Travel To Martinique – The French Caribbean
The island was claimed by France in 1635 and officially annexed by the King of France in 1674. France and Britain fought over the island until 1815, when it was restored to France. An important date in Martinique’s history occurred on May 22, 1848, when slavery was abolished. In 1946, Martinique became a Department of France and in 1974 a Region of France. Fort-de-France is the capital of Martinique.
As a former French colony, the official language is French; a Creole patois is widely used.
The mean temperature averages 79°F. Two regular, alternating wind currents (east and northeast) cool the atmosphere. These are the trade winds, called les alizés. There is only about a 5° difference between summer and winter temperatures.
The two Catholic Cathedrals and a large number of parish churches illustrate the importance of Catholicism on the island. However, many religious communities also have their place here, including the Adventist Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Martinique has a variety of small museums celebrating aspects of the island’s culture and history.
FORT-DE-FRANCE: The island’s capital is a town of winding streets and colorful markets. In the center of the town is the park of La Savanne. A statue in La Savanne commemorates Napoleon’s Empress Josephine, a native of Martinique, whose home, La Pagerie, is one of the main tourist attractions.
ST PIERRE: Martinique’s second city, is a tourist attraction that contains history of the 1902 disaster in which a 1430 m (4700 ft) volcanic mountain in the north, Montagne Pelée, erupted, destroying the city of St Pierre and its entire population of 30,000. The Musée Volcanologique contains exhibits, photographs and documents that tell the story of the disaster.
LE CARBET: Many tourists visit the restored plantation of Leyritz, near Le Carbet, where Columbus landed on his fourth voyage in 1502. The Center d’Art Paul Gauguin resides in Le Carbet; and it contains exhibits relating to the painter’s stay in the area and the work he did while there.
THE SOUTH: Pointe du Bout is the south part of the island and Martinique’s major resort area. Ste Anne, Le Diamant and Les Anses d’Arlets have some of the island’s best bathing beaches. HMS Diamond Rock, 4 km (2.5 miles) off Diamant, is a rock which was designated a man-of-war by the British during the Napoleonic wars and rates a 12-gun salute from passing British warships.
Also, swimming, water-skiing, small-boat sailing, snorkeling and spear-fishing, horse riding, hiking, mountain climbing, tennis, and golf are available at many coastal resorts and hotels.
Martinique lies in the heart of the Caribbean Archipelago and is one of the many islands which make up the group of lesser Antilles, or “Breezy Islands.” The waters lapping at its shores are those of the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Caribbean Sea to the west. The island is located 4,261 miles from Paris (8 hours by plane), and is 273 miles from the American continent (4.5 hours by plane, direct flight). The closest two neighboring islands are Dominica (15.5 miles to the north) and Saint Lucia (23 miles to the south). Martinique is 1,965 miles from New York City, 1,470 miles from Miami, 2,270 miles from Montreal, and 425 miles from San Juan. Click here to see a map of Martinique.
Since 1 January 1999, the Euro, which was introduced in January 2002, has been the official currency for the French Overseas Departments (Départements d’outre-mer) French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion. US Dollars are also accepted in some places. All major currencies can be exchanged at banks and bureaux de change. For actual conversion rates, visit Oanda.com and perform a conversion for ‘the Euro.’
A passport is required.