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Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean and an overseas region of France, Martinique is one of the many islands that make up the Lesser Antilles island group, affectionately referred to as the 'Breezy Islands'.
Martinique enjoys a rich and diverse history. The quaint little cottage of La Pagerie honours the family of the same name, whose daughter Joséphine became the Empress of Napoléon. The 600-foot (182m) pinnacle of Diamond Rock rises majestically from the sea. Once a strategic garrison during the Napoleonic wars, today the spectacular caves and coral reefs around the pinnacle attract scuba divers from all corners of the globe.
The majestic volcano, Mount Pelée, sits smoldering above the former capital Saint-Pierre, a once booming town destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1902. The twin peaks of Carbet and Mount Pelée dominate the island, rising above Martinique's legendary tropical rainforest. This is an area of unspoiled beauty, which hasn't yet been fully discovered by tourists like so many other exotic island locations.
There is something for just about everybody on Martinique. The active and adventurous can enjoy kitesurfing, yachting, diving, surfing and sailing as well as mountain biking, hiking, and cliff jumping. For the less adventurous, warm sunny days can be spent lazing on the sandy, white, palm-fringed beaches, many of which are truly magnificent. Salines Beach at the southernmost tip of Martinique is particularly picturesque.
Martinique offers travellers a seductive mix of stunning beaches, tropical gardens and French charm, promising lazy days on the beach, good quality accommodation, acclaimed diving sites, and a dose of culture. Fort de France is the capital and a worthwhile stop for tourists. Other popular destinations on the island include volcano-ravished Saint-Pierre, the resort town of Pointe Du Bout, and the quaint coastal villages of Sainte-Anne and Grand-Riviere.
Top tourist attractions on Martinique include the Balata Botanical Gardens near Fort de France, the Musee de la Pagerie, birthplace of Napoleon's Empress Josephine, and the active Mount Pelee Volcano which destroyed Saint-Pierre in 1902, an event commemorated in the Volcanological Museum. There are many lovely hikes on the island, including La Caravelle Nature Trail in the mangroves of eastern Martinique. Of course, the most famous attractions are the beaches, with Les Salines and Anse Mitan being particular favourites.
One of the most popular tourist spots in Martinique, Sainte-Anne is a convenient access point for the beautiful beaches of the southern tip of the island. The town is arguably the prettiest on the island and offers a few good restaurants and hotels, while still maintaining rustic charm. The most popular beach in Sainte-Anne is Les Salines, only a five-minute drive from the city. Les Salines is stunning and has good facilities like snack stands, public restrooms, and showers. The only downside to Les Salines is that it can be very overcrowded in peak season and on weekends - so it is better to visit during the week to avoid the crowds.
Across the bay from Fort de France, Les Trois-Ilets is a well-developed resort area which is home to a casino as well as many shops and restaurants. Nearby attractions include the white sandy beaches and resorts of Pointe du Bout and Anse Mitan, the championship golf course, and the Musée de La Pagerie, the birthplace of Josephine Bonaparte. There are also many interesting cultural attractions in Les Trois-Ilets, including museums of coffee and cocoa, slavery, and military history. There is also ample opportunity to organise outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, sailing, and other water sports. The best way to get to Les Trois-Ilets is by ferry from Fort de France.
Le Diamant is a scenic resort area dominated by the 574-foot (175m) Diamond Rock, the remnants of a volcano destroyed by erosion. Diamond Rock is a small uninhabited island known for the strategic role it once played in the Napoleonic Wars, when a British garrison fortified it for control over the channel, using the caves to shelter troops. Le Diamant offers some of the best scuba diving in Martinique. Great dive sites include the triangular cavern beneath Diamond Rock itself, but as the currents can be treacherous this is not a dive for beginners. The area also has some beautiful beaches, including Grande Anse du Diamant, where visitors will find a number of good restaurants and a shopping centre.
The largest city in the French West Indies, Fort de France is a cosmopolitan urban area of more than 100,000 people, with a distinctly French atmosphere. Narrow streets wind steeply up hills, framed by wrought-iron balconies, and from a distance the city seems to be half-made up of jungle, with plenty of gardens and verdant green spaces.
A handful of historical and cultural sites make for a full day's worth of sightseeing in Fort de France, including historical buildings like Fort Saint-Louis, beautiful churches like the Sacré-Coeur de Balata and the Cathedral Saint-Louis, and the lovely Balata Gardens. There are also several beautiful waterfalls, including the Cascade Absalon and the Cascade Didier.
While the nightlife in Fort de France isn't quite on a par with most large cities, there are some good restaurants and shopping opportunities in the city. Several markets offer local produce and spices, and Victor Hugo Road is a shopping street with souvenir shops and boutiques sandwiched between local fruit and flower sellers. Most tourists in Martinique spend only a day or two in Fort de France, but the city makes a good place to stop over before taking the ferry to Trois Islets.
The average monthly temperatures in Martinique are surprisingly constant, with little seasonal variation. This stability is due to the refreshing breezes that blow from the northeast, known as the trade winds . The dry season is December through May, while June through November is the more humid and damp season. However, rain showers can occur at any time throughout the year.
Average air temperatures in coastal regions range from 72ºF to 86ºF (22ºC - 30ºC), while the inland areas average from 66ºF to 81ºF (9ºC - 27ºC). The warm coastal waters average between 68ºF and 74ºF (20ºC and 23ºC) all year. Hurricanes may occur any time from June to the end of November and are most common in September.
The local currency is the Euro (EUR), but US Dollars and major credit cards are also widely accepted.
French is the official language of Martinique, but Antillean Creole (Creole Martiniquais) is mostly spoken among islanders. English is typically spoken only in the larger hotels and tourist areas.
Electrical current in Martinique is 220 volts, 50Hz. European round pin attachment plugs are in use.
US nationals: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Martinique. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Martinique. No visa is required for holders of British passports endorsed British Citizen. Other British passport holders are generally exempt for a maximum stay of 90 days.
CA nationals: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Martinique. No visa required for stays up to 90 days.
AU nationals: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Martinique. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
ZA nationals: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Martinique. A visa is required.
IR nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for the duration of intended stay in Martinique. No visa is required.
NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Martinique. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
Martinique is part of the French West Indies. All foreign passengers to Martinique must hold a return or onward ticket, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. Schengen visas are also valid for travel to Martinique, provided they are endorsed as such. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Martinique if arriving in the country within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Medical and health care facilities in Martinique are on a par with those of France and are considered to be some of the best in the French West Indies. Specialist treatment is also available. There are around 20 hospitals and clinics located on the island, including 24-hour emergency facilities. Travellers should be up to date on common vaccinations like hepatitis A and hepatitis B, tetanus, and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) before travelling to Martinique, but no vaccinations are required by immigration officials. Medical insurance is advised.
As in France, tips are usually included in restaurant bills in Martinique and taxes and service charges are included in hotel rates.
There is very little crime in Martinique but visitors should take sensible precautions and avoid isolated areas after dark, and not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery. Valuables and travel documents should, where possible, be left in safety deposit boxes and hotel safes.
Unlike many tropical islands, Martinique has a thriving economy and is not solely dependent on tourism. Relaxed, informal clothing is acceptable around town, but scanty beach wear is considered improper in urban areas. The only officially designated clothing-optional beaches in the French islands are in Guadeloupe and St. Martin, but at hotel pools and at private beaches near hotels in Martinique topless swimming and sunbathing is common.
The international dialling code for Martinique is +596. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The island is covered by mobile networks, with coverage generally very good, although expensive.
Wifi is freely available at all hotels, cafes, restaurants and guesthouses.
Those travelling to Martinique may import the following goods duty-free: 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigars (non-cuban), 250g tobacco, two litres of liquor, and perfume, gifts and film in amounts reasonable for personal use. Currency must be declared on arrival.
Comité Martiniquais du Tourisme: https://us.martinique.org/
French Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Martinique): +1 202 944 6000.
French Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Martinique): +44 207 073 1000.
French Embassy, Ottawa, Canada (also responsible for Martinique): +1 613 789 1795.
French Embassy, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for Martinique): +61 26 216 0100.
French Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa (also responsible for Martinique): +27 12 425 1600.
French Embassy, Dublin, Ireland (also responsible for Martinique): +353 1 277 5000.
French Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Martinique): +64 4 384 2555.
United States Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Martinique): +33 1 4312 2222.
British Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Martinique): +33 1 4451 3100.
Canadian Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Martinique): +33 1 4443 2900.
Australian Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Martinique): +33 1 4059 3300.
South African Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Martinique): +33 1 5359 2323.
Irish Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Martinique): +33 1 4417 6700.
New Zealand Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Martinique): +33 1 4501 4343.
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