St. Barths, a tiny island famous for its sugar white beaches and celebrity holidaymakers, is located 200 km to the north of Guadeloupe. Until 2007, when it accomplished separation through a referendum, St. Barths was included in France’s overseas department of Guadeloupe.
During the course of its history, St. Barths changed hands rather a few times. Christopher Columbus put the island on the map in 1493 and named it after his brother Bartholomew. Around the mid-17th century, the island was settled by the French. Soon after, in 1651, they sold it to the Knights of Malta. However, 112 years later the French settled the island again.
For many years, the island was a haven for French buccaneers who cemented St. Barths’ economic prosperity by plundering Spanish ships. It is believed that the treasure of Montbars the Exterminator, a legendary pirate, still lies hidden on the island or in its seaside coves. In 1784, St. Barths was sold to the Swedes, who named its capital Gustavia after their king Gustav III. In 1801, the island was briefly taken over by the British, who were driven out in 1802.
During the colonial wars of the 18th and 19th centuries, St. Barths, a neutral territory controlled by Sweden, was the main trading point for all warring parties. Here, they could sell their spoils and replenish their stocks. This was the island’s golden age, but when the fighting was done and the era of tall ships came to an end, the island became a burden on the royal treasury, and in 1877 Oscar II, King of Sweden and Norway, sold St. Barths back to the French for the modest sum of 320,000 francs. Due to its small land mass, hilly terrain, rocky soil and lack of fresh water sources (to this day, the island imports its drinking water), St. Barths could not become an agricultural powerhouse like other islands nearby. Instead, it became the economic heart of the region and is still holding on to its reputation of an island haven for the rich and the famous. It is a free trade zone and a popular anchorage for yachts.
Here, splendid villas are tucked away on green hillsides, small luxury hotels are dotted along the sea shore, and gorgeous secluded beaches are scattered everywhere along the coast – some of them, notably, can only be reached by water. St. Barths is surrounded by shallow reefs, offering perfect opportunities for snorkelling and diving. Other popular aquatic activities include surfing and fishing, while favourite pastimes on land are walking, tennis, and horse riding. For those who like their worldly pleasures, the island offers plenty of gourmet restaurants, bars and fashion boutiques.
DATA AND FACTS:
St. Barths (Saint Barthélemy) is an overseas collectivity of France in the northern Leeward Islands
Area: 25 km²
Climate: tropical, average air temperature 28° C
Population: around 8,500
Official language: French
Local Time: Friday 18th of August 2017 - 09:51:53 PM
Country code: 590