Top towns & sites
Martinique is rich in unique and authentic towns and sites that make this French Caribbean Island worth the trip. Below is a suggested list of essential visits, Although there are much more, these towns and sites are a must for a first-time or repeat traveler to the Isle of Flowers.
Fort-de-France lies on the west coast of the island. Besides all its shopping opportunities, the capital of Martinique offers unique historic sites as well as fascinating museums to learn about the area’s pre-Columbian and colonial past. Among its notable architectural and cultural sites is the beautiful Schoelcher Library, named for the 19th century abolitionist Victor Schoelcher and the Aimé Césaire Museum, located in the capital’s former city hall. It is a recreation of the office of the famous poet, writer, playwright, politician, one of the founders of the Négritude movement and long-time mayor of Fort-de-France.
On May 8, 1902, Saint-Pierre was completely destroyed by the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Pelée, which took the life of close to 30,000 residents—only three survived. Saint-Pierre, which is located at the northwestern tip of the Isle of Flowers, was the island’s cultural and economic center, home to the main port. In the Caribbean this vibrant city was known as the “petit Paris” or the “Little Paris” of the Antilles. Of course Saint-Pierre was rebuilt and is now known as the “Little Pompeii.” Although it lost its place as the island’s capital and economic heart to Fort-de-France, this lovely town by the sea is still a vibrant center of culture and in particular of contemporary art. Vestiges from its storied past are still present : its old theater and the ruins of the Fort of Saint-Pierre, a prison at the time which housed what is now known as the Cyparis’ dungeon. It shielded one of the survivers imprisoned the night before the eruption for disorderly conduct, Louis-Auguste Cyparis. The recently redesigned and expanded Frank A. Perret Museum in Saint-Pierre is a memorial to the catastrophic eruption of Mount Pelée. In addition to its captivating history, Saint-Pierre is a splendid site, facing a breathtaking bay and resting on the foothills of Mount Pelée.
• Le Carbet
Located in the northwest part of the Island, Le Carbet is home to peaceful beaches, and is the supposed landing site of Christopher Columbus in 1502 as well as the town where Gauguin lived and painted almost four centuries later.
• Jardin de Balata
With such a rich flora and fauna, it is no surprise that one of the finest botanical gardens in the world is located in Martinique. Just North of Fort-de-France and owned by a passionate horticulturalist, the Jardin de Balata features thousands of tropical plants as well as ponds punctuated with water lilies and lotus blossoms.
• Route de la Trace
The road that leads to Balata is no ordinary highway. Known as La Route de la Trace, it is one of the oldest roads in Martinique. Running through the heart of the lush rainforest to Mount Pelée, a quick drive will reveal why Martinique is known as the Isle of Flowers.
Saint-Anne is among the Island’s most lovely villages. Even though this picturesque town offers many shops, restaurants and markets, it is mainly known for its striking white sand beaches such as Les Salines - a lengthy stretch of sand, complete with clear blue waters.
The charming village of Ajoupa-Bouillon, well known for its colorful flowers, is located at the base of Mount Pelée. Visitors can take part in a very nice hike ride along a botanical trail called Les Ombrages or admire the beautiful Gorges de la Falaise, a series of small gorges along the Falaise River that lead to an a magnificent waterfall.
• Caravelle Peninsula
Located on the Northeastern and Atlantic coast of the island, the nature reserve of La Caravelle is remarkable for its wide range of landscapes from savannah-type terrain to mangrove forests as well as for its rich biodiversity. This wild and unspoiled peninsula offers breathtaking hiking opportunities
• Les Anses d’Arlet (Anse means cove)
One of the most charming sites in southern Martinique, with beautiful landscapes and beaches, it features a string of villages each named after their own cove: Grande Anse, Anse Noire, Anse Dufour and Anse d'Arlet Bourg.
ABOUT MARTINIQUE (us.martinique.org)
The French Caribbean Island of Martinique is also known as the Isle of Flowers, The Rum Capital of the World, the Birthplace of coffee in the New World, The Isle of the Famed Poet (Aimé Césaire) – Martinique ranks among the most alluring and enchanting destinations in the world. As an overseas region of France, Martinique boasts modern and reliable infrastructure – roads, water and power utilities, hospitals, and telecommunications, services all on par with any other part of the European Union. At the same time, Martinique’s beautifully unspoiled beaches, volcanic peaks, rainforests, 80+ miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, streams, and other natural wonders are unparalleled in the Caribbean, so visitors here truly get the best of both worlds. The currency is the Euro, the flag and the official language are French, but Martinique’s character, cuisine, musical heritage, art, culture, common language, and identity are of a distinctly Afro-Caribbean inclination known as Creole. It is this special combination of modern world conveniences, pristine nature, and rich heritage that has earned for Martinique several notable distinctions in recent years. Hot off the press: Martinique has earned Silver honors in Travel Weekly’s 2020 Magellan Awards as an Art & Culture Caribbean Destination. In December 2019 and for the second year in a row, Martinique was named “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean” by the Caribbean Journal. The island was also recognized in January 2019 by OprahMag.com and in first place in their list of “The 19 Best Winter Getaways.” Martinique was also featured in the Caribbean Journal’s Best Caribbean Islands to visit in 2019. Martinique has also been featured in Travel + Leisure and the New York Time’s “52 Places to go in 2018.”