We can all probably think of that bright blue bottle of liqueur that sits on bar shelves, barely touched and only incorporated into the most outlandish of cocktails?
Curaçao is its name and surprisingly it’s not just a liqueur. Curaçao liqueur (pronounced kewr-e-sow) is made on the so-named island from laraha citrus fruit, a bitter and basically inedible descendent of the domesticated orange.
Like its bright blue namesake, the island of Curaçao is little understood or known, a random obscure bottle located mostly out of sight.
However, if we take this island off its shelf for a moment it appears there’s much more to Curaçao than artificial blue colouring.
Curaçao’s capital Willemstad is a balmy, Caribbean version of Amsterdam, just without the liberal drug laws. It boasts colourful, eye-catching Dutch architecture, a friendly, open-minded culture and its inner city and surrounding ports have been deemed UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The island is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a remaining colonial outpost part of the ABC Islands of the Netherlands Antilles including Aruba and Bonaire. It sits merely 60 kilometres north of the Venezuelan coast and just outside the notorious hurricane belt of the region.
Curaçao has fused a Euro-Caribbean-African culture with its own language called Papiamentu, a grammatically basic blend of Creole, Portugese, Spanish and Dutch that, until recently, had no official spelling.
The present day beauty belies a dark past, for Curaçao is but another Caribbean island whose resources built fortunes for the West on the backs of slaves. During the 1500’s and 1600’s it was a booming centre for colonial trade, slavery (and piracy) for the Dutch West India Company.
Nowadays, former sites of oppression, including some of the original plantation complexes have turned into modern day tourist attractions. Curaçao has over 800 protected monuments, archaeological and historical sites. Considering it’s only 64 km long and 14km wide (at its widest point), this is quite a lot.
Modern day residents of Curaçao now live pretty comfortably. The country is considered a high-income economy by the World Bank, bolstered by strong industries in tourism, shipping, storage, and international finance. In case you were wondering it is also an offshore tax haven –a law-abiding one according to the EU Code of Conduct against harmful tax practices – whatever that means.
Ready to Go?
Speak: Papiamentu is most widely spoken but Dutch and English are also official languages.
Explore: The museums, ports and historic parts of Willemstad, the eerie Hato Caves, Christoffel National park to see deer, 10 ft high cacti, iguanas, rabbits and rare plant life. Plus, there are miles of gorgeous tropical beaches.
Stay: Hotels, hostels and private accommodation can be found on the island. Expect Western style pricing.
Taste: Ponche Kuba – lightly spiced, vanilla rum cream. Fried plantain is ubiquitous and if you are feeling more daring try kadushi (cactus soup) or sopi mondongo (cow intestine soup).