Trinidad and Tobago: two very different islands, one mighty inviting destination. As the home of carnival, calypso and limbo dancing, not to mention Angostura Bitters, the country specialises in worldly contributions that have always been an assault on the senses. It’s raw in places, cosmopolitan in others and has a wondrous line-up of festivals and celebrations. What’s more, it punches way above its weight in the scenery stakes too. Diving? Hiking? Beaches? Waterfalls? Nightlife? Come on in.
To talk about it as one nation, however, is accurate but misleading. Oil-rich big brother Trinidad plays home to more than 95% of the country’s population and has all the vigour this would suggest. Port of Spain, surrounded by verdant hills, is the main city. Here, bazaars throng beneath modern skyscrapers and mosques share the skyline with cathedrals, while the whole place bounces to the beat of Carnival, one of the planet’s great parties. It takes place annually on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – and more than meets the hype.
Beyond the capital beckon volcanoes, a self-replenishing asphalt lake and magnificent bird reserves, meaning the island is as famed among twitchers as it is among party animals.
Tiny Tobago, meanwhile, sitting 32km (20 miles) northeast of Trinidad, moves at an altogether gentler pace. No island was more fought over in the colonial era – it changed hands some 32 times, which says something about its appeal. It’s fertile, located outside the hurricane belt and is even said to be the inspiration behind Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Here, too, there are world-class attractions for nature lovers – it is home to the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere – and you’ll also find a spread of modern beach resorts. On both islands, meanwhile, the colourful jumble of different cultural influences has left T&T with a delicious, spice-led cuisine.