Fusing French Flair & Caribbean Cool, Martinique Has It All
Les Anses-d'Arlet, Martinique
A spirit of adventure permeates Martinique, the French Caribbean country known as "The Isle of Flowers" for its lush floral terrain.
Apart from a few short spells under the British, Martinique today is an overseas region of France, which means French is the official language and the local currency is the Euro.
But don't fret about the language barrier. Many tourist facilities have English-speaking staff, and the level of language is only going to get better. Besides, that French flair is all part of its charm.
Ranked by the Caribbean Tourism Quality Index safest Caribbean island in 2016, Martinique has high-quality infrastructure and medical facilities. So renting a car and hitting the road to discover the island at one's own pace is easy and rewarding.
More active things to do in Martinique include water sports, hiking the extensive system of trails and visiting well-preserved natural sites and churches.
There’s a lot of human history at the bottom of Martinique's oceans, capturing the interest of divers looking for something of substance. It has over 22 dive sites and a cornucopia of untapped wreck sites in some of the bluest waters of the region.
One of the highlights are the Saint-Pierre wrecks, offering one of the Caribbean’s most accessible undersea journeys back in time.
Once known as "the Paris of the Caribbean", former capital of Martinique Saint-Pierre was decimated when Mt. Pelée volcano erupted in 1902, destroying the city and a number of ships docked in its bustling harbour. Because of that tragic natural disaster – which killed 30,000 people in the space of a few minutes – Saint-Pierre is now also known as the little "Pompeii of the Caribbean."
Making meaning and purpose out of tragedy, the city now offers visitors a unique window into Martinique’s rich historical past. It is a city of art and history, featuring a museum dedicated to the volcanic eruption.
If travellers are looking for lively nightlife, the tiny marina village of Trois Ilets -- the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte's beloved Josephine -- is just the place. Here, golfers can test their swings at the island's sole golf course, the 18-hole Golf de l’Impératrice Joséphine or try their luck at the Casino Les Trois Ilets. It's even possible to visit a former sugar estate that used to be Josephine's childhood home.
Martinique's capital Fort-de-France has a great small city vibe and stunning architecture, like the neoclassical Palais de Justice, the Romanesque St. Louis Cathedral or the 1887-built Schoelcher Library, a monument to slavery abolitionist Victor Schoelcher.
Down in Martinique's south is arguably its most charming town, Les Anses d’Arlet, with Saint-Henri Des Anses-d'Arlet Catholic Church standing like a beacon in the town centre.
There may be lots to see, do and experience in Martinique, but many tourists come to experience the more laid-back (yet equally rewarding) side of the island: basking on the white- or black-sand beaches, feasting on fine French and Creole cuisine, and savouring a slice of France in the tropics.