountainous interior of rainforests and waterfalls and an indented coastline with protected bays and secluded beaches. Its capital, St George's, has one of the prettiest harbor settings in the Caribbean. Tourist infrastructure is still generally small-scale and locally owned and offers a good balance between comfort and price, making Grenada a great getaway for those who want to avoid the resort experience. 1) Background 2) Economy 3) History 4) Culture 5) Activities 6) Events 7) Attractions Background: One of the smallest independent countries in the western hemisphere, Grenada was seized by a Marxist military council on 19 October 1983. Six days later the island was invaded by US forces and those of six other Caribbean nations, which quickly captured the ringleaders and their hundreds of Cuban advisers. Free elections were reinstituted the following year. Economy: Grenada relies on tourism as its main source of foreign exchange, especially since the construction of an international airport in 1985. Strong performances in construction and manufacturing, together with the development of an offshore financial industry, have also contributed to growth in national output. History: Grenada's recorded history began in 1498, when Christopher Columbus sighted the island on his third voyage to the so-called New World. The first European settlement wasn't attempted until 1609, when a party of 208 English settlers tried to establish tobacco plantations, but they quickly fell victim to raids by native Carib Indians and abandoned the island. In 1650, Governor Du Parquet of Martinique 'purchased' Grenada from the Caribs for a few hatchets, some glass beads and couple of bottles of grog and immediately established 200 French settlers on the island. Within a year the French were weary of skirmishes with the Caribs and sent a contingent of soldiers to sort the locals out. The Caribs were routed at Sauteurs Bay, but rather than submit to the colonists, the survivors - men, women and children - jumped to their deaths from the precipitous coastal cliffs. The French then set about establishing plantations of indigo, tobacco, coffee, cocoa and sugar, which were worked by African slaves. Grenada remained under French control until it was captured by the British in 1762. Over the next two decades it teetered between the two colonial powers until it was ceded to the Brits in 1783. It remained under British rule until independence, though animosity lingered between the British colonialists and the minority French settlers with violence erupting periodically. In 1877, Grenada became a Crown Colony. In 1967 became an associate state within the British Commonwealth. Grenada and the neighboring Grenadine Islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique adopted a constitution in 1973 and became an independent nation in 1974. The post-independence period was plagued by corruption, extremism and political thuggery until a bloodless coup by London-educated lawyer Maurice Bishop in 1979. He immediately reinstated a measure of human rights and promised to resolve the country's economic problems. Bishop had widespread popular support and proved a charismatic leader, but his policy of nonalignment and socialist leanings didn't sit well with the USA or Grenada's more conservative neighbors. Ostracized by the West, Bishop turned to the Cubans for aid, who then undertook construction of a new airport on Grenada. A struggle between Bishop and military hardliners resulted in Bishop's overthrow in 1983, and he was placed under house arrest. A spontaneous gathering of 30,000 people (one third of the island's population) forced Bishop's release. Together they marched to Fort George, where the military opened fire on the crowd, killing an estimated 40 protesters. Bishop and several of his followers were taken prisoner and summarily executed. In the turmoil that followed, the US government convinced a handful of Caribbean nations to pledge support for a US invasion of the island. US forces invaded six days later in an operation that claimed the lives of 70 Cubans, 42 Americans and 170 Grenadians, including 18 who were killed when US forces mistakenly bombed the island's mental hospital. Most US forces withdrew two months later, although a joint US-Caribbean force remained stationed on the island for several years. Democratic elections have been held in 1985, 1990 and in 1995, the last bringing the New National Party to power and installing NNP leader Keith Mitchell as the Prime Minister. In late 1998, the defection of several members of Parliament from the NNP to the opposition brought the government down. As a result, elections were held in January 1999, which Mitchell won handily despite accusations of corruption from the opposition. Culture: Grenadian culture is a mixture of British, African, West Indian and French influences. Though the majority of Grenadians are Roman Catholic and a French-African patois is spoken by some, the French influence on this small nation is slight compared to other neighboring islands that have oscillated between the main Caribbean colonial powers. The official language is English, and though the majority are Roman Catholic, there are plenty of Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. African Creole influences come to the fore during Carnival, and a general resurgence of black pride is visible in the widespread practice of giving African names to Grenadian children. Carriacou has a unique folk troupe that performs the African-influenced Big Drum Dance, centered around the playing of drums made of small rum kegs covered with goatskin. On Grenada, steel band and calypso music are popular. The folk art of Carriacou artist Canute Caliste has gained international recognition painting visions of mermaids and sailing vessels at his home in L'Esterre. The popularity of steel hulls has made it difficult to see traditional wooden schooners being built on Carriacou. Activities: Grenada's most popular beaches for sun baking and swimming are all in the southwest of the island. They include the fine sweep of white sand at Grand Anse, nearby Morne Rouge Bay and True Blue. Calvigny Island, off the island's southwestern coast, has a couple of pretty beaches; you can reach them by shuttle boat from Secret Harbor or by asking fisher people around Woburn Pier. If you want to have a beach to yourself, head to Carriacou. The waters around Grenada have extensive reefs, with good coral, fish, turtles and other marine life. Dives come in a variety of flavors, including shallow reefs, walls, drifts and shipwrecks. The best sites are Bose Reef, Dragon Bay and Grand Mal Point. It's also worth checking out the unpopulated islands between Grenada and Carriacou. Kick 'em Jenny is worth visiting for the name alone, but the tiny island is also surrounded by pristine waters with great visibility; there's a sheer wall dive at Sisters Island. Moliničre Point, just north of St George's, has the island's best snorkeling, although land access is difficult. If you're interested in game fishing, blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish and yellowfin tuna swim in Grenada's waters. The best catches are in the winter months. Good hiking trails wind through the Grand Etang rainforest, which occupies the center of Grenada. They include the Mt Qua Qua Trail, which leads to the top of a ridge with fine views of the forest; the Seven Sisters Falls Trail, which leads to a series of seven waterfalls; and the gentle but frequently muddy Grand Etang Shoreline Trail. There's also a network of short walking trails in the La Sagesse Nature Centre, on the island's southeastern coast. The trails explore the former estate of the late Lord Brownlow, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. Events: Grenada's biggest festival is Carnival, held on the second weekend in August. It includes calypso and steel band competitions, all sorts of costumed revelry, a pageant and a grand finale 'jump-up' on the following Tuesday. Many of Carnival's events are held at Queen's Park, on the north side of St George's. The Spice Island Billfish Tournament held in January attracts anglers from North America and the Caribbean keen to hook its six-figure first prize. Carriacou's four-day Carnival usually takes place in February. The Carriacou Regatta, a major sailing event featuring races to Grenada, Union Island and Bequia, is held in late July or early August. It's accompanied by additional sporting events and plenty of music and dancing. Attractions: St George's: The picturesque hillside town of St George's surrounds a deep horseshoe-shaped harbor and is widely regarded as one of the prettiest spots in the Caribbean. It has a charming setting, steep twisting streets and pastel-hued 19th-century Creole houses, many of them roofed with red fishscale tiles brought over as ballast on ships from Europe. Cargo vessels, cruise ships and colourfully painted wooden schooners from Carriacou dock in the busy harbor, known as the Carenage. It's surrounded by mercantile houses, warehouses and quayside cafes, then by the steeply tiered streets of St George's and, finally, backed by Grenada's lush green hills. The winding maze of streets and alleys on the west side of the Carenage are fun to wander around; check out the policemen directing traffic at blind street corners. The Grenada National Museum in the centre of town incorporates an old French barracks dating from 1704. Its hotchpotch of exhibits include fragments of Amerindian pottery, an old rum still and a grubby marble bathtub that once belonged to Empress Josephine. The hilltop Fort George, established by the French in 1705, has fine views from the harboršs western promontory across the town's red-tiled roofs and church spires and over the Carenage. In the fort's inner compound you can see the bullet holes in the basketball pole made by the firing squad that executed Maurice Bishop. The spot is marked by fading graffiti reading 'No Pain No Gain Brother.' The late-18th-century Fort Frederick protects the harboršs eastern entrance and has panoramic views of Grenada's southwestern coastline. The fort is well intact, thanks in part to a tragic targeting blunder made during the US invasion of 1983. The US intended to hit Fort Frederick but mistakenly bombed Fort Matthew, just a few hundred yards to the north, which was being used as a mental hospital at the time of the attack. Grand Anse: Grenada's main resort area is a lovely sweep of white sand fronted by turquoise water and backed by hills. Packed with hotels, bars, eateries and water sports, it's the essential Grenadian experience for many. If you want some peace and quiet, cross the peninsula of Quarantine Point (once a leper colony) to the picturesque Morne Rouge Bay. Grand Etang Road: This road cuts across the mountainous centre of the island through the Grand Etang Forest Reserve, passing close to waterfalls and a number of hiking trails. While both tortuously narrow and twisting, the road is lined with ferns, bamboo, heliconia and buttressed kapok trees, making for a rousing if formidable drive through the rainforest. Annandale Falls, close to the village of Constantine, is a 10m (30ft) waterfall in a grotto of lush vegetation with a pool beneath the falls that's deep enough for a swim. A short drive past Constantine is the Grand Etang National Park, which has some grand views of the western coast, numerous hiking trails and a crater lake. Sauteurs: The largest town on Grenada's northern coast takes its name from the French word for 'jump.' This is the site where in 1651 retreating Carib families leapt to their deaths rather than surrender to approaching French soldiers. Carib's Leap is the name given to the 40m (130ft) high coastal cliffs where the tragic event happened. From the cliff ledge you can look down on the fishing boats along the village beach and see eroded rock formations and nearby islands.