Martinique, Caribbean

15 Mar, 2009

Martinique, Caribbean

Martinique is a French island located across the eastern part of the vast Caribbean Sea. It is one of the overseas departments of France. It is unique because the island is washed by no less than the Atlantic Ocean in the east. The west is touched by the tourist friendly Caribbean. In contrast, Martinique is mountainous and jagged.
There is a tropical rainforest that climbs along the slopes of a volcano (dormant) in the north. The island’s central plain is giving way to valleys and hills that slope gently into the south. There are well maintained paved roads, which are interestingly often narrow and winding, giving more intrigue. Tourists can use road infrastructures to easily enjoy and behold the beauty of Martinique’s panoramic scenery. Swim, sightsee and enjoy restaurants and bars across the island in a different, yet interesting manner.
This island paradise is perfect for beach lovers. They are also best as a vacation destination for food enthusiasts, rum fanatics, hikers, divers and Francophiles. There is a unique marriage of Caribbean customs and Gallic culture, a union that adds to the island’s delights. To many tourists, Martinique is no less than a sunnier and less crowded version of motherland France. Vacationers who prefer sophisticated pleasures will be happy to note that in Martinique, fashion and good food are not optional; they are mandatory fixtures.
Because the island is volcanic in origin, agriculture is nourished. Sugarcane is a main crop, giving way to production of the finest tasting rums. Because of the topography, nature watching and hiking are good leisure activities along the slopes of a volcano. Martinique is the ‘Isle of Flowers’ for every reason. There are numerous botanical gardens that are tucked creatively by nature into the rugged and lively landscape. The south is known for luscious beaches and diving sites. The coasts are dotted by fishing villages. The mountainous north of the island is reserved for the most adventurists of tourists.


The island is relatively small, only measuring about 1,120 square kilometers. Martinique is included in the 26 French regions, being an offshore region. Because it is a French territory, the place is also part of the continental government of the European Union, having euro as its main currency. Official language is of course French, though some locals could speak in Antillean Creole.
The island is bordered to the east by the Atlantic, one of the biggest oceans in the world. In the west, the attractive Caribbean provides a rich beach backdrop. In the northwest is found the borders of Dominica, while in the south is St. Lucia. The island is well visited more especially by seafaring ships. Cruising vessels and ferries call and dock at the Martinique territories daily, making it a top anchorage for yachts and private sailboats. There is an international airport, making it possible to get to the destination in no time from Paris and other major European cities. Otherwise, embarking on ships could be an effective way to get to the island.


Before Columbus discovered Martinique in 1493, the island was already inhabited by Arawaks and Carib Indians. European interest only ensued when the French colony landed in 1635. The British forces made several attempts to conquer the French island in the 1700s and 1800s, but French forces were firm in defending control of the beautiful paradise. The area functioned as a part of French Antilles. In 1946, Martinique, together with another island called Guadeloupe, was incorporated as an overseas French department.
Local political autonomy was granted to Martinique in 1974. In 1982, further political and economic independence was provided through the decentralization legislations of then French president Mitterand. Currently, the thrust of Paris in the region is bolstering links between the French islands in the Caribbean and other island nations in the vicinity.

Tourism in Martinique

The terrain in the area varies, giving more delight to the most discerning of tourists. Anyone could take pleasure going around the mountains in the north, the rolling hills in the central island and the sheltered harbors dominating the low west coast. There are several outstanding tourism spots.
Fort de France is the capital of the island. It is a bustling town with narrow and winding streets that get to the most colorful and diverse markets. At the heart of the capital town can be found the La Savanne park, where a statue commemorates Empress Josephine of Napoleon. She is a native of the area. Her home, called La Pagerie, is among the major tourist spots in Martinique. Other must-see sites in the town include the Caribbean Arts Center and Les Trois Ilets.
Le Carbet has a restored plantation called Leyritz. It is one of the most attractive and interesting tourism wonders in the island. Le Carbet also has the Center d’Art Paul Gauguin, boasting of exhibits that relate to the painter’s amazement and stay in the area.
St. Pierre is a volcanic mountain situated in the north. Its recent eruption was recorded in 1902 and since then it has remained dormant. The remains of the original St. Pierre, prior to the 1902 volcanic eruption, consists a tourist wonder. The original St. Pierre was a remarkable and beautiful island city, often called at the time as the Pearl of the Caribbean. Historians should check out the Musee Volcanologigue, which showcases photographs, exhibits and documents about the story of the volcanic disaster. St. Pierre is Martinique’s second premier city these days, but it still shows many traces of its former interesting glory. Many historic structures in the area are being restored and rebuilt.

When to go

Because of its tropical location, beach activities can be enjoyed in Martinique all year round. The tropical climate is best loved by tourists, who usually come from freezing countries across Europe and North America. The busiest tourism period comes during the dry season of December to May. Tourists who dislike the rain should avoid going in June until November, when the rainy season in the island gets in.


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