The island of Martinique is sandwiched between the Caribbean Sea to the west and by the Atlantic Ocean to the east. It lies 275 miles from the coast of South America, and 4,350 miles off the shore of France. The island is known for its lush landscapes, dense forests and gushing waterfalls with picturesque bays. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean that is only surpassed by its rich history.
The island was discovered by Columbus, but it was taken for France in 1f635. With the exception of three periods of short duration when it was under the British occupation, it has always been a French territory. One significant feature of its history is the fact that is known for producing queens. First there was Josephine, who became the Empress of France, while her daughter Hortense became the Queen of Holland. Madame de Maintenon was the wife of Louis XIV and Aimée Debuc, the sultan validah was the queen mother of Turkey.
The only metropolitan centre of any significance on the island is Fort-de-France with over 100,000 inhabitants. The picture perfect city with colourful architecture hides the significant run down portions of the town. Tourism is vital to the island, but cane, banana farming and rum business also contribute to its economy. The chief resort areas with hotels, golf, casino and shopping are located in Pointe du Bout. About one hour’s drive north from Fort-de-France is St. Pierre, which was known as the Paris of the West Indies until 1902, when Mount Pelee erupted killing its 30,000 inhabitants and the city in just three minutes. The Vulcanlogy Museum with lava-covered mementoes is a must see location.
Martinique is given the title of “The Rum Capital of the World” and more and more connoisseurs are making their way to the island to taste the world’s best and most unique rums. Tourists are directed by self-guided tours along La Route des Rhums to ten distilleries situated on the island with each one offering visitors free tastings.
Major city: Fort-de-France
Government: Serge Letchimy
Area: 1,128 km2 (436 sq mi)
Languages: French (official), Creole and English
Dialling Code: +596