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The_History_and_Scenery_of_Aruba's_Churches

By Justin Burch 

During the colonial period, Aruba and many of her Caribbean neighbors experienced an influx of immigrants from throughout the world. As Aruba was once a colony of The Netherlands, the Dutch influence on Aruban culture is still strong and many current residents are descendants of Dutch colonizers. However, because of the diversity of peoples that have called this island home, daily life in Aruba continues to be influenced by African, South American and native Caribbean cultures. Nowhere is this exciting diversity more apparent than in houses of worship found throughout Aruba. Though the island remains predominantly Catholic, nearly all of the world's major religions are represented by the local population. Most importantly for tourists, Aruba features a wealth of special religious sites where visitors of all faiths can experience peaceful scenery and explore historic architecture.

One of the most photographed sights in Aruba is the beautiful Chapel of Alto Vista. Resting above the Caribbean Sea on an incredible bluff, this bright yellow chapel has long been a special destination for locals and tourists alike. Before you even arrive at the site, the white crosses lining the road to the chapel - signifying the Catholic Stations of the Cross - will let you know you've found a uniquely peaceful place. As the chapel was built during colonial times by both Spaniards and native Indians, the chapel is also referred to as the Pilgrim's Church. No matter what you call it, the chapel provides one of Aruba's most serene and captivating experiences.

The Santa Ana Catholic Church, also known as the Church of Noord, features one of the finest examples of Neo-gothic sculpture in the Caribbean. The incredible altarpiece was crafted in 1870 by Dutch artisan Hendrik van der Geld and was met with great accolades at the first Vatican Council, held that same year in Rome. After spending some time in residence at the Antonius Church in The Netherlands, the altarpiece was given to the Santa Ana Church in Aruba. The Santa Ana Catholic Church was first constructed in 1776 and was rebuilt twice in the 19th century. The church was last renovated in 1916 and today remains one of the island's most important buildings. Located just outside of Aruba's capital of Oranjestad, the Santa Ana Catholic Church is a fascinating piece of the island's history that can be enjoyed by visitors of all faiths.

While the Santa Ana Catholic Church and the Chapel of Alto Vista were first constructed in the 18th century, Aruba's Protestant Church represents the island's oldest original house of worship. Erected in 1846 to support Aruba's growing Protestant population, the elegant church is known for its terracotta roof, large tower and traditional wooden shutters. As the exterior is also adorned with simplistic folk-art decorations including hearts and stars, the church is often compared to the finest structures of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Though the Protestant Church is usually locked, visitors can explore the grounds - including the quaint Bible museum - each weekday from 10am to 12pm.

Jewish families visiting Aruba often visit the Beth Israel Synagogue, a pleasant house of worship dating to the early 20th century. While the Jewish population in Aruba numbers only 35 families today, the synagogue was once an important cultural center for Caribbean and European immigrants. However, over the years, the Beth Israel Synagogue has become an important destination for travelers. Today, most of the families visiting the synagogue for Friday night services are tourists enjoying a spiritual home away from home. The Beth Israel Synagogue also features a small gift shop that sells a variety of uniquely Aruban Judaica.

While many of the churches of Aruba are certainly worth a visit, one of the most interesting religious sights on the island is the Lourdes Grotto. Located just off the picturesque leading from San Nicolas to the northeastern coast, the Lourdes Grotto is located in one of Aruba's most peaceful locales. In 1958, a priest and his parishioners carefully tucked a statue of the Virgin Mary weighing several hundred pounds into the blackened hillside known as Seroe Preto. Much like the famous Catholic landmark in France from which the grotto borrows its name, this hillside shrine has become an important destination for locals and tourists alike. Each year on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11), a large procession of local Catholic and curious visitors embark on a procession from the St. Theresita Church in San Nicolas to hold mass at Lourdes Grotto.

As the island of Aruba has recently passed a marriage law allowing travelers to wed on the island, these unique religious landmarks have also become the sites for many beautiful ceremonies. While the best of resorts in Aruba are able to provide accommodations and lavish receptions, many of these houses of worship can offer visiting couples an opportunity to celebrate their union in a peaceful and spiritual environment. While it may not be possible to wed in some of Aruba's churches, couples hoping to tie the knot on the island can contact their resort and work with a wedding specialist to secure the best location for their ceremony.

Whether you want to attend services or simply see some unique historical sites, the churches of Aruba welcome all visitors with open arms. As many of the island's houses of worship sit in remarkably peaceful locales, tourists can also take time to relax and witness incredible scenery. Regardless of your faith, the churches of Aruba provide some of the most captivating sights on the island.

Justin Burch writes articles about travel in Aruba for the Marriott Resorts.

 

 

 

Visit Some of the Caribbean's Most Unique Residents at the Aruba_Donkey_Sanctuary

By Justin Burch 

Just as the European colonizers brought many non-native plants to the Caribbean, donkeys were transported from Spain to provide transportation and serve in new industries. The passive, loyal animals were used in Aruba for centuries until automobiles were introduced in the 20th century. Though some locals continued using donkeys throughout the 1900s, many of the animals were callously discarded to roam free across the island. For decades, several herds of donkeys survived in the wild until much of the population was plagued by disease in the 1970s. With only 20 wild donkeys remaining, volunteers stepped in and began developing programs to aid these unique residents and preserve the population for future generations. However, in recent decades, the revitalized donkey population has been plagued by new threats, including a growing population on the island and a rapidly-expanding tourism industry. While Aruba's tourism industry certainly allowed the local economy to flourish and brought many exciting advancements to the island, the donkey population fell victim to more accidents and encroachment upon their adopted habitat. Yet, just as volunteers stepped in after many of the donkeys fell ill in the 1970s, a new organization was developed in the 1990s to offer the donkeys a safe home.

Founded in 1997, the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary has now provided much-needed care to local donkeys for over a decade. In addition to providing a safe home for adult donkeys, this popular non-profit organization has also been active in supporting a new generation of donkeys, allowing locals and tourists alike an opportunity to interact with these passive animals for years to come. A close-knit family of 90 donkeys shares the facility's "Curucu di Burico" - the Donkey Field - where visitors can feed and pet many of the animals from the enclosed patio. In the early morning hours, visiting children are also granted an opportunity to work behind the scenes with the volunteer staff, feeding and grooming the animals. Admission to the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary is free for all ages, as the non-profit facility relies solely on donations and funds generated from local donkey adoption programs.

As donkeys are incredibly resilient animals and require very little to survive in the wild, there are still families of wild donkeys roaming the island outside of the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary. Though there are still far fewer donkeys in Aruba than the 1,400 counted at the beginning of the 20th century, the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary has helped to the wild donkey population climb above 100 once again. Nearly all of the wild donkeys in Aruba travel in groups, including the largest families of 9 and 11 animals that roam the natural areas near the sanctuary. While these groups of donkeys are often spotted near the Natural Bridge and the Tunnel of Love Cave - two popular natural attractions on the northern side of the island - those interested in seeing these animals in the wild can get more information regarding their recent whereabouts from the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary.

The Aruba Donkey Sanctuary is easy to reach from Oranjestad and other resort areas as the facility rests near a number of popular outdoor destinations. Following the northern road to the Natural Bridge, visitors will see several large signs near the Ayo Rock Formations that provide easy directions to the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary. Travelers that want to experience some of Aruba's popular destinations as part of a guided tour will also have a chance to see the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary, as most operators visit the facility when touring the northern end of the island. The Aruba Donkey Sanctuary is open to visitors on weekdays from 9 AM to 12:30 PM and on weekends from 10 AM to 3 PM.

Though Aruba's donkeys initially seemed forgotten amongst the island's expansive tourism plans, the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary now provides the perfect balance of preservation and one-of-a-kind sightseeing. As crowds of visitors from throughout the world pass through the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary each year and help support the organization's programs, the centuries-old donkey population has, in fact, become one of the great triumphs of the island's tourism industry. When touring the picturesque north end of the island, families can revel in this unique history by paying a visit to the animals that silently helped make Aruba what it is today.

 

Aruba - The 'Island_of_Aloe'

By Justin Burch

Whenever you visit the grocery store or pharmacy, it is probably hard to miss the scores of products featuring Aloe Vera. Known as one of the world's wonder plants, Aloe Vera has been incorporated into many everyday products in recent decades because of its healing properties. As the plant is used most often as a skin moisturizer, it perhaps comes as no surprise that world's best Aloe Vera comes from one of the sunniest and most exotic destinations. Today, over a century after the first plants were harvested, the island of Aruba remains one of the world's top growers of Aloe Vera. When visiting Aruba, tourists can see the influence of the plant in many facets of Aruban culture, purchase the some of most luxurious Aloe Vera products ever created and even tour the plantation where the modern world's fascination with this wonder plant took root.

Though some might believe that Aloe Vera was native to the Caribbean, the plant actually found its way to Aruba and other islands during colonial times. In fact, Aloe Vera was completely unknown in Aruba until the mid-19th century when numerous trade vessels from Africa visited colonial Caribbean islands. Aruba's own Aloe Vera industry started with a modest 150-acre plantation near Hato and, within just a few decades, came to dominate the island. By the end of the 19th century, Aruba had become the world's largest exporter of Aloe. Today, with nearly two-thirds of the island's surface now supporting both naturally growing and harvested Aloe Vera, it is no wonder that Aruba is commonly referred to as the 'Island of Aloe.'

The Aloe Vera crops in Aruba are helped by the same thing that draws visitors to the island from throughout the world each year - the weather. After the initial crops were planted, it was realized that Aloe Vera grows incredibly well in Aruba because of the arid conditions and consistently sunny Caribbean environment. As time went on, researchers and growers found that the climate of Aruba also enhances the healing capabilities of the plant, allowing the island to produce some of the most potent Aloe Vera gel in the world.

Some of the best Aloe Vera products are manufactured by Aruba Aloe, a company that still utilizes the island's first 150-acre plantation. Six days a week, this legendary facility opens its doors to travelers for informative tours that shed light not only on Aruba's fascinating Aloe Vera history, but on the entire world's historic fascination with the plant. In tracing the legend of Aloe Vera from Ancient Egypt to Aruba's colonial period and documenting the many historical uses of the plant, Aruba Aloe offers curious travelers a rare glimpse into the world of a wonder plant. During the daily tours, visitors will also have a chance to see the harvesting of the Aloe Vera plants and the production involved in converting the raw gel of the plant into some of the world's finest medicinal and health care products.

With the original 150-acre field as the company's centerpiece, Aruba Aloe produces a full line of products incorporating the island's purest, most potent Aloe Vera gel. Known internationally as some of the finest Aloe-based products available, Aruba Aloe has spent years crafting everything from hair care products to specialized lotions and moisturizers. Meanwhile, the company has also been on the cutting edge of botanical research, developing new uses for the plant and perfecting the art of harvesting the world's best Aloe Vera. If you visit the Aruba Aloe factory when on the island, you will have an opportunity to sample and purchase all of the diverse products crafted from this simple, but remarkable plant.

Just as it is hard to miss the name Aloe Vera at your local store, you will notice the impact this plant has had on Aruban culture as soon as you reach the island. From the large plants dotting the Aruban countryside to the scores of products and images filling local galleries and stores, Aloe Vera tells one of Aruba's most important stories. Though you may visit the 'Island of Aloe' to enjoy the beaches and luxurious resorts, this wonder plant can add an exciting element to your Caribbean vacation. After spending a few days in the vibrant Caribbean sunshine, Aruba's Aloe Vera will probably come in handy for your sunburn, too!

Justin Burch writes articles about travel in Aruba for the Marriott Resorts.

 

Exploring the Small_Towns_of_Eastern_Aruba

By Justin Burch

 

When visiting Aruba, tourists often spend most of their time near the western shore, home to the island's capital and cultural center - Oranjestad - and most of the top beach resorts. Though the eastern half of Aruba lacks the glamour of the western beach areas, the area is home to many charming destinations waiting to captivate curious travelers. As the island is only 20 miles long, the small towns surrounding the island's second-largest city, San Nicolas, and the incredibly diverse sights of eastern Aruba are only a short drive from all of the top resorts.


 

Pos Chiquito

Located almost directly between Oranjestad and San Nicolas along the southern coast's Route 1, the small town of Pos Chiquito stands as one of Aruba's top destinations for scuba divers and snorkelers. Just offshore from town, near a rugged section of shoreline known as Rocky Beach, scuba divers and snorkelers will find one of Aruba's best coral reefs. As the site is visited regularly by local dive tours and used as a training ground for aspiring guides, the offshore sights at Pos Chiquito are not exactly a secret. However, there are rarely crowds in Pos Chiquito and the coral reef is so expansive that divers will never have trouble enjoying this exciting underwater environment at their own pace.

While scuba diving and snorkeling are certainly the biggest draws in Pos Chiquito, the town also has plenty to offer those in search of simple relaxation. This quiet community is known throughout Aruba for its refined regional architecture and laid-back atmosphere. As a close-knit community that includes many expatriates, Pos Chiquito is also home to an interesting variety of eateries where tourists are always welcome.

Pos Chiquito rests just east of the island's center along Route 1, the scenic road that stretches all the way from Boca Beach on the northwestern shore to San Nicolas and the eastern shore. Pos Chiquito can also be reached easily from the north end of Aruba via Routes 4 and 6.

Savaneta

Though Savaneta is home to no more than small handful of businesses, this southern shore destination has developed a reputation as an excellent dining destination. Though Savaneta lacks the high-class establishments found throughout the Oranjestad and the western resort areas, the town's eateries regularly serve up some of Aruba's best seafood and Latin American dishes.

Savaneta also holds the distinctions of being the oldest remaining town in Aruba - dating to the beginning of Dutch rule in 1816 - the island's original capital and site of oldest colonial home. After exploring the historic sites, many travelers also visit some of the charming beaches that rest just minutes from the heart of town.

Savaneta lies just east of Pos Chiquito on Aruba's popular Route 1 and can be reached from either Oranjestad or San Nicolas in approximately 15 minutes.

Seroe Colorado

The town of Seroe Colorado, located near the southeastern tip of Aruba, was developed during the first half of the 20th century as a idyllic, comfortable community for the island's growing number of oil workers. Though many of the families have since moved to other parts of the island, Seroe Colorado retains much of its exotic charm. Most of the town's diminutive white houses remain intact, most flanked by dramatic cacti plants and other natural vegetation. At the heart of town, visitors will also find an austere chapel originally constructed in 1939.

Despite the peaceful atmosphere found in Seroe Colorado, most visitors use the town as a gateway to the sights of Aruba's southeastern shore. Just east of town, visitors will find a natural bridge resting alongside a dramatic section of coastline. Despite being less-celebrated than the Natural Bridge that collapsed in 2005 and its remaining sister arch, Baby Bridge, the natural bridge near Seroe Colorado offers an incredible sightseeing opportunity amongst one of Aruba's seldom-explored areas.

Though the exposed shoreline just east of Seroe Colorado is known for its dramatic scenery, two of the island's most popular family beaches rest just a few miles south of town. Unlike the natural bridge area east of Seroe Colorado, Baby Beach and Rodgers Beach are protected by the southern tip of the island, meaning visitors will always find calm conditions, white sand and warm, shallow water.

As Route 1 runs north of the town and access from San Nicolas is hampered by private industrial areas, Seroe Colorado is slightly more difficult to reach than most of Aruba's small communities. The most efficient way to reach Seroe Colorado is to follow Route 1 east from San Nicolas until the road terminates at a three-way intersection near the eastern shore. From the junction, visitors can follow the shoreline road south to Seroe Colorado and nearby beach destinations.

Though visitors to Aruba will certainly want to spend much of their time exploring Oranjestad and relaxing on the incomparable beaches of the western shore, the small towns on the eastern half of the island can be enjoyed in a single afternoon. Furthermore, as Route 1 provides easy access to many of eastern Aruba's sights, including the city of San Nicolas, tourists have no reason to overlook the island's quieter half.

 

Family Evenings in Aruba

By Justin Burch

Though known for its exuberant night life, Aruba - especially the capital city of Oranjestad - also offers plenty of family-friendly entertainment in the evening hours. Within the capital city, families will find numerous options for evening entertainment, including everything from live shows and movie theaters to arcades and action-packed activity centers. As the city is also known as a safe, friendly destination, families can also just stroll through the scenic streets and admire everything from unique shops and cozy eateries to elegant architecture and historic sights. Families hoping to relax at their resorts may even find special weekly events designed for both parents and children, while the top family-friendly resorts also offer discounted travel packages that include unique upgrades for young travelers.

As Aruba is known for its mild year-round weather, there are always plenty of ways for families to enjoy the evening hours. Oranjestad is home to numerous family entertainment destinations that remain open into the evening hours throughout the year - including a popular go-kart track, a miniature golf course and batting cages. Families can also visit a variety of arcades, including several conveniently located within the city's top resorts. The relaxed atmosphere of the city also allows families to simply wander the picturesque streets, exploring shops, family-friendly eateries and historic attractions.

The Renaissance Cinema located in the Renaissance Marketplace is another great choice for families in search of an entertaining evening. Showing all the latest blockbusters in English with incredibly affordable ticket prices, the Renaissance Cinema in downtown Oranjestad has become a favorite escape of local and visiting families alike. Families with older children looking for late night activities can also take advantage of the theater's popular midnight movies each Friday and Saturday.

Though the Renaissance Cinema offers everything traveling families look for in a movie theater - including a convenient location near most of the island's top resorts - those exploring the island with a rental car or recreational vehicle will want to visit one of Aruba's hidden treasures, the E. De Veer Drive-In Theater. Located adjacent to the Balashi Brewery between Oranjestad and San Nicolas, the E. De Veer Drive-In Theater screens many of the latest Hollywood films, but the exotic setting and endless field of stars are often the bigger attractions. While the E. De Veer Drive-In Theater features low entrance fees for all films, special rates for families are offered on Sundays and Wednesdays, allowing the whole family to enjoy both the scenery and a movie for $6.

Many of Aruba's top resorts stage theme nights with family-friendly entertainment and refreshments. In nearly all cases, resorts serve locally inspired meals alongside live entertainment that offers a taste of Aruban culture or long-standing Caribbean traditions such as Carnival. Such live entertainment can also be found throughout the theaters of Oranjestad, where exciting musical and dance productions can be experienced throughout the year.

Throughout the year, several of Aruba's top resorts also offer special promotions for families with small children. For instance, the "Escape!" Family Package offered by the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino includes special room rates for families, as well as a number of fun and convenient perks. Each morning, both parents and kids are treated to a complimentary breakfast, while milk and cookies are provided with each nightly turndown service. Over the course of their stay, families can also take advantage of pizza and movie nights presented by the resort.

From daytime activities such as snorkeling, swimming and hiking to evening entertainment like movies, arcades and special resort events, every day is an action-packed adventure for visiting families. Additionally, as many of Aruba's top resorts participate in the island's family-friendly tourism goals, parents and children will regularly find both exciting events and remarkable values to complete their Caribbean getaways.

Justin Burch writes articles for the Marriott Resorts.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Justin_Burch

 

 

 

 

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Last modified: April 15, 2009