Martinique Travel Guide


Martinique Holidays – Tours & Adventures Travel Guide

PureTravel Says
“Nestled between the island of Dominica and Saint Lucia of the Lesser Antilles group of islands is the island of Martinique. Throughout the ages, Martinique had long been sought after for its natural splendor. Like most islands in the Caribbean archipelago, the island history speaks of tales of exploitation and bitter wars that existed among the European powers that dominated the high seas then. The result of this turbulent and violent history is an outcome of a people with a rich embroidery of cultures and traditions. In spite of the similarity of its past with the other islands in the Caribbean beneath the surface, you will find subtle differences that makes this alluring “Island of Flowers”, a place which the inhabitants are so proud to call “Home” and to share with their visitors.”

Martinique Holiday Highlights

History & Culture - Before Christopher Columbus christened the island “Martinique”, it was known as “Madininia”, which means” Island of Flowers”, by the original inhabitants, the Carib Amerindians. Largely ignored by the Spanish, the island became an important sugar cane colony of the French in the 1650s.The rich volcanic soil contributed to the wealth derived from the sugar cane trade and was a source of much contention between the British and French. In addition, the boom in the sugar trade also led to the importation of the African slaves to this island. Today the descendents of these slaves makes up the bulk of the ethnic composition of Martinique’s population.

The legacies left by these African slaves are evident in the vibrant expression of the cuisines and festive celebrations of this enchanting island. Intertwined with the influences of the French, the franco-creole cuisines are simply “magic” found nowhere else in the Caribbean. As for the festive events, Truman Capote, the author of “Music for Chameleons,” described the Carnival celebrations of this island, which runs from February 22nd to the 25th as being “as spontaneous and vivid as an explosion in a fireworks factory”.

Franco-Creole Cuisine - Many of us associate the Caribbean with awe at the mysticism of the Caribbean “magic”, the Obeah or better known as Voodoo. For Martinique, its magic lies in its cuisine. Here the sorcerers are the chefs with a fusion of sophistication and exotic tastes. The islanders show the same passions for gourmet cooking just like their colonial master. Most of the Martiniquais dine out as the norm and there are over 150 restaurants for visitors to try out.

Sightseeing - The rich heritage left behind by the French can be seen also in the various sites around the capital city, Fort de France. There are diverse selections of museums and historical relics that visitors can visit to have a greater insight into the legacies of a once glorious empire.

Fort de France - The city is the business and administrative hub of the Martinique with numerous tourist attractions. Most of these attractions are congregated within or around the city:

  • La Baie de Fort-de-France - One of the most stunning bays in the world.
  • La Savane - A beautiful public gardens with an assortment of tropical plants.
  • La Cathedrale Saint Louis - An 1895 cathedral with a Roman style bell tower with huge pipe organs. Several of Martinique’s past governors are also buried in this cathedral.
  • Fruit and Vegetable Market and Fish Market - A quaint and lively Market where you can discover the soul of the city.
  • Schoelcher Library - This library, designed by the Henry Pick, was built in Paris for the Exposition of 1889. It was later taken apart brick by brick and brought to Martinique.
Ruins of St Pierre - Was also known as "the Paris of the West Indies”. St. Pierre's 30,000 inhabitants were wiped out in three horrifying minutes in the eruption of Mont Pelée in 1902. The city never recaptured its former splendor.

The Cyparis Express - The "little train of St. Pierre," offers a trouble-free method to reach the historic town of St Pierre.

Martinique's Museums - The Martiniquais are proud of their museums. There are over a dozen of them on the island. Even if they may not be able to compete with the large museums of Paris, each is uniquely different with captivating insights into the island's history. They are small yet leave visitors contented and enriched.

  • Musée de la Pagerie - Located near the village of Trois-Ilets and is a 20 minute ferry ride across the bay from Fort-de-France. It is filled with displays and mementos depicting the adventures of the Empress Josephine.
  • Musée Volcanologique - It is located in St. Pierre and is about one hour from Fort-de-France. It was founded by an American volcanologist, Dr. Franck A. Perret. It serves as a vivid reminder of the eruption of Mont Pelée in1902. Photographic murals recount the glorious years as well as the disaster of St Pierre.
Other Museums and sites worth visiting include:

- Centre d'Art Musée Paul Gauguin.
- Musée Départemental de la Martinique
- Earth & Sciences Discovery Center
- Musée Régional d'Histoire et d'Ethnographie
- La Poterie
- Musée de Poupées Végétales or Doll Museum
- Musée du Chateau Dubuc
- St. James Sugar Plantation And The Musée Du Rhum
- Maison de la Canne
- Fonds Saint-Jacques and Musée du Père Labat
- Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires.
- Ecomusée de Martinique

Nature & Wildlife

  • Jardin de Balata - Located north of Fort-de-France, this is one of Martinique's most beautiful flower gardens, Jean-Philippe Thoze natured this display of over a thousand species of flora at the foot of dramatic Pitons du Carbet.
  • Les Ombrages - A botanical path that makes a fine introduction to tropical flora.
  • Parc des Floralies - Situated near Trois Ilets with six acres of beautiful and tranquil park with special horticultural displays.
  • Mt. Pelee's Tropical Rainforest - A well preserved beauty of Martinique's rain forest which give insights to the lush Caribbean countryside that existed centuries ago.
  • Sainte-Anne - A small little region south of the island. The Les Salines, one of the most splendid beaches in all the West Indies is located here. Beyond Pointe des Salines, is the Stony Savanna scattered with jasper plants and petrified wood.
Walking & Hiking - Walking and hiking is by far the best means of discovering the true beauty of the island. The island has numerous hiking trails catering for the experienced to the novice hikers.
  • Mont Pelée Volcano - A difficult trail of two hours climb through thick undergrowth and overgrown trails.
  • Grand Rivière and Le Prêcheur - Less difficult, however still requiring some skill and consists of trekking through the dense rainforest
  • Les Ombrages - Reasonably easy trail for hiking is a nature trail at Ajoupa-Bouillon
  • Gorges de la Falaise - Consists of hiking through a ravine leading to a waterfall.
  • Presqu'île de la Caravelle - Hiking to the Peninsula jutting into the Atlantic near the town of Trinité. There are also well-marked paths to historic Château Dubuc's ruins.
For the environmentally conscious visitors, who want some extra thrills, the Domaine Sigy and Mangofil adventure parks are set up for exciting outdoor activities that permit visitors to savor a different way of experiencing the country like jumping from tree to tree with a rope like Tarzan!

Sailing and Yachting - The island of Martinique is perfect for sailing and yachting. Whether on rented boats or aboard yachts, boat or crewed, Martinique has it all. Boat charters are available at the marinas of Le François Le Marin, Le Robert, Pointe du Bout and Ste-Anne.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling - The ideal warm waters around the island provide a rich habitant for the exotic marine life that populates the reefs off the coast of Martinique. There are also incredible shipwrecks waiting for the underwater explorer to unravel. Some of the popular dive sites include Diamond Rock, Ilet la Perle and the shipwrecks off St-Pierre. The rich coral gardens around Anse Mitan, Anses d'Arlet, Pointe du Bout and Ste-Anne provides excellent snorkeling opportunities for those wishing to savor the beauty of the coral reefs.

Golfing - Golfing visitors to this island paradise will also have the chance to tee off from the Robert Trent Jones designed 18-hole course at the Golf de l'Impératrice Joséphine in Trois Ilets.

When To Go

Like all Caribbean islands. Martinique is endowed with a tropical climate. Its dry season running from December to May is the peak season for visitors to this island. Depending on your priority for a perfect weather or a lower rate for the hotels accommodations, you can choose to go during peak season or low season that runs from June to November.

Top Tips

  • The Martiniquais are dignified and proud people. They are also laid-back people therefore, it is essential to be patient with the way of life here.
  • Remember that you are guest on their island and thus be polite. Always say “Bonjour” and “Merci, au revoir” when entering and departing an establishment.

Martinique Classic Itineraries

  • St-Pierre - Observe the destruction of Mont Pelée close up.
  • Pointe du Bout - Take a boat tour around this marina and enjoy the scenic view.
  • Les Salines - Relax on this stunning long beach.
  • Ste-Luce - Drink and scuba dive at this quaint little village.
  • Presqu’île de Caravelle - Enjoy the sun during the day and gourmet cuisines at night.

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