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General

One of the most notable things about Curaçao is its culture; from the colonial architecture of the Dutch to the mouth-watering cuisine of the Creole. The island's UNESCO heritage capital of Willemstad offers visitors a window into the past with its pastel-coloured houses and cobblestone plazas.

Elsewhere, the island's rolling desert plains hide a myriad of scenic gems, from hidden rocky coves trimmed by massive cliffs, to long sandy beaches flanked by clear blue-green water. Leafy nature trails offer quiet seclusion while music-filled malls bustle with bag-laden shoppers and cut-price deals.

Willemstad

The capital is noted for its brightly coloured, Dutch-style houses and a range of other interesting and complementary architectural styles, including cunucu houses (based on African-style mud and wattle huts), thatched cottages and country houses. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the finest shopping centres in the Caribbean. Monuments of interest in the city include the Statue of Manuel Piar, a famous freedom fighter, and two statues associated with World War II: one given by the Dutch royal family to the people of Curaçao and one in commemoration of those who lost their lives.

The mustard-coloured Fort Amsterdam, now the seat of government of the Netherlands Antilles, stands at the centre of historic Willemstad, which from 1648 to 1861 was a fortified town of some strategic importance. The fort’s church, still standing, doubled as a storehouse for provisions saved in case of siege. Other specially designed storerooms for food, sails and other essentials may still be seen. A cannonball is still embedded in the church’s southwest wall.

Nearby is the present Governor’s Residence, dating back to the Dutch colonial days. Also worth seeing are the Queen Emma Pontoon bridge and the Queen Juliana Bridge. The latter spans the harbour at a height of 490 m (1600 ft). The harbour itself has a floating market where colourful barges full of agricultural produce can be seen. Nearby is the new market building, the design of which is very striking. The market comes to life after 6 am on a Saturday morning.

The architecture of the Scharloo area, reached by crossing the Wilhelmina Drawbridge, is fascinating, dating from as early as 1700. The Mikvé Israel Synagogue is the oldest in the Americas and, like the Jewish Beth Heim Cemetery, is worth a visit. Its courtyard museum has a fine collection of historical artefacts.

Other Places

Besides the excellent beaches and hotel resorts, the island itself has a number of other points of interest. Just outside Willemstad is the modern site of the Netherlands Antilles University and, further along the western road, is the Landhuis Papaya (a country house), the Ceru Grandis (a three-story plantation house) and the driftwood beach of Boca San Pedro. Also of note is Boca Tabla, the thundering underwater cave of the north coast and the picturesque fishing village of Westpoint.

St Christoffel National Park, occupying the most northwestern part of the island, is a nature reserve dominated by the St Christoffel Mountain. There are several caves adorned with Arawak Indian paintings, some unusual rock formations and many fine views across the countryside – the ruins of the Zorguliet Plantation and the privately owned Savonet Plantation and the Savonet Museum may be seen at the base of the mountain; the latter dates back to the 18th century and is still in use today. The indigenous flora includes orchids and some very interesting evergreens. As well as the interesting birdlife, iguanas and the shy Curaçao deer may also be observed at the park.

Well worth a visit are the interesting Caves of Hato. Magnificent stalactite formations, wall paintings and underground streams with cascading waterfalls can be seen within the 4900 m (16,076 ft) labyrinth.

 

 
 

 



 


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