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The tropical island of Saint Lucia lies at latitude 13° 54' north and 60° 50' west of the Equator. One of the Windward Islands, it is located in the middle of the Eastern Caribbean archipelago and is approximately 21 miles south of Martinique and 90 miles northwest of Barbados. Its capital Castries (population 70,596) is situated to the northwest of the island. The Atlantic Ocean rims Saint Lucia's eastern shore while the Caribbean Sea lines the west coast which offers the calmest surf and finest beaches.
The official language spoken in Saint Lucia is English although many Saint Lucians also speak a French dialect, Creole (Kwéyòl). Creole is not just a patois or broken French, but a language in its own right, with its own rules of grammar and syntax. The language is being preserved by its everyday use in day-to-day affairs and by special radio programmes and news read entirely in Creole. In October, Saint Lucians celebrate their Creole heritage and language during the staging of the annual Jounen Kwéyòl Festival.
The Island is approximately 238 sq. miles (616 sq. km), 27 miles long, 14 miles wide with a largely mountainous topography. A central mountain range runs the length of the island, with peaks ranging between 1000 and 3145 feet in elevation. Saint Lucia's landscape is a combination of high mountains, lush rainforests, low lying lands and beaches. Forests dominate the mountains, while jasmine, scarlet chenille and wild orchids provide splashes of colour to the lush green slopes. The two towering volcanic cones on the southwest coast, Gros Piton (797m) and Petit Piton (750m) are one of the Caribbean's most famous landmarks. The volcanic origin of the island provides visitors with an opportunity to visit a "drive-in volcano" and take a dip in the reputedly therapeutic Sulphur Springs.
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