It’s common knowledge that the Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful islands on Earth, and in the lower end of the French Antilles is a particularly rare one rocks both natural magnificence and a rich, fascinating culture like no other.
Once home to the Arawaks, Tainos, and the Caribs. At the dawn of that era of European colonization circa early 17th century, Martinique became part of a territorial tug o’ war between the England and France for whom the island is now an official department of. As a matter of fact, the island’s capital city of St. Pierre was considered the “Paris of the Lesser Antilles” until the eruption of Mont Pelee leveled it in 1902. Since then, centrally located Fort-De-France has thrived as the official capital, with Martinique’s rep as France Deux still intact.
So it’s a volcanic destination filled with black sandy beaches, mountainous terrain (mostly in the north), tropical forests and chic metropolitan hot spots. It’s pretty much what one would expect from a paradise island with a dash of Parisian flavor.
Language & Culture
French is the official tongue of Martinique but a mix of French, Caribbean Patois, Spanish and Portuguese is the basis of Martinican Creole and most is commonly spoken throughout the isle. It’s been said that much like their French counterparts, Martinicans aren’t too crazy for tourists who don’t speak French however they’re more than likely resistant to those who refuse to make the effort.
Martinique is populated mainly by folks of African descent; nearly 10% of Indians of Tamil origin; 5% of ‘Béké’ (descendants of European aristocrats), and a small community of Chinese and Syro-Lebanese.*
On average, Martinique is considered to have a higher standard of living than many islands of the Caribbean – a direct result of its close ties with France. It’s an island that melds the warmth and soul of West Indian culture with various attributes of Paris, particularly couture. And a note to the foodies: Their cuisine reflects the rich cultural mix of the island too.
Interestingly, Martinique is home to the cultural movement called Negritude – brainchild of poet, politician and author Aimé Césaire. During the late 1920’s Césaire mobilized citizens of the island to recapture and embrace the spirit of Africanism, despite efforts to oppress it by the forces of colonialism. This led to a strengthening of Creole culture by means of the creative arts, literature and more.
The Main Attractions
When it comes popular destinations, the gorgeous complexity of Martinique offers a myriad of “must do’s”
Yes, the massive Mont Pelee has erupted a few times, yet it remains one of the top destinations for travelers. It’s replete with hiking trails – and yes, it’s dormant. Which brings us to the St. Pierre ruins, where tours run daily for travelers to explore what remains from the 1902 eruption.
Fort-de-France is the capital and port city – the hub of tourism housing some of the island’s hottest shops, restaurants, clubs, hotels and museums.
Natural wonders abound in the isle of Martinique. Brilliant beaches are scattered along the shoreline in towns such as Trois-Ilets & Sainte-Anne, home to one of the most popular beaches: Les Salines. Nature lovers may dig spots like Parc Naturel Regional de la Martinique or the lush canyon known as Gorges de la Falaise. Route de la Trace is considered the most scenic drive through the ruggedly, beautiful tropical mountains of the Martinique’s northwest region – but not recommended for the faint of heart.
Party People: Carnival is the most festive time of year in Martinique and is going down from March 1st – 5th this year. Similar to Carnival celebrations in nearby islands and Brazil, it’s a ‘nationwide’ throw down with music, parades and festivities filling the streets 24 hours a day until Ash Wednesday.
Check this for a clearer glimpse: