The best way to travel is with a mix of natural beauty and local immersion, and the Black Love team is encouraging you to do just that with our list of top travel destinations. In 2019, explore the traditions and monuments of African descendants across the globe while enjoying colorful backdrops, crystal clear oceans, and taste-bud jumping foods. This isn’t your typical list. These are the places you want to explore as much as you need to. Do it for the culture.
Barbados is perhaps best known as the home of Rihanna, and it proudly wears the mantle, even designating her as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. She makes sure to return home for the annual Crop Over festival, a two-month long tradition that started in 1687. Crop Over is the time where Afro-Barbadians celebrate the end of the sugar cane harvest in August and pay homage to their ancestors who maintained the tradition. You may know it by the sequined and feathered costumes, vibrant music, and dancing that mark the finale, the Grand Kadooment parade. The island may not be large but there’s much to take in: Bajan cuisine, some of the finest rum, and several gorgeous coastlines.
The country of Belize offers mainland and island experiences and a diverse ethnic history. Visit Belize City to take advantage of US brand hotels, nightlife, and activities such as tours of Mayan temples. You’ll find that it remains underdeveloped but immerses you in the reality of the Mayan, British, Spanish, and African descendants who live there. But you can also opt for time on the islands of Ambergris Caye (with San Pedro Town) or Caye Caulker to kick back without worries about ferry times. If you’re feeling adventurous, plan to stray off the coast to see or dive into the Great Blue Hole, the world’s largest sinkhole. The whole trip is fairly cost-effective, too. According to a recent traveler, Raisha, “You should never pay more than $10 for a full meal in Belize City, Caye Caulker, or San Pedro.”
Paradise is only about two hours from your favorite cities on the East Coast of the United States. Bermuda’s bad rep isn’t based on any truths. Despite its tangled association with the mythical Bermuda Triangle, many people travel to the British territory to experience island life, enjoy lively events, and experience British culture. But you can also visit The African Diaspora Heritage Trail to explore the history of the nearly 60% of Bermudians who are of African ancestry. When you’re looking for a little extra fun, tour the home of Bacardi rum or check out a summer event such as Cup Match, Harbour Nights, or Antigua Bermuda Race. There will be plenty of pink sand beaches waiting when you’re ready to relax.
This June, the visa requirement will be lifted for U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil making it easier than ever to visit and explore the country. Brazil is just recently uncovering its part in the Atlantic slave trade, but in Salvador, you’ll find a long-thriving Afro-Brazilian community. Unlike many other slave ports, much of the African culture was preserved and can be found in Salvador’s architecture, cuisine, and arts. Learn more about the capoeira, a martial art created by African slaves and disguised as dance, or move to the samba. Visit churches and museums that have maintained their exteriors since the 17th Century, or make your way to the Red River to get wrapped in local festivals and the beach.
Cuba has been rapidly growing as a tourist destination since President Barack Obama made it easier for Americans to travel there in 2014. While some restrictions have been added since, it’s still possible for Americans to travel to Cuba, solo or as part of a tour group. The colorful culture and lower price scale will certainly make it worth your while. Among the streets of Havana you’ll be greeted with colorful facades, vintage cars, and Afro-Cuban traditions, including the salsa. In Varadero, you’ll be primed to enjoy some wonderful seafood, and of course, the sea. Varadero Beach is #2 on the “2019 Travelers’ Choice Top 25 Beaches in the World.” The key to exploring Cuba independently is to travel under the category of “support for the Cuban people.” That should be no problem for travelers with an appreciation for and desire to support the local culture.
Egypt’s rich history is often well-studied but not often enough experienced. It’s rare to see monuments with origins thousands of years old, but such sights are plentiful here. Best known are the Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, but equally dazzling are Luxor’s Karnak Temple, an open complex of religious buildings, and Abu Simbel, twin temples honoring Pharaoh Ramesses II. Explore the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, also known as the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, to see over 100,000 artifacts including a special section dedicated to the famous King Tutankhamen. But Egypt is not all sand and gold. It also borders the Red Sea whose waters welcome snorkeling and diving.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Despite the many natural challenges NOLA has faced, its pulse and energy reverberate more than 300 years after its founding. New Orleans’ colonial history left it with African, French, Spanish, and Native American influences. The culture persists through the food, religion, and revelry. Eat at the famed Dooky Chase for creole tastes like fried chicken, gumbo, and stuffed shrimp. To learn the truth about Voodoo and the city’s history, take the New Orleans Black Heritage and Jazz City Tour. Visit the French Quarter for an evening of fun with a special stop at Pat O’Brien’s for their signature hurricane. Then tuck yourself in at The Moor, a new Black-owned hotel filled with chic, yet distinctly African decor.
On the far east side of Canada you’ll find Nova Scotia, a province nearly surrounded by sea. It is named for Scotland, but it served as the home for slaves and freemen traveling from America in the 18th and 19th centuries. In particular, many Black Loyalists settled in Halifax motivated by promises of freedom by the British crown during the American revolution. They eventually founded their own communities, including Africville, which is now a commemorative site. To learn more about their history, explore the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre or visit North Preston, one of the oldest Black communities in Canada. To enjoy the views, visit Digby Neck for whale watching, drive the Cabot Trail, or look out for lighthouses while taking in the seashore.
Paris’ Black history goes back much further than Beyonce and Jay-Z’s takeover of the Louvre. The City of Light has drawn Black-American creatives since the early 20th Century and provided them a second home among the Eiffel Tower, the Tuileres Palace, and Champs-Élysées. Walk the 6th Arrondissement to explore the haunts of greats like James Baldwin and Richard Wright. Pause at Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots to experience some of Paris’ oldest coffeehouses, or dine at Gumbo Yaya for a taste of American soul food with a French influence. To make it even easier to explore Paris and its rich Black history, consider taking one of Ricki Stevenson’s Black Paris Tours (http://www.blackparistour.com).
Despite being only a step away from the United States, Toronto is known as the world’s most ethnically diverse city, with almost half of the population being foreign-born. One of the most exciting times to visit is during the Caribana festival, an annual tradition since 1967. Caribana celebrates the culture of Caribbean islands through a parade, costumes, and music resembling Barbados’ Crop Over and other carnival-style festivals. In recent years, festival-goers get a double whammy with Drake’s OVO Fest occurring the same weekend in August. But Toronto is full of much to see at any time. Little Jamaica, Weston, and Little Ethiopia are among the neighborhoods boasting African influences, but you’ll find a lively multi-cultural experience anywhere you go in the big city.