Martinique is often overlooked by travelers, but shouldn’t be. // © 2017 Martinique Tourism Authority
It’s safe to say the French West Indies island of Martinique is less-visited than tourism powerhouses such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. This positions Martinique — known as the “Isle of Flowers” — as a perfect antidote to that “been there, done that” feeling when it comes to the Caribbean.
The French-Creole culture of Martinique will be a fresh delight for most travelers. It can easily be experienced through the island’s Gallic-Creole cuisine and historic French-colonial architecture.
It takes a bit more effort to reach Martinique since it doesn’t have the airlift that more-frequented islands have. Things have gotten easier since Norwegian Air began flying nonstop low-cost flights to Martinique from New York and Boston.
Inspire your clients with this list of top seven things to see and do in Martinique.
Anse Cafard Slave Memorial
Given the debates going on in the U.S. at the present time about Confederate statues, the Anse Cafard Slave Memorial has gained even more poignancy and legitimacy.
The memorial consists of 20 statues that each measure 8 feet tall. Depicting downcast slaves, the statues were created by Laurent Valere, a native of Martinique. They are located in a field in southwestern Martinique and commemorate an 1830 shipwreck off the coast of the island, in which 40 slaves in chains perished. It’s a powerful experience to contemplate these concrete figures staring out toward the far-off coast of West Africa, where the doomed slaves were taken from their home in Guinea.
Unlike many markets, Grand Marche (also referred to as the Spice Market) is open seven days a week. Here, your clients will find heaps of fresh produce; great arts and crafts; as well as island specialties, such as bois bande, an aphrodisiac made from the bark of the Richeria grandis tree. There are also lots of informal restaurants serving authentic island fare. Like most markets, schedule a visit in the morning if possible, when the market is at its liveliest.
Martinique and rum (or rhum) are inseparable. The island has been producing first-rate rum for centuries. While there are a number of rum distilleries on the island — Saint James Distillery, Neisson Distillery and Rhum J.M. are all worth a visit, too — it’s Habitation Clement that most first-time visitors to the island won’t want to miss.
If your clients are rum aficionados, they’ll be in heaven. Even teetotalers will enjoy the experience, since Habitation Clement has its own art gallery; a 17-acre botanical garden; and a distillery open for tours, tastings and purchases and offering an up-close view of historical methods of distilling rum.
Josephine’s Bathtub is a natural sandbar out on the ocean. Your clients can book a boat from a variety of operators who will take them out to the sandbar, where they can enjoy the experience of standing waist-deep out in the ocean while absorbing views of the island from a unique vantage point.
Josephine’s Bathtub is located between two small islands, Ilet-Oscar and Ilet-Thiery. Some tour operators include Josephine’s Bathtub as a part of a full-day excursion on the water.
La Montagne Pelee (Mount Pelee)
More active clients may wish to climb up Montagne Pelee, a 4,583-foot-high volcanic mountain, to take in awesome sea and island views. Montagne Pelee must be climbed via three established routes.
Even if clients don’t climb the mountain, they will come across constant reminders of the volcano’s power, especially if they visit the town of St. Pierre, which was virtually destroyed by Montagne Pelee in 1902. The town’s Musee Volcanologique chronicles the devastating effect of the volcano’s eruption, which killed nearly 30,000 people.
Visitors to Martinique could spend a different day of their vacation on one beautiful beach after another. Three of the most popular are Les Salines, Le Coin and Diamond Beach.
For a unique beach experience, advise your clients to head over to the southwest coast of the island, where they’ll find the black-sand Anse Noire, which is accessed via a dramatic rock staircase with more than 100 steps.
Musee de La Pagerie (La Pagerie Museum)
The key to the island’s unique heritage and its link to France, La Pagerie Museum is probably the No. 1 attraction on Martinique. Also known as Musee de la Pagerie, it’s located in the town of Trois-Ilets (also the birthplace of Marie Joseph Rose Tascher de la Pagerie).
Most people will recognize Pagerie by her married name: Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. The museum is housed in a quaint cottage that was once part of a larger plantation. Visitors can tour the stone cottage and view its period artifacts, soaking up the ambiance of a time gone by exemplified by Josephine’s childhood bed and love letters, which were penned by a smitten Napoleon to his future bride.