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The island of Aruba has an abundance of idyllic beaches and a storied history, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the Caribbean.
With eight resorts on the island’s idyllic western coast, Virgin Holidays has plenty of options for your Aruban adventure.
The little island in the Caribbean Sea is around 21mi (33km) long and 6mi (9km) wide, and was first colonized around the year 1000 by people from modern-day Venezuela. The Caiquetio Indians were eventually replaced by Spanish conquistadors, who were succeeded in the 17th century by Dutch settlers. That’s why most Arubans speak Dutch along with Papiamento creole.
Aruba is one of four countries, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, that make up the Dutch Kingdom. Following a long campaign from Aruban politician Gilberto ‘Betico’ Croes throughout the 1970s, the island became autonomous in 1986. However, its citizens remain Dutch nationals.
Aruba has an ethnic diversity that belies its small population. There are more than 90 different nationalities between 100,000 people, including Haitian, Dominican and Colombian, which has shaped Aruba’s culture and cuisine. There are no major cities, rather six districts: Noord, Oranjestad, Paradera, San Nicolas, Santa Cruz and Savaneta, with most people living in either Oranjestad or San Nicolas.
Croes’s campaign also gave Aruba its national flag and official anthem ‘Aruba Dushi Tera,’ or ‘Aruba Sweet Land,’ something that Arubans celebrate each year on March 18. The flag’s blue background represents the sea and the red star represents the four points of the compass, symbolizing the nationalities that have called the island home, while the yellow stripes denote Aruba’s autonomy within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
For such a small island there’s a huge variety of ecosystems to be explored, including wildlife-rich marshlands, volcanic coastlines and sprawling sand dunes scattered with cactus and aloe (the latter, popular in beauty products, is one of the island’s largest exports).
Arikok National Park occupies around 8,000 acres (3,237ha) of protected wilderness, including naturally occurring pools, or conchis, along the east coast where you can swim protected from the waves. Further north, the Ayo Rock Formations offer panoramic views of the island. The Casibari Boulders, in particular, were considered sacred to the Caiquetio Indians, whose rock drawings still remain, as vivid as the day they were painted millennia ago.
Aruba’s most southerly district, nicknamed the Sunrise Side, is the island’s unofficial capital of culture. The streets are covered with stunning murals from a mix of local and international street artists, including Germany’s Bond Truluv, Brazil’s Eduardo Kobra and Curaçao’s Francis Sling. Each year the island welcomes an international community of artists for the Aruba Art Fair.
There are hundreds of restaurants across Aruba with every ethnic cuisine imaginable, from Brazilian and Peruvian to Japanese and Mediterranean. Traditional Aruban dishes include pan bati (cornflour flatbread), carni stoba (beef stew) and keshi yena (stuffed cheese) and, like most Caribbean islands, the seafood is amazing, with Aruban fish dishes best enjoyed with an ocean view on Palm Beach and Oranjestad.
Of course, any visit to the Caribbean is not complete without a trip to the beach. Aruba boasts a number of beautiful white sandy beaches, including Andicuri, Arashi, Eagle and Palm. There are more secluded options within Arikok National Park.
Visit Aruba with a Virgin Holidays package and experience everything this gorgeous Caribbean island has to offer.