Martinique is a Caribbean island located in the center of the Lesser Antilles, north of Trinidad and Tobago, and south of Guadeloupe and Dominica. Martinique is an overseas department of France. The island is dominated by Mount Pelee, the highest of Martinique’s many mountains, at 4,583 feet. On May 8, 1902, Mount Pelee’s volcano erupted, destroying the city of Saint Pierre and killing 30,000 inhabitants.
The volcanic ash created gray and black sand beaches in the north (in particular between Anse Ceron and Anse des Gallets), a stark contrast to the white sand beaches in Les Salines in the south. Martinique’s north side features four groups of pitons (volcanoes) and mornes (mountains) — the Piton Conil on the extreme north, which dominates the Dominica Channel; Mount Pelée; the Morne Jacob; and the Pitons du Carbet, a group of five extinct volcanoes covered with rainforest and dominating the Bay of Fort de France at 3,924 feet high.
The south features many beaches, restaurants and food facilities and receives the bulk of the tourist traffic. Stop at Le Prêcheur to see the Anse Céron beach. Le Prêcheur is also the starting point of a popular six-hour hike that takes travelers to Grand-Rivière on the Atlantic coast, at the northernmost point of the island.
Fort de France is the island’s business center and administrative capital, and also features many tourist attractions, most grouped together around the city’s lushly landscaped town square, called La Savane (Savanna). Le Lamentin features Martinique’s airport and racetrack, as well as industrial zones. The region features fields of sugar cane stretching out across the Lamentin plain, visible all the way to the horizon.
In the south, the Rivière-Salée is a large plain that has been dedicated to growing sugar cane, although there is no rum distillery within the territory belonging to this district. Some houses feature architecture that dates back to the 19th century.
Les Trois-Ilets can be reached by ferry from Fort-de-France. The Pagerie Museum is in this town, set on the spot where Empress Josephine was born. A number of musical and cultural events are organized in the Park of the Trois-Ilets close to the island’s magnificent golf club. Not to be missed is the Market or the Sugar Cane Museum. The pottery center, where objects are handmade by local craft artists, is also popular among tourists.
Macouba is a former tobacco town that currently provides a look-out place that offers sweeping vistas of the seas and mountains. On a clear day, viewers will be able to see neighboring Dominica. Balata is a serene little town with a church built to remember those who died in World War I, and the Jardin de Balata is a garden with thousands of tropical plants.
In Presqu’île de la Caravelle, a 30-minute walk up to the lighthouse provides uninterrupted views of the entire island. Tartane is a fishing village that is very popular with surfing enthusiasts.